In Search of Perfection

RIDER PROFILE

Name :Maarten-Jan Wilschut

Origin :The Netherlands

Information : 185cm, 77kg
Race and gravel bike, in the winter some mountain biking. Flat roads around my home, but in the hills and mountains as much as possible (100,000~130,000 meters of altitude per year).

SPECIFICATIONS

Bike

Frame : Niner BSB 9 RDO 58 cm (red/black & yellow/greenie)

Groupset : Shimano Ultegra 6870 Di2 11s
(Yellow/greenie with RX rear derailleur & 48/31 GRX crankset)

Gadgets : Garmin Edge 1030

WHEELS

Rims : Light Bicycle WR50 (internal nipples, angled holes) 700C

Hubs : DT Swiss 240 Classic 15/100mm & 12/142mm Centerlock 24H Shimano 11S

Spokes : Sapim CX Ray aero

Nipples : Sapim brass black

Tires : Schwalbe Pro One 28 and 30mm tubeless

Disc brakes for gravel bikes opened the door for more extreme off-road adventures.

I have been gravel riding for over a decade, mainly on 23mm Conti 4 Seasons on my rim-brake traditional-style bicycles during our summer cycling trips. Back in 2012, for example, I rode the half-tarmac half-gravel Col de Portet in the Pyrenees.

The arrival of disc brakes, enabling wider tyres on racing and cross bikes, opened the door for more extreme off-road adventures by taking one bike and two wheelsets instead of taking multiple bikes on our summer adventures.

In 2015 I started my search for the perfect gravel bike (even though the term itself had not been invented yet!). Eventually, I settled for the Niner BSB 9 RDO cyclocross frame accommodating up to 40mm wide tyres. The choice for discs and also Di2 was already confirmed after a few days on a rental disc Di2 bike on Gran Canaria. The frame has a perfect fit for me as the geometry is almost exactly the same as my previous road bike and it handles all conditions really well. The maiden gravel voyage in the 2016 summer was the Colle delle Finestre and the epic Cresta dell’Assietta road, where I surprisingly encountered very few mountain bikers.

The comfort and handling of a bike with wide tubeless tyres, disc brakes, and Di2 made me sell all my old-school rim-brake bikes and get a second Niner. The first red/black one is racier and the yellow/greenie is more suited for gravel.

High on the wishlist was a carbon deep rim set.

I want a carbon rim set specifically designed to accommodate wide tubeless tyres and beating the windy flats around my place, but also able to take on the hills in the Eifel (Germany) and Ardennes (Belgium).

Reading the Hambini pages the specs became very clear: external width of at least 30mm (the rim should be wider than the tire), internal width of around 25mm, and a rim height of 50-60mm, tubeless of course, perhaps even hookless. The only option in the marketplace seemed to be one model of a well known but very, very expensive US brand. A complete wheelset would cost even more than a new Niner frame!

Luckily some intensive internet research revealed Light Bicycle, and wherever I looked I only found positive posts and reviews in many different forums. And yeeha! they had a Falcon Pro rim, the WR50, that checked all the boxes. Finally, I could get my hands on an affordable top-spec aero wheelset to complete my gravel racy flat-country Niner! The customer service was friendly and quick to answer all my questions.

A Dutch local wheelbuilder with good experience laced my custom specced (e.g. internal nipple holes) rims to a pair of DT240s hubs with stealthy silk graphic decals.

In the Luxemburg and French hills, the WR50s performed flawlessly.

As soon as the finished wheels arrived at my home, I was at first struck by the width of the rims. They looked really, really wide! Perhaps even wider than a pair of my 29er MTB wheels… Installing and mounting a pair of Schwalbe 28mm Pro Ones was as easy as tubeless mounting can get, and the tyres popped airtight after pumping with an SKS floor pump. Milk is only needed against punctures.

What a joy to ride. The wheels perform awesomely. In the flats, they seem to generate a few kilometers of additional speed, especially in crosswinds. They feel light and nimble when accelerating and climbing. In both Niners, with the signature Falcon Pro finish, they look perfect. The sound is very polite and decent and does not draw unwanted attention.

This year, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, we were extremely lucky and could still do our usual 3-week cycling trip and visited Luxemburg (a few days), France (even fewer days), and Italy (almost 2 weeks). In the Luxemburg and French hills, the WR50s performed flawlessly. Also, taking on serious alpine colls in the Italian Eastern Dolomites was as easy as any climbing wheelset. Descending is drama free, even with some gusty mountain winds.

For next year a gravel-specific wheelset based on hookless Falcon Pro WR38 will accompany the WR50s on all cycling trips. I can’t wait to order them!

MORE ADVENTURES

COMMENTS

F

Francois 2020/11/29

Very nice and well written (material) adventure ! I enjoyed reading it - you are a true pioneer in the field of gravel riding!


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