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Tour Tech – Keeping those wheels light

For two days straight, Laurent Jalabert almost pulled off fine stagewins, and Lance Armstrong did so. Both men – and much of the competition– were riding on superlight all-carbon and Kevlar wheels. The reason, of course, for riding these wheels in a mountainous stageis that the wheels are very light and stiff. The reason for not riding themis that neither man's primary wheel sponsor actually makes them. For the record, Armstrong’s wheel sponsor is Bontrager, and Jalabert’s is Shimano. But when the course profiles began to indicat things like "Cat. 2." "Cat.I" and "HC," Jalabert opted

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By Lennard Zinn

Look at the wheels in this picture

Look at the wheels in this picture

Photo: AFP

For two days straight, Laurent Jalabert almost pulled off fine stagewins, and Lance Armstrong did so.

Both men – and much of the competition– were riding on superlight all-carbon and Kevlar wheels.

The reason, of course, for riding these wheels in a mountainous stageis that the wheels are very light and stiff. The reason for not riding themis that neither man’s primary wheel sponsor actually makes them.

Lance's Wheel

Lance’s Wheel

Photo: Kip Mikler

For the record, Armstrong’s wheel sponsor is Bontrager, and Jalabert’s is Shimano.

But when the course profiles began to indicat things like “Cat. 2.” “Cat.I” and “HC,” Jalabert opted for  ADA wheels, made by Dutchwheelbuilder Cees Beers, while Armstrong appeared to be on the same Lightweight wheels, made by Hans Obermeyer in Munich, Germany, as he used in 2001 in the Tour de Suisse and Tour de France hill climb time trials.

At first glance, the wheels are difficult to distinguish.

Indeed, Obermeyer and Beers used to work together, but now they have gone their separate ways and the wheel designs of ADA and Lightweight have also diverged.

Both wheels have all-carbon hubs and all-carbon rims laced together withcarbon and Kevlar spokes. The wheels weigh in near one kilogram for thepair!

As with any carbon wheels, braking is less effective than with aluminumrims, and cork brake pads are required for acceptable performance.

The ONCE wheel stock

The ONCE wheel stock

Photo: Lennard Zinn

But going uphill is where they shine, as you saw. Interestingly, Joseba Belokiwas not riding on them on Thursday, but as you can see by the photo, he had had a number of ADAs on reserve and broke them out on Friday.

Jalabert’s teammate Tyler Hamilton rode ADAs in the mountain stagesof the Giro and encountered one serious problem(see “Thewheel that may have lost the Giro“) which CSC mechanics are sure they’vesince resolved.

Armstrong won the uphill time trials last year in both the Tour de France and the Tour de Suisse on his Lightweights.

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