For a good number of years now we’ve been building wheels for Davie and watching them go round at various Road, Cyclocross, Track and MTB events up and down the country.
But what of this enigmatic fellow? What makes him win and why does he ride Wheelsmith wheels?
Let’s start with the Palmares. Or rather his “real” job. Davie is a full-time firefighter. So he goes on the rollers for 12hr night-shifts while waiting for chip-pan fires, right? Not really. But the shift-patterns and 25miles commute do lead to interesting training plans.
Secondly, he and former Scottish Road Champ Gary Hand run Espresso Cycle Coaching. It works. Put your training schedule in the hands of proven winners and the physical and psychological improvements are immediately tangible. Takes a winner to make a winner and all that. He’s always smiling.
Davie has always won stuff. He holds almost every colour of Scottish National Medals in Road, Track, Cyclocross, MTB and Time Trialing. Riding for Endura Racing in 2010, he rode the Tour du Haut Var and went on to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, team mate of David Millar – helping him take Bronze in the Road Race and also riding the Points and Scratch races on the Track. 2011 saw him with the Scottish Criterium Championships.
It is on the track and field that Davie also excels. Current and previous Scottish CX Series and Scottish Scratch Track champion, his stock is soaring. How he finds the time is beyond us. A strong Tour Series in 2013 with MG-Maxifuel scoring a wealth of points into 2014 when joining Starley Primal and now with Wheelbase Altura MGD – winning the Northern Series Title. The torture never stops for the man.
Currently, Davie is the Scottish National Road Race Series Champion and he’s just won the British Masters MTB Champs on our new 29’er carbon MTB set!
Derek caught up with the busy man and asked why he has chosen Wheelsmith wheels as upgrades for his road, track, MTB and cross bikes and how they have become his “lucky charms” for winning stuff.
WS: Hello, people say you would win on old rusty steel wheels and baldy tyres, but they are just jealous of your nice shiny carbon stuff right?
DL: The biggest upgrade on a bike has to be your wheels and decent tyres! Having the confidence to push levels of grip and handling to the limit is a must in every event – cross especially! Carbon is nice though - we all love it! Deeper rims cut through the mud and sand and the spokes don’t pick up and create drag. Tools of the trade and all that!
WS: I’m always amazed at why you aren’t round here looking for bearings and spokes all the time. Do you do your own maintenance or do they just not break?
DL: I’m a great believer in looking after your equipment! Don’t get me wrong, I give them a hammering but I know they can handle it. I think I’ve damages one wheel in 5 years and that was due to a tree branch going through it. Being on discs meant it was still rideable though. I think being hand-made, having the tension set perfectly makes the rest of the wheel so strong and stable that if you pop a spoke the rest of the wheel can handle the load. You just don’t get that with factory wheels – whatever the price. They seem rush-made and getting tensions even takes time.
Either that or they use weird rims, spokes and hub combinations that you can’t get spares for. I try not to hit the bearings with the jet-washer too closely, but even if they need replaced it’s a 5 minute job.
WS: What is your favourite Wheelsmith wheelset? These new MTB ones obviously do the job but it’s always nice to see the CX Disc wheels getting a hammering.
DL: The MTB ones are mega light and surprisingly stiff! I do love the wide CX Disc ones though. They’re super stiff and the tub seats in them a lot better than the narrow rims, giving you the confidence to ride them at a low pressure without the tub rolling. I’ve had them down to 17psi with the rim banging off the ground and they’re still in good shape.
WS: Grant Ferguson chose those too and went and won the Scottish Champs last year on them – oops sorry! What can we do to help you win it this year?
DL: Kidnap Grant!!
WS: How do you see wheels developing over the next few years?
DL: There’s always a call for handbuilts, even in the Pro peleton – for specific events and roads, so maybe guys like yourself will be called into action more? Manufacturers never spec top end wheels on their bike as they are usually an individual choice, pretty much like a pair of trainers for a runner. Custom hand built wheels mean you get exactly what suits you. Reliability and suitability really. 1200g wheels may be good for a 58kg mountain goat but no use for an 80kg crit rider! I think disc wheels will be more and more popular with the UCI allowing them in 2017. There will be more call for decent lightweight disc wheels if that takes on. Some of the early road disc designs are woeful.
WS: Would you ever actually buy (with your own actual cash) a pair of “factory” wheels again?
DL: I can’t see it! One of the main issues I find with factory wheels is the spares problem. Specific tools and spokes….. I‘ve been in many a country with factory wheels and my club or team mates and I are unable to a repair done – it’s a nightmare!
WS: You’re still riding an old “experimental” 20h front CX disc wheel. Any issues?
DL: I’ve had those for 4 seasons now and theyre still going strong. The front was actually the one the branch hit but apart from that it just been replacement bearings. There’s so much strength in the wheel that I’ve not had any issues with 20h – I happily ride them.
WS: What do you think is the best depth/profile rim for:
DL: The old conventional Open Pros are good. Go for a shallow rim. Nothing worse than getting a puncture and then realizing your spare tube valve doesn’t come up through the rim and you can’t blow it up! Been there!! Those Pavé rims would be better for a bit more of a rough road and winter potholes. Be sensible with training wheels – reliability is key.
WS: Road racing on lumpy courses?
DL: Probably 38’s or 45s as a good all-rounder. Light, stiff and not too deep so you don’t get caught in the wind.
Roads with loads of climbing?
DL: If it’s a clincher for hilly sportives that a lot of people do, something low profile, light and stiff like your Ascent and Race30’s. They look classic too! I wouldn’t go too light because stiffness suffers and safety is crucial when you are carving up the downhill bits. Deep sections are stiff but can get caught in the higher winds you get up the mountains. The “aero-ness” won’t help you up a hill much either!!!
DL: Again, 38’s or 45’s for crits too – wide rim, 25mm tubs, low pressure, mega grip! Get your knee down!
DL: CX Disc - without a doubt. Deep section for cutting through mud, wide rim for good tub fitting and bombproof.
WS: And is it still “tubs for racing, clinchers for training”?
DL: Defo. Unless you have a service car following you, then it’s clinchers for training. Tubs for racing – road, track, CX, the lot!
WS: Ever melted a carbon clincher?
DL: Never. I never drag the brakes and on the bigger descents I’ll alternate force on the brakes. Hard on the rear, easy on the front then vice-versa on the next corner.
WS: Would you recommend carbon clinchers for mountain events? And explain why?
DL: Don’t see why not if you’ve gained the experience gradually and know the limits. I’ve done many a race and training camp down fast descents in the mountains and never had any issues with them. I think if you brake properly and have a good set of pads and rubber then they’re a great thing to have on your bike. Everyone loves carbon but if you are a nervous descender, forget it – get some alloy clinchers or coaching maybe or get there more gradually. It can get costly if you make mistakes.
WS: Finally, do you have any hints or tips for an aspiring road, CX or track rider to improve their performance?
DL: Again, having confidence in your equipment and ability are the initial things. If you are nervous about what you are riding and your ability to ride then you’ll be on the back foot straight away. Once the bike is sorted then some specific skill and performance coaching will definitely be the next upgrade! Cycling becomes so much more enjoyable when you are relaxed and confident!!
Many thanks to Davie for his words of wisdom and we wish him well on those CX Disc wheels this season.
The Scottish CX season kicks off at Callendar Park on the 9th October. Enter now or come and check it out if not riding – it’s always a great family event and a nice setting in the heart of Central Scotland.