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Quick Spins – June 11, 2007

Edited by James Huang

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Welcome to Quick Spins, an all new section within Cyclingnews' tech coverage were we put some of the smaller items that land on the tech desk to the test.

Swiss Stop Yellow King brake pads - do these come in bulk?

They don't look like much
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

Road brake pads generally aren't given much thought, but the ability to stop or scrub off speed effectively is arguably one of the most critical features regarding a bike's overall performance (or, at the very least, safety). The growing popularity of carbon-rimmed wheelsets has only served to highlight that fact, as stock brake pads are often woefully inadequate for the job; in the worst cases, they can be downright dangerous, and unfortunately, even many 'carbon-specific' pads leave much room for improvement.

Swiss Stop bills its Yellow King compound as the ultimate carbon-specific rim, and apparently its brake pad chemists have cut some sort of deal with creatures from the underworld as we'll be damned if we have any evidence to refute that claim. Braking on each of our carbon testers (we sampled four from four different manufacturers) was simply eye-opening as it was the first time we'd experienced braking quality that good on the stuff, wet or dry.

Well, maybe that's not entirely true… now that we think about it, we had a similar experience while sampling Mavic's new Cosmic Carbone Ultimate wheelset matched with its carbon-specific pads. At the time, we said the braking characteristics were "predictable, quiet, and most importantly, quite powerful." As it turns out, though, those carbon-specific pads are actually made for Mavic by Swiss Stop and are nearly identical to the Yellow King compound so apparently we shouldn't be surprised.

What did come as a surprise, however, was the Yellow King's braking quality on standard aluminum rims. While not the best we'd experienced, they were certainly still quite good and would more than suffice for racers who train on aluminum but race on carbon (kiss those last-minute brake pads swaps goodbye).

Cyclocross racers in particular will be thrilled to know that Swiss Stop also offers the Yellow King compound in both a straight post and cartridge insert for threaded carriers for use with cantilevers (kiss those uncontrollable slides into the barriers goodbye). As icing on the cake (mmm… cake), just about anyone will appreciate the fact that our test pads have worn surprisingly well, too.

It's rather rare that we'll gush so lovingly on a product, but the accolades are well deserved in this case. Dare we say that it's unlikely that you'll find us using another brake pad on a carbon-equipped tester anytime soon as long as we have some say in the matter.

Price: US$41.60 (Flash Yellow King for Shimano/SRAM, set of four); US$62.40 (Race2000 Yellow King for Campagnolo, set of four)
Pros: Superb braking performance on carbon rims in all conditions coupled with excellent performance on standard aluminum, very good wear characteristics
Cons: expensive, but well worth the price
Cyclingnews rating: Click for key to ratings

Syncros FL23 wheelset - dressed in white and ready to get dirty

The Syncros FL wheelset
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

We're not exactly sure when white mountain bike components became all the rage, but Syncros seems to have bought heavily into the trend as an inordinate percentage of its line is available in the controversial finish as an option. Included in that grouping is our FL test wheelset, with matte white rims, hubs and skewers (standard production versions use black hubs and skewers).

At 1702 per pair (788g front/914g rear), the Syncros FL wheelset doesn't quite qualify as pure XC-race gear, but to be fair, Syncros doesn't necessarily intend it as such. Syncros bills the FL as more of a 'hardcore XC/marathon' wheelset and equips it with its 23mm-wide FLR DS23 disc-specific rim, DT Swiss Super Comp 14/16/15g spokes and alloy nipples, and FL-series six-bolt disc-compatible cartridge bearing hubs. The rear hub's six-pawl driver mechanism is virtually identical to other Taiwanese-made units we've tested recently (with good success, we should add), but Syncros says its FL hubs are unique by virtue of their double-row angular contact bearings which are better equipped to handle lateral loads.

The white hubs on our tester was a one-off build
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

Our FL set was reasonably true and evenly tensioned, particularly considering their arduous history (our test sample had supposedly traveled the '06 trade show circuit). Installation was a standard procedure, but we were immediately disappointed to find that the FLR DS23 rims were not UST tubeless-compatible. Nonetheless, we dug up some appropriate tube-type Michelin 2.3" rubber and inner tubes (now where had I put those again?) and set along our merry way.

If we had to choose a single word to describe the ride of the FL, it'd be 'solid'. For a middleweight wheelset, they spin up reasonably quickly on the trail but are also admirably rigid and responsive. Hub bearings remained buttery smooth throughout, and only the slightest bit of truing was required during several months of testing. We'll admit that we had our initial reservations about the durability of the white rim finish, but the paint has held up surprisingly well even in our rocky test environment.

Overall, the FL wasn't the lightest and fastest, nor the beefiest or stiffest, but it did manage to strike a very good balance overall and would certainly satisfy the 'one wheel' requirement as long as you're ok with running tubes.

Weight: 1702g/pair (788g front/914g rear, without skewers), 116g (skewers, pair)
Price: US$299.95 (FL front); US$379.95 (FL rear)
Pros: Excellent build quality, stiff and responsive for a middleweight wheelset, polarizing white finish
Cons: Not UST compatible, polarizing white finish
Cyclingnews rating: Click for key to ratings


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Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com