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A Post About Hubs

We don't post on forums lately as much as we have at times in the past, but I recently noticed a thread where we are somewhat uniquely qualified to comment. By the time I'd finished my response, a fully formed blog post was on my hands. The original forum thread is here.

I can only speak at great knowledge with regard to T11s versus Novatec F482SB, but there are several meaningful differences.

First, the titanium cassette body as many have mentioned. I've seen 3 year old ti cassette bodies that were less chewed up than 3 ride old aluminum cassette bodies. This sacrifices a few grams and adds significant cost. The grams are meaningless in my opinion but the dollars are real. 

White Industries T11 top, Novatec F482SB bottom

The T11 uses a steel axle as opposed to an aluminum axle on most other hubs and certainly the majority of lightweight OEM hubs. This costs a few grams again, but is an area where we have seen a meaningful difference in longevity. We've seen a number of bent Novatec axles. Far from an epidemic or something that's going to happen to everyone, but I wouldn't recommend them for cross use, or heavier riders, or people who like to take road bikes where road bikes aren't necessarily meant to go. A lot of times people with lightweight hubs wonder why the hub won't hold a bearing after a while, and a bent axle is usually the culprit. 

Both use steel pawls and drive rings, but the T11 drive ring gives some points of engagement back in order to have deeper engagement. You very occasionally hear about skipping engagement with Novatecs but in some other hubs it's more of a thing. In my opinion, unless you are Hans "No Way" Rey, speed of engagement is something you will never notice in a million years but a skipped engagement could have an acute bad outcome. 

Overall bearing spread on the T11 is quite a bit wider than on any lightweight OEM hub I've seen. The T11's hub shell bearing width is maximized, and same with the bearings inside the cassette body. We have bench tested stiffness of various builds with various hubs, and the T11 always comes out at the head of the class. The stiffness difference between a wheel built with a T11 rear and an F482 rear is usually on the order of one spoke group (i.e. a 24h wheel with T11 is stiffness equivalent to a 28h wheel with an F482). How much of that is down to bearing spread versus axle differences or other factors I have no way of isolating and thus I can't say.

The bearings on F482s and most OEM hubs are open spec, meaning that different places will be selling "the same" hub with different bearings. We always used EZO ABEC 5 bearings in the Novatecs we sold. I've heard of Novatecs gaining a reputation as being a dry weather hub, but that hasn't necessarily been our experience. I'm inclined to say that there are hubs out there with lesser bearings causing that impression. In any case, all T11s come with Enduro-made ABEC 5 bearings. 

Tension balance on either is about as good as you can do with 11 speed hubs without going to a radial drive side (and that didn't work out so hot), and in our deep experience this is a non-issue. 

On the front hubs, T11 front flange and bearing spacing is much wider than a Novatec A291's. An A291's flanges nest inside of a T11 front hub's flanges, and the T11 has higher flanges. The stiffness increase between otherwise equivalent builds is noticeable there. 

T11 vs A291, plus a hex to stop them from rolling

As far as ease of service goes, both are dead simple but the T11 is actually easier. Undo three 2mm set screws and you can take the thing all the way apart. An F482 is hardly complex, but requires two 5mm and one 10mm hex. T11 front requires undoing the same 2mm set screws, while the A291 front requires two 5mm hexes. Both are WELL within the capability of anyone with greater mechanical aptitude than my brother (which is about 99.6% of all people over the age of 4). 

Cost differences are significant, and that can't be ignored. 

For full disclosure, we have built and sold many hundred (I don't know exactly how many of each without doing a research project) of each hub I describe. We currently sell T11s but do not currently sell Novatec or any other OEM hubs. Fairwheel had a stake in the SL23 project and in my opinion treated the Kinlin/SL23 comparison fairly. was created by Zen Wheels and, so far as I could ever tell, he was the sole contributor and not very transparent about it (the royal "we" being just one example of that). November is imminently launching a hub produced by White Industries that is very closely based on the T11, which is undeniably related to our good opinion of White Industries and their products, but our good opinion of White Industries and their products is what led us to seek this cooperation with them in the first place. This hub set will address the cost difference between T11s and OEM hubs.


Guest Post - Battenkilling It

Our friend Pat Luckow has been riding and racing on November bikes and wheels for the last several years as he climbs (literally and figuratively - he's an uphill freak) through the categories. When his cherished Wheelhouse was destroyed in a car accident (don't get rear-ended when you have a hitch rack), he became one of the first to buy a Timoneria. Since we didn't get to experience Battenkill ourselves, I asked Pat to write about his day at one of America's great spring races. Enjoy

The Battenkill Cat3 race was a large field, as usual, with well over 100 starters. Everyone was in good spirits as we lined on a sunny Saturday morning, with uncharacteristic temperatures in the 60s. Odd for this typically gritty Northeastern Classic in upstate New York, but I was happy to be able to wear shorts after the never ending winter of misery. 68 miles of rolling roads with 12 miles of gravel, here we come.

I was trying to target this race as I transition from pure-climber to lanky hard man extraordinaire. The week before I had crushed the local hard group ride, and done some quick openers Friday morning. My teammates and I drove from Boston to Vermont for the night and got dinner at the excellent Madison Brewing Co in Bennington. I chose to line up on my Timoneria, with my go-to wheels of choice, Rail 34s. To keep the flats at bay I switched from GP4000s to 23mm Conti 4 Seasons. They measure at 25.8mm, but look skinner than the 4000s. I could go lower than my standard 95psi, but I wanted to avoid flats on the inevitable, unavoidable dirt hole. 

They shifted the course this year, starting at the Washington County Fairgrounds and hitting out to Meetinghouse Rd, the first dirt climb, at mile 10. The race to be at the front was on, and before I knew it I got shoved back from the top 10 to the back half of the pack. Despite the huge field I was able to pick my line, and between the climb, the subsequent fast gravel decent, and steeper stair-stepper climb up Stage Rd. a few miles later, I was able to get back towards the front, but not before watching four guys roll off the front.  

Juniper Swamp road, a short steep climb at mile 35, was a couple inches of gritty dirt last year, causing folks to dismount and walk. Unfortunately, given that I handled it fine last year, the dry roads made it a pretty straightforward little ring climb that me and my Timoneria floated up. This whittled what was left of the field to about forty, and the following climb brought it down again to 15.  At some point I rode straight into a several-inch deep hole in the ground. Made it out mudsplattered, but unscathed and flat-free. I wasn’t feeling much oomph in my legs and took the opportunity to catch my breath, watching an NCVC rider from DC go up the road and hoping someone would chase. A few did, but the group waited. We hit a headwind, the pace slowed, the gap to the break grew, and our group swelled back to 40 or so. With 3k to go this group attacked each other relentlessly. I got gapped, and led out a small group of 10 guys with 500m to go. After a sharp right back into the fairgrounds, I got passed by this entire group in the last 200m after sprinting like a tired climber, and ended up 30th on the day. Not the result I was hoping for, but a great day nonetheless. And excellent post-race hangouts with biking buds I haven’t seen for awhile from Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, and the old homestead in DC. It’ll be a good season.


The waiting is the hardest part

Sping finally seems to have caught up to the calendar across the east coast, and riding without ALL the gloves and warmers is now intermittently possible. This of course means that everything bike related has sprung to life at once and things go crazy, which is great. 

We've been struggling to stay up with Rail inventory as the spring has turned on, but we are turning the corner on that with two large rim shipments hitting in the next few days. The two weeks we've needed to ask people to wait has been dialed back to one week, and unless things go completely nuts we should have standard Rail builds ready to go for on demand shipping quite soon.

The FSW deal keeps going, stock is getting thinner but we're able to ship immediately on those in both spoke count options. Custom alloys are running on schedule except in some cases of a hub color or orientation being slow to appear. 

Unusual for the world's legs to still be SO pale and be planning for cx season, but we've got great things afoot at the Circle K for the crossers this year. 

Well, since UPS has picked up for the day and it's so nice out, I guess it's time to go for a ride. 


A trip to the service department

The room in which I now sit is as close as it gets to our sales department, service department, purchasing department, marketing department, etc. There's not much to see here except a desk, a printer, some filing stuff, a bunch of binders, and adjunct rim storage, so I don't think anyone wants to visit here. But a guy took a trip to a car dealer's service department the other day and tweeted some interesting things ab out it, which I thought would be a fun discussion. 

I don't want to get too literal or specific, but this was a luxury car dealership and it was a close relative's car. Why exactly he was there for two-plus meals worth of time is a good question, but it's left unanswered. 

"ALL THE FREE COFFEE!!!" "They're bringing out FREE wraps for lunch!" "Bowls of FREE Kind bars." All nice stuff, to be sure, but despite his inclusion of "FREE" at every turn, was any of it actually, you know, free?

When you drop the huge coin on a car, the country club experience is part of the bargain, for which you pay. Many people take advantage of it, but I'm sure that "many" in this case is a word that doesn't mean anything close to "everyone." But everyone who buys such a car pays for it. The dealer's margins are no worse for giving away all this "free" stuff, in fact there's a pretty good chance that their margins are better for giving away all this "free" stuff. There are many pockets in the corporate pants from which this "free" stuff could be paid - sales, marketing, service, G&A, whatever - but those pants and pockets are entirely funded by customers.  

There are many dealerships where they don't roll out a Thanksgiving feast on white linen every day. When I most recently bought a car, as I recall there was a bowl of Jolly Ranchers in the customer lounge. We bought a car and paid for a car, which came with a quite good ownership experience, but it wasn't like all of a sudden we'd joined Congressional, by which approximately 93.7% of DC group rides pass.

Sorry, no free wrap sandwiches

Mike and I try to give each of our customers a great experience. That experience includes all of our knowledge and insights, which we are more than happy to share. It includes the delivery of a product at least as good as what you thought you were getting, and all of the attendant accessories as noted. If the product fails to satisfy in any way, it includes our furious effort to make things right. We also try to include as much candor, humor, panache, and witty repartee as we can muster. If you see us at an event and you're over 21, you're also likely to walk away with the best beer you'll have that week. But that's about it for "free," because doing so otherwise would mean we have to add price or subtract product, simple as that. 

Take our $585 FSWs with White Industries hubs, Sapim Lasers, and Kinlin XC279 rims. We've priced these wheels in order to give you an absolutely premier set of wheels at the lowest possible price. We're making enough to cover cost of goods and overheads (which we keep low), and to be able to swiftly and effectively respond to any issues which have a super low chance of arising anyhow, and to make enough money to make it worth while. The price also reflects an opportunity to use sales to balance inventory. But they don't come with soigneur service or a follow car - you'll have to bring a banana and change your own flats. 




An Alloy Awakening

Yesterday, I got a message from a friend, to whom we are about to deliver a set of FSWs with a Powertap, in which she asked if it was weird that she was so psyched to have a new set of alloys. This is nearly in the same breath as when she'd told me she had ridden her Rail 34s outside for the first time in a long time (this winter has SUCKED) and how she'd fallen in love with them all over again. Some women like shoes, I guess...

Anyhow, in our professional opinions, there is categorically nothing wrong with being psyched on alloys. I've been on a set of T11/Grail/Laser road disc wheels, set up tubeless, since the Arizona trip. Couldn't be much happier with them. 

Alloy wheels are often an afterthought, or relegated to the wayback machine, with up to date alloy rims not getting their due at all. As we've proven, today's alloy rims are more than aerodynamically competent, and when spec'd, spoked, and built correctly can have stiffness on par with carbon for a small weight penalty. 

At this point, we wouldn't be here were it not for carbon and our Rail wheels. They're awesome, we love them, they continue to make tested and proven world class performance accessible to a huge number of people. But we also have a ton of love for a great set of alloys. Whether disc or rim brake, the options available today are fantastic.

And then there's the price. For example, starting today, we're doing a special run of FSW23 wheels with White Industries T11s, Sapim Lasers, and Kinlin XC279 rims, all in black, in 24/28 or 28/32, for $585 plus shipping. This is only possible with an absolutely standardized build, but what you get for that price is quite astonishing - investment grade hubs, world class spokes, one of the most well regarded rims around, and 100% hand built here by us.