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Introducing November Nimbus Ti hubs, manufactured by White Industries. Industry leading performance, unprecedented value. Complete wheelsets starting at $555.

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Tuesday
Jun092015

BYORims, y'all

A couple of posts ago, we talked briefly about our program that lets you supply your own rims and have us build them up with our hubs and spokes. Now that we're mere days away from having Nimbus Ti Disc hubs in stock, it gets new relevance.

The original impetus for the idea was the switch from cantis to discs in cross.  A lot of people have a lot of wheels that have a lot of life left in them, but would either be sold on for pennies on the dollar or be relegated to that deep, dark spot in the garage where "currently useless but far too valuable to throw away" things go to bide their time. Apparently Fatmarc VanderBacon is on a secondhand canti wheel buying binge, but he can only do so much (much as that is - he's a special one, that FatBacon), so if you miss that train we've got the solution. Of course, there are a lot of people in the same spot after buying a new disc brake road bike, too. Reduce, reuse, recycle, one and all.

It's a very simple deal. You send us your rims, and we relace them with Nimbus Ti hubs and Laser spokes. Rim brake hub lacing options are 20, 24, and 28, rears are 24, 28, and 32. Disc builds are available in 24 and 28, front and rear. Cost is $500 for rim brake hub builds and $535 for disc brake hub builds.* 

Other than spoke count limitations, there are very few requirements and caveats, but there are some. Rims need to be from a verifiable source - no "I bought them from some trading company on eBay" specials. Rims need to be in good enough shape to rebuild. Rims need to be clean - we're not scraping down 3 seasons worth of accumulated tubular glue, thankyouverymuch. And that's it. 

Mike's putting together the page in the store today, and once we get the hubs in hand it's game on. 

There's no perfect solution to swapping a fleet of wheels from fim brake to tubular, but we think this is a pretty great one. 

*add $10 for internal nipples. Not my favorite things. 

Thursday
Jun042015

Cross tubeless, discs, and the kitchen sink

Hard to believe, but it's time to get ready for cross already. We've got our teeth sunk into a robust tubeless testing program, which will inherit a lot of data we learned last year, but will encompass a scope and rigor that we haven't been able to achieve previously.  

First off, we've got a better test pilot. Mike and I often bump up against wanting the business to be better at various things than we personally are at those things. I'm adequate at testing stuff on the road, but off road I'm just too much of a Barbie Doll (tm) to put things near their limits. This is a case where we want something done right, so we're not going to do it entirely ourselves. The guy we've got to help us is seriously legit.

Why are we barking up the tubeless tree so hard, anyway? For one, we think it's incredibly versatile, on the micro-and macro scales. Micro scale, if you have two good sets of wheels and you know that the weekend forecast is dry, you can install a set of file treads to start the race and pit a set of intermediates. The next weekend it's going to be wet, so you swap the files for muds for the start, and pit the intermediates. On the macro scale, your buddies want to do a big ass fire road ride one weekend, you swap one set of tires for some 40mm semi-fatties and go do that. You can commute all week on semi-slicks and then switch to cx tires to race on the weekend. When cx season is over, throw some road tubeless on and do your entire off season on the same wheels. It's a good program. And the whole time, you can run lower pressure than you can with tubes, plus you've got better puncture flat protection.

If you do get a flat with tubeless, it's easy to deal with. Glue a patch on the inside of the tire if the hole is too big for sealant to deal with, and away you go. No sending them out for tubular repair, no $120 wasted tires, none of that. 

The bulk of the A fleet will use tubulars for the foreseeable future, and we realize that. That's why we're also back on the tubular game. Product quality will be there in spades and then some, and you'll be able to build a wheel quiver that won't require you to sell some molars and/or children.

 

The disc thing is only going to gain steam. We'll do the homework for tubeless on both SL23s and SL25s (rim brake and disc brake tubeless rims, respectively), but man is the heat ever on for discs. 

Road tubeless, at this point, is so dirty simple it's pretty nuts. People I meet on the road seem to want to almost bait me on the topic, it's nearly always a leading question slanted negatively away from road tubeless, like "do you see any point at all to road tubeless?" They're usually somewhat surprised when I'm almost always able to say "well, I'm on tubeless right now if that tells you anything." Despite the slower uptake on road tubeless compared to the ubiquity of it in mtb, and the desire for it in cx, my personal opinion is that road tubeless is the cat's ass. 

The testing menu for tubeless cx goes like this: Kenda Slant Six Pro DTC/SCT, Kenda Happy Medium DTC, Maxxis Mud Wrestler DC EXO TR, Hutchinson Toro CX Tubeless, Schwalbe Racing Ralph EVO Pace Star. When Clement comes out with tubeless, we'll be the first in line but until then we know that they're unreliable in tubeless applications. The mandate is not at all to evaluate every tire out there - we've already put the better part of a g into just buying tires, and we've barely got enough time to get the list we have done. The goal is to simply get a range of tread patterns to cover most, if not all, conditions, and be able to say with good surety "go ahead and use this, it will work great for you."

Kitchen sink not necessary, I stayed shockingly on topic the whole time. Hooray, me. 

Tuesday
Jun022015

Panic! At the Disc-o

Had to do it, sorry. We've fortunately got the opposite of a Panic! situation with discs. We've always sought to under-promise and over-deliver, which at times has caused us to have to do some very fancy dancing (see what I did there?) behind the scenes. This time, we've been guiding to a nebulous, milquetoast "this summer" or "sometime in July" availability date for Nimbus Ti Disc, hoping that we wouldn't wind up with egg on our faces at that. Well, no egg - Nimbus Ti Disc builds ship in June. 

This is what's known as a teaser spot, so we won't be revealing all the details here. Here are the things we will say right now: 

  • Hubs are center lock. After using center locks for the past year, I'm never going back to 6 bolts. If you plan to use Shimano brakes, you have to use center lock hubs if you want to maintain your brake warranty, as IceTech(tm) rotors only come in center lock. 
  • Ti cassette body (duh, we couldn't call it Nimbus Ti Disc otherwise), steel rear axle. 
  • Pacenti SL25s will be the standard rim, with the same ultra sexy bead blast finish as the updated SL23 road rim that's been such a huge hit in the Nimbus Ti builds. 
  • Black Lasers will again be the stock spoke.
  • Hub color and graphics will be the same as Nimbus Ti.
  • Builds will ship with our new tubeless tape installed. 
  • Lacing choices will be 24/24, 24/28, and 28/28. 2x lacing on everything. 
  • Set weights will start at 1580g for 24/24 and go up to 1640g for 28/28. That's pretty light.
  • Pricing will be great, though slightly higher than Nimbus Ti (which it should be since costs are higher - if the price wasn't higher it would mean we hadn't priced Nimbus Ti as low as possible. But we have.)
  • There will be 15mm TA and 142x12 fitment options. 

 

Here is what's going on in the background now, not ready for release:

  • Tubeless CX tire testing has begun. We'll give you way better info than any other brand does on what to use and how to set it up.
  • Tubulars will be available. The "disc specific aluminum tubular" market is fairly limited, but there are some very good options.
  • Carbon tubulars will also be available. We're in the tortured throes of deciding between two great options, both produced by the company that does Rail rims for us. 
  • XD driver is unlikely. 

 

There's been a ton of interest already, so we're going to open up for pre-sales in about 10 days. This is more like giving out numbers at the deli counter, not like a pre-sale. 

Wednesday
May272015

Tire Size Reëxamined, Again

Instead of, you know, actually racing this weekend, a friend and I went to VT and rode kind of just for the sake of riding.* To have the kind of weekend we always wished we could have when doing Green Mountain Stage Race, except without all the "I can't have a second beer/ice cream/a 4th pulled pork sandwich because I'm going to get dropped tomorrow if I do" type of tom foolery. It was fun. On Saturday, we did this really fun ride (and I don't mind telling you, I had absolute miracle legs that day), and when I got home and loaded it up, I realized we'd ridden the exact shape of Block Island. So that.

Anyhow, there's always a purpose to the madness, and this weekend's purpose was to test out a new kind of rim tape. In doing so, I had a rear wheel that was set up tubeless, and a front tire that was normal tube/tire. Front rim was a Kinlin XC279 (which if you aren't into tubeless may be your ideal rim, and we've still got a couple of them at a great deal wink wink hint hint), with a 23mm Michelin Pro4 Service Course. This measured just under 24mm wide. The rear rim was a Pacenti SL23, original recipe, with a Maxxis Padrone 25 set up tubeless. Front psi was in the mid to high 70s, rear psi was in the low 80s. Given the size differential between the tires, I thought that this was fairly well normalized (which is to say that had I had a larger front tire, I'd have bumped the pressure down a bit).

There are two questions we get far and away more frequently than any other: the first is how many spokes should a set of wheels have, the second is what size tires should I run. The answer to the first is involved and complex. The second is superficially incredibly simple: whatever you prefer. 

Well, my new answer to this question is that I find that I very much like tires that measure 25mm wide. Whatever they may happen to say on the side, I like them when they measure 25mm or a shade bigger. Let's look at the parameters...

The narrowest internal width rims I am ever on these days are 17mm, and the widest in my regular arsenal are 20. I have no idea what I like on a road bike with a 23mm internal rim, because I don't think I'll ever use on, and I know that the days when I rode 14mm internal rims are in the dark and murky past. In the range of rims I use, I prefer tires that measure 25mm. So... why?

1. They look right to me when I am riding. Don't discount this. It's an established fact that pro golfers prefer putters that make the noise they prefer, over all other characteristics. A 25mm tire looks wide enough that I'm confident in riding it on crappy roads, and it doesn't look too balloon-like. The front tire I used this weekend looked a little narrow, and I've ridden larger tires that looked like beach cruiser tires.

2. For me, they are the most comfortable. A lot of people have a preferred psi, and that's absolutely valid. I find that 25s allow me to use the range of psi on which I feel most comfortable. They feel right at that psi, which for the sake of quantifying it is 76 front and 84 rear. Those numbers are as good as any. I weigh 160. 

3. I generally find that I am exceedingly confident when cornering on said tires. 90% of the reason I even ride bikes is to go through the corners. The pedaling I can take of leave, but the corners are where it's at. 

It's taken me a couple of years of paying super close attention to this to even arrive at this conclusion, so your personal revelation may come more or less quickly than mine.

Last, yesterday I wrote the sentence "Maxxis Padrone tubeless has become my favorite road tire; tubed, tubeless, or tubular." I meant it. Your mileage may vary. 

Wednesday
May202015

This must be the place

The shop's Pandora machine (aka my old phone) has been playing an awful lot of Talking Heads lately, keeping the flow going and not letting me forget what a jaw-droppingly good record is "Speaking in Tongues." Alternately, I might have used "Cities" for the title, but this title better evokes how I feel about where we are - physically and metaphorically - which is that I love it. 

Everyone's probably sick of me blathering about sailing stuff with the Volvo race having been here, but it was a fun circus to have in town. Even if I did make one of the boats hit a rock on Saturday (you can catch a glimpse of my white hat under the cockpit dodger of my friend's boat in this video - and we actually played no part in their rock finding, it's just become a fun joke). But now it's gone and life is back to normal, which means building wheels. 

The Nimbus Ti has already been a bigger hit than we thought it would be. We still get a lot of questions about how dumbed down it is versus a T11, which is natural and understandable. Of course the answer is none, except that the T11 comes in colors and has perhaps a more refined looking hub shell. 

The benefits to us, and thus to you, of our newfound ability to build wheels in series production are huge. When we established the Nimbus Ti wheel set pricing, we knew it would be a challenge for us. The market is competitive, and you have a lot of choices. Basically, our pricing statement was "if we manage this as well as we can, this is the absolute lowest price that lets us make what we need to make in order to have a sustainable business." It takes a lot of work and focus, but we look at what's available for what price and know that our option is the best, period.

Physically, the shift to the new HQ has been transformative as well. There is still a bit of tuning to be done in order to better match the space to our operations, but in general the space itself and the location are so pleasing and energizing that it's somewhat shocking. The added bonus is that there is a bounty of pro sailors around who are always happy to pick up a day's work helping out with various projects. Whether that's building a new rim storage rack or making boxes and running shipping labels, or even learning to lace wheels, a nearly infinite supply of the world's most resourceful and competent people at the ready is just unfair. 

New primary rim storage rack. Pro sailors are good at building stuff

We've always prided ourselves on our responsiveness to contacts of all sorts, and still are. We had a chance to check ourselves recently in addressing a concern a customer had about whether the wheels he wanted would fit into his frame. I called and emailed the company that made his bike, and three days later have heard nothing. Fortunately, a friend owns the same bike that this customer owns, and that friend owns a set of Rails, so a quick confirmation text allowed us to circumvent what's unfortunately an all-too-common case of unresponsiveness. We are ALWAYS happy to help people figure out what's going to work and work best for them. We are less happy to entertain chiselers who want to tell us we're being unreasonable for not letting them get custom wheels at Nimbus Ti prices. Those non-productive conversations are maybe the most nefarious time threat we face, so while the guy in question may have been a little salty when I asked him to please look elsewhere, it's simply a case of us keeping our focus on what's important and what's working out so well for us. We won't be rude, but we are teaching ourselves to be more time aware in these situations.

I'm over the word limit, it looks like a beautiful morning, and it's time to go ride. Have an awesome day. 

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