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We also hand build custom alloys. Rims by Pacenti, Stans, HED and Kinlin. Hubs by Miche, WI, Chris King, DT, Tune and PowerTap.

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Thursday
Mar192015

Time and Place

An eye-opening article in this week's Economist (I could link it but you'd be in front of a paywall about 2 sentences in) about corporate HQs in Silicon Valley makes this a good time to talk about our new office. 

For the last year, we've been operating in two states: Mike remains in MD, while I've been in RI since last winter. The riding- and racing culture around DC has been wonderful to be a part of, but my entire family and many life-long friends live in RI, so when I had the chance to move back, I took it. This adds a wrinkle to how Mike and I do what we do, but the way our roles split makes that aspect pretty painless. 

On the other hand, having a work space that's 100% committed to allowing November's operations to flow as smoothly and effectively as possible has introduced efficiency and - I think you'd have to call it joy - that lets things work better than they ever have. In our case, place creates time that supports our mandate to keep overhead as low as possible. 

It doesn't hurt when this is the course for your Tuesday Night Worlds

A palacial monument to ourselves will never be us (in line with The Economist's view), but neither would some cinder block bunker in an industrial wasteland. Our operations base is actually a perfect reflection of November's soul - efficient, small, human, colorful, and slightly quirky. You'd also have to throw hand built in there. It's a story of value and values - just like in your wheels, you want something that absolutely works the part, and looks the part, but gives a big middle finger to what most of the world is telling you costs the part. 

There's still a ton of moving dust and the time of the year means that some work on the place takes a decided back seat to getting orders out the door. And ongoing struggles with the switch to a new phone mean that most of the pictures are inaccessible at the moment, but what better time to follow us on Instagram and see the pictures we've posted there?

Apart from the office, we've got one more piece of ultra exciting product news that's a bit too premature to talk about. Don't you hate teasers like that?

 

Tuesday
Feb242015

Picture Pages

So we've kind of been on the rivet as far as getting everything built and out the door, without much time for our usual erudition. Lots of things going on beyond, as well - a new corporate address, some really neat product stuff, long term projects with some suppliers coming to fruition. Life is, indeed, a rich pageant. It's also a frozen pageant at the moment. Anyhow here are some pictures.

People are getting on board the color train. Love it. These live in FL now.

Actually, these also live in FL now.

These live on the left coast. Everyone's warmer than me.

Scarlett came to stay for a few days

Paul, caught in the act of winning life. On Mt Lemmon. He and I actually even made it rain out there.

All work and no play makes Dave a dull boy.We're in this "kaizen" mode, trying to make continual improvements all around. It's working out. Happy with the work we're shipping now, but striving to do better all the time. 

Friday
Feb062015

Riding the Brakes Redux

So now that I have about 1000 miles on the disc brake bike (I spent 9 days riding my behind off in Tucson), in all sorts of weather (during the trip to Tucson, we got 2 of Tucson's average 12 rainy days per year), on all sorts of roads and grades, with groups large and small and alone, what's the report?First off, they stop well. Very well. While riding in a traffic light-rich environment, I noticed myself coming to a stop much sooner than others. I very much still think that mixed company riding is not a big deal. The argument that everyone will have to switch at once for a peloton to work is a straw man. The simple fact is that when you ride with a group, you have the ability choose how quickly you brake, and though it might take a little getting used to, the few hundred miles I'd done prior to the trip were much more than needed to acclimate me for riding disc brakes in a group. But when you want to, yeah, you can stop quickly. 

During the first ride or two, I actually skidded more than a few times while braking. I've tried to describe it a few times without a ton of success, but what I notice is that instead of thinking "how much pull do I need to get the job done," you think "how much less power than a full skid do I want here?" That's a very imperfect way of stating it, but it's the best I can do for now. 

Setting the bike up after a plane trip, I had to adjust the front brake mounting slightly. This takes all of 30 seconds but it does require a Torx screwdriver. My mini tool has the right one, and my mini tool is pretty basic. Yours probably has the right one. 

Until it rained, the brakes were silent. The closest I came to actual noise was on my second trip down Mt. Lemmon, which was done at absolute warp speed. I rode down with the gentleman who placed second in Ironman Hawaii last year, and we were HAULING. Approaching one sweeper bend, we caught up to three cars (went from 200 yards behind them to ON THEM in about .01 seconds) and I had to scrub a bunch of speed quickly. There was a bit of resonant hum at the very end of that, but not as much as the noise coming from my counterpart's carbon clinchers (which weren't very loud, either).

In rainy conditions, they're loud. Loud. A rainy trip down Kitt Peak (steeper, less regular, and more technical than the Lemmon descent) had them screaming a few times. It can be a bit disconcerting. There are those who will say "Shimano brakes wouldn't have made noise" and to them I say you are wrong - I've ridden with plenty of people on Shimano brakes and wet rotors and fouled pads are wet rotors and fouled pads, no matter who made them. On my CX bike, I use plate rotors (no holes at all) in muddy conditions, which ameliorates this to a huge degree. We are also talking about pretty nasty conditions here, with many deep puddles and an absolute metric ton of silt and sand and general yuck getting smashed into the pads. Lightly sanding the pads (remove wheel, fold piece of sandpaper and place between pads, lightly pull brake leer, rub sandpaper back and forth - takes two minutes and you'd want to do the same routine with rim brakes after a ride like this) after riding and cleaning the rotors with an alcohol swipe silenced the brakes, at least until the next deep puddle and general ingress of road skank. Two days of persistent rain, and Tucson is a wet wet wet place. Inadvertent rivers all up in the place. 

So, are disc brakes the next big thing?  Should you throw out your current bike to get some? 

Here's my take: for the road bike riding that I do, which general falls under the auspices of racing and training for racing, without a whole lot of "this isn't the right place for a road bike but let's do it anyway" type of stuff (I have a cx bike and a mtb for that, and I'm not being judgmental but I'm just not into that stuff as a regular part of my diet), and with the occasional gran fondo, but with most of my huge hilly rides either during races or with small to medium groups of well-ish matched riders, I'd just go for rim brakes. I'm fairly light (low 160s), and as a descender I would call myself highly skilled and confident, although I am a chicken and a half when descending in rain. 

The aftermath of torrential rain. This is a once in a lifetime event on Mt Lemmon. Lucky to have seen it.

If, on the other hand, I was super into the "adventure" stuff, or was 25 pounds heavier and had a calendar full of hilly gran fondos and centuries, or did a lot of touring, or did a lot of commuting in the Pacific Northwest, I would go for discs. To be honest, if that was my gig, I'd also just use a cx bike and not a road bike, but that's just me. Also, having experienced both mechanical and hydro discs, I can't wait to put hydros on the cx bike. There's absolutely no comparison. You might as well be talking about the difference between 1960's era rim brakes and the latest dual pivot caliper brakes. It's night and day. 

Do I think road racing needs discs? Absolutely not. They're nice, but like anything else in the world they have their plusses and minuses, and they're no magic bullet.  And I ran this one really long. Sorry.

Friday
Jan232015

2015 Rail Enhancements and Pre-Order

It doesn't yet feel like two years ago that we launched the Rail 52, but here we are - and a year into the 34 to boot. In that time, they've starred in VeloNews, done even more time in the wind tunnel, undergone an extensive real world brake performance test program, and of course been used to win a pantload of races and done too many miles to possibly count. We're proud parents. Of course, plus ça change... we're constantly working to improve everything we do, so we're introducing a few small changes. 

First, and most significantly, we're eliminating the clear coat on the brake track. The clear coat makes them look insanely hot out of the box, but it wears relatively quickly. We've gotten more than one "oh my God my wheels are a week old and the brake track is scratched up!" email. Soon enough that wear normalizes and everything is hunky dory. We've also learned that the wheels brake better and more quietly as the clear coat wears away. So, since form follows function, new Rails will be sans clearcoat from the get go, instead of getting that way over time. The new rims look great, too. 

 

Rails shipped with disc hubs (becoming a bigger thing all the time) will continue to have the clearcoated brake track. This makes them look their best, and the clearcoat provides a modicum of protection against scrapes and scratches. 

I guess that photo lets the cat out of the bag on the second change - graphics. More and more, people requested all white or all black graphics. While we're huge fans of color ourselves, we swim against enough tide and we're just going with the flow on this one. So new Rails will also have new great look! The updated graphics will come in white, as shown above and below, or in a super dark charcoal (but not black) color that, once we picked it, we immediately named "bleached black." In the coming few days, we'll post copious photos of both (non)colorways. Warning - these photos will feature cacti and stunning scenery. Just be ready for that. 

As Rails become better and better known, the Rail branding has actually caused a bunch of confusion. The link between Rail and November often gets missed. We also really really like the new November branding that Casey dreamed up for us last year, so we're going with it. The bleached black version is much more subtle, but if you want a little zing in your swing, the white's where it's at. There is always a rainbow of colored hub and nipple choices at your command, as ever. 

The other change you'll notice at the moment is that we're going back to the future and, for the first time since who knows when, we're having a pre-order on Rail 52, Rail 34 and Custom Rails. Starting now, all Rail orders are on pre-order for $100 off the regular price (which is unchanged for 2015). Delivery is slated for mid-ish February, dependent of course on volume and our capacity to hand assemble, build and ship each wheel.  

Saturday
Jan032015

Riding The Brakes

It seems I've developed a bit of a specialty as the reluctant "early" adopter of disc brakes. A few years ago, I took the bullet when we first tested the HOT BUNS. More recently, I've been seen on the Timoneria Disc. While a lot of people out there in the wide, wide world of sports have their own HOT BUNS, and a handful will very soon have their own Timoneria (which, I assert, is the plural of Timoneria), I have the as-yet only disc version of each. Check me out.

Brief aside here, many of you are probably asking just what the hell is a Timoneria, and have Mike and I completely lost it and gone into that ersatz cycling "homeland" naming convention that we used to hate so bad? No, and we still hate that crap just as bad. The Timoneria, in name, concept, and execution, is the Italian version of the Wheelhouse. "Timoneria" is the Italian word for the cabin aboard a sailing ship or yacht from which the craft is steered - quite literally, the Wheelhouse. Again, check me out.

Oh HAI! Check me out.So now I've got about 250 miles on the beast, and I've developed a few impressions. At first, to someone who's spent his last, what, 25,000 road miles on a Wheelhouse, it's familiar. It's got some palpable differences, all to the good, but I'd like to focus on the brakes for a start. 

Escuse me, my discs are down HERE, you pig

While I've ridden disc brakes probably a great deal more than most in general, that has been primarily on mountain and cross bikes. I love my mtb's hydro brakes dearly, but my relationship with the mechanicals on my cx bike hasn't been as wunderbar. Whether road disc gave an experience more like the mtb or the cx bike would tell the tale.

 

The whole thing adds just shy of a pound against an equivalently spec'd rim brake bike, and we've previously explored the aerodynamic ramifications for the deal. How those affect the general mood in your household is for you to determine, we just give you the honest dope on what the numbers say.

To the riding... well, they certainly work very, very well. I've not ridden them among a group, but to me the whole prospect of danger in mixed company is a non-story. When you ride with a group, you ride as part of the group, and there's nothing to discs that would prevent that. In riding alone, it took a couple of rides before I did start to notice my braking habits starting to change. The ability to brake in excess of your traction is right there. If you think rim brakes are easy to skid, you ain't seen nothing yet. The net of this is that you brake not with what your brakes can do in mind, but what your tires can do. Yes, you can brake later, for sure. And sometimes, that means you get to the point where you thought you were going to need to, and instead you see that you really didn't need to brake after all and so you don't. That's the most striking thing to me so far - I actually half expect to get better through turns just by learning that I was actually braking too much before.

Operationally, they're tight. Rotor rub was easy to get rid of and hasn't been in an issue since about minute six of my life with road discs. There's an interesting issue where I actually think an overly-stiff front wheel will turn bad, but that's a story for another day. There's been no noise, despite a couple of rides being in damp conditions, and in general noise is super easy to manage. I'll send you the link that explains it.

One thing I was concerned about was shifting performance on a 135mm dropout spread with a 405mm chain stay. Shimano straight ahead says 415 should be the minimum chain stay length. Good thing I used Force for this build, because you can cross chain your face off on my setup. It shifts perfectly. 

These are preliminary thoughts. Later in the month I'll be in Tucson (haha!) and will get to do some big ass descents and put some more stress on things but for now I'll say that it's far from a life changing thing that I could never again be without, but they're certainly nice and work quite well. And, I almost forgot, those big honking shifters are actually super comfortable.