Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Review: Soul S3.0 Wheelset

http://2013.bikesoul.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/s3pair.jpg


Rim Material: 6061 T6 Alloy
Rim Depth: 32mm
Rim Width:23mm
Bearings; Stainless steel, sealed.
Weight: 1550g without skewers
Spoke Count: 18/24
Tyres used: Continental Grand Prix Classic 4000. 25mm





In my research for the perfect all-rounder wheelset I had pinpointed the most likely contenders as being those with characteristics much like those displayed by this wheelset.

The required properties: low weight for climbing, moderately aero for descending but not so as to reduce speed of acceleration, alloy rims for braking in all conditions, and strength for power transfer. I'd also been keen to try out the hotly touted trend amongst the pros of using wider rims and to run 25mm tyres on them. This setup seemed ideal for the type of riding I do most: long, hilly rides in groups on variable road surfaces and in tropical weather.

I'd have to say that none of the price tags I came across were particularly alarming. This is not an expensive setup. Even the Zipp 101s were reasonable. The Rol Race SL seemed the most likely option for a while, until I came across these wheels on the recommendation of a friend. The big attraction here was of course....location: they're produced by a local company in Singapore. The specs however were exactly what I was looking for.

Soul is the brainchild of Sean Wai, originating from the Malaysian capital city but now firmly resident in Singapore. Sean is a trained architect, but has followed his passion and skill for making things into building wheels, then frames. More recently he has created the company MoVas as an outlet for his passion for building watches, with a few classic mechanical designs as well as some really daring creations on the menu.

The hubs and rims are a Soul proprietary design and, though these are manufactured in Taiwan, the wheels are assembled by Sean and his team in Singapore. They come complete with bags and a set of skewers that so far have held out pretty well - no mean feat really; skewers are the weak link in most wheelsets I've bought, and invariably get replaced almost immediately by a good old trusty pair of Dura Ace. I'm still using these after 1000+km.

Anyway, on to THE RIDE.

The first thing I noticed was that these are very nicely free-rolling; the bearings are very smooth. The rear hub freewheel has a nice sound to it. Not a look-at-me Zipp-like sound, but somewhere between a Chris King buzz and a Campagnolo whirr.

It would be hard to give a truly fair comparison to the feel of other wheels since I'm running 25mm tyres  at 100psi on these as opposed to 23mm at 120psi on the others. The difference of the tyres and pressure is very noticeable in the smoothness of the roll, and rougher surfaces no longer create quite the same bone-jarring effect, so from a feel point of view I'm sold on the 25s. One small issue is that the clearance to the fork crown and frame on my test bike is now pretty tight, so the smallest amount of grit or sand on the tyres create an audible scraping. It's not really a problem though, and on a frame with less of a race-geometry would not be an issue at all.




They look pretty mean from the side. I opted for the grey decals which give a more subtle, stealth effect, and the otherwise completely black components have a nicely understated aesthetic.

In the hills they feel very strong on the upward trajectories, and very quick to respond with a nice secure feel on the out-of-saddle surges. The feeling of having a few extra millimeters of contact with the road is very reassuring, and this of course is best felt on the downhills. This is probably their greatest strength: super-stability on technical descents.

They really plummet very well, with a great stiffness in the corners, and excellent braking facility. The extra contact with the road is very intoxicating, though it will take me a while to really develop the feel and confidence to push these babies to their max....but then I might have trouble going back to 23s!

Having now done some seriously long riding with a couple of sections in heavy rain, and some very wet descents (which felt about as secure as they ever will), I can't see myself riding anything else in these sort of conditions. They really do all I expected them to.

Just up and running is the wheelset comparison in my long-awaited Wheelset Road Test. I'm sure these will fare well with the numbers, though they may not win all categories. But bearing in mind I have some pretty good wheels already in my collection, the fact that these have overhauled the others for all the most technically challenging riding I do speaks volumes.



Road Test - Wheels



Carbon Rebound Magic

As some of you might have gathered from a recent post, I had entrusted my cracked bike frame to the hands of a local company in Singapore reputed to be experts at the repair of carbon bike frames.

The Rebound Centre is situated in Geylang in the east of Singapore, and as far as I know must be the only place of it's kind in this region. It came recommended by pretty much everybody who's opinion I respect in the bicycle business, and though it meant I had to part with the frame for 6-8 weeks (such is their demand), it left my hands a sad and damaged article, and came back like new.



Sulaiman is the master craftsman at work here. He explained that it would not be possible to retain the carbon-weave finish, as they'd have to cover that up with several new layers. He also told me that there would be a visible bump where the new material was added, but assured me that they would touch up the paintwork so that it would be as unnoticeable as possible.

Before....


The frame that came back to me however is so completely transformed that I have to point out the place where the crack was even to those inspecting it quite closely. The lacquer and paintwork are impeccable and though the area is now black instead of clear lacquered carbon, the difference is extremely subtle even in strong light. The lump too is barely visible to the naked eye.


...after.

As for strength, I have yet to put it under any massive climbing torque, but it really doesn't feel any more flexible than the super stiff frame it was when I bought it. Since the fracture happened on the top surface of the top tube, and not on a more structurally crucial section, it is subject to probably the least amount of stress under normal riding conditions anyway, but then I doubt we'd have gone for this option had the crack been elsewhere.

I would strongly recommend anyone in Singapore, Malaysia - or perhaps even further afield - with any issues with their carbon frames to entrust it to Sulaiman and his team. You can contact him at thereboundcentre@gmail.com. The above-linked website has the address and phone numbers.

At least one positive thing came out of this sorry saga.....