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The new tubeless ready Rail 52, arriving next week. 

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Tuesday
Jan122016

Rail 52 Preorder

The Rail 52 preorder is now live. Check it out here. As previously announced, we've made a few small changes to the 52 for 2016. The brake track goes to 3k for better abrasion resistance and improved pad grip, while the big change is that Rail 52s now have a tubeless ready tire seat. Standard builds feature black Sapim CX Ray spokes, black brass nipples, and the outstanding Nimbus Ti hubs that White Industries make for us. Custom builds let you go crazy with options. All builds include skewers and come with tubeless tape installed. Tubeless valves are available as an add on.  

The first shipment is scheduled to ship to customers in early February. Thanks to Chinese New Year (it shuts Taiwan down, too), there will be a short gap to the second delivery. There are a few slots left in the first delivery group. 

Brake track on long term test wheel.

Any questions, please feel free to hit us up here, or leave a comment.

Monday
Jan112016

Opening Things Up, Part 2

In the last blog, we discussed that our alloy wheel business has grown like a weed in the last year. We continue to be advocates for the alloy wheel set as a concept. As we explained when we announced the passing of the Rail 34, there are a bunch of situations where alloys have an outright advantage over carbons, even before you take into account the significant price differences between carbon and alloy wheels of equivalent quality.

It’s easy for us to see that the Nimbus Ti and Nimbus Ti CLD builds with Pacenti rims were our biggest sellers in 2015. They’re fantastic wheels, of a quality that smashes anything near the price, and at a price that smashes anything of equivalent quality. Since these are such popular builds for us, we’ll be promoting them both to standard build status for 2016. The default Nimbus Ti build will be Nimbus Ti hubs with SL23 rims, and Laser and D-Light spokes. The default Nimbus Ti CLD set will be Nimbus Ti CLD hubs, SL25 rims, and Laser and D-Light spokes. Spoke count options will actually increase a bit this year, with 32h options for disc builds, and our aim is to have all options ready for near immediate shipping at all times.

The other side of the coin is that we’re creating a category called “Nimbus Ti Open.” This includes a broader range of rim choices than we offered in 2015, and you can consider these sort of “semi-custom” wheels. We’ll keep parts on hand to be able to fulfill orders in short order, but they won’t necessarily be ready for immediate shipment all the time – we’re aiming for no more than a week from order to ship on these. We’re bringing in new choices in both rim and disc rims this year. All of the 2015 options (Stan’s Grail and 340, DT R460, and Stan’s Crest and Arch) remain, while we’re picking up the DT R460 disc rim, Velocity Quill and Aileron, Ryde Pulse Comp, Pulse Comp Disc, and Trace XC, as well as HED’s aluminum rims. These will all be priced very very well, though not quite as well as the Pacenti builds.

Open

The news that we’re going to be working with Corima carbon rims should be a bit anticlimactic by now. Corima’s rims are unique in their construction in a few ways, and of almost shocking construction quality. When we began to think about rims with which to diversify our carbon line, Corima was an immediate choice. We’re developing a great relationship with the distributor, and we’re very excited about them. Corima also brings us back into the road carbon tubular market.

As CX season approaches, we’ll have a few more things to talk about with regard to more CX-specific builds. We had a great year in cross this year, and we want to build on that even more in 2016.

Finally, the product mix will continue to include custom builds with a wide variety of hub and spoke options.

Prices will go up a bit.  As I said, they’ll be ultra competitive, but the development of alloys as such a big part of our business and a few other factors necessitate this. If we make what you’re after, we will ALWAYS be a competitive supplier for it. We only have the capacity to sell so many wheels a day/week/month/year, and the simple fact is that we have to average a certain net per build in order to make the business work. We put a furious amount of resources into the business, and demand a certain return in order to make that worthwhile.

The 2015 pricing was a bit of an introductory price level. The Nimbus Ti concept needed to get established, and our 2015 pricing contained some element of marketing expense for us. There was maybe also a bit of a discount for the lack of cachet and brand familiarity, and while we’re not charging any sort of premium now that we’ve achieved those, we aren’t continuing to discount for it, either. We’re quite comfortable with the place we’ve built for ourselves, and we believe that the market is, too.

 

Thursday
Jan072016

Opening Things Up

A good friend mentioned last month that it's easy to see the rhythm of the business by the frequency and type of blog posts, and he's right. Even though posting high quality, content-rich blogs is a high priority for us, there are a lot of times when there's just no time. More than a few people reading this will have gotten a return email from us at 10pm or 6am, or on a Sunday, and that's just the way things go. Sometimes, though, there's just a ton that we need to say, and this is one of those times.

This business doesn't scale like some others. Traders spend the same amount of time executing a trade whether it's 100 or 10,000 shares. Building 10,000 wheels takes nearly exactly 100 times longer than building 100 does. We'll get back to that thought in a bit.

Astute Instagram watchers will have noticed our post from yesterday, showing some Corima rims built with Nimbus Ti hubs. For the less astute among you, I include the picture here, and a link to our Instagram here

Sorry, no montage. When we launched the Nimbus hub project a year ago (nearly exactly, in fact), there were a few directions we thought it could go. Our mission was to be able to offer wheels built with world class hubs and other components for prices at or below what others were charging for inferior product. We've done that, and we've done it in spades. Since the Nimbus hubs are every gram the equivalent of their T11/CLD cousins, you might guess that they're just about as expensive for us to buy as T11s and CLDs, and you'd be right. The entirety of the cost savings is in efficiency. Until you try to run a production business with as many choice permutations as our alloys have had, you simply can not begin to imagine the complexity of it. Normalizing around ultra high quality builds allowed us to do something that we don't see anyone else doing.

What we didn't expect was the volume of alloys we'd sell. With Nimbus-based Rails selling in 2015 for just about the same as what they'd sold for two years prior, but with much better hubs, we expected an increase in Rail business, which we got. We also expected an increase in our alloy wheel business, which we GOT. To put it in perspective, nine weeks ago, we took delivery of a volume of Pacenti SL23 rims in that was a significant percentage of our total 2014 alloy wheel sales. Those rims are nearly gone, I'm putting in the reorder this morning. And while SL23s are the rim we sell the most, our alloy disc brake business has exploded, and we sell a significant volume of other alloy rims. 

While the growth that the Nimbus project afforded us has been awesome, the divergence from what we'd thought would happen makes us take another look at things. For one thing, 2016 pricing will be somewhat higher than 2015. All of our builds will still be fantastic values, way better components than anything at the price point and way lower than anything of equivalent spec, but they'll be a bit more than they are now. New prices take effect on January 17th.

In concert with that, we're standardizing alloy builds a bit more, and yet offering a broader range of alloy and carbon rims. The standardization allows us to squeeze all of the efficiency we can out of buying, shipping, and building of our most popular (and favorite) builds, but the opening allows us to give you the greatest latitude in getting exactly what's right and best for your particular application with the best available build and cost.

Since I've somehow managed to exceed our word count target already, I'll stop there and get into some specifics in the next post. 

Wednesday
Jan062016

The Range

CNC'd shape proofs to confirm mold detailsIt's time to officially announce the newest member of our rim family, the Range. The Range is a disc specific, tubeless ready, 45mm deep by 27mm wide by 20mm bead seat width carbon rim with an offset spoke bed. We will be launching the preorder at the end of the month, for delivery in late winter. 

After announcing that we had discontinued the Rail 34, you might have thought we were of the "why bother" mindset with regard to carbon. In certain instances, that's true, but as with the Rail 52, this is an instance where carbon does offer a lot of advantages. First, by removing the braking from the rim, the rim can be made lighter. In a rim brake carbon clincher, there's an amount of carbon that's just along for the ride to deal with brake stress and heating (this is why I always die a little inside when I read people talking about improbably light carbon clinchers from unverified sources - they're headed for trouble, and soon). The 45mm deep Range, built into a 24/24 set, will weigh less than a 34mm deep Rail 34 in 20/24 rim brake trim, despite the 65 gram penalty of the disc hubs, plus the extra spokes. 

Second, while disc brake rims can last a long, long time - they don't have brake pads grinding them down, after all - those of you who've done a lot of cross or other off-piste riding on aluminum rims may have noticed a bit of denting at the bead hook. Every disc rim I've retired, save for one that I wrecked in a pileup, has had "terminal denting" on the death certificate. Aluminum rims can suffer a lot of dents before they go off to ride the great gravel grinder in the sky, but at some point they stop holding air as well and you get concerned that they're just going to fold. The threshold of abuse that carbon can take is much much higher than what aluminum can take. These aren't designed to be downhill-proof, but within their use category they're brutes. 

Astute observers may notice that the rim shape looks offset, which it is. The spoke bed is 2.5mm off center. This is a nice thing that discs make readily possible. Off setting the spoke bed allows you to normalize spoke tensions between the load and the off side spokes. To do this with a rim brake rim, you'd need two molds (one for front, one for rear), and between mold costs and production and inventory costs, it's economically unreasonable. With discs, however, you just orient the offset one way for the front, and then flip it for the rear. Instead of eking out somewhere around 55% tension balance between drive and non-drive side on the rear, you get about a 70% ratio. On the front, you get comfortably over 80%. All clincher tires compress the rim, tubeless tires compress the rim more, and really the only you need high tension on the load side spokes (by "load side" we mean the disc side of the front and the drive side of the rear - that's the lingo we propose and are using for that) is to keep the off side spokes tight enough. Between the offset and a carbon rim's improved ability to resist the compression from the tire, that makes a big big gain. 

Aerodynamically, the Range covers a lot of ground (sorry, had to). The bead seat width is 20mm, which favors slightly wider tires than the Rail 52 (18mm bsw). Rails generally get used with tires marked 23 and 25. We envision Ranges getting used with 23s at times, but for sure they're going to see heavy use in CX, and it's certain that 40s will often be used with them. The 20mm bsw is right for that. Working back from there, we've shaped the Range to hold maximum width all the way up to the tire to optimize the transition to wider tires. We avoided going super wide on the overall width for a couple of reasons. First, dedicated road disc bikes have good wheel clearance, but there are limits, and we want these to fit every bike. Second, going too wide would slow them down when you use narrower tires. Since aerodynamics is presumably more important the narrower the tires you're using, this makes sense. Third, and perhaps biggest, we believe that the 20mm bsw is correct for the range (sorry, had to again) of tires you're likely to use with them. To go wider on the outside with a 20mm inside would just torture the shape, or add a bunch of weight, or both. Plus there's the offset to consider. We'll be benchmarking the Range's aerodynamics in the tunnel, but since there are so few similar rims out there, it's a bit of a strange task.

The standard Range build uses Nimbus Ti CLD hubs, available in 24/24 and 24/28, lacing, with CX Ray spokes. We expect the 24/24 to cover most uses. Tubeless tape will be installed and valves will be inclus. Custom builds using King, Tune, and Powertap hubs will be available. Preorder will open late January, with first deliveries following by about one month.

A huge part of design success is identifying and addressing all of the relevant considerations. Given the range (okay, just get used to it) of use cases for the new rim, we're darn near certain that we've hit close to the bullseye on what this rim needs to be. 

Tuesday
Dec292015

Throwback Tuesday

2015 has been a crazy busy year, and we have to thank you all for that. Being in need of a small break, we're at about 1/4 throttle this week. Time to recharge and get ready for an even bigger 2016. Looking back through the blog archives, it's funny how consistent we've remained with a lot of things. Today's throwback, from 11/28/11, is a great example of that. Enjoy.

When I was a younger lad, I sold insurance for boats.  It was one of those funny situations where I was really effective at it when I did it the way I naturally did it, which was to go to boat races and marinas and just generally hang out with people and be in the loop, but my place of employ preferred my presence in midtown Manhattan, wearing a suit and tie.  This marked me for two reasons - the first is that it instilled in me a lifelong appreciation that your time is well spent out among the madding crowds (see below).The second was this annoying phrase that I hated called "leaving money on the table."  My boss ALWAYS used it.  "We don't want to be leaving money on the table!"  Yeah, I got it.  I just didn't like it then, and I still don't now.  A big part of the stupidity in it for me then was that it didn't fit my scheme.  Getting paid meant getting a large volume of clients.  Getting a large volume of clients meant spending a lot of time networking and being in the field, and closing deals quickly.  I was doing a lot of sailing then so I wasn't anonymous in the market, and then as now, a lot of customers wanted to do business with me and not my price.  Price would win me some customers, and it would be a high but not top priority for the heart of my audience.  But it wasn't the story, and the incremental few dollars I might have "left on the table" didn't change my commission very much at all.  Whether I got the deal or not was the compensation issue, and it was far easier for me to just do it at the carrier's best quoted price rather than worry about a few extra bones - I figured I was working for my customers, not my boss or the carrier,  and their best interests were mine as well.

I know that there are a lot of people who would cringe and tell me I'm an idiot for this approach.  Apparently some of the work in the bike industry.  The other day I read a review on one of the sites I read because I love to hate it, and the bike being reviewed was referred to as an "x" dollar bike.  Now, I'm at the point where if you tell me that maufacturer, the frame material, the place in the brand's hierarchy the frame occupies (ProTour level, "sport" series, etc), and the primary component spec, I can pretty accurately guess the retail.  Well, price "x" of this bike instantly sounded incongruous to me, so I went to the manufacturer and found that the actual MSRP was 150% of price "x."  Makes perfect sense, right?  When there's enough room in the MSRP for the street price to be 2/3rds of the MSRP, someone's made a pretty daring attempt not to leave any money on the table. 

This all leads the typical consumer to want to seek a better deal.  If situations like that are happening all day every day, and you can get 1/3 off just by doing the most basic amount of digging or asking, you're darn right when you say "I had to ask."

Mike and I, being the crotchety bastards that we are, and having done what we've done in pricing how we have, have often gotten offended by these requests.  To be honest, every single one has caused some degree of "what the hell do people think we have left to cut out" type of banter between us.  We make money on every sale, maybe not a lot, but we're never going to pay you to buy stuff from us (unless we heinously screw something up).  Conversely, we're not concerned about "leaving money on the table."  Our general philosophy on prices is that if our price for something is $485, we're not interested in selling it for $484.98, and we won't.  Both parties in the equation have the right to say "no thanks," and if your offer is below our price, "no thanks" is our answer.  Among the many other things we don't like about "don't leave money on the table" pricing is that negotiating takes time that we haven't got. 

Even with that, we lose when we step onto the field because it's in our nature to artfully craft a diplomatic response to each of these requests to enter negotiation.  And we get A LOT of them.  And that takes A LOT of time, time that we would rather spend doing almost anything, including pulling out our own fingernails with vice-grips.  It sucks for us.  So we've decided not to do it anymore.  We're going form letter.  So from here on, requests of the "I had to ask" variety will be answered (with our usual promptness) with a very boring DREADED FORM LETTER, suitable for framing, explaining simply that the price is the price. 

It seemed kind of anathema to me that we would stoop to the DREADED FORM LETTER, but time is a zero sum game.  If we spend 3 hours a week in wordcraft, making personalized, pithy explanations of why we won't give you a nickel off the price, that's three hours we can't spend on some thing that benefits us and our customers.  In actual fact these requests take time that could otherwise be spent doing more for our customers, so in a pragmatic view of customer service, responding with the DREADED FORM LETTER is actually better customer service. 

When you want to get our best price, you really don't have to ask.