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Featured Build

Thinking tubeless for cross, gravel or gran fondos? Seriously, we could not make it easier for you. This Featured Build is as tubeless ready as it gets, with Pacenti SL25, White Industries CLD (in your choice of color) and tubeless tires - INSTALLED - starting at $750. 

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Tuesday
Jul262016

Selecting Select

Have you ever read The Paradox of Choice? The central tenet is that there's an optimal amount of choice - too little and you don't get what you want, too much and you lose your mind. The premise has a lot of resonance in bike wheels.

On the one hand, you have an abundance of one-size-fits-all wheels, designed to reduce SKUs and to make the distribution channel's life easier, but which may or may not fit what you want. On the other hand, you have the wide wide world of custom, where you can agonize over every single element from an infinite array of choices, each to be studied and debated and inevitably leading to paralysis. 

This is where the Select program comes in (see Select Alloy and Select Disc in the menu at the top), and we call it a program and not a product very purposefully. "Select" is both a verb and an adjective in the Select program; we've pre-selected select components that allow you to select the best build for your purpose. There's not one product that's covered by Select, but a range of products that offers enough choice to fit anyone's bill, without asking you to become a PhD-level wheel expert. We've realized that what customers want is a great set of wheels that delivers the maximum in their all-too-limited time on the bike. Maximum what? That's the magic of Select.

Because we personally (corporately?) select certain component ingredients that we've tested and know, and include only those parts that best deliver whatever trait they are shaded toward, we're able to offer a broad menu that never serves up a lemon. And because we've got so much experience with each combo, we know how each ingredient will influence the best outcome. For example, we know that Kinlin rims just plain don't need as many spokes as other rims do - they're deeper and stiffer, and a Kinlin rear with 24 spokes is going to rival a 28h Pacenti or HED rim for stability and stiffness. The Pacenti tubeless interface is the best we've seen for cross use. HEDs are the most durable and have the best braking of any alloy wheel anywhere. White Industries hubs do everything well, at a point on the cost:benefit curve that few others achieve, but for some people a less expensive option will work out just grand, and yet others have the serious hankering for Chris King hubs.

Having a manageable choice array also helps us keep the logistics efficient, keeping lead time within reason and allowing us to offer price levels that you're hard pressed to find with our levels of component and build quality. 

Once your specific use case is known, Select gives you the freedom to ensure that your wheels are going to make you happy. Personally, I look down at my pink hub sitting in my blue fork, and my heart rate eases - I love it. Whatever color floats your boat, if bladed spokes let you know you've got the best without doubt, or whether you just love the Johnny Cash black on black look - your Select wheels are yours. 

We've become cool enough that now we get asked to help some manufacturers pre-test their products, and we get sneak peaks at a lot of stuff. All of that means that by the time other wheel builders even know what's new on the horizon, we've built it, ridden it, poked and prodded it, and don't have to cross our fingers when we send it out. If we sell it, it's because we know you'll love it - especially given our expertise in component selection and assembly. 

 

Wednesday
Jul202016

Disc brakes don't work better. Nope. Not at all. 

This past Sunday, I did the Farm to Fork Fondo which was hosted at the beautiful Riverside Farm in Pittsfield, VT. Some of this is motivated by market research and very harumph harumph business stuff such that Mike doesn't get sweaty when November pays my entries for such shenanigans, but a big part of it is simply that I've reached the point in life's festivities when a number on the front is getting to be a better look for me than a number on the back of the jersey. I know, right? 

We're so cool now that manufacturers ask us to test their stuff for them, so I was using a test set of new alloy disc rims that I'd built up, on the disc Timoneria (still the world's prettiest bike). The Gran Fondo as a concept is the perfect application for road disc, full stop.Absolutely no question at all whatsoever, if you are a number on the front kind of a person, road disc is your move for the next bike. 

Anyhow, we started off and I was having a nice conversation with Matt about the JAM Grand Fundo which he'd done the day before (I was busy snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in a sailboat race on Saturday, thus couldn't make it). At the first rest stop, I had to stop and tinkle (see what I'm saying - OLD) and got back on my bike and "hey - where'd everybody go?" Sort of pounded it up Brandon Gap (alas, I am not Ted King) and caught the tail of the lead group by the top, which then formed the knot of people with whom I rode for the rest of the day. Lovely people one and all. There were some people farther ahead, which I don't 100% understand but whatever. 

A little aside here, Andy Bishop was one of the ride guides. He rode a bunch of Tours de France (which is the proper way of saying Tour de Frances, btw), but being the sparking conversationalist that I am, I managed to learn that he'd once gotten 6th in the Houffalize MTB World Cup. Which any mountain biker of a certain age will tell you is like Paris-Roubaix, Flanders, and L-B-L all wrapped into one. 

THE POINT OF THE STORY: Our group got a little spread out up App Gap, and I was maybe 20 seconds down on the first guys, so started doing my bomb down the east slope as I've done approximately one billion and three times. About half the way down, there's some hub bub. A guy from the more ahead group has fallen in a turn, and people have stopped to help, which is mint. The not mint part is that there is a Subaru is parked kind of like what you might call the middle of the freaking road, and of course I'm there just at the perfect time when this is all happening so no one's warning about this setup. For those South Park fans among you, I was french frying when I should have been pizza-ing, and was about to have a bad time, m'kay? 

So faced with the choice of certain death by guard rail and a rag doll bounce down mountain, or squaring up with the rear bumper and windshield of said Subaru, I remember "oh yeah, I've got disc brakes!!!" Yes, I skidded, and when I did I eased up a scintilla and regained traction while still braking, and then then played right at the skid point until I got the bike on path to avoid said Subaru, and then came calmly to a stop. 

There is the wild card that I was going faster than I otherwise might have been, because I descend faster with disc brakes. Because you can. And I was. But had I been going as fast with really good rim brakes, I'd probably be typing this from a hospital bed. I will leave the other scenarios to your imagination. 

So, no, disc brakes are not needed for a lot of stuff and I'm not now nor have we ever been saying that they're right for all people in all applications, but when they're in their element, they can save you from ditching into a forest or a Forester. 

Monday
Jul182016

The November Range

 

So, we've launched the new Range for preorder. The Range is a disc specific, 45mm deep, 27mm outside/20mm inside, 700c tubeless ready carbon clincher wheel. Weight per rim is 440g, and build weights will be in the mid 1500g range, depending on hub choice. Options exist for all known axle configurations. Spokes are a combination of CX Rays on the non-drive side of the rear and drive side of the front, and CX Sprints on the drive side of the rear and rotor side of the front. We use brass nipples, and deliver the wheels with tubeless ready rim tape installed. 

Astute followers will be aware that we are about... oh... four months behind where we wanted to be with this. As sometimes happens, testing revealed a few things that we wanted or needed to improve. We have an ambitious mandate for the wheel, incorporating elements that are either new or haven't been used in the combinations we're hitting. It took a lot of iterations to get those worked out. 

A few of the earlier test rimsWe made quite a few adjustments as we went through the process, strengthening the spoke bed, tuning the tubeless interface, refining some of the molding process, etc. Because it's an asymmetrical rim, the stress map models aren't quite so refined as they would be on a normal rim. 

So what is an asymmetrical rim, and why did we go that path for the Range?

Outside shape proof on left, tubeless interface proof on rightAs you can see in the picture, the inside of the rim is lopsided. This is very much by design. Because both wheels in a disc build are dished, the tensions from one side to the other are unequal in both wheels. Off setting the spoke bed allows you to increase the lower side's tension while decreasing the higher side's tension. This in turn leads to a stronger, stiffer, more stable wheel. The structure of the rim gets a bit challenging (as we well learned), but overall the juice is well worth the squeeze.

We chose the dimensions quite carefully. Ranges will be equally at home in road, cross, and gravel use - they have a broad range of use cases, and allow you to cover a lot of range (get it?). Our width choices were well informed by the extensive disc brake experience we've gotten with rims like Stan's Grail and Pacenti SL25. 20mm inside seems to be the sweet spot for making cross tubeless work best, while also working perfectly with tires up to around 40mm width. Road tires also work great with 20mm inside width. The depth gives road users a good aerodynamics boost, while avoiding parasitic weight for the cross and gravel crowd. The 27mm outside width really followed the rest of it, once the other two were established.

Weight is very competitive - close in weight to anything as deep, and notably lighter than disc wheels made from slightly (or un-) modified rim brake wheels. We'd initially tried to get them even lighter, but it sacrificed strength so it was a bad trade. These are meant to be ridden hard, not just weighed and admired, and the design is as tuned as it can be for disc use. 

Tubeless for road and gravel is pretty simple at this point, so if you get the cross tubeless right, the other two fall into line right away. All of the tires we came to love and trust last year are supremely compatible with Ranges, and we will be updating that list with this year's crop of new tires. 

Of course they will all be built in house, by us. 

Pre-order pricing is $100 off the standard pricing of $1385 based on White Industries CLD hubs. CK hubs cost a bit more. Pre-order is scheduled to be open through the 29th, with deliveries starting the third week of August. 

Wednesday
Jul062016

Our philosophy on weight limits

The current feature build has just about broken the Facebooks. More than any other, this one proves the calculus of shallow carbon clincher "climbing" wheels to be particularly fallible. It's REALLY light, made from proven components, and put together with skill and care by us. So why do we put 160 pound rider weight limit guidance on them?

The first thing we've got to say, and I know this will sound weird but it's true, is that we'd rather sell fewer and have everyone psyched than sell more and have people who are unhappy. If we slapped a 205 pound weight limit on these guys, we'd sell more - no doubt. We'd sell more to what we feel is the appropriate audience of lighter people, and we'd sell a bunch more to people above our current guidance. But we don't think these would satisfy our aims for most, say, 190 pound riders. Why?

We have a basic set of parameters for any wheels we sell. More or less, they should last me three to four years of my "these are my only wheels" usage, performing their intended job wonderfully, and needing little to no maintenance beyond regular stuff like bearings needing grease and that stuff. Note that "performing their intended job wonderfully" is quite a bit higher of a bar than "not giving any trouble." When you corner, you should say "holy shit these things corner like WUT?!" They should feel responsive and fast and not feel at all mushy when you hammer and things like that. My typical yearly mileage is like 4000 road miles, a lot of it flat riding at the coast, a lot of hilly trips to Vermont, and typically one week long destination riding trip. There's racing and training and group rides and alone rides. So, simply, as a 160 pound person, these are about the minimum gun I would expect to satisfy our parameters for myself. 

Obviously there are caveats to this. If you live in the Alps, we simply don't recommend carbon clinchers (or tubulars) as your only wheels. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, your brake tracks will struggle to last that long because rain and grit and hills and pads that actually stop you in those conditions. And you might simply live in a place where you can ride 1000 miles a month, in which case 3 to 4 years is a bit of a pipe dream. Stuff like that. 

There are wheels out there with similar spoke count that have a much higher weight guidance on them. HED puts a 225 pound limit on their 18/24 laced Ardennes builds. Are they that much different? No, not really. We're a bit conservative, and we think a 225 pound rider is asking for trouble with an 18/24 set of wheels (the many "I've never had any trouble with them" comments on forums notwithstanding). HED rims are a bit heavier than Pacentis, and that buys you a bit of extra stiffness and durability, so our guidance would be a bit different with HED rims. And then you have Kinlin XR31T rims, which we'd somewhat conservatively put a 200 or so pound rider guidance on with a similar build. But that rim is significantly deeper and heavier than the rims in the feature build, which creates a whole different dynamic. It would also weigh about 110g more than the feature build. 

So why do I keep saying "guidance" instead of "weight limit"? Because weight limit implies certain doom if you exceed it, while guidance expresses the more nuanced reality of how rider weight affects things. If you have a different set of parameters than we do, vaya con dios. If you weigh 180 pounds and love riding light wheels, all good. Just realize that the durability and stiffness might not be what we'd be looking for for ourselves. If you want to have a special 'secret weapon' set of wheels for a romantic trip to the big hills this summer, our guidance means less to you than someone who's looking to settle down with them. 

And seriously, in any case, a 24/28 version of these barely cracks 1400g. 

 

 

Thursday
Jun302016

What Comes Next?

Two weeks of silence on the blog hasn't necessarily been golden. We announced the end of the Nimbus Ti program, got super busy with the season, and then we suffered a profound personal tragedy (my dad died) all at once. So I've pretty much had my head in a blender the past two weeks, fortunately Mike has been able to pick up most of my slack and our ace shop help has been a huge assist in keeping us somewhat normal. 

So what next?

With the Nimbus Ti setup going away, we are transitioning to a series of baseline builds, centered around our most popular builds. Pacenti and HED rim options will be joined by the Kinlin XR31T. The XR31T is a great rim that's been around for a while, and if Kinlin had named it "our new proprietary aluminum rim" instead of XR31T, a lot of noses would stop growing. It's deep, it's wide, it's stiff, it's fast, it's tubeless ready. 

Since the big two questions we get after "how many spokes do I need" are "can I get Nimbus Ti with black hubs?" and "can I get Nimbus Ti with CX Rays?" we are basically turning those into "yes" answers. Price will be a little bit higher for black and a little higher still for CX Rays, reflective of the increased costs, but they'll still be excellent values. We continually seek to tune our strengths to best suit what the market wants. 

The main hubs will still be from White Industries and Chris King, but we'll also be adding some options from Bitex. Bitex hubs are a nice lower cost option that still offer solid performance, durablility, and ease of maintenance. 

Our impression of the component market, in particular with regard to aluminum rims but also very much in hubs, is that we can provide profound value in helping people select the wheel build that will be best for them, putting them together better than others do, providing best in class service, and keeping the price very reasonable, without needing to go out and literally reinvent the wheel. The component market has all the options you'd want already, so for us to do a new alloy rim to split the hair even finer would make no sense.

We've also got some neat feature builds on tap. Those have been a big hit and though it's not incredibly easy to come up with unique and worthy things all the time, we've got some good ones on deck.

We finally have Rail 52s in stock for immediate builds. Almost more than ever, we think Rails hit a nexus of speed, depth, width, manageability, tubeless readiness, braking performance, price, and weight that's the best final answer on the market, so of course we're continuing with those more enthusiastically than ever.

Though we've been quiet about the process as it's unfolded, we're close to a big update on the Range wheels. Again, we've got a unique product that does a bunch of things better than any option out there, so going off on our own has been necessary to get the product we wanted for that. For a few reasons, it's been a more challenging gestation than we'd anticipated, but we want to make sure that it's 100% ready to go from the first moment. More news on that soon.

Thank you to everyone who's been quite patient with wheel deliveries over the past couple of weeks. This is the hardest curve that life has ever thrown me, and having cool customers has made the difference between getting through it with some modicum of grace and me sticking my head in an oven.

Last, as regards my dad, I don't want to eulogize him here. I did that yesterday and it knocked me on my ass. He was an awesome person and hopefully we continue to make him proud with what we're doing here.