Monday, September 14, 2009 Reviews the New CYCLO-CROSS Wheels

Taken from the website

Product Reviews
Williams Cyclocross Wheels
During our first year of cross we ran Racing Ralph clinchers on Bontrager Race Lite Wheels. The Racing Ralphs did not really perform up to our expectations. When we ran a low enough pressure to get the grip we wanted we would pinch flat. If the course was muddy, the Racing Ralphs would hold onto the mud and we would gradually loose grip throughout a race.
Over the last year we found that the RR was really a better tire for snowy conditions, not your muddy, wet conditions.
Keep in mind that this is not the newly designed Racing Ralph, but rather the old design. I have not tried the newly designed RR.
Given the grip problems we had in our first year of cyclocross we decided to run on tubulars for the 2009 - 2010 season. Shortly after the end of the 2008 season we managed to get some used carbon tubulars, however, we decided that we needed some alloy tubulars for general training and muddy races.
Shortly after making this decision I saw and ad for a cyclocross specific alloy tubualar wheelset for an amazing $369 US for the pair from Willams Cycling. I decided to call up and confirm shipping details to Canada and find out more about the wheels. I ended up speaking to Mr. Williams himself. He described the wheels in detail the testing they did and what their goal for the design of the wheels. He was easy to talk to and assured me that shipping would be fine to Canada. He told me that he had tested the wheels on a 180 pound Northern California rider and that they had held up well during testing and racing. I spoke to him on a Friday night, ordered on Saturday and I received an e-mail on Sunday saying that my order had been shipped.
The web site and order process was easy They arrived about 10 days later, one wheelset per box with complimentary water bottles and T-shirt. The packaging worked well and their didn't appear to be any rub spots, or issues from shipment due to really smart packaging.
So in terms of ordering and customer service and delivery, Williams was excellent. Next step was to glue on the Dugast Rhinos to the new Williams Wheels. Now at this point all of the tires had been on the tubulars without any glue stretching for about two weeks. No magic behind that amount of time, it was just the time from when we got the tires, until when we had a chance to do the gluing. We determined that the paint was a little too shiny on the rim surface so we sanded all around the wheels to get some grooves for the glue to bond and to make the surface a little rougher. I sanded them to get the shine off the paint so the surface was dull and had visible grooves. I wiped them down and cleaned the dust off and then over the course of three nights we applied a coat of glue to the wheel and the tubular each time.
Now keep in mind that we were gluing about 12 wheels altogether. Two sets of the Williams and two sets of Carbon wheels, for us and my friend was doing a number of wheels as well.
The third night we actually put them on. We quickly found that before we put the final coat of glue on the tire we mounted on a wheel to give one last stretch as the first tire was a bit tough to put on, but once we pre-stretched on a tubular before the final coat of glue made it a lot easier. We had no trouble with the wheels and getting the tubular aligned and the wheels spun nicely with the Rhinos on the wheels. I'd make a final pre-stretch prior to the last coat of glue part of my normal gluing process from now on.
As mentioned we decided to use our mud Rhinos for the Williams cyclocross wheels. With the glue dried I put the wheels on. I liked the skewers that came with the wheel, they were easy to use and easy to get the right pressure in closing the skewers. I find the Mavic skewers to be a bit fiddly on our Kysrium SL's and ES clinchers.
I started on the road, riding to our local park no problems or wobble, all the normal sensations. Now they did feel heavy to me, but this was in comparison to my carbon Zipps, so after the first minute I didn't notice anything. The first time I braked their was some significant brake chatter, but this was due to me not aligning the front brake properly. Once I resolved this, no problems.
The problem with these wheels is that their is really nothing to compare them too. You just can't find Alloy Tubulars for $369 US unless they are used, so comparing the performance is sort of pointless to some degree, however to rate them on sheer ride etc they run as well if not better than all of my clinchers.
The wheels run true and I've had no problems with them since solving my own braking issues. They roll easy and are easy to clean and I've had no clacking or clanging in the hubs despite the normal cross abuse and a little single track amounting to about 18 hours in the saddle.
They respond well to getting up out of the saddle and a bit of stomping out of corners. So far I've only been training on these wheels as I've set them up as my mud racers, but they've taken everything that I've thrown at them.
In short, if you're going to race cross, you'll want to consider racing on tubulars and this is the lowest introductory price point for a brand new set of wheels that are cross friendly that I have found.
I give these wheels a 5/5 as they are a great way to get an introductory set of tubulars for cross racing.

Neil Armstrong