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Lightweight Ventoux / Gipfelsturm 240 Handling and Ride
I look for multiple qualities in a bicycle wheel—
- Strength and durability — I’m not interested in a wheel that I can’t trust.
- Weight — low rotating weight.
- Handling — aluminum wheels I’ve ridden drive me nuts; their lack of lateral stiffness means I can’t figure out where the bike will end up when cornering on steep descents; I could be off several feet from my intended “line”, which is nerve-wracking and requires inordinate mental effort.
- Safety — I won’t ride clinchers any more. After several blowouts with clinchers (with scars from the very painful second one), I stick to glued-on tubulars.
- Ride quality — I’ve ridden Scandium wheels from Shimano. They handled extremely well, but were so stiff they numbed my rear end on rough roads, and made the front fork vibrate like crazy when braking. No thanks.
- Power transfer — wheels can soak up watts. I want a wheel that transfers power efficiently, and yet soaks up road bumps.
- Wind — too aero is nerve wracking and potentially deadly in mountain passes, where side gusts of 30 mph can shove the bike sideways several feet. I’m not looking for a track or time trial wheel; the wheel must not present too great an area to a side wind.
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Comparing to ZIPP
For 5+ years I rode the ZIPP 303 and 404 tubular wheelsets. GREAT ride, but the Lightweight Ventoux are better. But to be clear, my ZIPP 303/404 wheels are 4-5 years old, and the latest versions could be improved significantly.
The Ventoux 240 wheelset feels lighter, stiffer and handle somewhat better than the ZIPP 303 wheels I’ve ridden for five years. I also believe they will prove to be more durable, but that remains to be proven with some years of use.
I did try the Lightweight Standard wheels (more aero), and I found them to be relatively uncomfortable compared to the Ventoux. As my main concern is climbing and long distance, the Ventoux is a better choice for my riding.
I’m a relatively powerful rider; my threshold is about 320 watts when in peak shape, and I’ve done 345 watts for about 45 minutes, 420 watts for a 20 minute climb time-trial, and similarl. I can sprint for very brief periods hitting 1400 watts, but more typically this is the 600-800 watt range for sprints lasting 5-10 seconds.
It’s the sprinting where wheel stiffness can be noticed, and here, the Ventoux 240 does show its limits, with some noise and flex at the 800+ watt level. If sprinting were something I cared a lot about (e.g., short races), then I’d want a stiffer rear wheel. But of course a rear wheel that is stiff is usually less comfortable, and so a compromise must be made. I do not consider the Ventoux 240 rear wheel stiffness to be an issue when climbing steadily, even when surging to 400-500 watts for short periods.
In the wind
The Ventoux handles extremely well in the wind. To date, I’ve ridden with a headwind of up to 30 mph and varying up to 30° off frontal.
The Ventoux just shrugs off side forces. I consider the Ventoux a far better choice then the Standard or Obermayer for windy conditions, especially dangerous side-gusts in the mountains.
I mount a Veloflex record on the front wheel. Front tires wear for a long time, so there is no need for a heavy tire there. I mount a Veloflex Sprinter on the rear, for more durability (lots of torque on climbs wears out the rear). The ride with the Veloflex tires on the Lightweight Ventoux wheelset is outstanding, both in terms of comfort and handling.
With 1300 miles on them as I write this, I’m still thrilled. These are easily the best-handling, quickest-feeling wheels I’ve every used. They are awesome uphill or down, laugh at side-winds, and soak up bumps nicely. I like them so much that I was tempted to get another set, but I opted for a set of Obermayers instead, to try something complimentary.