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FEATURED BUILD - FSW3 with PowerTap.

Our last trip to the wind tunnel proved that the Kinlin rims in our FSW3 wheels are every bit as fast as those 40+mm carbons you use on race day. So now that your everyday alloys can also be your game day wheels, there's no better time to add a PowerTap. Especially since we've added tires (installed) and knocked $135 off the price.

 

 

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Monday
Jan302017

Al33 Rims and inflated tire widths

Here are some measured inflated tire widths on Al33 rims, which we use in our RFSW3 wheels. The inner width of the rim is 19.6mm, which puts it in line with many of the current popular wider rims. There aren't a lot of surprises on this list, and with these data points it's possible to interpolate/extrapolate most of the other tires out there.

All tires inflated to 95psi prior to measurement. Format is tire make & model / size / inflated width:

Continental GP4000sII / 23 / 25.65

Continental GP4000sII / 25 / 28.60

Specialized S-Works Turbo / 24 / 25.40

Specialized S-Works Turbo / 26 / 27.15

Maxxis Padrone TL / 25 / 26.50

Michelin Pro4 SC / 23 / 24.5

Again, no huge surprises. Every tire is somewhat bigger than stated size, and GP4000s considerably so. With an outside brake track width of 25 and an overal widest width of 26.2, the rims themselves shouldn't cause fit issues with any frames we know of. 

We have helped to arrange a wind tunnel test for Al33 and a bunch of other comparably relevant wheels on 2/9. We will post the information from that as soon thereafter as possible. I can assure you that we're as curious about that as you are. 

Following that test, we'll make the order pages live. 

Friday
Jan272017

Which hubs are for me, part 4: Industry Nine Classic Road

Apologies in advance, this one will be a little photo light. I somehow mangled an SD card and we don't have any I9s in stock right now. They're expensive to carry and with each drilling opion in 11 colors and no color having a popularity edge, they're difficult to stock. 

That said, let's do the numbers...

I9's Road Classic Torch hubs (ain't that a mouthful?) are simple, elegant, beautifully made and finished hubs. Their specs are great (the front geometry is really great), they're light enough, they require bupkus for pre-use setup and are low maintenance, and they are made in one of the all-time awesom hippie towns in the universe - Asheville, NC. 

Axles are aluminum, as is the cassette body. The cassette body is subject to a bit of chew, nowhere near as much as DT cassette bodies (made of butter, apparently) but they're not ti. I've seen hints of a steel option, of course that adds weight. Bearings are straightforward, well sealed, and have no adjustment mechanism. That's either a plus or a minus for most people, but can also be neutral. Depends on you.

Yes I know this is a disc front hub, but the road hub's end caps (front and rear) are similar. That little sucker in the bench vise is called an axle vise, and you need it (or some other elegant solution, but an axle vise costs like $6) to get the end cap off. They're no chance going to fall out on you. The end cap does a good job of sealing out any gank from the bearings. 

The rear drive mechanism is standard drive ring and 3 pawls. 60 points of engagement, so the pickup is more or less instant when you pedal. They're fairly loud hubs. Not like their mountain bike hubs, which are sure to draw comments, but you notice them. 

Seriously this is the most handsome set of wheels everIt's tempting to compare the I9 hubs with Novatec, as they share a similar simplicity and straightforwardeness. The front hub geometry on the I9 is just plain better, but whether that's a functional difference is not absolute. If we'd experienced or heard of shaggy front wheels with Novatec hubs, I could say it is, but we haven't. I'd certainly be more comfortable putting some bull moose knuckle dragging crit sprinter on a 20h I9 front than an otherwise-equivalent Novatec front. For people toward the center of the bell curve? Not such a difference. Kind of same with the rears, although the geometry differences are less stark there. 

My sister-in-law uses this word that my brother (who's way more of a skin flint than I am) just hates, which is that she will describe something that's really elegant as "rich." Maybe she watches too much Project Runway, I don't know. In any case, I9 hubs positively exude "rich." It is impossible to experience an I9 hub without knowing that it's an elegant product. And it's not a false impression, their functionality matches that impression.

Gratuitous beef cake shot

So again, as some comments have discussed in previous posts in this series, we try to give you the objective as well as we can, so that you can either tame of unleash your personal subjective in your decision process. I totally admit that the other day I was sort of hemming and hawing to go out for my ride, it was cold and windy and I'm sick of cold and windy, and the flashy neon yellow logos on my wheels were like a dog bouncing around excited to go for a walk. I smiled and hopped out for a great ride. Anyone's relationship to his/her bike and riding and that whole ball of wax involves a good bit of alchemy, and the hippies at I9 are darn talented alchemists. 

My mtb wheels, which force many "hey - my eyes are up here, thank you!" moments. And lots of drool

Tuesday
Jan242017

Feature Build: SL25/CLD/CX Ray

Over the past two years, one of our most popular, reliable, and best builds has been crafted from Pacenti SL25 rims, White Industries CLD hubs, and Sapim bladed spokes. Pick whatever attribute you most prize - light, stiff, strong, durable, great looking, reliable, versatile - and it's got it covered and then some. And we're discontinuing it. Not of choice, but of necessity. The SL25 will soon be replaced by a new version called the Forza, so we're offering our remaining SL25 rims in a feature that could easily be our favorite all-time build, at $100 off our already "lower than anything even remotely close to as good elsewhere" price. 

Sex may sell, but nothing in the bike industry sells anywhere near as well as "new." Will the new rim be as good as the SL25? It's tough saying without knowing. What we do know is that we've loved the SL25, and we're sorry to see it go.

As to the build, it needs little explanation at this point. For road, gravel, cross, or whatever path you might choose, it's as good as it gets. It's always been our first choice for cross tubeless. CLDs feature the same steel axled, titanium cassette bodied general awesomeness as T11s in one of the most reasonably priced premium hub sets on the market. CX Ray and CX Sprint spokes speak for themselves. 1640g for the package in 24/28. And having built this exact combination hundreds of times, our ability to put it all together is unequaled. 

Inventory constraints limit us to 24/28 and 28/32 builds, in limited quantities. Choose black or silver hubs. Includes tubeless tape AND VALVES. Give us about a week to get them on the way to you. 

Pacenti SL25 / WI CLD / Sapim CX-Ray Featured Build.

Thursday
Jan192017

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.

Tuesday
Jan172017

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.