30 May 2014

Williams WS28

I use what works.  Always have.  There's no extra time in my life to tickle parts that are questionable.
Thus, I rarely buy wheels.  My last wheelset purchase was a set of ROL Race SL wheels...in April of 2009.  In the 5 years that have followed, they took a beating, and kept coming back for more.  How many miles on them?  Probably in excess of 25k.
Around the same time, I threw down on a set of Williams WS50 carbon wheels.  They have been ridden sparingly, and are still in great shape.
ROL...Williams...two companies with similar philosophies that make good stuff.
Herein lies the rub...
The new ROL Race SL wheels, and the Williams WS28 wheelset are just about as similar as a wheelset can be.  Same hoops...same spokes...hubs made by Novatec.
The difference?  Money.  The ROL Race SLs are $700 @ retail.  The Williams WS28 are $559.  $140 difference just bought a set of Vittoria Open Corsa tires, latex tubes, and returned enough change to get lunch. +1 to Williams.
Not too long ago,  my WS50s needed a new freehub. A couple of emails, and a couple of calls, and a new freehub was on the way.  And since the hub design had changed slightly from 2009, when I bought them, the pleasant folks at Williams took the time to make sure they were sending me the correct freehub, and the correct internal spacers.  +1 to Williams.
So there you have it..decision made.  A set of WS28s was ordered, along with the Vitts and tubes.
The wheels arrived on May 6th, and went into service on May 7th, but not before a little bit of fettling.  As always, I take stuff apart before it goes into service. 
The front wheel was fine...just a little hub adjustment, as the end caps were a bit too tight.
The rear wheel, well...not so much.  The freehub barely spun.  I pulled the wheel apart, and as suspected, there was entirely too much grease slammed into the hub shell.
The excess, which is to say 95%, of the heavy grease was removed, and the freehub pawls, and engagement points were liberally coated with Phil Wood oil
Back together, the hub spun like a champ.
Onto to the Noah they went...
The graphics might be a bit much for some, but I quite like them.  And since the graphics are etched onto the hoop, that's probably a good thing.  As an aside, I cannot grasp why companies do the "ghost" decals.  You know...the ones that are dark grey/black.  Why would they not want folks to see their company name?
The hoops themselves are produced by Kinlin.  As we know by now, Kinlin makes damn fine rims, and they are used by pretty much every "pre-built" wheel company out there.  You can buy them pretty much anywhere online as well.
The WS28s are 28mm deep, and 23mm wide.  I waffled a bit about going to the wider hoops, thinking it was a fad, but after buying them, I can admit that I was wholly incorrect.  Wide is the way to go...for several reasons...
They make the tire FAT and ROUND.  My 23mm Vitts measure out to a tick over 25mm on the wide rims.  Thus, running lower pressures is necessary.  I learned this lesson the hard way with the Zipp 404 wide rims.
Even at my generous 180 pounds, I'm running 100-105psi in the front, and 110 in the rear.  They feel softer, and smoother, yet lose no speed, and handle precisely.  I liken it to riding a fatter tire on a skinny (19mm standard) hoop.
And the aero profile of the hoops is rounder.  They aren't the aero deep-V style of old.
Back to the softer and smoother...
As we've talked about before, the Noah isn't a comfort bike.  If one is looking for a Roubaix/Domane/Synapse type of ride, look elsewhere.
I can say though, after three weeks, and 1100km on these wheels, the combination of the high tpi Vitts/latex tubes/wide rim/power pressures take the jackhammer edge off the Noah.  I'm not complaining.
The hubs are made by Novatec.  And before Novatec hubs are dismissed as cheap Chinese junk, please be aware, dear reader, that Novatec makes most of the hubs rolling around these days, including Boyd, Williams, ROL, Ritchey, Reynolds, and others.  They are a contractor, and produce hubs to spec, so don't think the stuff they make is off-the-shelf, cobbled together crap.
 The front hub is a minimalist affair, but NOT the American Classic style that some other builders have adopted. The bearings are good-sized, dead smooth, and sit WAY outboard.  The flanges are big, and wide, which is a good thing as the wheels are built radial.  The front is 24 spoke.  Sapim CX-Ray spokes...which ain't cheap...
The rear is high flange on drive, and non-drive.  Some may argue that this lessens bracing angle, but this point is moot, and the high flanges dictate shorter spokes.  The "one is stiffer than the other" discussion is a push, at best.
Again, high flanges that are tall, and wide.  The rear is 28h, and built 2x/2x...with the aforementioned Sapim Cx-Ray spokes.
The rear hub has 6 pawls (most have 4) and 60 engagement points (most have between 24 and 32). This results in RIGHT NOW hub engagement when pedaling.
It also yields a sound akin to being chased by 1000 angry bees when freewheeling.
Guess there's no sneaking up on the group anymore...
(And yes, my chain and cassette is a little dirty...it happens when one rides...)

This 24/28 setup creates a stiff wheelset.  They are easily the stiffest wheels I own.  I guess the old ROLs were getting a bit long in the tooth, and a bit noodly, as the difference in lateral stiffness was pretty apparent on the first couple of rides.  Just something to get used to...not a big deal whatsoever.
And I know the published weight will illicit cries of "BOATANCHOR!!!", but I can say with all honesty, I just don't see it.
Mine weighed dead on the stated weight from Williams...actually, a bit under.  Williams says 1614g.  Mine were 1595g.  The weight "penalty" over similar wheels is simply due to the wider hoops.  They weigh 25-30g more each than a Kinlin 30mm hoop.
And I'll lay it out here...
1600g isn't "heavy".  10 years ago, 1600g was considered on the light side, and anything under 1500g was LIGHT, so get over yourselves.  If you say you can "feel" it, it's in your head.
For the math majors, there are 28.5g in an ounce.

The WS28 wheels do everything pretty well. They ride well, look good, add a touch of comfort to the bike, and are cost-effective.  I will NOT say cheap, because "cheap" is a pejorative term.  You won't find a better set of wheels for the money.  Wheels that perform on a similar level cost $1000+.  You also cannot build this wheelset for less than the $559.  If you'd like to try, I'll give you the links to the rims, spokes, and similar hubs.

And Williams has always provided me with exemplary customer service.  Any issues, or questions are answered with an immediate phone call, or email, many times by Keith Williams himself.  And if one has questions about wheels, Williams or otherwise, call Williams.  Keith, Trevor, and the boys will chat with you for as long as you feel like staying on the phone.
These would make great dirt road wheels.  A fat CX tire would get even fatter by default, and one could run lower pressures.  Just a thought...

No comments: