Five Weeks in Europe with the Greek God of War

(a set of Rolf Prima Ares6 wheels, that is)

               My wife Amy and I went for something of a dream trip this summer: five weeks in Europe and two iconic events: Ironman France for her and Challenge Roth for me. Since that probably wasn’t enough, we tossed in l’Etape du Tour, a gigantic (14,000 participants!) gran fondo on the Tour de France Stage 19 course.

               Our biggest challenges—aside from the actual races, of course—were logistical. We didn’t rent a vehicle to keep costs down, and we wanted to travel via train. That meant breaking our bikes down several times, packing them into our Ruster Sports bike bags (No plane fees! No train fees!), lugging them to the train station, wrestling them onto the luggage racks, and then doing everything in reverse upon arriving at our destination; traveling light wasn’t a concern—it was a total necessity.

               So only one set of wheels could come with both of us. This presented an obstacle to surmount. I usually race the Rolf Prima TdF6SL, a tubular rim, but bringing one set of tubulars seemed to invite disaster. I still had to train ahead of Roth, and then ride l’Etape. Flats would be a gigantic hassle, not to mention expensive. Enter the Rolf Prima Ares6. This rim shape came out a little after the TdF6SL rims, if I’m not mistaken, but closely replicates the tubular wheel, just in clincher format. I’d never ridden deep carbon clinchers before, so I was in for a learning experience.

               And what an experience! I borrowed the wheels from Rolf, and I don’t really want to return them. I believe they have converted me from a dyed-in-the-glue tubular traditionalist to a carbon clincher advocate. I felt like I was getting the best of both worlds: the peace of mind that comes with being able to change a flat quickly coupled with uncompromising aerodynamics and comfort. The wheels spun up very quickly to speed and seemed to just hover there once I got them up to speed. They also rolled evenly and quietly, soaking up bumps in the road with aplomb. They even make a wonderful laser-gun sound upon braking (use the Swiss Stop yellow brake pads with these guys). I even only had standard butyl tubes installed (I ran out of time to get latex tubes in there), so rolling resistance could be even lower with these guys.

               In the end, I rode to a top ten bike split at Roth in 4:35, against some of the best triathletes in the world (if you’d like, you can see the wheels in action here: vimeo.com/134048354. Then I turned around, removed the disc wheel cover from them, and rocked them in l’Etape du Tour, which featured 13,000 feet of climbing in only 85 miles. The Ares were light on the climbs and sure-footed on the alpine descents. I, in short, love them.

               So Brian, may I keep ‘em? May I? May I?

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