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You will experience many different surfaces, and interesting road furniture, along your travels.  It is only a matter of time before you have a fast descent, and when you finish a ride and you discuss your day according to the road litter you have spotted, you are reaching cycling karma.

In order to survive this excitement without harm, it is a good idea to keep your wheels in check – tyres and tubes included.  There are a few things I would advise:

  1. Don’t ride on a puncture. If your inner tubes have been repaired, change them for fresh ones when you get back to base.  A repaired inner tube is a punctured inner tube, and despite your best efforts this will be a weakness on a long ride.  And don’t fill your tubes with Green Gunk to prevent punctures, it’s not clever and weighs you down.
  2. Buy new tyres. Even if you love the ones you have, small tears and perforations will exist in old tyres and this is where the thorns and grit find their way in.  If you have suffered punctures already with that tyre on, ditch it and keep it for training only, when you have less distance to walk home.
  3. Buy some decent tyres. We are effectively touring, so race tyres might be a little sensitive to the road surfaces, even though they are lighter.  So go for some endurance tyres that are a bit more resistant to punctures.  I use Specialized Armadillos but there are plenty on the market.
  4. If your wheels aren’t new have them serviced. Unless you are an expert mechanic, with a workshop filled with goodies, it is unlikely that you will be able to check spoke tension and wheel trueness.
  5. Get some new brake pads, but ride them in until they stop squeaking. Squeaking brakes usually means an accident is about to happen so spreads panic in a peloton.
  6. Avoid the metal. Keep away from obvious signs of danger, if someone shouts “Hole” or “Glass” get ready to move.  Keep away from the gutters, most of the rubbish collects here, and if you cycle on it all day you will get a puncture.

Good wheels will keep you safe and cycling, great wheels will make it easier.

If there is one part of your bike to upgrade, it is widely accepted that the wheels are the first bit.  Less friction means less power wasted.  Be sure to buy a set that fits your bike, (recent trends favour bigger tyres for comfort and grip, these may not fit your frame), and make sure your brakes match the rims, (some wheels require special brake pads).  Carbon wheels are great, ceramic bearings are almost cheating, and if you had to choose I would go for climbing profiles vs. deep section, for function, rather than aesthetics. But deep section do look sexy![1]

Disc Brakes vs. Rim Brakes

This is really a matter of preference, but in the rain disc brakes come into their own, and if you are not the slightest of cyclists, then they can be more reassuring on the descents.  Discs are slightly tricky to maintain, and do add weight, as well a putting you in a camp where there might not be a spare wheel if needs be, as they are still less common, but don’t let that put you off.

[1] Rule #26 – Make your bike photogenic


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Ashley Watson

BDS (Kings) LDS RCS (Eng)

Ashley Watson is a 3-time Straumann charity bike ride cyclist and a general dental practitioner who has been placing implants since 2003!

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