Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cambria Blows It Again

I called Cambria's Pasa Robles store yesterday and asked if they had the Aksium wheels I was looking for, as I am planning a trip to Barstow this weekend or next and thought it a short detour - shorter than a drive to Santa Rosa. I also emailed them, and heard nothing at all from them by either medium.

Late this afternoon I called the Santa Rosa store back and they still had a record of my order, had my contact info, but still no product. There was one change though, the price on the rear wheel was $140, not $110 like the front. Bottom line, they are no cheaper than TotalCycles, and that's before shipping and tax.

Pondering my dilemma, I started looking for a different solution. There were a few things that haunted me. In no particular order, they were as follows...

  • When I rebuilt my old bike for Aaron, I noticed that the wheels had a LOT of spokes, 36, laced 3 crossed in the back, and 32 in the front laced 2 crossed, and with double-butted spokes. These wheels I had custom built by Performance Bike Shop in NC back in the mid-80's and I loved their soft supple ride and bombproof performance. I had them built after splitting a 6" section out of my back wheel spanning 3 spoke holes while touring. I hate to repeat the mistakes of my own history.
  • My friend, and bike mechanic, Bruce, gave me a good tutorial on bike wheels when I first detected my broken wheel. There were 2 things he stressed. At my weight, using at least 32 spokes and a rim with double eyelets that allow the spokes to pull on both the inside surface (where all rims support spoke pressure) and on the mid-channel cross-member that resists the clamping force of braking
  • Reviews of the Aksium, and many other low spoke-count wheels seemed to fall into two distinct categories, love them or hate them, with nothing in-between. The deciding factor seemed to be rider weight. I'm on the 'hate-em" side of that equation. 
  • My current rear wheel has 24 spokes, the same spoke count as the Aksium. That seems like a warning shot across the bow, right? 
  • My old hub is too cheesy to rebuild, so no point rebuilding the current wheel with a great rim and spokes. Too much like building an apple around a worm.
  • My front wheel is in good condition, and since I ride so much of the time in aerobars, (which DO put a lot more weight on the front wheel) resting my elbows in nice thick pads that are torsioned with a  3" lever arm twisting against a 1" thin-walled aluminum tube that is clamped to handlebars attached to a 120mm stem and a carbon fork with Zerts silicon dampers, it's pretty hard to take a sharp blow to the front wheel. There's just way too much give in the system, even if I don't get down to the hoods or drops before the really rough stuff rolls under me.
  • My Roubaix is a plush bike, and those are all made to put the rider in an upright position (which I have done everything to remedy) due to frame geometry, which puts an inordinate amount of weight on the rear wheel. 
A lot to chew on, I know.

I spent most of the afternoon online looking for answers and options. I am really frustrated that Cambria are such clueless idiots on the phone - about products, customer support, pricing, etc. You just have zero confidence you aren't talking to some clueless kid breathless from little league hanging out waiting for his dad to come pick him up from his after-school bike shop gig.

At a minimum they can't get their story straight on price, and I have wasted 10 days sitting around with my thumb up my butt while they may or may not have done anything to satisfy their customer. I had a very similar experience with Cambria when ordering parts for my mtn bike rebuild early this spring. The last straw was calling their online store about a "Hot Deals" special on some Easton wheels only to be told they don't have any left, so sorry, scheduled for deletion real-soon-now, blah, blah, blah, ad-naseum. I think it's time to write these bozos off my contact list and move on.

I am currently looking at replacing just the rear wheel with a custom-built wheel from either Excel or Colorado Cyclist. Both builds feature Shimano Ultegra hubs, 32 double-butted Swiss DT spokes, and Mavic Open Pro CD rims.

The CD treatment is a process for hardening the braking surface for longer life - something I hope to make use of with these wheels. It seems to be somewhat controversial. My decision will come down to price, tax, and Ultegra 6700 vs Ultegra 6600 hubs. The cost will be $200- $225, depending on options. Next spring I will reevaluate my wheels with the intent of getting a matching front wheel using the same technology.

No road trip, and still too sick to make one anyway, but I am well enough to lift my plastic out of my wallet and MagicJack my way through some pointed questions before placing an order. Mostly these will be about the Ultegra hubs, freewheel bodies, new DT Swiss Revolution spokes, and the CD treatment on the Open Pro rims.

If you're getting the feeling I'm not an impulse buyer, you're right. Soak time is always an aid in making a high quality decision. I like my new approach - focusing exclusively on the broken wheel - better. Maybe Cambria's ineptness will end up being for the best. Stay tuned. I have learned a TON about wheels, and will try to share some of that with my readers.


Gotta Run..Gotta Ride said...

see.... there is always a bright side to things. No impulse buying here either. I ponder and ponder over purchases sometimes driving myself crazy..and Scott.

GET BETTER... time to get moving on the bike again for good.

Grey Beard said...

LOL, I remember your insistence at NOT spending another dime on your old bike! Such restraint! A quality I greatly admire btw.

(I used nearly all of mine writing this post, as I'd really like to choke the living $hit out of some idiot at Cambria. Lots of stuff out on the web with the same message)

I have been wrapping my ankle at night and may wrap it and ride my mtn bike on Friday. The calf is almost 100%, now if only this flu would leave me for good. A good lung-clearing ride might do wonders for that though.

Thanks for the encouragement Robin!