My friend Derin Stockton has been part of the cycling circus for about thirty years. He has made his living as a professional road racer, mountain bike racer, mountain bike tire designer and coach. He put together the Syndicate Racing team for Santa Cruz Bicycles, to boot. It’s no exaggeration to say that Derin could be the best bike handler I know. I’ve laced wheels for him and brother Kurt since 1989, so when he opens his mouth to express an opinion, I stop what I’m doing and I listen.
Last year I constructed wheel sets for him featuring carbon rims of varying depths. All met with approval, butthere was one question;
“How do you think this wheel would handle with a 2 cross lacing?” He was holding a 38mm deep carbon front wheel, 20 spokes set in a radial pattern. I had used a high quality Taiwanese hub that had flanges paced at 36mm from the centerline; all in all, a good recipe for stiffness and predictable tracking, regardless of lace pattern. The majority of professional wheel builders reading this will acknowledge that a radial lace pattern is considered not only acceptable, but the standard for a contemporary rim brake front wheel. So, why question it? “I wonder if the extra bracing of a two cross pattern will be noticeable”, said my test pilot Derin. There’s only one way to find out, so I re-laced the hub and rim to each other with spokes laced in a two cross pattern.
Off he went and reported back, two months later. In his own words:
“In order to corner well, I need to be confident. That confidence comes from the “feel” that I have in my front end. Feel is how well I can “feel” my tire on the road surface.
Looking at the list of front end components (tire, rim, spokes, hub, fork, frame, stem, handlebars), there’s a lot between the road and my hands that can affect feel. Focusing on the front wheel, the component list shrinks; tire, rim, spokes, hub. What I dislike about the radial wheel compared with the 2-cross is a vagueness and wallowy feeling in the front end. The radial lacing delays and softensfeedback coming from the front tire to my hands. I notice this a lot when sprinting or standing up on a hard rolling hill. Cornering is where I feel it most, especially in combinations turns (a series of turns linked together) where the transition is quick between turns. It takes longer for the radial wheel to settle and stick. I have to wait to commit, which slows my corner. Even once I am leaned in and cornering, that softening of connectivity just makes me less confident, and I can’t charge throughout the corner in my normal style.
With the 2-cross I have a feel for my front end. No delays in handling and when I lean in to commit I have a solid sense of how my front end is going to react to whatever force I am applying. I never want to be guessing what my front end is going to do.”
The phrase that does it for me? “With the 2-cross I have a feel for my front end”. If you have a wheel that helps you commit sooner to the corner, I would say that’s a positive attribute.
I’m now lacing all my front wheels two cross, down to 20 spokes. I think you’ll like it!