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FEATURED BUILD - Pacenti SL25 with WI CLD and CX-Rays.

Pacenti is rolling a new rim for 2017 but we can't imagine why. The SL25 has been a deserved customer favorite since it launched. Save $100 while our inventory lasts.



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Aforce Al33 and RFSW3

Despite all of the hoohah around whale-shaped wheels and crazy wide “cravel” wheels and the return of the V shaped aero wheel and all of the rest of the “hey look at me now!” stuff on cycling news and review sites, it’s possible that more people are actually looking forward to owning a new AForce Al33-based set of wheels than any other. We’ve had a set for several months now, I rode them for the majority of the summer and have had a few friends get after it on them since, and the response has been universally glowing. My personal inclination is to say that they’re the best carbon clinchers I’ve ever ridden – more on that in a bit.

To review, the Al33 is 32.5mm deep, 26.2mm wide (max) 25mm wide (brake track), and 19.6 wide (internal). Our test set of rims weighed 470 and 474g. The brake track is coated with a unique ceramic-ish coating that both allows an alloy wheel to have a durable black brake track, and it provides a really hard finish so your brake pads and not your brake track gets most of the wear. It’s tubeless ready, although of course regular clinchers fit and work just great on them (I installed a Schwalbe One today without any levers, then inflated with a pump, though this performance can not be guaranteed for every tire every time). Valve stems on tubes should be 48mm, while Stan’s 44mm tubeless valves fit perfectly if you want to go that way.

The rims are made of a slightly different alloy than standard bike rims, which feels and sounds harder than standard rims. Measured stiffness is outstanding, and durability has been great so far (our test set has about 2000 miles on it thus far – a little more on the front, a little less on the rear).

Though the eye, arm, speedometer, and butt-mounted aerodynamics sensors all point to this being a quick and easy to handle set of wheels, we are arranging a wind tunnel test on behalf of the manufacturer and distributor in order to verify this. We hope to have that test complete by the end of the month.

For our builds, we will be doing both a standardized build with your choice of our black hubs or black White Industries T11 or CLDs and bladed spokes (which will inherit the RFSW moniker), and a full range of custom road and disc builds with any of the other hub and spoke components we use.

Darn sexy, huh?

Our perhaps uncharacteristic silence on the project has been because we just didn’t want to jerk anyone’s chain too much before we knew that the rims were made, through QC, and on a boat headed to the distributor. That has now all happened, so we have constructed the site pages where you can check out all the options (go into the store and then into the "Custom" section for REALLY all the options) and pricing.

We are scheduled to get our first rims in late February, and will ship completed builds as soon thereafter as possible. Given the vagaries of shipping, customs delays, domestic shipping, and our rapturous joy at getting “are they here yet?!?!?!?  I NEEEEEEEED them for a ride this weekend!!!!!!!!!!!!!” emails, it would be prudent to consider that earliest in hand delivery will be around March 10th.


Which hubs are for me, part 3: Chris King R45

Chris King is one of the companies that started the whole boutique parts thing. While a lot of the companies that came on the scene with no more compelling product attributes than purple anodizing have gone away, King has become the standard in whatever category they're in. Hubs are certainly among their better known products. 

So first, let's do the numbers...

Looks great on paperFrom a wheel builder's standpoint, the first thing about CK R45 hubs is just how good the front hub is. I don't think a front wheel can be made any better than one with an R45, all else being equal. The flanges are huge and far apart, and the bearing spread is outstanding. All of this contributes to an absolutely rock solid front wheel. Front wheels are the step-child of the decision making process, and they're symmetrical and inherently stable too, but it's worth noting. 

Another notable and admirable facet of the King philosophy is that they make hubs that weigh what they need to in order to do what they want them to do. They state as much in a very straightforward way. They aren't heavy by any means, and I will put it simply that the amount of extra weight in a Chris King hub versus any other will make no difference to any rider under any use, ever. That said, they ain't heavy at all. 

The rear hub uses a unique drive mechanism called a ring drive. Instead of pawls and springs like the other hubs we use, the R45's cassette body engages with a spring that pushes the drive clutch out when you're pedaling, and gets pushed in when you're coasting. The "45" in R45 refers to points of engagement (as opposed to 72 in their mountain bike hubs), so engagment is quick. Again, not that that's a huge thing in road hubs. Engagement is solid and reliable. 

The ring drive, exposedBoth front and rear have bearing preload adjustment mechanisms which are easy to use. The instructions that come with the hubs are clear and easy to follow. King makes their own bearings, so you can't just get them anywhere and they do cost money, but they are extraordinarily good bearings and it's not uncommon for them to never need to be replaced. The hubs (but not the bearings) have a 5 year warranty, which is great. 

Breaking the hubs down for simple service is extremely easy, requiring nothing more than hex wrenches. This allows you to do a thorough cleaning and re-lube of the axle and ring drive. Taking the hub completely apart requires a unique special, but this is really only necessary if you manage to completely and utterly mangle the hub somehow. The only reason we've ever had customers need this is to change to a new hub shell for different drilling. So don't be put off by that one, if you ask us.

You get this far with a hex wrench. That's all you're ever going to need.This will be either good news or bad news depending on your preferences, but despite persistent rumors to the contrary, R45s are just not very loud. In fact I'd say they're about equal with WI T11s for being the quietest road hubs we use. The CK mountain bike hubs and their Classic Road hubs were/are louder and provide that reputation, but R45s are quiet. 

Until Industry Nine and others came along with some pretty magnificent colors of their own, CK was the undisputed color champ. Navy R45s are still, to me, the most elegant looking hubs on the planet, and their iconic mango color is prized by, well, just about everyone. One thing to note on CK anodization, however, is that it does scratch somewhat easily. I guess the process of getting that thin candy-like coating leaves it a bit more vulnerable. 

The elephant in the room on Chris Kings is, of course, their cost. They are very expensive. Does their value bear out the cost differential? Objectively, I can't say that they do anything so much better than our other hubs. Is a set of HED Belgium+ rims with R45s and CX Rays that much better than any other build anyone does? No, but they certainly are unbelievably nice, can be used for anything from touring to world class racing, will last nigh on forever with little input required, and convey a confidence and competence that's easily worth if for many people. It's so easy in cycling to find products that ask for extra money only to present you with deficiencies and limitations (many of you can guess what's top of mind right now). Kings ask for extra money, but if you can find a deficiency or limitation that comes along with it, I'd be interested to hear. 


The colors of feet, or sock it to me

This past summer, on the local Tuesday night ride, Cecilia showed up wearing some really great socks with shades of blue climbing up to be topped by a band of pink. As they matched my blue frame/pink hubs bike setup, I was immediately smitten with them and asked who makes them. "Ridge Supply."

What Newport lacks in riding variety it makes up in scenery. Tuesday Night Worlds course.You can perhaps see why the socks appealed to me?We've spoken before of why we aren't able or inclined to do the huge "BOGO" or whatever other promo discounts that you find other places in the bicycle game (short answer - we can't give away what we never charged in the first place, our every day deal is as good as most doorbuster promos), but as the new year approached we thought it would be nice to do something fun. And so we approached Ridge Supply to see if they'd be game to do a sock co-promo with us and they were. So there.

Coincedentally with that, we've "upped our graphics game" as the kids say these days, and FSW3s and FSW3 Disc wheels now come with an astonishing array of logo color options to match your frame, match your socks, match your ink, match your hair, contrast with any of the above, or just remain in "humble brag" understated black. And that, my friends, is a whole lotta color. 

See what we did there?

For a limited time, but any set of FSW3 or FSW3 Disc wheels, and you will get a code from us. Go to Ridge Supply's site, choose a pair of socks, and the socks and shipping are on us. It's that easy. 


Which hubs are for me, part 2: White Industries T11

Dave digs pink hubs. In this, he is not alone.White Industries' T11 hubs have been the de facto standard for our road builds for a long time. It would be fair to call us raving fans, and since their introduction we've sold more of them than any other hub. They have no significant liabilities. But first, let's do the numbers...

The geometry numbers for the T11 are a great balance of all of the relevant parameters. When thinking about these numbers, the most important question is really "can we put an outstanding set of wheels together based on these hubs?" In any hub we use, the answer is "yes," but with T11s it's an emphatic yes. We also have an enormous background with them, can strip them down and put them back together blindfolded in about .25 seconds, and have NEVER had a substantive issue with one. All of that makes us 100% comfortable recommending them to anyone in any application to which they fit. If Peter Sagan needed us to build our best set of wheels for his classics campaign next year, these would be the hubs. 

The front hub has a forged and machined shell, and aluminum axle, 2 #6901 bearings, and aluminum endcaps. The bearing preload adjustment system is simple and effective. A lot of people freak out when they look at the hub and see that one end looks a little different from the other, and they think something's wrong. That's how it's supposed to be. 

The rear hub has two compelling features that most hubs don't: a steel axle and a titanium cassette body. The steel axle provides a great deal of strength and stiffness at a small expense of weight. To us, this trade is well worth it. The rear bearings are kept precisely concentric and parallel, and overall wheel stiffness is enhanced. The titanium cassette body is frankly impervious to cassette spline chew, resulting in a lifetime of precise shifting and zero pain in the butt when changing cassettes. They simply don't wear. 

The rear bearing adjust is also easy and effective. The adjustment instructions that WI provides on their site are complete and easy to follow. The rear hub has 3 #6902 bearings and 1 #3802 (Campy cassette bodies swap one of the 6902s for a 3802). All bearings are made by Enduro, they work great out of the box, they require very little very simple maintenance, and they are easy to replace. Again, if you must on ceramic bearings, those are easy to get. 

Switching between Shimano, Campy, and XD drives is easy, requiring no re-dish. The cassette bodies being titanium, they're a bit expensive, but they're lifetime parts. 

By way of critiques, there are very few. The drive side outboard bearing in the cassette body is perhaps a little more exposed to the elements than on some hubs. We have seen a very few adjustment-side endcaps that were a tiny bit small and didn't provide the nice interference/slip fit that they usually do. That's really it. They're great hubs and WI is awesome to work with. 

For the value provided, T11s are an outstanding value, even if they cost a little more than the standard November hubs. We have every confidence telling people that while rims may come and go, you can just relace your T11s into whatever "next" set of rims you get, and you're back rolling. And then hand them down to your kids after that. 

Available colors (in approximate order of popularity per our orders) are black, red, pink, blue, purple, silver, and gold. 


Which hubs are for me? Part 1

Having given a general overview of hubs and how they work, and some of the general differences between the ones we use, it's time to go into more specifics on each one. We start with the November by Novatec rim brake hubs, as used in our standard FSW3 wheel sets, and available as an option in custom builds. As Kai Ryssdal says every night on NPR Marketplace, "but first, let's do the numbers..."

To quickly explain each of the parameters, left and right flange distances are how far each flange is from the lateral centerline of the hub. Non-dished wheels (road fronts, track wheels) will have the same flange distance left and right. Dished wheels have unequal flange distances. Rears will have a greater left offset owing to the space needed for the cassette, while disc fronts have a greater right distance because of the need for space for the rotor on the left side. 

Symmetrical flange distances on a rim brake front hubLeft flange on a dished rear hub is farther from center than the rightThis flange situation is why the spokes on a rim brake front have equal tensions on both sides, and why a rear wheel's drive side spokes are tighter than the non-drive side. In order to equalize the tensions in a rear wheel, the hub design can move the left flange inboard to decrease the differential, but this comes with a detriment to overall wheel stability. 

Flange spread is the primary determinant of how laterally stiff a wheel will build on any given hub. Simply add the two flange distances together to get flange spread. In general, the more the better. However, that needs to be balanced with tension differential as described above. Flange diameter is also part of the flange spread/stability equation. Taller flanges effectively increase flange spread, since both larger flange spread and bigger diameter flanges will flatten the angle at which spokes go from the hub to the rim. The point here is that triangles with wide bases are more stable than triangles with relatively narrower bases.

Bearing spread isn't something you find in most (any?) hub spec sheets, but it's an important criteria. Getting the bearings as far outboard as possible is a benefit to stability, as less of the axle is cantilevered outboard of the flange. 

In the dimensions we give, flange distance, spread, and diameter are given to center (center of the flange in distance and spread, center of the spoke hole in diameter). This is the general convention for measuring these. Bearing spreads are given outside to outside. These are kind of a pain in the butt to measure, and since there is no general convention for measuring these, we've just left them that way. 

So, what about these hubs, then?

Front Hub

The front hub is lightweight, with decent flange and bearing spread. Of the road fronts we'll review, it has the lowest flange spread and flange diameter figures. While it's a fantastic front hub for a ton of situations, it is not the right hub for bigger riders looking to get the most out of a low spoke count front wheel. Because of the smaller flange diameter, we don't love it in 28h and we won't build them in 32h - the distance betweeen spoke holes gets really small in high spoke counts, which weakens the flange in a situation where by definition you want to have very strong flanges. 

The bearings we spec for these are great, the equal of any other bearings on offer with the likely exception of Kings. King makes their own bearings, and they are pretty special. It's easy to find similar hubs but with really crap bearings, which lowers the price. The bearings are a standard 699 size and if you feel that your life is incomplete without ceramic bearings, they are easy to source and install (we think your life is either complete or incomplete regardless of ceramic bearings, though).

Durability, as with many front hubs, is excellent. What maintenance there is to do is accomplished with 2 5mm and one 6mm hex wrenches. Insert a 5 into each end cap and counter rotate them, which will spin one cap off. Put the 6 into that end, counter rotate again, and both caps are off, exposing the bearings. Drying wet bearings, repacking dry bearings, and replacing worn bearings is very easy. 

Rear Hub

The rear hub, like the front, is a simple utilitarian and effective design. It's light without making sacrifices to do it, and it has one superb innovation. 

Flange geometry is decent but not quite as good as the boutique hubs we do. Stability is quite good, tension ratios are very slightly lower on these than others. In practice, this hasn't presented any issues, although we do tend to recommend other hubs for bigger riders wanting to press lower spoke counts - you can get more stiffness out of "all else equal" builds with the other hubs we use. Bearing spread is also quite good. The rear axle is aluminum, as are all the other rim brake hubs we do except for White Industries T11.

The cassette body is a great feature of the rear hub. The Anti Bite Guard uses on steel spline on an otherwise all aluminum cassette body, which markedly reduces cassette body wear at the expense of almost no weight. Chewed up cassette bodies can cause shifting problems, as cogs get out of alignment, and at the very least make it a real pain in the butt to change cassettes.

The drive mechanism is driven by four pawls, with 27 engagment points. Not the fastest engagement on the market, but still quite good and absolutely completely adequate for any road riding application. 

Nothing fancy, just reliable and good

Maintenance, as with the front, is super simple. You subsitute a 10mm hex for the 6mm that you use in the front, and all else is the same. 

Both front and rear hub sheels are forged and then machined, as all of our hubs are. This is the way to do it. We have received zero known issues of hub sheel failure in 6 years of using these hubs, and have had an overall outstanding customer satisfaction rate with them.


As a prelude to conclusion, it's worth noting that exceptionally close cousins of these hubs are used in PLENTY of $1000+ factory builds. The ABG cassette body makes it pretty obvious to a casual glance, but there are other things that are easy for the trained eye to spot. Novatec is likely the biggest OEM hub maker out there, they have a bunch of products at different price points, and these are among their best hubs.

For the vast majority of cyclists out there, these are a fantastic choice. They aren't the lightest or the anything-est, but they perform wonderfully and allow us to sell the FSW3 at a price somewhere generally between 30% and 50% less than equivalent wheels on the market. They do well in all conditions as an every-day-use hub, they let you get everything possible out of our wheels in terms of speed, and they are as "set it and forget it" as it is possible to be. The only liability they have is use by really big riders, as mentioned above. 

They may not be the fanciest hubs in the display case, and come in any color you like as long as you like black, but objectively these are hubs with which most people will have a fantastic ownership experience.