Bad wheels, or bad luck?

Under any other circumstances, sitting outside on a sunny winters day at Rooi Els with a cup of cappuccino to complement the stunning views would more than enough to put a smile on my face. But when it is winter, and sunny days are rare, sitting looking at views is not something I’d trade for enjoying them from the saddle of my bike. And enjoying my midweek ride is just what I had been doing until my Easton EA 90 SLX wheels let me down again.

I’d made a concious decision to lead the group up the climb back from Betty’s Bay. It’s fairly long but not steep, making it perfect for settling into a nice brisk pace to spin up to the top. Being just four riders we ended up riding in twos: Penny alongside me at the head; and John and Tom tucked on our wheels behind. Energy wise, I’d judged the haul up well – as we crested the top I was starting to feel the effort in my lungs, although my legs still felt strong and energetic.

Starting the free-wheel down I was looking forward to seeing how well I would last the remaining few hills, given my recent lack of training and the decent pace we had kept up. But around halfway down I heard an ominous crack, followed immediately by a wobbling front wheel. I instantly knew it was another broken spoke, having had exactly the same experience at the end of the Wellington Lions ride back in February. I’m a fairly cautious (in other words slow!) descender, and Penny and John were already too far ahead to hear me cry out “mechanical“. Tom pulled alongside as my bike rapidly slowed under the involuntary braking of the no longer round front wheel. He graciously offered to wait with me, but there was really no point him also spoiling his ride so I bid him farewell and asked him to let the others know what had happened when he caught up with them.

Luckily Yolandi was at home, and the hour it took her to reach me passed quite quickly with the views, my coffee, and my inbox to work through. I wasn’t happy though: two spoke breakages in 8 months and less than 2,000km of usage is just not what I’d expected from high end wheels. Especially since everything else about them I like – they’re very light and spin very fast. But durable they are not, at least not the set I have.

Having done some internet research – it seems that there are many happy customers, with lots of distance on these wheels and no problems. There is no shortage of other unhappy riders though whose experiences pretty much exactly mirror mine – multiple and repeated spoke breakages with relatively low usage, and also loosening hubs which is something I had to get fixed just last week. So I’ve lobbied Helderberg Cycle World to try and get me either a replacement set or a refund from Omnico, the SA distributors. Hopefully I’ll get a rock solid set in replacement, and will be able to report back that I was unlucky with a defective set.

26 Jul 12 – Postcript to original entry:
Yet another case of superb service from Helderberg Cycles and Omnico, they replaced the wheels with a brand new boxed set. I can’t really say whether my set were just defective, or there is something inherent in the Easton’s that doesn’t suit my riding, but it’s great to have the support of my LBS and the importer in getting me a replacement set.

Photos from Easton website

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