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A Weekly Dose of Misinformation

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. 


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Reader Comments (15)

It would take way to long to tell you all how many times I have had to send back my $$$$$ ENVE wheels...

They might want you to think their wheels are better because they were $$$$$; but, that's not my experience.


February 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarni

Fascinating read.

February 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrent

Great perspective, thank you. Soooo, are you implying the the rims we get from November are Boyd, Williams or Revolution? Nevermind, don't answer that.

February 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTodd

Marni - That's too bad. Everyone's going to have an issue once and again, but did they eventually get you sorted out?

Brent - Thanks

Todd - There are overlaps, and there are differences.

February 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDave Kirkpatrick

Great stuff, thanks! I'm going to enjoy my 38s even more now!

February 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRC

Dave, I appreciate the criticism of your writing & will admit, there was a mix up of acronyms of USADA and USDA... with mix ups like that it is a bad place to start and retain credibility. We regularly receive emails about wheel purchases and also regularly I am asked to help after wheels are purchased and there are problems. Yes, I am familiar with those wheels marketed with the names you mentioned in your criticism, I am also very familiar when those wheels have problems. I don't enjoy telling owners that there really is no fix for their problem because the rim is an abnormal or inconsistent shape, or despite your light use of the wheels, they will not stay true due to inconsistencies in the ability of the rim to hold spoke tension. Granted some of the purchasers of those wheels have no problems, great. For those who buy their own equipment that they hope will provide years of service, I am happy to talk with manufacturers with the ethos of building their products to high service and performance standard. To your point of Evie Stevens, she has support most riders do not. Most riders, buy their equipment and are on their own, without the support, team, sponsors etc.. when something goes wrong they have fewer options. Also to clarify, there are rims with eyelets angled for the right and left hub flanges, in addition to right and left they are also angled elbow inside of the flange and elbow outside of the flange, there are 4 different types of eyelets in one rim. These rims cannot be built radially laced and some wheel builders have been unaware of this subtlety having problems down the road. One of these rims is the Campagnolo Record Crono, I would happy to show it to you; very light, builds up nicely and predictably if done properly. The reason this is important is because of minimizing the angle where the spoke leaves the nipple- yes the threads are rolled, but where they are rolled the spoke has the smallest cross section leaving the least amount of material to resist the tension. Is it the absolute weakest point of the spoke? Maybe, maybe not. Are there many failures at this point? Yes, absolutely and it is more common in wheels where the spoke is forced to bend as it leaves the nipple. I do get your point on spoke tension, once you reach a certain tension, there are no benefits to going higher, higher actually could lessen the strength of the wheel as you approach the yield point of the materials. Debating the perfect spoke tension was not the point of the interview and I am not going to get into that conversation with the founder of a composite company that has volunteered his time to talk on our podcast. As I mentioned earlier, I appreciate your criticism partly because it means you are paying attention and thinking, but felt some of it may have been a bit of misinformation itself. I am not trying to sell Enve products to anyone, neither of us receive products from our interviews nor do we receive money, the point is, if you have $650 to spend on wheels, maybe a carbon wheel set is not going to be the best, highest performing option for you. If you have significantly more, maybe Enve is an option and hopefully after hearing the interview you know a little more about where Enve is coming from.

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn K


February 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteranoncx

I've wrenched at bike shops for years- I've seen a lot of broken spokes. In my personal experience, I've seen far more spokes broken at the j-bend or head than I've seen broken at the nipple. I've seen plenty of deep section rims, particularly of the Reynolds variety, with broken nipples, however. I think it has to do with acidic sweat and poorly anodized aluminum nipples, but I'm not an engineer.

On a somewhat different subject, I've watched Enve sales reps bouncing their unlaced rims off of a carpeted floor at a trade show like basket balls. The best part was that the Enve booth was across the aisle from the Zipp people, who were not happy to watch the bouncing rims all weekend.

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristian

As an engineer I can attest to the claim that more spoke tension does not make a wheel stiffer. Once the initial slack has been removed and a modest amount of spoke tension has been applied to deform the rim and hub, adding more tension only increases the stress in each spoke. The situation is analogous to the guy wires used to stabilize a tall radio tower. You can crank down on the turn buckles as much as you want, but the natural frequency of the tower never changes. The preload variable just drops right out of the equations. The spring rate of each individual wire (or spoke in this case) depends only on the wire diameter and the Young's modulus of the material used. A stiffer wheel would necessarily have a higher spring rate.

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndy Hanson

John -

Thanks for the response, although you did miss the obvious USDA/USADA tainted beef slam dunk that was waiting there for you.

You make a lot of bold claims about how poorly some rims are built, and imply a lot of wheel building expertise. I'd be curious to hear a lot more about your wheel building expertise. What are your qualifications? I'd also like to hear a lot more about the testing that you did to determine that the rims in question were of abnormal or inconsistent shape. But more than that, the entire internet is asking for quantitative testing on the layup qualities of various rims. From you assertions, you have this information. How many rims have you cut open? Destructively tested? Done a burn peel on? If your assertions are accurate, you have a trove of information that consumers are desperately seeking. Or are you just guessing?

I'd also question why all of the people are coming to you rather than to the people who built their wheels? If nothing else, everything you hear about every one of these companies would convince you that they bend over backwards to make sure customers are taken care of. If you'd like to supply with at least some names and the brands that they've had problems with, I'd be happy to call up the companies that made them and investigate. Anonymous anecdotal evidence does not good data make.

Unfortunately, you missed my point about Evelyn Stevens entirely. My point was that "Zipps for pros" are built (meaning wheel builds, not component builds) offline by a separate wheel building team. Pros don't ride production Zipps. Every wheel that we ship is built by the same team, regardless of where it's headed or who's going to use it. From all that I've seen, builders in our class are generally painfully meticulous about their builds, but I don't see the same from some bigger brands.

You must know that there are plenty of open mold rims that are used continuously at the highest levels of competition in the world. Fancy jerseys in big races have been worn by riders using wheels with open mold rims. Are they just lucky that their wheels haven't imploded?

So if you could just put some context behind the authority you claim on the matter, I'm sure we'd all be much better able to evaluate your input.

Thanks and best of luck with the Podcast.


February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDave Kirkpatrick

Could Christian's observations have something to do with galvanic reaction between carbon and aluminum? Some Reynolds designs set the entire spoke nipple inside the rim, so any water that pentrates at this point will bathe the whole nipple in a corrosive solution if not properly insulated. This can't be good for the nipple, especially if water sits inside rim's crevace long after a sloppy ride.

I'm no engineer, but some engineers explained the galvanizing problem to me after my carbon seatpost cold welded itself to my aluminum frame through much exposure to rain and salted road spray.

FWIW, this isn't a dig against Reynolds. I own a set of their ultralights and really like them. But for rough conditions I prefer my Novembers' straightforward design. If I lose 3 watts of drag by exposing my nipples, oh well....

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul


February 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteranoncx

Paul - It could be, and carbon could be speeding it up by a huge factor although poorly anodized aluminum and salt water (sweat, sports drink, snot, road skank - there are plenty of salt baths out there for wheels to play in) will have a nice party all on their own. I'm a pretty big fan of keeping wheels clean, primarily around these purposes.

February 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterDave Kirkpatrick

You make/sell carbon wheels and criticize another carbon wheel manufacturer, hmm... interesting. Makes me want to purchase your product.

I've raced a pair of Neuvation C-50's for 2 seasons, they were a sponsor for my team and we were given a great deal on their wheels. My 168lbs were frequently breaking spokes on the C-50's and other teammates were having issues with their wheels as well, some aluminum some carbon. While John Nugent and Neuvation provides excellent customer support and very reasonably priced wheels, IMO, I would have been better off saving for some better quality wheels, then dealing with the hassles I had with the less expensive carbon wheels. Neuvation offers decent wheels for a great price, but is it worth it?

If you new anything about the two johns, you would know they are more then qualified to give their opinion. It's easy to scrutinize what was said on a podcast after the fact, but you don't come across looking so professional.

I personally don't know anyone who owns some of your wheels or bikes and have never seen them in person, but good luck with your business, it looks like nice stuff.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterchunk

As an African visitor to your lovely land, I am constantly amazed at the useless banter that goes
goes back and forth between companies, competitors, friends and the like. Get on your bloody bikes,
train hard, eat well, race fair, enjoy, and quit all the bullshit that sees you, as a nation laughed at by many
outsiders as a nation that overpromises and under-delivers, as a country that has 'world series' to which no-one
else in the world is invited, and on the sports front sees far fewer podium finishes than many tiny, insignificant, but passionate nations. Make your choices, buy your products, use them, enjoy them, and, if they don't work for you, well-move on, and find something else!
There-rant over!

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWayne Hayward

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