So before the 4th of July I ordered a new set of wheels from Universal Cycles in Portland. Salsa Semi Discs, DT Comp double butted spokes laced to 36H Shimano Deore XT centerlock hubs (M775). They built them and shipped them to me by this last Wednesday night. Universal Cycles Custom Wheel Builder
What came stock on my Dakota 29er was Shimano 32H Alivio hubs (M495) laced with straight gage spokes to WBT Dual Duty 29er rims. The rear freewheel has a SRAM PG-950 cassette with 11-32T gearing and WTB Moto Raptor 2.1 tires. These wheels work fine and are going to be my dedicated street wheels with my 700x35C tires on them.
The WTB rims are tough, to be sure, however I also found them extremely difficult to mount tires on and have the bead pop on correctly. I almost always had to resort to using dish soap water to get the beads to pop on. If any rim can be converted to run tubeless, the WTB Dual Duty has to be great for it with its 'safety bead'. This was my single largest motivation to getting a new wheelset (the difficulty mounting tires on these rims) as I'm constantly switching between street slicks to dirt tires.
With the new Salsa Semis, the new centerlock rotors went right on, perfectly aligned, as did the new tires I purchased with the wheels. I was very surprised at how easy the CST Caballero tires mounted on these rims and popped in perfectly, no dish soap required. I also ordered a new SRAM PG-970 cassette with 11-34T gearing, as I was always feeling like I needed lower gearing when on the larger cassette gears.
The new tires are CST Caballeros that are supposed to be 2.25 wide. (Chen Shing or Chen $hit Tires). Like I said, the new tires mounted right up on the Salsa rims. Universal Cycle had them priced so cheap I couldn't pass them up.
So here's what I noticed: KICK ASS! I love these wheels. I was pleasantly surprised by the Caballero tires. I didn't expect much out of them, and Universal Cycle had them on sale for only $15. The bad thing I've just noticed is that the clearance at the chainstays is tight, maybe too tight to accomodate wider tires. I was very pleasantly surprised by the tire's performance. They seem to roll faster than the WTB Moto Raptors (which sound like Micky Thompson mud tires on the highway when I'm riding on pavement.) I haven't really put the Caballeros to the test yet, but a bit of riding in loose sand / rocks with them aired up to 60 psi and they performed very well. I can't wait to see how well they do at 30 psi in my usual riding spot. I am concerned about the clearance on the chainstays, and think that this is the largest tire I can safely put in this Jamis frame... but of course I can easily go wider on the front tire in the Reba Race forks.
The Deore XT freewheel engagement is excellent, though it does make more noise than the Alivio did, its not as noisy as my friend's Hope II. Why did I go for 36 spokes? Because I'm currently 255 lbs (I was 265 just 4 months ago), and I was constantly concerned when riding on the 32 spoke wheels that I was going to bend one. When I was at the peak of my fitness and harder than woodpecker lips several years back in the Army, I weighed 235 to 240 lbs, so its not like I'm going to loose a ton of weight now that I'm riding more.
So I don't know if its because the XT hubs are so much better, or the Caballero tires have less rolling resistance than the moto raptors, or the 11-34T cassette has put me in a more appropriate gear range, or all of the above, but the bottom line is that this investment has turned what I considered a very decent bike into a great bike for me. Best $540 I've ever spent (that's for everything, new wheels, cassette, hubs, spokes, brake rotors, tires.)
Maybe next year I'm going to strip everthing off this Jamis and get a Salsa Big Momma frame, but for now I'm really loving this bike.
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