Mail or­der­ing a $5k bike – smart shop­ping or fool’s folly? Tim Rob­son takes the plunge with Ger­man brand Canyon.

Australian Geographic Outdoor - - Outdoor Bike Lane - WORDS & PHO­TOS Tim Rob­son


LAST IS­SUE we in­tro­duced the lat­est ad­di­tion to the Out­door fleet; a Canyon Ul­ti­mate CF SLX road bike. It’s so much more than a roadie, though…

Af­ter another cou­ple of months, the Canyon has been get­ting some real miles un­der the wheels… and new wheels at that. You might re­call last time that I thought the stock wheels – a set of gor­geous Mavic Kys­rium Pro Ex­alith SLs – might have been un­der­play­ing it for a larger rider, given their feath­er­weight prop­er­ties, so I de­cided to do some­thing about it.

Now, most peo­ple are rush­ing out and buy­ing car­bon fi­bre wheelsets with price tags that ri­val those of a de­cent sec­ond hand car, and I wasn’t about to/ couldn’t af­ford to do the same. And be­cause our Canyon uses rim brakes rather than discs, I wasn’t es­pe­cially keen to com­pro­mise the brak­ing per­for­mance. Most car­bon rims need spe­cial brake pads, and the com­bi­na­tion of­ten strug­gles in wet weather – and that’s not some­thing I want to think about on a big day out.

While it’s rel­a­tively easy to buy a ready-made set of wheels from var­i­ous brands, I de­cided to go for the hand­built op­tion through Syd­ney-based wheel spe­cial­ist TWE. Pro­pri­etor Greg Ryan has been build­ing wheels for world cham­pi­ons and Olympian onand off-road rac­ers for a cou­ple of decades now, but he also of­fers reg­u­lar wheelsets for reg­u­lar riders. Af­ter a cou­ple of emails, we teed up a fi­nal build over the phone, con­sist­ing of his 30mm deep al­loy rims, with 28 holes up front and 32 holes in the rear, sealed bear­ing hubs and bladed spokes. Greg also added a lit­tle bit of gold coloured bling in the form of a pair of spoke nip­ples around the valve hole. There’s noth­ing fancy in the build, ei­ther; I can buy spokes any­where, and the three-cross lac­ing pat­tern is sim­ple and sta­ble.

Weight wise, they came in at 1600g front and rear – some 250g heav­ier than the stock­ers, but when the bike weighs so lit­tle – 7.2kg stock – a lit­tle more strength in the wheels won’t hurt.

The first big test was the Tour Down Un­der Com­mu­nity Stage, a 167km epic that fol­lows the fourth stage of the Tour ahead of the pros. Straight off the bat, I could feel the TWE wheels were vastly stiffer side to side, and com­ple­ment the softer rear end of the bike per­fectly. Brak­ing is vastly im­proved, too, though that lovely black fin­ish will soon wear off. And af­ter the ride, and 400km or so af­ter that, they are still run­ning smooth and true. Best of all? Changeover cost from the fancy Mav­ics to the func­tional TWEs was mi­nus $200!

Could I feel the ex­tra weight? Not re­ally. They might be a frac­tion slower to come up to speed, but that cer­tainly doesn’t af­fect a hack like me.

I also added a Wa­hoo Elemnt com­puter to the bike, which I re­view over the page. Suf­fice to say it’s a big screen GPS with more info read­outs than a fighter jet cock­pit.

Next is­sue: wider bars.

Above The Ul­ti­mate is per­form­ing like an ab­so­lute champ with a few miles un­der its belt

Left: Cus­tom wheels don’t need to be ex­pen­sive, as TWE proves. Note the orange nip­ples ei­ther side of the valve hole.

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