There have been a lot of recommendations of the "2 Johns Podcast" episode where they interview Jason Scheir, the founder of Enve Composites. I've never listened to one of their podcasts before, but I guess I had a somewhat generally positive impression of them somehow. So I listened to it.
First, they start with some light banter about the Lance Armstrong decision, and the Alberto Contador decision. The world is full of opinions on that one, but one thing I do know is that when Novitzky and Birotte et al set down their investigation of LA, the USDA did not take it up. My first reaction was to think of it as a verbal typo. And then they clarified that the "USDA, the US Deparment of Agriculture, which sometimes investigates drug cases" would be pursuing the case.
I was pretty surprised by that, but moved on, anticipating a good interview with the leader of what I've always thought of as a good company. I had my first firsthand interaction with carbon fiber repairing a race boat in 1992, and since then I've been sort of fascinated with composites manufacturing. I spent most of a decade working with composites every day, and I've seen a lot. There are companies that do it right and there are companies that do it wrong. Enve has always struck me as ones who do it right.
The Johns prefaced the interview with what can only be described as a hatchet job on non-ultra premium carbon wheels. Their take on them is that anything not at that top layer of the market is "a bit of chintz, tinsel. It's all for show." It's also "kind of dishonest" to use anything but presumably Enves, Zipps, and I guess perhaps some others. "It's like buying a fake Rolex" and these they probably "have about $25 worth of carbon in them." "The hubs are crap, they're not straight" and they won't be durable. At the end of it all, "these Asian rims" aren't worth it and "if you want something that's actually going to perform" and you aren't willing to shell multiple thousands, just get a set of aluminum rimmed wheels. And I've put each of these quotes as closely into context as I possibly could (again, here is the link, don't take my word for it).
Maybe they mean to differentiate their prejudices so they're only talking about the bottom of the pile stuff where you can buy rims one by one for $170 or whatever on Alibaba and eBay, but when you can't differentiate between USDA and USADA, you don't have a great shot at making that point. From appearances, they've never heard of Williams, or Boyd, or Revolution, or of any other company that's doing awesome work with exceptionally well built "Asian rims." Compare a Revolution build to a Zipp build - there is NO comparison. Do the Johns know that the Zipps that pros get are built completely off line from their regular wheels, by a hand picked small group in Europe? The wheels that we'd send YOU are built with the exact same care that we'd send to Evelyn Stevens if she were to phone up and order a pair (and even though I've got kind of a crush on her - total badass - she'd pay the same amount you would too). Apart from the fact that I cut this with a circular saw with a framing blade (i.e. slightly but not a lot smoother of a cut than a chainsaw), look at this rim. Perfectly compacted, precisely laid up. If you want to say "Asian rims" fine, but in this case it's absolutely a compliment, not an insult. But let's take a quick side trip.
If you come from a marine background and you want to know about composites and specifically carbon fiber, one of your "go to" reference points is Hall Spars. As far as carbon fiber for masts and booms and a whole lot of other structures, they were there at the start and they've stayed on the leading edge ever since. You can imagine I was a little nervous when the co-founder ordered a set of wheels from us. As I told Mike, he's seen more carbon than Ron Jeremy's seen naked women. So I was pretty happy when he opened up the box and inspected the wheels and called to tell me how impressed he was with the carbon work on the rims. But I guess the podcasters know more about carbon than a guy whose stuff has been used to win like a handful of America's Cups and a Merckx-ian array of other important stuff.
The interview started, and soon came more big blunders. Even the Enve guy wasn't immune. They mold their spoke holes into their rims. This is a better way of doing it than anyone else does, and in touting it as such, he said that it allows their rims to withstand tighter spoke tensions, which it does. He also mentioned that their high spoke tensions result in a stiffer wheel than lower spoke tensions. Wrong. As long as you have enough tension to prevent any spokes from going slack, more does nothing to stiffen the wheel.
Staying on the topic of the spoke holes, our podcasters then went on to say how neat it was that Enve rims angle the spoke holes of their rims to align with the direction of the spoke. I don’t even know that it’s possible, no matter what kind of a piece of crap rim you find on Alibaba, to find one where this isn’t done. To compound their error, they go on to say how good this is, as it benefits the spoke where it’s weakest – at the threads. So unlike faithful readers of this blog who know that spoke threads are rolled and not cut, thus doing basically nothing to weaken the spoke there, they are clueless. Which also means that they don’t know that the bend is the most vulnerable part of a bent spoke, as the head is on a straight spoke. And on and on it went.
What the world definitely needs more of is authority without knowledge. Fortunately, the 2 Johns are there to deliver it.