Love Letters To Terra

Love Letters To Terra

Usually this blog focuses on our superstar athletes and ambassadors, or dives into the details of our latest and most cutting edge products. We use the word “we” in the sense of Roval as a collective, and when “we” post something up here, we reference those words from a brand perspective. This post is a little different. It’s a love letter from me, the hairy ape who writes the blog content, to my Terra CLX wheels. This may sound like nepotistic shilling, but bear with me here. It’s a legit crush.

Anyway, about those Terra CLX wheels… They arrived way back at the beginning of May, and as soon as the Man In Brown dropped them off I tore them rudely from their boxes, slapped on some Panaracer Gravelking SK 700x43 tires, blurped in some sealant, threw them onto a battered Ibis Hakka MX, and pedaled off into the remnants of spring. In spite of adding 200 grams of tire and almost a centimeter extra footprint over the 700x35 tires that were replaced, my bike immediately felt faster AND smoother. I had offset the tire weight gain with a huge loss in wheel weight and rotational mass – went from a set of wheels that at almost 1700 grams were decidedly porky to a pair that clocked the scales at 1296 grams. So, my bike had still dropped a half-pound of rotating mass.

Rotational mass, wow. There’s no escaping the laws of physics. The first bike shop I ever worked at was owned by this wise old sage who would look at all my questionable (and hefty) wheel and tire choices and say quizzical things like; “We’re all worshipping at the church of rotational mass; some of us just haven’t realized it yet.” Or, “Newton knew his shit, man. Learn up!” That was a looong time ago, but I am always blown away by how much of a difference it makes when losing weight on the wheels. “An ounce on the wheels or a pound on the frame,” I can hear the ghost of my old boss saying...

1296 grams, damn that’s light. By comparison, our lightest weight road wheel is the Alpinist. It is a dedicated climber’s wet dream, one of the lightest clincher wheelsets in the world, weighs a mere 48 grams less than the Terra wheelset. Less than two ounces difference. To further that comparison, our Control SL mountain wheelset clocks the scale at 1240 grams, and is an XC racing exercise in minimalist performance. Also barely two ounces lighter than the Terra.

So, off I rode. The reason for the big tires is that the “roads” around where I live are brutal. Potholed, cracked asphalt festooned with cattle guards, and the only way to complete any sort of loop involves a healthy dose of washboard gravel. These roads eat light wheels and skinny tires for breakfast. It’s the kind of place where nobody in their right mind would be caught dead on anything narrower than a 700x28, and even that relatively generous road tire size is about as much fun in these parts as getting punched in the kidneys. Don’t get me wrong - these wheels kill it with 28s as much as they kill it with 47s - but the blog monkey’s backyard is just not the kind of place for skinny tires.

My bike was immediately transformed into a magic carpet. It was so smooth, and so fast, that for the rest of the spring it became my do-all ride. I’d slap on some 700x32 Roubaix tires if I was going somewhere smooth and expecting to get spat out the back when the fast riders turned the screws, and at the other end of the spectrum, would mount up a set of chunky 700x45 Firecross meats for dirt rides that would normally be XC mountain bike territory. Running those big tires at low pressure caused plenty of wincing “oh shit” rim strikes when I misjudged braking bumps or rock gardens. By July I’d racked up several hundred miles of use that could only be described as “outside of intended parameters.” 

I kept thinking about how light these wheels are, usually right after smacking them on a sharp rock while flailing down a messy singletrack, or right after just slamming across a cattle guard without even bothering to ease up on the pedals. I expected, at some point, that there would be a price to pay. But the wheels held perfectly true, stayed taut and lively, right up to the point where the Ibis got left to gather dust while the mountain bikes had the rest of the summer to play.

The summer was a long, hot, dusty, fire-ravaged affair out here in California. Finally, the weather turned cool a few weeks ago, and I pulled the Ibis back out. Wiped off the dust and cobwebs and brought it back into the rotation. It’s wearing a set of Goodyear Connectors now, 700x40 “extra-cross” tires, and aside from squirting some fresh sealant in them and pumping them up to 30psi, nothing much has changed. I’m back to a regular diet of making poor decisions and picking bad lines in questionable terrain, and still haven’t touched a spoke wrench to them. This bike, these wheels, they make me grin every time I roll out the driveway.

Wheel and tire choice used to be a total minefield - obsessing over which wheelset to run, what tires, what pressure, always wondering if I’d make the right decision for the day ahead. These days, it’s much simpler. Squeeze the tire, shrug, go ride. If we ever get out of pandemic mode and I really want to hurt myself at a ‘cross race, I’ll need to slap on some narrower tires. But otherwise, for everywhere else, I just ride. That, to me, is the magic of Terra wheels. They are an incredibly sophisticated, beautifully realized, high-tech, top-shelf component choice – but their true beauty lies in the fact that they become totally invisible. 

Thanks Terra. You’ve made riding fun, everywhere. I promise to buy you something nice for Christmas. Maybe some new tires!

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