The Latest


The new tubeless ready Rail 52, arriving next week. 

Site Search

Tire Installation Made Easy

Did you see that discs are going to be allowed in pro cycling without reservations next year? If nothing else, the chatter on the internets ought to be amusing. Significantly, though, I read that 160mm rotor size and thru-axle front and rear are the agreed standard. I'm going to assume that it's 12mm thru-axle front, which is kind of a bummer since that's overwhelmingly what the fewest people currently have, but hey you have to break some eggs, right? In the bigger picture, having standards that are actually standards will be nice. 

Segue to today's topic, which is tire installation made easy. All of these disc brake rims, and at least a significant minority of rim brake rims, have a tubeless-ready drop channel. All of the rims that we sell now have this feature (in English class we call that foreshadowing). Many people find tire installation to be a pain in the butt on these rims, but hark! It doesn't need to be. In fact, it's quite easy. Note that these easy to follow steps are shown with a Pacenti SL23 version 1 rims (the IMPOSSIBLE rim) and a Maxxis Padrone TR tire. 

Step 1: put first bead into drop channel the whole way 'roundSwear word count to this point: 0

Step 2: Install other bead in drop channel as far around as possible. Keep it 100% in the channelSwear words used to this point: Still 0

Finishing at the valve stem makes things easier. Thumbs should get you to hereFinishing at the valve stem makes it a bit easier to situate everything correctly. 

NEVER use a metal tire lever. Break a $3 tire lever if you must, not an expensive tire or rimUsing one thumb, lock the bead into the rim at one end of the remaining bit to go into the rim. Using the other hand and a PLASTIC tire lever, gently ease the tire over the edge of the rim and into the drop channel. This section of tire would take about 5 lifts with the lever. Don't try to hoss the whole thing on in one shot - it doesn't work. Still no swear words, which for me in this amount of time just in general life is almost a record. 

Et voila!And here makes the appearance of our first swear word - "DAMN that was easy."

There are always going to be some tires that are really tight - Ridley Scott just bought the film rights to a pitched battle I had with a set of Challenge Criteriums on non-tubeless-ready rims a few years ago - but most tires are pretty darn easy to set up with good technique. 


From the vault - spoke aerodynamics

We've done a miserable job of tagging posts over the last few years. Each year, we put together the rough equivalent of a 300 page book, and modestly speaking it's the best content on the internet. The problem is that thanks to our utter lack of librarian skills, good posts get basically lost to the sands of time. One of my winter projects this year is to make all this stuff a bit easier to find. 

This particular post was one of our more popular ones. It's maybe more relevant now than it was then, as we've chosen Lasers (and now D-Lights for drive sides of 24 and 28 spoke rears) over CX Rays. Lasers are often marginalized as being a "lesser spoke" than CX Rays for some insane reason. In our opinion, there is no absolute better or worse, only fitness for intended purpose. Nimbus Ti builds are the most cost effective premium build available. Lasers are a big part of that. 

One preemptive note on power to spin - Dr. Andrew Coggan (he of "Racing and Training with a Power Meter" and other significant bike-y science-y stuff you take for granted) has tagged overall power to spin at 5 watts in a worst case and 3 knots in a best case, rim aerodynamics being the main differentiator. Put simply, we don't believe that there's a whole lot of "there" there in terms of power to spin. 

Originally posted 1/22/13, authored by Mike. Enjoy.

One of the things we've learned is that offering choices invites questions. One we get all the time is the difference between Sapim Lasers and CX-Rays, which we offer in all our wheels. Or rather, the question really is whether CX-Rays are worth the extra money.

The answer we've always provided is that the spokes are the same weight but CX-Rays are purported to have some aerodynamic advantage. If you're looking for "every last watt of speed," they're the way to go. But we have never seen anything that quantifies the difference between the two in a wheelset. So we decided test Lasers against CX-Rays in the tunnel to give a more informed and specific response than "every last watt of speed."

It turns out, however, that we've been exactly right all along.

We sent two RFSC 38 (38mm) wheels to the wind tunnel, one built with 20 radial laced Sapim Lasers and the other with 20 radial laced Sapim CX-Rays. Here is how the wheels tested against a range of Angles of Attack (AOA):

At all AOAs, the wheel with the CX-Rays was a smidge faster, generating about 11 fewer grams of drag on average at 30mph. If you recall the calculations from yesterday's blog, you'll see that 11 grams of drag at 30mph is - yep - 1 aero watt. You really do save "every last watt of speed" with CX-Rays, and not a watt more.

You remember also from yesterday that aerodynamic impact is diminished at lower speeds. Here is the difference in aero watts between the Laser and CX-Ray wheels at 30mph, 25mph and 20mph. In these calculations, the average drag is calibarated by the frequency of different AOAs at different speeds, which is why at 30mph the difference between the two wheels is 1.8 watts instead of 1.

Most brands assume that if you're spending between $1K and $3K for a carbon wheelset, you're after that every last watt of speed and they make CX-Rays or other bladed spokes standard. The logic starts to break down with shallower alloys though, where the upgrade to CX-Ray spokes may net you a watt, but still leave you a handful or two behind your training buddy on deep carbon, or oblivious if you're training on your own. For alloys in particular, we think it makes a lot of sense to offer the choice so people are not paying for performance they don't need.


When Black Friday comes...

I'll collect everything I'm owed, and before my friends find out I'll be on the road...

And now that we've put THAT particular song in your head for the rest of the day (hey, at least it's a great song, it's not like we put a Barney song in your head - "I love you, you love me..." - oh, whoops, sorry), here is our NEW. BLACK. FRIDAY. DEAL!!!!!!!!!!! Tell them what they've won, Monty!!

Starting today, and continuing through Black Friday, when you order a set of our wonderful, delicious, gluten-free, certified non-GMO Nimbus Ti or Nimbus Ti CLD wheels, you have the choice to substitute a black T11 or CLD hub set instead. Since about a third of people who ordered during our fall colors promo chose black, it's a little bit of a fall colors redux. A little more limited in options, but still a great deal.

Delivery time frame for these will be closer to custom than standard, so allow for that in your choice if you're looking for a set of wheels in time for an upcoming cross race. If you want them in time for the first annual decidedly NOT gluten-free Misery Loves Company Ride on December 21st, you'll almost certainly get them in time. 

Our Black Friday promo runs through Sunday November 29. The sooner you order, the sooner we build and ship your wheels. 


Long live the 34

So, 34s have been out of stock for a little while and we've been vague about the restock timeframe, because, well... there isn't one. It was time to cut a new mold, so we had to decide whether to reinvest a lot of money in the 34, or reallocate those resources to other projects that we think are better opportunities for us (don't ask yet, we won't tell).

Shallow carbon clinchers exist in an odd space. They're not appreciably lighter than aluminum rim options, they don't give a big aerodynamic kick like a 52 does, and at the end of it all they still have carbon brake tracks. We're sending out a set of Pacenti SL23s with Tune hubs today, and they weigh 1370g. The lightest set of 34s we ever built was heavier than that. Enve's new SES 2.2 clinchers, which they very nicely and openly state prioritize weight savings over aerodynamics (you have to click the "learn more" button), weigh 1400g per Competitive Cyclist. Zipp claims their newest 202 clinchers weigh 1450g. You can't use them tubeless, either. With our testing having shown that good alloys can be within a loud whisper of the aerodynamics of Enve's 3.4, is it realistic to think that the weight-prioritized-over-aero 2.2 is at all better in the wind than a good alloy? I'd bet they're worse. 

Built right, alloys are as stiff as carbons. Add tubeless-ready and the weight gap can grow (it would have for us had we done a tubeless 34). Today's SL23 set was built with 20/28 lacing and slightly heavier Sapim D-Light drive side rear spokes and brass nipples. It's no weight-weenie special use freak wheel set. And it's $565 less than a standard set of 34s - you could get a set of Nimbus Ti wheels with DT R460 rims to keep them company with that. Our standard Nimbus Ti 20/28 clocks in at almost exactly the same weight as a set of 202 clinchers, but gets you much better hubs and saves you $1505. The price differential to the Enve 2.2 is even greater - a set built with DT240s (to which we much prefer the T11/Nimbus Ti) is $2900, for a difference of $2305. Since a portion of you are right now thinking "but the SPOKES!!!" - well, Zipp quietly changed from CX Rays to CX Sprints, which are a wider, heavier OEM-only version of CX Rays. Enve uses CX Rays. Doing a custom set of our alloys with colored T11s and CX Rays would knock the price difference with Enve down to a mere $2125. 

Trick question - is 1370g of aluminum lighter or heavier than 1450g of carbon?

On the other side, the aerodynamics of shallow carbons don't compare well to Rail 52s. There are few situations where the math works out in favor of the modicum of weight saved in the 34s versus the significant aerodynamics benefit of the 52. For quite a while, we've answered the "I want to go fast, which wheels should I get" question with an unqualified and decisive "get 52s." As we've known for a long time, and had proved in the wind tunnel last summer, 52s are easier to handle than other wheels of their depth/speed class. Between the two, the choice is obvious. 

We have to have an opinion about what makes sense and what we're most enthusiastic about having our customers ride. A very good and proprietary carbon rim like the 34 is certainly an easier business case. Since we build by hand, we're capacity constrained. It's harder for us to make money selling less expensive wheels - quite hard. And we're selling a recipe that many other kitchens have access to, so we need to differentiate ours through a withering pursuit of quality, and by selling at a fantastic price. Even to this day, a huge number of our customers seek our direct counsel, whether on the phone or through email or on forums. We've really come to a point where the answer between 34s and a great set of alloys is always "great set of alloys." Between 34s and 52s, it's 52s.  
We've got what could easily contend for the title of best alloy clinchers at any price, they happen to have a huge price advantage over anything to which they could fairly be compared, and we're just as ethusiastic as we could be about that being our solution for the broad use case zone they cover. 




CX tubeless - our final word (for now)

My cross season has begun to circle the drain. I've had far more fun than ever racing this year, and am fully mourning the season being nearly over, but my joints can't take the cold and damp, and all the stupid Rule 5 in the world won't change that. When stepping off the bike for the barriers feels like that scene from Misery, your season is done.

Despite our protestations that we aren't tubeless evangelists, that may have become inaccurate. Despite know-it-all bloviators claiming that tubeless has "no place" in cross, it absolutely does. It works a hundredfold better than tubed clinchers do, and is stunningly less of a pain in the ass than tubulars are. There's an enormous middle ground where it's an incredibly effective option. So there is no misrepresentation, I'll clearly make the following point:

The top of the sport is going to continue to race and win on tubulars for the foreseeable future. Helen Wyman and her 16 sets of tubular wheels and ace mechanic husband (I know he's an ace mechanic, but I have no firsthand knowledge of his husband skills. Judging from her omnipresent beaming smile, they can't be that bad) have no interest in or need for tubeless. Many people at levels far below Helen's will continue to prefer tubulars. We recognize that. We continue to search for improved tubular products. If tubulars are your preference, we support that wholeheartedly. 

I am just a poor boy, though my story's seldom told, but let me give you a brief synopsis of me and tires since June. My cross bike has seen neither inner tube nor tubular in 2015 - it's been 100% tubeless whether with tires for road or cross. In cross use, no tire has ever been used above 28psi. No front tire has ever been used above 24psi. I weigh 160 pounds. Those are barely higher than what I used with tubulars. I am a competent cross racer, whose skills are weighted more heavily towards "watts" and less toward "ninja bike driving ability." I've spent enough time on the cross bike this year that my bike driving ability has distanced what it ever was before - even when I was using tubulars exclusively - but that's simply because time on the bike works. Most people don't have the ability to ride tubulars at super low psi. It feels VERY weird and takes a lot of practice to be able to take advantage of it. 

Keira says you're an idiot if you think tubeless doesn't work. But she says it VERY nicely. I love Keira

The cumulative burping of my tires this year, through 14 races and probably 30 practice sessions, is zero psi. Ze. Ro. The number of places I lost in races because I used tubeless versus tubulars is also zero. The number of people who I passed while they were carrying either flatted or rolled tubulars to the pits, however, is very strongly higher than zero. 

If you say that tubeless doesn't work in cross, or that it has no place in cross, you are wrong. It's that simple. There are examples of very high level successes with tubeless (see also Mical Dyck, Dan Timmerman, Adam Craig, Carl Decker, Jake Wells, et al) but that's more of a proof of concept than evidence that the tip of the spear will adopt tubeless. Quite obviously, it works. It's also easy to manage and convenient. 

BUT, and it's a big but, you have to use the right combos. Many people out there are trying to set up whatever combo they want using whatever tires and rims they choose, and they don't have success and they damn the entire category because of their failures. That's like saying that chocolate chip cookies "don't work" because the ones I made with cream cheese, tortilla chips, sriracha sauce and liver paste tasted like shit.