The Latest

The new FSW3 - now newer with new decals in 11 new colors. Also free socks.

Personalize a set of FSW3 or FSW3 Disc wheels with new November decals in your choice of red, blue, green, purple, silver, black, neon yellow, neon pink, neon green, neon red or neon orange. For a limited time, pick out a set of matching (or not) Ridge Supply Socks on us with your FSW3 or FSW3 Disc purchase.

 

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Friday
Dec162016

Hubs Part 2

Hubs Part Deux The Axis on Which the Wheel Spins

The big things here are axles, bearings, and bearing bores.

  1. The critical thing in this whole topic is that the bearings remain parallel (faced) to each other, and concentric with each other. Any deviation from that will reduce bearing life. Both begin with proper construction of the hub shell, and its bearing bores (the seating pockets for the bearings). If these are off to begin with, things are relatively hopeless. Everything in the world has a tolerance, but you want that tolerance to be small as possible. The shells of all of the hubs that we use are forged and then machined, which is the way you want things made. The forging creates the general shape and makes the material as strong as it can be, then machining cleans everything up and takes it to a tight tolerance. The bearing bores also need to be very round, as if they are out of round, then the bearing will either have a pinch point which will wear the balls and score the races, or the bearing will be able to move which takes it out of face and concentricity. You might not immediately notice a hub with bad characteristics here, but it would become apparent over time.
  2. Stress transmitted through the spokes can actually deform a hub shell. Some builders and brands use really high spoke tensions, which place unwanted strain on the hub shell. Some very lightweight hubs have the absolute bare minimum material to manage spoke stress (and they also usually use tiny small bearings, which are more easily stressed). This is why we aren’t raving enthusiasts of very lightweight hub designs. There are good ones, but they cost a lot of money and generally require more maintenance.
  3. Axles can be made from aluminum or steel. Steel is heavier but ultimately stronger, stiff and more durable. And flex in the axle will mean the bearings disorient relative to one another. Stiffer is better, but again comes at the expensive of weight. Axles are replaceable items, which you are unlikely to ever have to do, but if you ride your bike like you’re in a Martin Ashton video, you might eventually bend an axle. Despite the added weight, we think steel axles are a plus in the White Industries column.
  4. Bearings can either be cartridge bearings, or loose ball bearings. Shimano and Campagnolo hubs are the prominent loose ball bearings. Proponents say that loose ball bearings are longer lasting and easier to service. Personally, I think replacing a cartridge bearing as (rarely) needed is about a 5’ operation and super easy and inexpensive. All of the hubs we sell are cartridge bearing type hubs, and come with quality bearings. Quality, in bearing-ese, means that they are precise and made of hard, corrosion resistant material. All of the hubs we use have very good bearings, with Kings in particular being of legendary quality. We generally believe that ceramic bearings are a waste, as any benefits they offer (tolerance to being run dry, decreased friction at very high rpm, minor weight savings) are small and you have to spend a lot of money to get those benefits. Bargain ceramic bearings are typically not even as good as high quality steel bearings. Nonetheless, if you feel like you absolutely must have ceramics, they are easy to source and install for any of the hubs we use.
  5. Bearing sealing gets more important if you ride in crappy conditions often. White Industries hubs are slightly more exposed than the others. Kings have the most protective seals. The tradeoff is bearing drag versus durability. Our take is that the bearing drag penalty is minimal, as is the difficulty of maintaining a less-well protected bearing. So it's really not that huge a deal all around.White Industries pre-load adjuster setup
  6. Bearing pre-load adjustment is standard on White Industries and King hubs. This allows you to more precisely eliminate lateral play in the hub, using the minimum side pressure against the bearings. Both are relatively easy to use, though you do have to be aware of it. Industry Nine and Novatec hubs have no bearing adjustment. For most people, this is actually a benefit – though this may not be as optimal as a near-perfectly adjusted pre-load system, they require zero thought and work very very well. I think 
Thursday
Dec152016

Hubs Part 1

It often seems like we can spend all day every day explaining various aspects of different products. We are more or less tolerant of this to a fault, since we want people to be armed with the best info they can have before making a big purchase decision. BUT... it's also smart for us to document all that stuff so that it's always available for people when they want it, and it's more efficient for us. An investment, for sure, since this is taking me forever to write, but worth it. Anyhow, I'll divide them up into manageable chunks and post them as blogs before we put them in permanent spots on the site. Here's Part 1. 

We offer a broad range of hub choices, partially because there are substantive differences between different hubs, and partially because hubs are a great way to individualize a set of wheels.

All hubs perform several basic functions:

1. They provide an attachment point between your wheels and your bike

2. They are the anchor point for the spokes

3. They provide the axis on which the wheel spins

4. Rear hubs house a significant amount of the bike’s transmission

5. Disc brake hubs transmit stopping force from the brakes to the tires.

Different hubs perform these different functions differently, which we’ll briefly explore. Then we’ll explain the pros and cons of each type of hub that we offer in order to help you make the best choice for yourself. 

The Attachment Point


You’d think this would be simple but, you know, bikes – so it isn’t. Here goes…

  1. Quick release: Fork dropouts are 100mm apart, rear dropouts are either 130mm (rim brakes, usually) or 135mm (disc brakes) apart. The front dropouts are nominally 9mm diameter, while rears are 10. Advantages of this system are convenience, simplicity, and history – it’s been around a long time, so a lot of wheels are made to fit. Disadvantages are reliance on quick releases, which some people find difficult to master and some of which are poorly designed, and ultimately less security than thru-axle systems.
  2. 15x100 thru. Popular in cross country mountain bikes. A 15mm thru axle secures the wheel to the fork. The fork has holes instead of dropouts, and the hub ends butt directly against the fork. A very secure system, the use of the thru axle also provides additional torsion resistance to the fork. The specific thru axle that you’ll use is dependent on your fork.
  3. 12x100 thru. Functionally the same as 15x100 thru, this standard came about when it was decided that 15mm thru was “overbuilt” for cross, gravel, and road bikes.
  4. 12x142 thru. Rear axle standard for disc road, disc cross, and disc gravel bikes. Still popular on mountain bikes, for which it was originally developed. Provides a stiffer, more secure connection between hub and bike. The functional (and overall) width of a 12x142 hub is exactly the same as a quick release rear hub, so the wheel’s inherent stiffness is the same from one standard to the other.
  5. 110mm Boost. A wider front thru axle becoming popular for longer-travel mountain bikes. Slightly increases wheel stability thanks to wider flange spacing. 
  6. 12x148 Boost. A wider rear thru axle becoming popular for longer-travel mountain bikes. Slightly increases wheel stability thanks to wider flange spacing. 
  7. Lefty. Specific attachment for Cannondale Lefty (one legged) forks.
  8. Fat bike hubs – there are several fat bike width standards that are their own kettle of fish. 

It's pretty easy to switch hubs to suit different formats

The Anchor Point for the Spokes

The main variants here are hubs for j-bend versus hubs for straight pull spokes. While there are arguments that straight pull spokes resist fatigue better as the potential fatigue point of the spoke’s j-bend is removed, straight pull hubs generally have worse spoke geometry as the flanges are much thicker than on j-bend hubs. This moves half of the drive side spokes inboard, which is a negative. For this, and for the pervasive availability of replacement j-bend spokes, we much prefer j-bend hubs and use them exclusively except in very special circumstances.

Okay so that wraps it up for Part 1 since this chapter is already way too long. 

Tuesday
Dec132016

A unifying theory of wheels

Simple, right? 

Today's theme is curves. Appropriate, because this review of Curve Wheels - and more particularly, the comment section following the review - provides much of the impetus. A word of warning: this blog contains graphs, subjective opinions, and sober refutations of false-differentiation-marketing-induced-mania. All of these have proven to provoke angry responses in blogs past. 

Wheel prices are rising. It's become easier to spend $3000 than it is to spend $2000 on a set of Enves, and Zipp's $2000 Firecrest pricepoint has to be taken in context of their $3000 and $4000 Firestrike and NSW pricepoints. The previously more value-oriented brands which had been more or less our price peers are closer to $2000 for carbon clinchers, and even Far Sports (yes, it's Far Sports) has $1600 carbon clinchers. As part of realigning our wheel categories to make things easier for buyers, we combed through a fairly exhaustive volume of sales outlets to confirm that our internally-proposed sell prices made sense relative to market, and prices are creeping up in alloy as well. Our prices have been stable relative to market. 

Okay, so to the promised curves. Here's the first:

This curve expresses our belief that there the law of diminishing returns in wheels. The red zone shows that there is a range of benefit (or performance) which we feel is appropriate to our customer base. This range is toward the high side of the benefit scale, as our customers are after a high level wheel experience. Conversely, it's toward the shallow side of the cost axis - our wheels are expensive enough that when I explain our business to non-cyclists I meet, they usually think it's nuts that people spend that much on bicycle wheels. But within the world of cycling, there are a heck of a lot more wheels that cost 3, 4, 5, or more times what ours do than it is to find a set of wheels for half of our median price. We like being at the inflection point. Some of our wheels have a sex appeal factor that adds cost more quickly than it adds objective benefit. Life's short, your time on the bike is limited, and hey I like pink hubs they cost a little more and I'm gonna use them. If anything, this curve is overly optimistic on performance increases as we go out to the right, but I just drew a curve on a simple program so this curve really expresses my limitations as a graphic artist as much as it does an accurate portrayal of the situation. 

This inverted bell curve shows our concept of cost versus compromise. Simply put, you have to spend a certain amount on your wheels to make sure you're not getting junk. We like to be at the very low end of the compromise range, since it's possible to get there without going that far out the cost axis (and again, I threw this curve together on a rudimentary drawing program to make a visual point, so it isn't exactly to scale). But the surprise comes on the right hand side of the curve - compromise goes back up as cost increases. Part of that is that cost IS a compromise - if two things perform precisely the same but one costs more, the extra price of the one is a compromise. But we're also talking about things like needing to worry about your carbon brake track, and wet weather braking, and "what if this isn't covered by warranty," and "I hope the guy who pushed the envelope on these remembered to lick the envelope!" and a bunch of other things along those lines. 

We make a concerted effort to be in a specific spot on these curves, and between the FSW and all of our custom builds, we think we nail that. 

Monday
Dec052016

FSW3 - A classic, reborn

There aren't that many venues where something born 6 years ago could be reborn as a classic, but bike wheels sure is one of them. Then, the carbon craze had barely yet begun, 23mm tires were "wide," HED was about the only company effectively talking about using wider internal rim widths (and "only" 18mm at that), a handful of races had small gravel sections, there simply was no tubeless road, 120psi was a thing, and disc brakes were solely for mountain bikes. Heck, we didn't even have Garmins yet. And November had just launched with the FSW as a centerpiece product. With a 27mm deep and 19mm (external) wide rim, and your choice of the latest in 10 speed hubs (11 if you were on Shimano), the original FSW was a perfect fit for racers and general performance/enthusiast riders. 

 

Screeching into the present tense, rims are wider than ever, disc wheels no longer mean "time trial bike wheels" but "disc brake wheels," everyone's on 11 speed, front derailleurs are on the endangered list, 23mm tires are so 6 years ago, electronic shifting is all the rage... and still no Jetsons flying cars. Dissapointment. 

A few updates, another gear...

BUT, the FSW is back! Still the best value in everything you really want for your paved to "not-quite-singletrack-yet, really" riding, they're strong, stiff, wide, light, fast, pretty, and tubeless ready. Based, as the original FSW was, on Kinlin rims, Sapim spokes, and Novatec hubs, they're the same handbuilt value they were then, only we're six years better at doing this. 1515g for 20/24 in rim brake, and 1675g for 24/28 in disc brake. 

Centerlockerific

The rim specs are similar for both rim and disc builds. 31mm deep, 24mm wide (19 inside), and tubeless ready (though of course easy to use with tubes if that's your thing). The disc rims are offset in order to equalize spoke tension between one side of the wheel and the other. And they're finished in a lust inducing satin sandblast finish.

The hubs use the very effective Anti-Bite Guard to keep cassette body chewing to a minimum, use upgraded Japanese made (EZO) bearings, and the disc hubs are available in all appropriate axle formats.For those of you wishing to upgrade to the ever lovely and popular White Industries T11 or CLD hubs, that's also an option. All hubs are 11 speed compatible, and Shimano/SRAM drive hubs include spacers for use with 8/9/10 speed.

The spokes are black (always a primary concern for a lot of people) Sapim CX Rays, with the very slightly heavier gauge CX Sprint on the disc side of the disc front, and the drive side of both rears. Nipples are black Wheelsmith brass, the best nipples we've ever found. Lacing is 24/28 2x everywhere for disc, and your choice of 20/24 or 24/8 radial front and 2x/2x rear. Appropriate rider weight max for disc is 215. For 20/24 it's 185, and for 24/28 it's 220 (as always, those are just guidelines based on one important factor). 

Tubeless tape is included and installed, and skewers are included in rim brake builds. 

 

Who you callin' offset?FSW3 and FSW3 Disc wheelsets are now available and shipping. Pricing starts at $575 for November by Novatec rim brake builds, $735 for WI rim brake builds. Disc builds start at $595 with November by Novatec hubs, $780 for WI CLD builds. 

And yes, the whole wide wide world of everything else is still available as custom builds, at our always customer-friendly pricing.

Wednesday
Nov302016

Silent disc brakes (we promise)

There's a lot left to the debate over disc brakes for road, but for mountain, "all road" or "gravel" or whatever the kids are calling it these days, and really cross (I saw zero people using cantis in last weekend's World Cup race), it's all disc all the time. There are some valid points of resistance to them for road (perhaps chief among those being the garage full of rim brake wheels a lot of you have) but one of the consistent complaints about discs is that they squeal like stuck pigs. Set them up right, and they're quieter than most rim brakes. 

First step is parts prep, starting with scuffing/cleaning the pad faces. Use a Scotch-Brite pad like we do, or even some mid-grit (220 or so) sandpaper. This is especially helpful for used pads which may have oil or other schmung in them, which contributes to noise and detracts from slowing you down. 

Give the faces a good scrub

After you're done scrubbing the pad surface, clean the whole pad with rubbing alcohol. 

Next, we're going to grease the pads. WHAT?!?!?!?!?!? Grease the pads?!?!?!? Yup - except you're going to grease the BACK side of the pads, comme ça:

Wear latex gloves so your skin oils don't get on the pads or rotorsWe use red boat trailer bearing grease, but any thick grease works. The critical thing is that it's thich enough to stay put, and the more waterproof, the better. Disc brake silencer from the car parts store works just as well. What the grease is doing is muting the resonance that occurs between the caliper piston and the back of the pad. It works like a champ. Be very careful not to get ANY grease on the pad face. 

After that, very carefully reinstall the pads in the calipers, and clean up any errant grease that may have gotten onto the caliper body. 

Next, scrub your rotor. New or old, do this. Very important not to get any skin contact with the rotors. Give them a good hard scrub, to the point where abrasions are visible on the rotor surface. 

Scrub a dub-dubEven though this rotor got a few small rust spots after a super wet ride, it's silent thanks to the good scrubbing. After the scrub, wash the rotor off with your rubbing alcohol.

Next you reinstall the rotor on the wheel, then install the wheel in the bike. Following the instructions for your brakes, align your calipers with the rotors, making sure that they are as square to each other as possible. Misalignment makes noise. Torque everything down to spec, as movement also creates noise. 

Now it's time to bed the rotors and pads. Get going about 10 or 12 mph, and then make a medium hard stop. Repeat that a few times, then get going faster and faster and make harder and harder stops. This whole bedding process should take maybe three or four minutes. 

And that's it, you're ready to go. When it's really damp out, your brakes will make a bit of a groan at the first stop (we get lots of foggy mornings in Newport to test this), and they'll be loud when they're downright wet, but your rims brakes probably do then, too. And unlike your rim brakes, your disc brakes will actually work really well in the wet. 

This prep will usually last the life of your pads, unless you ride in some really excessively nasty conditions. We prefer sintered pads to organic. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, but to us sintered works in all conditions and ultimately has more power. Which you prefer is up to you. 

I have absolutely no tolerance for squealing brakes, to the point where I can promise you that there's no way I'd ride a disc road bike if loud brakes were an unavoidable part of the equation. They simply are not.