Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Spin Industries Koppenberg XXLR 50 Fat Boy carbon clinchers

Admit, we all love a good-looking pair of wheels, especially nice deep-section carbon rims. They look the business, the sound cool and hopefully they even help us rider a little faster!

Spin Industries is a small UK maker of hand built wheels and custom titanium frames, much better known to the road race crowd than to us triathletes. The company was founded by lifelong cyclist and ‘spinmeister’ Drew Gill. I’ve been riding around on a pair of (purchased, not test) Koppenberg XXLR ‘Fat Boy’ 50mm clinchers for a few months now, and thought it would be a good time to write up my thoughts.

Spin Industries XXLRWhy did I choose Spin and not one of the more ‘obvious’ mega wheel brands? Well, largely based on having a number of conversations with Drew before I made my purchase. His willingness to engage, educate his customers and offer advice is something you just don’t normally see.

It was through these conversations that I came to buy-in to the philosophy behind the much wider-than-normal 25mm in between brake tracks. The theory is that all aspects of the wheels handling are improved with the wider track – the wheel is more aerodynamic, resists cross-winds better and (because you can run lower tyre pressures) is both better handling and more comfortable than ‘old school’ rims.

But according to Drew, the biggest benefit of the much wider rim base is the change this creates in the tyre’s profile, and it’s this above all else that transforms the grip on offer and decreases rolling resistance with the result of more speed for the same effort at every lean angle of the bike. It’s a big and bold claim for the wheels to have to live up to!  You can read more here:  http://ridefullgas.com/koppenberg/

Look & Feel

On arrival – in a special wheel transport box, complete with skewers, valve extenders and Spin’s own-brand brake blocks – the wheels looked great. There’s no obvious aero profiling (no golf ball dimples, just a nice matte finish to the wheels). I opted for the ‘loud and proud’ stickers, but Spin offers a more stealthy (‘Dark Energy’) option as well.

The wheels are hand built to order with Sapim CX Ray spokes, each precisely and evenly tensioned. The nipples for the spoke adjustment are on the outside of the wheel, making it a lot easier to true the wheels in the future (not that I’ve had to do that yet). The front wheel is laced radially with 20 spokes onto the Spin Industries super light F50 front hub (custom builds on Chris King or other high end hubs are also offered to meet customer requirements).

The rear wheel is built on CX Ray spokes with a double 2-cross lacing for extra rigidity (a wheel-builder friend of mine inspected the wheels and gave them a solid thumbs-up for how they’d been built).

Drew explained why he recommended a 2-cross, 2-cross rear rather than the more common 2-cross/radial lacing that we see in a lot of big name rear wheels. The double crossed lacing adds about 15% more torsional rigidity over radial. So what does mean in practice? Mostly increased resistance against twisting under the power of your legs driving hard for that next PB or medal. The rear hub is Spin’s precision R50Sl and comes as standard as an 11-speed (which I converted to 10-spd with the supplied spacer).

Using inner tubes with 70mm valves saved me the bother of having to use the supplied extenders (there’s more than enough valve on show for the pump head to grip). I fitted the wheels with a pair of Schwalbe ONE tyres – reasonably quick but also durable.

Out on the road

Pumping the tyres up, I had to remind myself of Drew’s instructions – use a lot lower pressure than you’re used to. After a couple of rides, I’ve determined that around 90psi seems to give the best all round handling / speed / comfort balance.

Spin Industries XXLRSpeaking of comfort, the ride on my Pinarello ROKH is noticeably smoother and more compliant on the XXLRs (compared to either alloy rims or my previous 38mm carbon clinchers). The bike rolls along very nicely indeed and once up to speed, seems to stay there.

Many people get concerned about handling in cross winds on deeper section rims. Indeed plenty of people report getting blown around on 50 or 60mm rims. So it was a nice surprise when I first headed out on the XXLRs on a really windy day. It would be a lie to say they’re not affected by cross winds at all, but what I did notice is that there is a ‘progressiveness’ to how they react – rather than being ‘snatched’ by a cross wind, you just feel the wheel being pushed left or right. It’s never violent and you get plenty of time to adjust your weight or riding position to accommodate it. I’d say the XXLRs are no more affected by cross winds than the 38mm rims they replaced.

The carbon braking surface, when matched with Spin’s own-brand pads, is extremely good. They got a good test on repeated downhill blasts in Mallorca! There’s no squealing or brake fade. You do need to get used to the braking characteristics, but once you’ve adapted you’ll have no shortage of confidence braking late for corners at 65+kmh!

At 1540g for a pair (minus skewers, tyres, cassette etc.), the wheels are pretty light already and they climb nicely (on the same test rides in Mallorca I set PBs on nearly every climb). Out of the saddle the rear wheel seems really nice and stiff. I don’t remember experiencing much if any brake rub even on the steepest sections.

Conclusion

It would have been easy (perhaps ‘safe’) to buy a £1k set of wheels from one of the most established brands, but then I would have missed out on a hand-built set of wheels that are just superb in every respect. They spin nicely, look great and you can still climb on them.

Buying a pair of hoops custom built for me by Spin has given me direct contact with the people who actually design and make the equipment I’m now riding. This is pretty unusual in a crowded market where you rarely (if ever) get to discuss your requirements with someone who actually makes what they’re selling you. Even better, I know exactly who to speak to if anything ever goes wrong!

Finally, I guess the moment I knew I’d made the right choice was on a local ride with a pair of Zipp boys that I usually have to work really hard to stay with. When I was on the front with them shouting “slow down Matt!” I knew that these Spin Fat Boys were performing nicely!

The XXLRs have recently been superseded by the all-new ‘Dark Energy DMX550s, which you can view here: http://ridefullgas.com/koppenberg-dark-energy-dmx550-fat-boys-50mm-1570g-pr/