By 1pm it hadn't started raining yet so I decided I'd go out for a ride. Before I did this though, I decided to do something I've been meaning to do for some time: check my wheels for stress cracks. There had been a lot of discussion on BikeForums.net, a place where I spend way too much time, about this phenomenon so I decided I should look into it. As it turns out, I found several stress fractures around the spoke holes on the rear wheel which looked similar to this:
After seeing this and doing some research, I had to ask myself why I was sold these wheels in the first place. I mean a 20 spoke wheel for a 230+ guy seems like (by all accounts I've read) a very, very low spoke count. I decided to try to contact the manufacturer, Xero Wheels and ask what the recommended maximum rider weight was for this wheel (Xero Lite XR-1). Unfortunately, the company is located in Taiwan and while I did send them an email via their form I'm not really expecting a reply. I contacted their sole US importer, J&B Importers, and asked the same question. Since I wasn't a wholesaler they were slightly reluctant to answer my question but finally told me that there is NO weight limit for these wheels. This explains why the LBS had no reservations about selling me these wheels.
Before this incident I had absolutely no problems with these wheels, which as it turns out, for a $200 wheelset that weighs in at 1520g, is pretty darn unexpected, especially for someone my size. In fact in the 1200 miles I'd put on them they never even needed truing. Having said that, this absolutely destroyed my confidence in this wheel for use by me; 1200 miles is not a lot and to have the wheel basically fail is unacceptable. So today I took a couple of steps to get myself a new wheelset. I contacted master wheel builder Mike Garcia in Florida and ordered a set of custom built wheels which I will hopefully have next week. Mike had received TONS of praise on bikeforums.net as well as other sites and he stands behind his work. Additionally, I asked my LBS (under new ownership) to price out a set of Ultegra/Mavic Open Pros, which most people consider to be bomb-proof, as a spare for me. They also called J&B Importers and asked if they would be willing to have a look at the wheel and decide on warranty coverage. Since Xero's warranty is only one year and I bought the bike and wheels in July 2005, I'm not sure what will happen here, but if they do warranty it I will make them a spare set of wheels for Karrie and they should be able to handle her weight without issue.
Needless to say, I did not get to ride and I won't get to ride again until I get some new hoops.