Sys-tem failures

Now there's a Mavic wheel for ya: Open Pro rims, stainless-steel DT spokes and Dura-Ace Hubs. And the only thing cracked, broken or bent is the sumbitch ridin' it.

Now there's a Mavic wheel for ya: Open Pro rims, stainless-steel DT spokes and Dura-Ace hubs. And the only thing cracked, broken or bent is the sumbitch ridin' it.

I don’t want to turn this site into a poor imitation of the DrunkCyclist “Biker down” series, but you really should check out this article by VeloNews editor in chief Ben Delaney — especially if you’re riding a Mavic R-Sys wheelset (even a post-recall version). He had a post-recall front wheel explode underneath him during a race and took a header, breaking his shoulder.

Ben and I have always ridden Mavic wheels, and will continue to do so — but only steel-spoked models. For years the wheel of choice around here was the Excel Sports Cirrus, a pair of 32-hole Open Pros laced to Dura-Ace hubs with DT spokes. That wheel has been replaced by the Nimbus, which uses Ultegra hubs, but I’m still riding my old Cirrus wheelsets on two ‘cross bikes. Nary a broken spoke in many a bumpy mile.

I also like the Neuvation wheels — I have a pair of R28 SL3s on my road bike, and they’ve been rock-solid (plus the prices are killer, especially right now).

• John Crandall update: Kathy Crandall reports that John had a good day yesterday — pain under control with medication and “lots of physical therapy,” including a device similar to a recumbent bicycle. “In occupational therapy he got to take a shower … first one in 11 days,” she adds. I’ll bet that felt good.

• One less psycho on the roads: And finally, the driver who killed two Colorado Cyclist employees is in the hoosegow for three years. Barbara Thomas was stoned on prescription morphine and barbituates and driving without her glasses when she swerved her 1986 F-350 into a pack of cyclists at 26th Street and Westend Avenue, killing Jayson Kilroy, 28, and Edgar “E.J.” Juarez, 30.

Police reportedly said Thomas had been shoplifting at the Safeway on West Colorado Avenue and clipped a man’s car in the parking lot before driving off toward the fatal collision. She also had quite the rap sheet — an outstanding summons for a hit-and-run two months previous, four shoplifting convictions, a citation for drinking in a vehicle and minor traffic infractions, according to the Bibleburg Gaslight.

That a 64-year-old woman who takes 18 daily meds to control pulmonary disease and arthritis is rolled away to the slammer in a wheelchair, clutching an oxygen tank, is not a moment for glee. But I can’t conceive of any suitable alternative. Unless it would be jailing the family members who let her careen around town, full of drugs, in a one-ton truck.

• Plenty more where she came from: You think that’s bad? Take a squint at this. There are 53,201 people who have three or more drunken-driving offenses in Colorado? Jesus H. Christ. I may never ride the roads again.

9 Responses to “Sys-tem failures”

  1. Boz Says:

    It’s a shame people ride exploding wheels in this day and age. I’m glad I can’t afford them at this time, because they sure are sexy. I’ve got a set of American Classic Victory wheels on my daily ride, and can tell you, as a certified fat bastard, nothing has held up as well. On the 3rd season, and not a loose spoke or a truing in sight. A touch heavy, but so am I.

  2. Drew McCarthy Says:

    Composites have a number of wonderful qualities, and one exceedingly awful one…
    They work fine, until they don’t, and don’t usually equals a significant value of total loss of integrity…
    Otherwise known as KABOOM!
    Just check out the blown up bits on America’s Cup boats and similar Maxi racers…
    I can think of a number of reasons to be especially suspicious of composite spokes that are similar in size to alloy ones, AND designed to act in compression in the wheel… Especially after this incident…
    I’m a big fan of composites, but I don’t think I’ll be *upgrading* to this particular technology anytime soon…

  3. khal spencer Says:

    I’ve never been convinced to buy those newfangled carbon wheels. Aero steel spokes and aluminum rims are high tech enough for this old coot. And, as others have said, they go ping when they break, not KABOOM. I get nervous enough with a carbon steerer tube.

    As far as Barbara Thomas? Three phucking years? That’s all? Well, if I ever want to kill someone, I’ll use a car. Be out in three years rather than thirty.

  4. Joey Says:

    O’G, it was 26th street. A nitpicking detail, really, considering the situation overall, but facts are facts, and you journalistic types tend to like those (or at least used to, before the grand ol’ age of spin, right? I like to consider you the old-fashioned type in the best sense of the term.).

    I’m not pleased with Barbara Thomas’ sentence. Her maximum possible was a paltry six years, and I wrote letters to the DA, the judge, anyone I could think of to express my thoughts on how she should be sentenced. As I wrote, in part, to a member of the cycling community:

    “…it isn’t about her anymore. It isn’t even, with all due respect, completely about EJ and Jayson anymore – after all, as you said, nothing will bring them back. It is about those of us who remain here and on the streets. If Barbara Thomas walks away from trial with what amounts to a slap on the wrist after killing two cyclists, that is one poor precedent that’s been set for this type of case. On the other hand, if she is punished with a gravity that matches that of her actions, there will be a proper precedent set for auto/cyclist incidents in which the driver is at fault…”

    It is too bad that she did indeed get slapped on the wrist and nothing more. I’m not okay with that.

    As far as carbon-spoked wheels go, well, I’ve got enough to worry about in the form of marauding pickup trucks piloted by impaired drivers. I’m not gonna turn my own bicycle into a latent bomb.

  5. Phil Morrissey Says:

    I had an old wheel explode a few months ago. You should also regularly inspect your traditionally built wheels for hub flange integrity. I had a 32-spoke wheel that had been laced radially on a small flange Shimano 600 hub. I probably had about 20K miles on that particular wheel, and it had been running almost true and perfect for most of that time. One day right after I did a u-turn on my out-and-back circuit, I heard a huge “twang” and a “klunk”. Luckily I had just stood up to get back up to speed, so I was able to stop safely. About half of one side of the hub had sheared off taking 6 spokes with it. I had not hit any holes recently, and the road was smooth.

    That’s when I did some research on radial wheels. Old-fashioned traditional hubs shouldn’t be laced as radial because the spoke holes are too close together on the flange. Radial spokes put much more load perpendicularly on the hub flange instead of distributing it tangentially as on a 3x lacing. If the hub isn’t designed to be radial, it shouldn’t be laced that way.

    Also,it’s interesting that the guy who had the Mavic R-sys wheel failure described it as failing right after coming out of a smooth turn. That’s the same condition that caused the failure in mine.

    So don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your old-fashioned 32H wheels are perfectly safe. Look closely at the hub flanges and rims around the ferrules.

  6. khal spencer Says:

    That hits the nail on the head, Joey. Criminal court is not about applying retribution to the individual on behalf of the victim. That game is settled in a civil lawsuit. Criminal court is where we put the hammer down on behalf of the greater community.

    We continue to treat homicide by vehicle as a much lesser offense than other forms of homicide. That is a glaring fault with the vehicular homicide laws.

  7. Patrick O'Grady Says:


    I’m not happy about the Thomas verdict, either. I’d sure like to have been a fly on the wall during the plea bargaining, since the DA’s people appear to be at least as disoriented behind the wheel as the perps they prosecute.

    The thing I find appalling is that three of her kids managed to find the time to turn up at sentencing and say what a swell old gal she is, yet they seemed unperturbed at Momma’s drug consumption and steadily swelling rap sheet. Maybe if she had run over a couple of baby seals, Jimmy Dobson or the mayor they’d have paid a little more attention. Christ, I took less dope in college. But then I was piloting a Schwinn Continental instead of a one-ton redneck Cadillac. A hundred and eighty pounds, tops, even with a belly full of 3.2 beer.

  8. khal spencer Says:

    Seems that Colorado and the Land of Entrapment are league-leaders in driving while drunk. So not surprisingly, we had a similar incident with an asst. prosecutor down in Santa Fe. One of our asst. prosecutors, ironically the one charged with prosecuting DWIs, was arrested for suspected DWI after similarly catching the attention of the local policia. She apparently resigned.–The-problem-that-won-t-go-away

    “…Barbara Romo, a respected career prosecutor, is accused of blowing a .12 on her breathalyzer test (the legal limit is .08) and having a loaded gun on the car seat beside her…”

    Guess she needed the gun to blow away those pink elephants.

  9. James Says:

    Until we treat DWI with a death as first degree murder then wrist slaps will be all that are given, received and/or allowed. Now the real test would be to see if you could get someone to prosecute it as such. Until you can prove to a judge that a car/truck is not a feather (and thereby very unlikely to cause death or serious injury) the same events will continue to play out.

    It won’t happen anytime in the near future because 1) cyclists aren’t seen as legitimate road users, 2) prosecuting anyone for first degree murder is a very costly proposition, and 3) cars/trucks aren’t seen as ‘weapons.’

    As for hubs/wheels/spokes, my phat arse has busted two spokes this year on my cross bike. Oldish Mavic 32h with Shimano 600 rear hubs. I was riding off-road the first time, and on the road the second (making a turn)…hmmmm. Damn French rims and Japanese hubs don’t like to turn! That’s it!! Especially since those were the first two spokes I have broken in a long while.

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