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Friday
Nov042016

It's NovemberFest(tm)!

You'd definitely buy wheels from these guys, right?We've seen some crazy wheel stuff in the last few days (and really, I mean, what's the porpoise of these new designs) but nothing gets the crowds rolling like NovemberFest(tm). It's easily the most anticipated event of the year. 

Last year, it was free shipping. This year, we thought to ourselves "what's better than free shipping?" And you know what we came up with?

Well? Do you?

That's right! We came up with Select+ at the price of Select. FREE bladed spoke upgrade! There's, like, almost nothing better than that. And you don't even need a coupon or anything - it's all done right there for you. Easy peasy. 

Thursday
Nov032016

Back to the future (sort of)

Hey there, handsomeWe admit it. We're shallow. Kinlin XR31s are great rims. Deep enough to be fast, light enough to be snappy, strong like what, stiff like huh, tubeless yes but also easy to install tires on, and of an appropriate width. There's been, however, one small issue with them. They're shiny, and that makes them not look as good as they should. And we're fully willing to admit that that's made us less enthusiastic about them than we might otherwise have been. Shallow. I know. 

Subtle. Tasteful.

But an old boss (and what a peach he was) used to tell me not to bring him any problems unless I also brought him some well considered possible solutions, so we're doing the same here. We've ordered a run with a matte sand blast finish, which stone cold solves that problem. It may or may not show in the photos here (our studio lighting setup and photography skills leave something to be desired), but it makes a huge difference. 

You may also notice another old friend, the hub. The Novatec F482 makes a comeback (yes, you can call it a comeback) here. The simple thing is that the majority of the multitudes for whom we've built wheels with these have had a great ownership experience with them. They may miss some of the sex appeal of the other hubs we use, but not everyone wants that or needs an investment-grade hub set. These are really good, and it's easy enough to find them or slightly modified versions of them in expensive and super fancy wheels (I could be wrong but I think Tony Martin's TT Worlds-winning rear wheel has a Novatec hub), so it's kind of dumb not to use them. They will be tastefully branded as ours, but as ever we're not going to bluff about where they came from.

Assembled here by hand, with the usual spoke options, they'll be a great value and every bit the equivalent of stuff you could easily spend north of a grand on. 20/24 and 24/28 lacing options (which covers a huge weight range thanks to the rim strength/depth/stiffness), 31mm deep, 24mm wide outside, 19mm internal, 1540g for 20/24 lacing with brass nipples... and all dressed up and ready to go.

And of course there's a disc version. Fully anodized finish, with center lock hubs, in any lacing you want as long as you want 24/28. 

You'll also have the option to mix and match the rims and hubs with other rims and hubs as you like (like Al33s, on which we just got a "no news is good news" s update).

They arrive in limited availability in time for real Black Friday (not the fake Black Friday which seems to have started yesterday). 

Tuesday
Oct252016

AForce Al33 Update

Since the virtual mailman couldn't even close the virtual door on our virtual mailbox given all the virtual letters asking about AForce Al33 builds the we got yesterday, it's probably a good idea to give an update on the ol' blog.

The latest info we have puts rims in our hands in early-ish December. Yes, this is a slip from the original non-specific November delivery we originally had. No, this is not a sign of any issue. Delivery forecasts from vendors are a HEINOUS ugly morass that we're exceptionally glad not to be in the driver's seat for anymore. 

There is not a disc specific option in the first production. The finish on the ceramic rims is dark enough that I'd put them on a disc build without a second aesthetic thought, and I'm an absolute OCD princess about stuff like that (although Judd, who puts me to absolutel shame in that department, would disagree). I'd even put the ones that now have slightly less than 2000 miles of wear (lots of mountain bike riding and not as much road bike riding in the last month) on the brake tracks in a disc build. 

We'll have 20/24 and 24/28 builds. 20/24 is generally appropriate for people up to the 185-ish range from what we can tell, and 24/28 is probably good to 50 pounds over that. Hub options will be as current, with the addition of Novatec A291/F482 hubs for road and 771/772 for disc (both in black only) branded for us. 

Pricing will be broadly comparable to HED Belgium+ builds for the ceramic option. Regular machine sidewall options will be less. We haven't got precise final pricing, so that's as closely as we can estimate that.

The wind tunnel trip is still on, I just don't exactly know when it is, as we don't dictate that. Part of life trying to make a buck in this business is that you generally want and need to get a lot more done than you have the time to do. Based on experience and knowledge and riding on the wheels thus far, we're confident that they're quite good, but as it says above the door from the control room into the tunnel zone at A2 (where the testing will be done) "one good test is worth 1000 expert opinions." 

Since interest is so high, we'll be doing a pre-sale thing, slightly different to pre-orders we've done in the past. This time, we'll be accepting refundable deposits in order to let people claim a build (the first production run is far from infinite) and give us some assistance in gauging how many rims of what drilling we need to put on lockdown right away. If you'd like to receive updates on these as they become available, please sign up for them here.

And that's what we know. Happy Tuesday.

Thursday
Oct202016

Select MTB

Mountain bike wheels are a challenge, and that's putting it mildly. To start, while the world has sort of coalesced around two sizes (27.5 and 29), the legacy of 26" wheels means that there are three wheel sizes. Front axles can be QR, 15mm (in 100mm or 110mm widths), 20mm, or Lefty, while rear can be QR, 10x135, 12x135, 12x142, 12x148, and even a few others. And that's without getting into fat bikes. On top of all that, there are rims appropriate for cross country, trail, enduro, all mountain, downhill... You see the point.

We're going to try and keep this simple and bite off only what we can chew. We have absolutely no experience or expertise with downhill, having been on downhill bikes for a combined grand total of 4 hours (although they were possibly 4 of the most fun hours I've ever spent on a bike).

This one time at downhill camp (and thanks, Rob!)On the other hand, we have quite a bit of XC experience, and if you ride XC enough that sort of bleeds into what the cool kids call trail and light all mountain. To put it into a parlance that many will understand, the spread of uses we aim to initially serve are covered by Stan's Crest, Arch, and Flow rims. 

Unsurprisingly, we will offer those three rims as options. We will also offer Easton/Race Face ARC rims, Easton and Race Face being different brands of identical products from the same company. You're covered for tires from a 2.1" Racing Ralph through to a 3" Minion Plus. If we see another compelling option then we'll jump on it, but that range gives you just about everything you could want if you're riding your bike, and not a lift, to the top.

Hubs are of course where a mountain biker's bread gets buttered, and where we see ourselves adding the most value. There are lots of wheels you can buy off the peg with so-so hubs. We aim to give you cost competitive options to those with hubs that will happily catch anything you might throw at them, with a full range of axle options, future proof-ness, and of course the stylish colors. Between White Industry, I9, and Chris King, what more could a gal ask for?

There are others like them, but these ones are mine

We go a little extra on the spokes, with the Select option using Sapim Race for the on side and D-Lights for the off side, while Select+ will use CX Sprints and CX Rays for those respective duties. 

Okay then, so Select MTB. There you have it.

 

Monday
Oct172016

The Rest of the Story

First off, Mike here. Long time readers will have seen my entries but Dave has had the wheel of the blog for the last couple of years. While I've been silent as far as most of you are concerned, I'm still actively involved in all the decisions we make here at November. We made a big one recently, resulting in the most read blog entry in over a year. While Dave is off building non-carbon wheels, I'll take a few minutes to tell you the rest of the story.

When we launched this business back in 2010, we were earnestly driven more by mission coupled with opportunity than we were from a desire to get rich. November isn't a charity by any means, but we realized early that by staying true to our users' needs and delivering a unique value and service to them, the people who would become our best customers and advocates would find us. When we lauched carbon (tubulars first, clinchers second), the unique need we were filling was for a lower priced option from a US-based company for high performance carbon wheelsets. As the market evolved, that value proposition ceased to be unique. So we launched the Rail which, in addition to being high performance without the retail markup, was the first carbon rim with an 18mm inside width. It was a unique design with proven and desirable attributes. And we sold a crap ton of them. 

So while sales were good and customers were gleefully picking seconds off their favorite flat segments on Strava, a funny thing happened in Switzerland: the UCI made road disc brakes race legal. For many in the industry this was a watershed moment, and it presented great opportunity. Not only would they no longer have to contend with the higher than anticipated failure rates of carbon (an unexpected consequence of wheels designed for racing put to service in everyday, all terrain situations), but also now everyone's rim brake wheels were suddenly obsolete and they'd have to spend thousands more on a disc brake wheel inventory. Carbon windfall 2.0 was coming! 

The reality however was less economically satisfying. What we saw instead was a spending freeze on rim brake wheels while people debated the possibilities of their disc brake future. Supply chains being what they are, however, we did not see a commensurate production freeze of rim brake wheels. So today there is a positive glut on the market of rim brake wheels at firesale prices. You've seen it I'm sure: Reynolds 58s for $1400, Easton EC90s for $1800, and Zipp Firecrests hovering around $2K. That kind of price pressure creates an inhospitable selling environment for a brand with our model. That means we started selling fewer and fewer sets of Rails. If our mission is to meet users' needs with our products and business model, and people are not buying as much because they don't know if they'll be on disc brakes next year and wow look at all these options in the same price range, we're not really filling a unique user need anymore. 

So that's most of why we discontined the Rail. With the Range, part of the reason is the other side of the UCI's coin. Sales of road disc brake wheels haven't really taken off because most new road disc users are buying complete bikes. The wheel aftermarket follows, but evidently not that closely. That leaves cross and gravel and the adventure categories. But the value proposition rapidly diminishes for those categories, for a couple of reasons. 1) As soon as you put a fat tire on a rim, you've given away almost all of its aero benefits. And 2) if you're going slower than 25mph the areo benefits of 40mm+ are also largely inconsequential. (We do not know this clinically with the Range through wind tunnel testing, but we do know this empirically from all the time we have spent there testing the same issues with other wheels and tires.) We launched the Range aiming squarely at road disc hoping to pick up some of the other uses as well, but the reality is that in the other uses, alloy provides every bit of the performance at a fraction of the cost. So pushing too hard on the Range for the ancillary use cases while we wait for the road disc market to come around feels, well, disengenuous. 

And finally there is the supply chain issue. We've seen a lot of chatter on forums about our decision and there are always armchair operations managers there quick to point out that we could totally stay in carbon if we knew how to manage a supply chain. To that I would posit that knowing how to do something is not the same thing as wanting to make it a focal point in your career. I learned very early how to change toner cartridges in the printer, and yet I chose a path that I ultimately found more gratifying. Dave has managed composite materials supply chain issues for three different companies in three different different industries. That's enough time to learn exactly how to do it. And in our case, it was also enough time to realize that the time and effort and mindshare it requires didn't leave enough balance in the business. Figuring out how to get stuff out of the far east or Italy is no longer a place where we can add unique value, but it detracts from where we can be of greater use to our customers. Also, it's not as much fun. It's our business and we're allowed to have as much fun as we can with it. And if all that work is resulting in products that aren't providing a return and don't help us fulfill our mission, well then ceasing to do it becomes justifiable.

We know no longer having a proprietary product line makes our current model harder to differentiate. But in truth, if proprietary does not also equal unique and appealing (as is the case with - let's be honest - nearly every wheel product currently available), then it becomes simply a marketing competition. We think our role is better suited to helping our customers navigate the confusing array of options than by adding more product noise to the din. 

And now you know the rest of the story.