Hat tip to Elvis Costello, from whose second album (which includes such staples of my itinerary as "Pump It Up" and "I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea") I have inelegantly ripped off today's title. As difficult as it is to come up with blog titles all the time, and I'll admit I pulled this one sort of out of thin air, it did work out rather handily that the substance of this post is the Rail 34, our second Rail album as it were.
Mike's last post talked about the creative brief for our advertising (in a blog he titled "The Creative Brief for our Advertising" - who's the creative genius, again?). This is about the design brief for the 34. Why did we make a 34?
In our old wheel line, the 38 was the head and shoulders volume leader. Without canvassing each and every person out there about why they chose 34s over other wheels, we kind of know. People like light, snappy wheels, and a lot of people are resistant to "deep" rims. Whether it's for real or perceived cross wind troubles, or just not wanting to be "that guy" with deep wheels all the time, people like the whole program of mid-depth wheels. When we came out with the 52, THE VERY FIRST question we got asked was "when will you make the shallower one?" Retrospectively, that answer was "Winter of 2014." Oddly enough, the question of when we'd make a deeper rim soon followed that. If 100 people initially asked about a shallow Rail, a very small handful of people asked about a deeper Rail. And we still don't plan to make one, and we're sorry about the guy we lost as a customer for not having made the wheel he wanted us to make but we can't be all things to everyone.
For way further back than when Mike wrote this blog about road feel, we've been fans of the concept. Basically, the minute that Mike tested his first set of wide-rimmed wheels, he was sold and our move to all wide rims was afoot. Now we're starting to see the actual "road feel" nomenclature spring up in a lot more places and become part of the vocabulary. The 52 has exceptional road feel, and believe it or not has WAY more crosswind stability than our old 38s (a lot of 38 customers bought Rail 52s, and this feedback has been universal), but we still wanted to bring the road feel and stability of the 52 to a shallower wheel.
One thing we didn't want to do was create a high redundancy area, where the differences between the 52 and its shallower sibling were splitting hairs. A huge number of people wanted a Rail that was useful for mixed surface (if the phrase "gravel grinder" didn't nauseate me I would have used it there) riding and races, and for disc brakes, and for cyclocross, and for general every day ever ride use. The 34mm depth was basically as shallow as we could keep the integrity of the Rail design philosophy, and about as deep as we could make it to optimize all the other factors. I've ridden them in very very windy conditions on this loop in Newport, RI, where you might as well be on the ocean, and they're simply invisible to cross winds.
Many of you have been waiting for me to talk about weight, and that was one of the first questions we got when we announced the 34. Pre-production rim weights are in the 440-450g range, which is simply what they need to be in order to do what they need to do. Wider rim designs need more structure to maintain their shape under spoke pressure, but I'd struggle to call 34s heavy by any metric. The thing on that is that they're durable as get out, we fully back them for 'cross and unpaved use (you can still damage them in those uses, but what damages a 34 would likely obliterate an alloy rim or a carbon rim with a lesser constitution), and they are STIFF. Depending on which hubs you use, you can get them under 1400g for a set, and that's pretty freaking light.
We used to call the 38s a "Swiss Army Knife" set of wheels, and we now bestow that on the 34s. They do everything well. Plus they look dead sexy.