Cycling in the French Alps; What wheels should I bring?
Our thoughts on wheel selection to make the most of your cycling trip to the French Alps. I originally wrote this article some years ago and its still relevant for those with carbon clinchers and rim brakes. With most of us moving to disc brakes then this article isn;t as important as it used to be.
Why you should leave your Carbon clinchers with rim brakes at home
Our article was prompted by the Mavic facebook page posting copied below following the 2015 Etape du Tour.
Over the years since our inception of BreatheBike in 2008 we have experienced a number of issues with both our guests and other riders visiting the Alps riding carbon rims with rim brakes and our advice is leave them at home for another day.
Imagine the scene. You entered the Etape du Tour back in November. You have been training all Winter to gain fitness for the event. Countless hours on the turbo. Early mornings before work, riding in the snow and the rain. The big day arrives in July. You haven't quite got down to your ideal weight for the event. You haven't ridden in the Alps before. You get into your rhythm on the first Col of the day and over an hour later you crest the summit. The heat of the day is building. The tarmac is getting hotter and hotter. The air is thin at this altitude. You visit the feed station. You climb back abord and you focus on the descent.
Its a technical descent with lots of switchbacks and steep pitches in between. You are only half way down and already covered more than 10KMs of descending. The descent is longer than any hill you have descended before.
All of a sudden you dab the brakes for the approaching corner.....your rear wheel suddenly feels buckled..........BOOM
Hopefully you have stayed upright, however its likely you have just experienced the delamination and total desctruction of your rear wheel and a rear tyre blow out.
This results from the heat build up during the braking process and pretty much down to the sheer volume of braking that you have been doing on this descent for the last 20 minutes or more.
If you are lucky, the Mavic service may come along. If you are unlucky, you will be waiting for the sag wagon and you day, and probably your key goal for the year is over.
So please take our advice when we suggest you leave you carbon rims with rim brakes at home to enjoy on the roads you know, far away from the severity of the Alps. If its the weight of the wheel you are concerned about, then loose another kilo or two before you arrive in France.
I've been using Mavic alloy rims for the last 7 years. Over a typical year I cover around 150,000M of climbing and subsequent descending. To-date I've had no issues with over heating and I am not a whippet, tipping the scales at around 76KG!!!