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Introducing November Nimbus Ti hubs, manufactured by White Industries. Industry leading performance, unprecedented value. Complete wheelsets starting at $555.

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Tuesday
Jun302015

The Why and The How

One of the risks you face in doing a project like the Nimbus Ti is that people will be skeptical of prices that are "too low." We're all conditioned to believe that price and quality exist in a positive relationship, and that spending more is better and that ultimately "you get what you pay for." I had what was ultimately a pretty surreal conversation on Facebook about this yesterday (in itself worthy of a whole different conversation), so let's take a few minutes to discuss the why and the how. 

Why did we price the Nimbus Ti alloy wheels like we did? Short answer is because we had to. There are a million different options on the market, everything from "overpriced and bad" to "quite good but still overpriced" to "bad and cheap" to "holy crap, how do they sell those for that?" The first three compose the meat of the madding crowd within the market, but it's the foourth that's the ultimate threat. Whether they're grey market or overstock closeouts or loss leaders or whatever they are, there are always offers out there that demand your notice. 

I've never seen any of these showstopper deals that are, in my opinion, the near equivalent of what we are offering with Nimbus Ti builds, but when people can get a halfway decent set of wheels delivered for $300, that's what fancy people call "disruptive market forces." So here we are, sitting in between our two primary market edges - expensive, heavily marketed, regular channel wheels, and these super low price ones. Of course, we weren't alone where we are - our little corner of the fishbowl was plenty crowded with places doing similar products at not terribly different prices. And for a whole host of strategic reasons, we are firmly committed to being really really good at the alloy wheel business. So the cut that long story down to a much shorter one, the "why" is really simple: because we had to.  

Now the "how." The first piece of the puzzle is the Nimbus Ti hubs. Biggest thing is that they simplify the hub game for us - one color, the minimum number of fully relevant drilling options, and a product that works every bit as well for the guy/girl who's starting to ride more and getting into his/her first group rides/races/centuries as it does for a WorldTour team. When the one wheel product that you find yourself ALWAYS recommending is available as a part that you can get as an OEM product and make a centerpiece of your product strategy, you simply do it. The product attributes are all 100% there, same as the original, but the rules around OEM are slightly different and advantageous to our strategy. 

Another big piece of the how is Laser spokes. They're well under half the cost of CX Rays, for what is for all intents and purposes zero dimunition of performance. Lasers cost you a few seconds versus CX Rays in the 40k TT, but the wheels we're using them in aren't really focused on the pointy end of the TT results sheet. The business economics of them work brilliantly for wheel builders, as they are expensive and easier to build with, but the customer doesn't see benefit in line with that. 

Rims are, of course, another arrow in the quiver. We use the best off the shelf rims available, which gives us a ton of flexibility in how we use our money and buy and stock them. With some of the rims we use, we can turn our inventory 100x/year if needed. Conversely, we can buy huge and turn it 3x/year at a lower part cost but higher cost of money. Flexibility f-ing rules. 

There's a lot of romance around wheel building, and it's pretty easy to see some hip bank of credit card commercial with a mainstream-friendly hipster (oxymoron, I know) building wheels and scream out "hey, that's what I do!" but the actual reality is very different. We aren't that well groomed, our coffees aren't that transcendent, and we're busting nut for long hours to fit it all into the day. We chase efficiencies like they were gold, and basically work really really hard for what most people would call not a lot of money, but it's what we do, we like it, we're good at it, and we want to keep doing it. 

Monday
Jun292015

Nimbus Ti, now with the DTs

Astute social media followers will have recently seen the mugshot below and known that we've been testing out a new rim to include as an option in both Nimbus Ti and custom alloy builds. We've put a couple of hundred miles on them, tortured them at New England Crit Week, and we like what we've seen. 


Kid tested, mother approvedThese rims kill a few different birds that we've been hunting, so we think they're a great complement to the other rims in the portfolio.

First, while they're tubeless ready, they aren't aggressively so, meaning that normal tires install fairly easily with no tools. Tubeless is gaining popularity, but it's far from ubiquitous and we don't see it becoming so soon.

Second, while they're certainly wide enough at 18mm inside width (23 outer), they're a good choice if you either don't want to go to the 20mm inner width of the current Pacenti SL23, or if your frame clearance is a bit tight. Tire inflated widths on these are very similar to Rails (also 18mm inside width), so a 23mm Conti GP4000s II will be roughly 25.25mm wide. Far from narrow, but not beach cruiser width, either. 

They are somewhat lower profile at 23mm tall, which actually looks great. They are exceptionally good looking rims, with a very round shape. I'm not normally so taken with what various rims look like, but these are quite attractive looking. 

Last, and this is a good one, they're very reasonably priced. This allows us to put the baseline price of a set built with Nimbus Ti hubs and Laser spokes at $555. It's almost hard to spend less than twice that much on wheels less than half this good. 

Weights are very competitive, with the rims averaging about 465g. A 24/28 set will be right around 1530g. Drilling is limited to 24, 28, and 32 holes, so they will be offered in 24/28 and 28/32 only.  

 

Tuesday
Jun232015

The arms race and the check valve

Hard to believe, but here we stand on the eve of the Tour once again. If you don't have a calendar, you could know this by the inevitable pre-Tour release of a large doping investigation, a clash between the Tour's stakeholder parties, and of course the new tech and product releases.

The doping and the infighting I'm sure we could all live without, but the product releases are always interesting. The tech stuff really had me sit up and take notice. With half the world on Strava, people are more interested in going faster for any given metric of input than ever before, plus let's face it - going fast is freaking awesome. Being a sort who could teach Kierkegaard how to see a glass as half empty, I of course also had the immediate thought of "who's actually going to buy this stuff, and how many people will look at their perfectly lovely bikes and perceive a staggeringly costly and quick obsolescence and say f it, I give up"?

In truth, I don't think any of us imagine that we'll show up to tonight's ride and be the only one without one of the new brand of wonderbikes: the simple fact is that these are driven by the needs and wants of top pros, and their use by those pros drive awareness, which then drives sales for more accessable products. These are, in fact, halo bikes. They might have enough unit sales to actually work as products, but my guess is that the halo is the bigger deal here. 

I fell in love really fast...

Of course, there's always the check valve, which in cycling's case comes in the form of "tribute" designs and trickle down tech. Trickle down tech justifies the costs spent on tech developments, simply because the development costs are amortized over many product cycles. Tribute designs (edit - by which I mean knock offs or the appropriation of the research of others, to be clear. Rails even have some "tribute" knock offs, which I guess means we've made the big time) are a more effective check against runaway crazy stuff, simply because imitation is both the sincerest form of flattery and an unbelievable way to save development costs. We learned that when we were doing the world's homework in the wind tunnel the last couple of years - we anted up so that things could quickly become common knowledge (or in some cases, uncommon knowledge - sometimes myths die hard) - we made the investments, and everyone else became experts about it when we shared. No one's going to spend ALL the money just to do something the rest of the world will be doing by the time the September issue rolls out. This keeps things a little bit in check. 

We're value investors.

It's a funny situation for us. Our stance may often read as "you kids get offa my lawn," but we think the vast body of evidence points to our minds and pencils being pretty sharp indeed on this stuff. The innovations we've been pursuing lately have been more along the lines of finding ways to make better stuff available to more people. We just sent my buddy Christian off to go race Exeter with a set of wheels that will cost less than 20% of what the new crop of wonderwheels cost, with better hubs to boot. Our biggest project of the moment is all about finding out which cross tubeless tires work best, which we think will be of huge value to a ton of people. 

In the end, there are a lot of people out there trying to move the ball forward, and we're glad of it. It's sometimes hard to even see this ourselves, but not only does a more competitive market serve consumers, it provides contrast against which people who are working hard can really show up. 

Tuesday
Jun092015

BYORims, y'all

A couple of posts ago, we talked briefly about our program that lets you supply your own rims and have us build them up with our hubs and spokes. Now that we're mere days away from having Nimbus Ti Disc hubs in stock, it gets new relevance.

The original impetus for the idea was the switch from cantis to discs in cross.  A lot of people have a lot of wheels that have a lot of life left in them, but would either be sold on for pennies on the dollar or be relegated to that deep, dark spot in the garage where "currently useless but far too valuable to throw away" things go to bide their time. Apparently Fatmarc VanderBacon is on a secondhand canti wheel buying binge, but he can only do so much (much as that is - he's a special one, that FatBacon), so if you miss that train we've got the solution. Of course, there are a lot of people in the same spot after buying a new disc brake road bike, too. Reduce, reuse, recycle, one and all.

It's a very simple deal. You send us your rims, and we relace them with Nimbus Ti hubs and Laser spokes. Rim brake hub lacing options are 20, 24, and 28, rears are 24, 28, and 32. Disc builds are available in 24 and 28, front and rear. Cost is $500 for rim brake hub builds and $535 for disc brake hub builds.* 

Other than spoke count limitations, there are very few requirements and caveats, but there are some. Rims need to be from a verifiable source - no "I bought them from some trading company on eBay" specials. Rims need to be in good enough shape to rebuild. Rims need to be clean - we're not scraping down 3 seasons worth of accumulated tubular glue, thankyouverymuch. And that's it. 

Mike's putting together the page in the store today, and once we get the hubs in hand it's game on. 

There's no perfect solution to swapping a fleet of wheels from fim brake to tubular, but we think this is a pretty great one. 

*add $10 for internal nipples. Not my favorite things. 

Thursday
Jun042015

Cross tubeless, discs, and the kitchen sink

Hard to believe, but it's time to get ready for cross already. We've got our teeth sunk into a robust tubeless testing program, which will inherit a lot of data we learned last year, but will encompass a scope and rigor that we haven't been able to achieve previously.  

First off, we've got a better test pilot. Mike and I often bump up against wanting the business to be better at various things than we personally are at those things. I'm adequate at testing stuff on the road, but off road I'm just too much of a Barbie Doll (tm) to put things near their limits. This is a case where we want something done right, so we're not going to do it entirely ourselves. The guy we've got to help us is seriously legit.

Why are we barking up the tubeless tree so hard, anyway? For one, we think it's incredibly versatile, on the micro-and macro scales. Micro scale, if you have two good sets of wheels and you know that the weekend forecast is dry, you can install a set of file treads to start the race and pit a set of intermediates. The next weekend it's going to be wet, so you swap the files for muds for the start, and pit the intermediates. On the macro scale, your buddies want to do a big ass fire road ride one weekend, you swap one set of tires for some 40mm semi-fatties and go do that. You can commute all week on semi-slicks and then switch to cx tires to race on the weekend. When cx season is over, throw some road tubeless on and do your entire off season on the same wheels. It's a good program. And the whole time, you can run lower pressure than you can with tubes, plus you've got better puncture flat protection.

If you do get a flat with tubeless, it's easy to deal with. Glue a patch on the inside of the tire if the hole is too big for sealant to deal with, and away you go. No sending them out for tubular repair, no $120 wasted tires, none of that. 

The bulk of the A fleet will use tubulars for the foreseeable future, and we realize that. That's why we're also back on the tubular game. Product quality will be there in spades and then some, and you'll be able to build a wheel quiver that won't require you to sell some molars and/or children.

 

The disc thing is only going to gain steam. We'll do the homework for tubeless on both SL23s and SL25s (rim brake and disc brake tubeless rims, respectively), but man is the heat ever on for discs. 

Road tubeless, at this point, is so dirty simple it's pretty nuts. People I meet on the road seem to want to almost bait me on the topic, it's nearly always a leading question slanted negatively away from road tubeless, like "do you see any point at all to road tubeless?" They're usually somewhat surprised when I'm almost always able to say "well, I'm on tubeless right now if that tells you anything." Despite the slower uptake on road tubeless compared to the ubiquity of it in mtb, and the desire for it in cx, my personal opinion is that road tubeless is the cat's ass. 

The testing menu for tubeless cx goes like this: Kenda Slant Six Pro DTC/SCT, Kenda Happy Medium DTC, Maxxis Mud Wrestler DC EXO TR, Hutchinson Toro CX Tubeless, Schwalbe Racing Ralph EVO Pace Star. When Clement comes out with tubeless, we'll be the first in line but until then we know that they're unreliable in tubeless applications. The mandate is not at all to evaluate every tire out there - we've already put the better part of a g into just buying tires, and we've barely got enough time to get the list we have done. The goal is to simply get a range of tread patterns to cover most, if not all, conditions, and be able to say with good surety "go ahead and use this, it will work great for you."

Kitchen sink not necessary, I stayed shockingly on topic the whole time. Hooray, me.