With one week to go until the 2012 XTerra Off-Road Triathlon World Championships I have arrived on Maui, the neighbouring island of Big Island Hawaii. My girlfriend was competing in the Ironman World Championships and I, for the first time, was a mere spectator instead of racing for a forth time. She had a blast given the super-hot conditions, and the Squad 5.8 clincher wheels were the perfect choice for her.
I get to ride the brand new Squad 2.5 29er wheels on my Simplon Razorblade29. Boy what a difference they make! They are only a little bit lighter than the weight-weenie alloy wheels I had before, but the Xentis are soooo much stiffer. With the big wheels high spoke tension is the key to precise and accurate steering. Even with tied and soldered spokes the alloy rim wheels felt a lot softer. The spoke tension had to be set lower than on the stiffer carbon rims because otherwise the nipples would rip out of the alloy rim.
To cut a long story short: The new wheels are lighter and a lot stiffer.
While everyone was tapering, posing and getting ready for the Ironman I was out on my hardtail doing the last hard training sessions for the XTerra. One of the first experiences off road was the completely different terrain. Being a volcanic island there are lava rocks everywhere. They look heavy, but are mostly made up of tiny lava bubbles and EXTREMELY sharp. After two minutes of slick-rock inspired trail-riding next to the Queen K Highway the presumeably slick rocks cut through the sidewall of my front tire like it was paper. Another lesson learned and another 15 km ride done on a flat tire...
The XTerra course on Maui, however, is a lot different. Unlike the old course at Makena Beach, with its huge rocks and nasty kiawe thorns that will even pierce through the soles of cycling shoes, the new one on the western half of the island offers a lot more XC-like riding. Tight twists, short steep climbs and hardpack mixed with loose dusty turns where your front wheel will wash out in a fraction of a second, and bumpy gravel roads. Riding the trails around Lahaina and Napili feels like an endless ride on a bike reliability testing machine. The chain slaps like a whip lash, the hole bike rattles and even a bolt came loose. This is definately one of the tougher courses I've ridden so far. Very demanding on both the rider and the bike.
The wheels have taken all the beatings without any problems. Unfortunately I caught a cold, but I'm sure that I'll be ok next Sunday.