Carbon turns me on. It just does. The look, the feel, the smell – everything about it winds my watch. Therefore it was no surprise when I opened the Grammo wheel box and peeked inside, my heart fluttered and my toes curled up a bit in my Nikes. Oooooh… Carbon… I had never ridden carbon wheels before, and couldn’t wait to get home from Sea Otter and throw some tires on!
Out of the box finally, these wheels impressed me with their stealthy look. No stickers, no nothing, just 58mm of deep dish carbon clincher with an alloy braking surface. I flicked the carbon a couple of times just to take in the sound of hollow carbon goodness, then spun them for trueness and bearing feel. Out of the box, these wheels were perfect, and the sealed bearings were buttery. The sound of the freehub body gave me a bit of a start though, I knew right away that I would not be coasting up silently on anyone! I am a fan of quiet freehubs, and if I was to get to keep this wheelset, I would probably rebuild the mechanism with my secret sauce to see if I could mute this baby a bit. For those who enjoy the angry bee hive groove, these wheels are for you!
Turns out, these wheels are Grammo 5:8 Carbon/Alloy Clinchers ( I asked) They weighed in at 1840 grams for the set with rim tape. I had no issues mounting them up with tires (80mm presta stems are a must) and a Sram Red cassette, which happens to totally amplify the freehub body’s natural buzz. I swapped it after one ride for a Sram 1070 cassette which I found much more to my taste. So what is the deal with the 1000 frogs? Well, that is what these wheels sound like! Imagine a Springtime pond a couple of miles away, on a quiet evening, the sound of 1000 frogs looking for love becomes a certain pitch, a pleasant white noise in the background, not loud, not distracting, just a presence to be enjoyed or ignored as one pleases. I found it quite enjoyable. It was a fast sound that became more intense in corners and hard efforts. Turns out, not only were they a pleasure to listen to, they were a pleasure to ride!
The second characteristic of the Grammo’s I noticed, after the unique sound, was the responsiveness to rider input. At first I was skeptical about how they would feel compared to my relatively light Shimano Ultegra wheelset. I was sure they would feel more sluggish getting up to speed, and perhaps lag in the corners a bit, but this was not the case! These wheels accelerated with just as much snap as my old wheels, and felt surprisingly lively in the corners. On the flats the Grammo’s blew my old wheels away. I found myself holding a bigger gear longer, I could literally feel these wheels cutting through the air. They made me want to stay in the drops and tuck in my elbows, perhaps even get one of those goofy time trial helmets and a skin suit – just me and my pond of 1000 frogs ripping across the Sacramento Valley. Yeah, I need a set of these. Perhaps a full carbon tubular set? The weight weenie in me must be satisfied!
My inner weight weenie of course said, “but what about the climbing?” So I took the Grammo’s on the local tour of the Folsom Alps for a bit of hill testing. The Folsom Alps aren’t very long climbs, but some of them are steep, a decent testing ground for the Grammo’s. The day was a bit breezy, even better for testing a wheelset with more surface area than I have ever ridden. Climbing, the wheels did not feel heavy, but I was not breaking any personal records either. My inner weight weenie had no comment. Descending was where things got a bit exciting. Dropping down Serrano Parkway, where it is easy to hit 50 plus mph, the Grammo’s were definitely susceptible to turbulence. Cross breezes and SUV jetwash pushed and pulled noticeably on the carbon sidewalls. It was nothing I couldn’t handle, but an authoritative grip on the bars and full attention to the road were required at all times. I ran into a lively cross wind heading down mostly flat Green Valley Road and noticed that the wheels were pretty much un-fazed by the steady breeze, and I finished my ride bubbled in a perfect tailwind which left me smiling for hours.
So, they ride nice. Are they durable? Definitely. I rallied them over root buckled bike trail, I bunny hopped them over storm debris, I jockeyed them down gravel roads, I even bounced a squirrel of the carbon rim (he was fine, I almost wet my chamois). At the end of the month, the rims were true, the bearings were tight and smooth, and the spokes sang an even pitch all the way around. Can I try these on my cross bike?
Conclusions? Yes, I want some. The Grammo 5:8’s excel noticeably in the flat lands, and climb just fine. They can be a bit scary on the downhills if there is wind, and this was the only time I did not have full confidence in the wheels. So, like any good bike geek, I would want at least two wheelsets, one like the Grammo’s for the flats, and something feathery for the hills. Do I get to try some feathery wheels next???