From Sheldon Leonard's web site:
"Traditional cycling folklore holds that radial-spoked wheels give a "harsh" ride, due to the slightly shorter spokes they use. Jobst Brandt demolishes this fallacy nicely:
"...'radial spoking also gives you a very stiff wheel. You can actually feel increased bumpiness compared to a three- or four-cross wheel.' "I think you are imagining all this. There is no change in radial elasticity between a radial and crossed spoke wheel with the same components, other than the length of the spokes. A 290 mm spoke is 3% stiffer than a 300 mm spoke of the same type. Since spokes stretch elastically about 0.1mm on a hard bump (not ordinary road ripples), the elastic difference between the radial and cross-three wheel is 3% x 0.1mm = 0.003 mm. Copier paper is 0.075 mm thick, and if you can feel that when you ride over it on a glassy smooth concrete surface, please let me know. You have greater sensitivity than the lady in "the princess and the pea" fable."I would add that the deflection of the tire, the flex of the fork, stem and handlebars are each an order of magnitude greater than this theoretical deflection difference in the spokes. The difference in elasticity between spokes of different thicknesses is also much greater than the difference between spokes which differ in length by 3 %, but you don't hear the same complaints about wheels built with spokes of different thickness."
"If your story weren't so common, I would assume it to be a put-on, but it isn't. I find it amazing how humans love to believe unbelievable things, the more unbelievable the stronger the belief. It isn't new."
In other words, it sounds like your other cyclist was in fact talking out of his @$$.