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Introducing November Nimbus Ti hubs, manufactured by White Industries. Industry leading performance, unprecedented value. Complete wheelsets starting at $585.

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Thursday
Apr302015

Another Post About Hubs

Occasionally, we get a "could you please do a post about..." that's actually a topic that's near the top of the hopper. Today was one of those times. 

Today's question was about thru axles versus quick releases as a general topic, and switching from rim brakes to disc. Let me do this in bullet point format.

1. Rim brake hubs are rim brake hubs and disc brake hubs are disc brake hubs. You could use a disc brake hub set on a rim brake bike so long as the dropout spacing matches. On the front, you have a pretty good chance with this. On the rear, not so much. Also, your dreams of 20 spoke front wheels are dashed (DASHED!!) since 24 is the minimum anyone you want to talk to is going to put in a disc build.

2. "Thru-axle" is no longer, if it ever was, a catch-all description. You need to know the axle diameter (generally between 9 and 20mm), and the axle length (100 or now 110 for front; 130, 135, or 142 for rear). There are also different attachment mechanisms, but so far as I know, they are all bike-specific. By that I mean that any 15x100mm hub will fit on any bike that takes a 15x100mm hub.

3. Rotor attachment methods are a separate deal, the rotors you get will have to match to the hub's attachment format, which is either 6 bolt or center lock. You can adapt a center bolt hub to use a 6 bolt rotors are reasonably cheap and they are wear items. We WAY prefer center lock for a number of reasons, but that's a separate story. Your hubs do not care how big your rotors are, but your bike does. 

4. Thru-axles mean that there is no inherent connection between the hub and the bike - there is no angle at which the hub will ever nest into the bike's dropouts. The bike HAS no dropouts - it has holes. There IS radial/shear force on the axle of a thru-axle setup. The axle, which is also the attachment mechanism, bears the load. This is what a thru-axle hub looks like (in a laced but not-yet-tensioned wheel).

the ends of the hub axle butt up to the fork or frame in a thru-axle setup5. By contrast, a quick release hub (pictured below) does have a mechanical connection to the bike. It is an incomplete one, as without a skewer the wheel will fall out if you lift the bike up, but it is one nonetheless. The hub's end caps capture all of the radial load, and the skewers, which are the clamping mechanism, take none of the radial load. They are purely a clamp. 

the nubs on the endcaps lock the hub into the bike, and the knurls help prevent it from slipping6. The possibility or ease of converting from a quick-release format to a thru-axle format, or vice-versa, is totally dependent on the hub. On some, you just switch endcaps. On some, you switch out bearings and maybe axles. Conversion ease is not necessarily a universal benefit. It can often mean that compromises were made to the hub's performance purely to make it easy to convert. The hubs shown here can all be converted back and forth - much more involved than just trading endcaps, but you don't need to be a high paid bike mechanic to be able to do it. It's straightforward. 

7. The benefits of thru-axles several. It is a more secure and precise interface between bike and hub, which means if nothing else that your rotors are going to be positioned more exactly every time you use the bike. Especially on suspension forks, it can make the steering much less sloppy. There is no stress riser created where the axle transitions to end caps. All in all, thru-axles are pretty nice. In my rapidly-becoming-extensive experience with road disc, I have QR and thru-axle would be fine and dandy but unnecessary. On the other had, they would be nice on my cx bike and I really kind of wish my mountain bike had them.

8. MOST IMPORTANTLY, thru-axles mean I have to use one of these in order to build your wheels. Fortunately, Abbey Tools makes such a nice tool for the purpose.

Great tool. Not cheapThis is far from comprehensive but it's a good primer. We're way over the word limit. 

Tuesday
Apr282015

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. Wheelbuilder.org 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.

Monday
Apr272015

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.

Tuesday
Apr212015

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. 

Monday
Apr132015

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.