What do you get when you cross a McLaren with a Stuffed Toy? What happens when you shod your Ducati with doughnuts? How can I possibly make fast more comfortable? Can I have my couch mounted to my bike's seat-post? None of that is possible, as the dynamics of comfort are antithetical to the physics of going fast. To be efficient, is to shed every possible exceptional gram, and gadget, and perhaps slip the wind. Going Faster seems a direct proportion of effort, exertion, and efficiency. Is a Front shock the answer? Full suspension road bike, in your future? Maybe a "Road Bike" is not the "right bike" for you?
If I ride a bicycle wearing a baggy wind-breaker and a back-pack, I should expect these to luff in the breezes catching wind and dragging me slower. If I ride my 1956 Schwinn 3-Speed, I should expect to work a bit to push against formidable rotating weight, and heft. If I ride the lightest bike on the block, and wear my birthday suit, I should expect to slip the wind, powering forward without impediment, as I double or treble my Schwinn's-speediness, but be arrested, just the same. So with a sense of danger, ideal gear (a proper lycra kit on a fast bike) & perfect elements (lovely weather & conditions), the only thing slowing one down is ability, and (of course) the rank surface upon which you roll. For the city rider with perfect kit, speed may defy gravity, but one cannot become fast at all if the terrain plots to swallow you whole. It's best to levitate.
I recall fondly the first day I borrowed my friend's Peugeot Mountain Bike, and the deliberate reckless abandon with which I bashed into every conceivable bump, patch, and pot-hole. I felt empowered to do evil to the cushy tires, and sturdy steel frame. I cut across every lawn, and landscape, river-beds, and pathways, until I returned to put that mare away wet. I feel certain that this release of testosterone, and adrenaline, as counterpoint to my Custom Paramount with 20c SUP's, was cause for my friend never lending me her bike again. She was polite to not berate me for banging up her bike. But This set a fire beneath me to one day own my own fat-tire rig. I relived this very moment again when I picked up my new Cannondale MT2000 from Lay-away, and put it through it's paces. This was the same moment that I swore to learn to build wheels, swap rims, and hence I became a better mechanic. It is not lost on me that everyone has this primal YOLO experience, when given a deadly toy. Most "normal" people slip a bit when handed the danger keys. It is poignant that I can tap this very nostalgic empathy each time I help some sap fix something bad they did quite deliberately to their beloved bike. It is with this same Evil Urge to bomber into shit, that I clicked my heels upon my new set of wheels, and became belligerent with my bike but again. Ohh the sweet release of being negligent!! Like a rental when you have "Full Coverage"...
So today, quite deliberately I poked new valves into a brand-spankin' new set of custom wheels, and belted them with some Schwalbe's I'd had sitting about the house. I poured a few ounces of latex into these, and snapped them onto the rim. With my handy-dandy Silca Pista, I pressed the plunger down and the whole dream clicked together. My new custom wheel-set is at this very moment regretting ever having met me, and we are pressing forward with an undiscussed agenda, whereby I do the deed over some of the rougher roads my fair city has to offer. (We have the shittiest roads North of Nicaragua).
I spun the discs off my Roval's and checked the indexing, before setting out on a deliberate tear down by the abandon foundry. My new wheels are built from DT180's, 32 Berd UHMW String Spokes, and 32c Atomic Carbon Road Hoops. They are both bizarrely competent looking, (if a bit inelegant), and brilliantly lightweight. All tolled, as compared to my Roval CLX's, These Custom Berd wheels are a flat 1200 grams, and appear to be up to the task. My Current Roval wheels are a bit of a Magic Carpet Ride, because they are flat out the fastest wheel I've ever strode upon. They are wicked light, punchy, bomber strong, and wind-up like a fighter jet. Incidentally the Roval Alpinist CLX weigh about 1255g. So... It is my opinion that I can only be disappointed with my first test-ride, Right? Should the folkloric claim to comfort by Berd owners, prove false, I will be the first to say. As Prophesy goes, those who believe, shall be saved. So today as traffic subsided I set about to beat these wheels about the worst roads my fair city has to offer, and to see how they Koncede the Kush. It is fair to clarify two points... One, is that I'm a lightweight, so the punishment is not coming from Clubber Lang the Clydesdale. Two, is that I am just like the rest of you indelicate fuckers, who have tried to punish someone-else's gear, without regard for life or liberty. These are my wheels and I promised them I'd do my best to gauge their singular advantage as compared to my benchmark wheelset; The Roval Alpinist CLX. Are they Lighter? -- Not Much. Are they More Aero? -- Not at all. Are they cheaper? A bit. Are they faster...? Well -- We will find that out.
Out the door I felt the gears, and brakes, and ran through them to be sure no harm may come. Pursuing a course through a few washboard areas, where crucible train tracks crossed the road over and again to carry hot steel from foundry to prep areas in a space which was once a Stainless Foundry, This crumbling causeway allowed me to cruise through a quick patch of obstacles. After a few bunny hops, and perhaps not paying close enough attention, I can say that my headwind was strong, and yet at about 18 mph, most of what I noticed was not memorable at all. In essence, my ride through what is generally quite taxing on my hands, forearms, and ass, were not much to mention. This conspicuous missing data, where I really didn't feel beat up, was perhaps the special sauce I was looking to confirm. I checked myself, and thought as I hit a straight-away, "Was I just not paying attention?, or" was that not a big deal?" Maybe I should have paid more attention to the washboard, and the tracks, as well as those cracks and potholes, and so I vowed to focus when I hit the park. As the perfect sunny day released many varied people from their habitats..., Their strolling-about forced me to go off-road. through the park by Grass and Gravel. I hit some roots, ruts, and branches, as well as a few ledges. What again happened was this strange sensation that something was missing. I calculated that I should very well have perceived more shake, more shimmy, and more fatigue, but it just wasn't coming. Was this confirmation bias? Am I fooling myself? What the hell is happening here? There is a claim from some wheel builders who lace with these $8. string spokes that their wheels impart 20% more comfort. This of course is nearly impossible to quantify, unless by creating a custom dynamic testing rig in a laboratory, or by placing one's frail ass upon a road bike with a hard carbon seat. Problem: Rough Ride - Solution: Levitate.
I continued with a paved route, using the occasional dodging to grass and gravel maneuver off tarmac, and onto the shoulder. I rode like this for about 6 miles and then hit some parkland. Again offroad I was missing the general gentle jarring of a rigid wheel. Wait! what's my tire pressure? Is it leaking? Are they getting splashy? No. They were still at 80 psi, about 16-18 lbs. harder than my Roval reference. So now I soldiered onward, then turned around to hit the same terrain on the way back to make more notes. It's not unusual for me to not be passed at this time of day, as I swam amongst the minnows, but I was going quite fast both directions and felt none of it.
On the technical side the Berd Spokes are basically a high molecular weight Polyethylene rope. They have a threaded tip held on like a Chinese Finger trap, and a knot that stops them at the hub. They wind-up like a typical spoke, but require a few tensioning phases to ensure they are devoid of slack, They play a bit like a ukulele, and they are reparable the same as any spoke, albeit easier to pack. The spokes float on water, but won't allow you to ride upon it. Berd spokes are protected by US Patents 10,150,332 B2, 10,661,598 B2, and patents pending.
When returning i had a tail wind and so I hit the same terrain at about double the speed. Through each distinct obstacle, I rode with what appeared to be less impact to my otherwise pansy-assed constitution. I'm not getting any younger, but this new recipe of a bike lover's bike with a wheel lover's wheel seemed to be doing what's advertised. I cannot quantify with a percent sign what modicum of squish factor is being applied through this initial test-drive, but we will certainly revisit, the present fantasy, that my new Berd Wheels were legitimate contenders for my Sofa Seat fantasy. What will become of me with a wheel-set that allows me the freedom to ride it like I stole it? I trust that having faith in one's deity, whether a gadget, totem, or plain fantasy may very well be enough magic to sustain the faithful. I have ridden upon what appears at first blush to be a marvelous set of wheels, and hope to live to tell about it.
We will revisit this string-wheel review after a few hundred miles, and then again after a few thousand, and I hope the news is as good. Today, my new custom Berd wheels are magnificent. I was not initially mesmerized by the retro aesthetic as I changed from 24 spokes back to 32, but once I get over fat shaming my spokes, I will settle on these as my preferred go-to all-rounder.
Let's see how they climb next.
My wheels and all reviewed gear is paid for in full and all reviews here are without influence of $chwag.
Phone: (612) 308-8740
Address: 401 11th Ave S Ste 300, Hopkins, MN 55343
Hours: Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 4:30 pm Central US Time
Age and Treachery will overcome youth and skill.