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Riddle Me This, My Brother

What weighs comfortably less than 1500 grams, is strong enough to use on a mountain bike (but made for road or cx bikes), can be built with a variety of awesome hubs*, costs $485, and could be in your hands before Labor Day? 

Our new FSW 23 and FSW CX wheel sets.

Carbon wheels are great, especially now that the cost has come down and carbon clinchers have shed their freshman 15 to get to really attractive weights.  But a lot of people have no interest in using carbon wheels for cross, or winter time base miles.  A lot of people want to have two sets of tubulars for cross but ponying up the bank for two sets of carbon tubulars is a little beyond what makes sense.  Some people just aren't into carbon rims.  We get that, so we've put together a great alternative.

The only substantive difference between the FSW 23 and the FSW CX is that the 23 is clincher and the CX is tubular.  Both are 23mm wide and 19.5mm deep.  Weights are very similar, with the CX coming in at 1495 grams (though one customer just reported his came in at 1470) and the 23s about 15 grams less.  

The CX rim has a seam relief channel to seat the base tape seam and help provide the maximum gluing surface for tires.  The 23mm width better matches the radius of cross tires, providing both superior adhesion to the rim and an optimal tire shape when inflated. 

The 23 offers the benefit of the wide tire bed to give cross tubulars (and road tires) better traction and less squirm.  I've been using a 23 rim on my mountain bike for the last several weeks and it's taken everything I've thrown at it and come back laughing every time.  It sets up tubeless beautifully with Stan's tape and a 29er rim strip, and hasn't burped down to 27psi. 

Both are available in the standard 24/28, 2 crossed all around lacing, as well as the SOB 28/32, 2 cross front 3 cross rear lacing. 

We've got rims and standard hubs in stock for both lacings. 

*Wheels can also be built with Chris King, C-4, and White Industries premium hubs.  Weights, prices and lead times will be different with these hub options. 

A bunch of people have been asking for 29er wheels, and we're very close to ready to go with those.  More on that soon. 

Can anyone but Paul place today's post title?


Tubeless Update

Sort of a short update here since I've got something of a magnum opus brewing in the background. 

Testing of the new FSW 23 (pictured here) continues.  Used in a mountain bike setup, the FSW 23 rims are working brilliantly set up tubeless.  One layer of Stan's Yellow Tape, a 29er rim strip, and a scoop and a half of Stan's sealant.  At 27psi, the Geax tire feels incredible and DOES NOT BURP.   I've got more confidence in this setup than I've ever had in a mountain bike wheel. 

A little hint for the folks at home - the pressure gauge on your pump is probably lying its ass off to you.  Of the four pumps I've tried, none even came close.  All were high, by around 5 to 8 psi in the CX/MTB pressure ranges.  The Topeak digital pressure gauge is a bit fidgety to work with but I think it or something really similar is absolutely mandatory if you want to really know where your pressure is. 

Next week I'll be out on an actual CX bike with actual CX tires and will be putting the tubeless setup to the test in its real configuration.  Pretty confident that this is going to work out great.

Spy shot of the new team kit.



Testing Our Metal

Product management never ends here at November Bicycles.  For the past several weeks I've been charged with getting the new FSW 23 and FSW CX wheel sets up and ready for show time.  Good times, good times. 

First part of the job is getting them built up and confirming spoke lengths and just generally making sure that they go together right.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy with these ones, the spoke length calculator got it bang on all the way around.  Building on the new rims is like building on carbon rims, in that they're very radially stable and they're stiff enough side to side that corrections can be made across several spokes.  This makes it many more easier to get the spokes all balanced.  They also take a nice high spoke tension really well. 

We decided to go 24/28 for stick with a 28/32 option for the new look FSWs.  To us, this makes a lot of sense.  The weights stayed in line with the previous FSWs, and stability goes up.  So they're still light enough to use in whatever race you'd like, and you can literally used them every other day of the year with absolute impunity.  Bigger dudes and cross racers can get their freak on with the extra spokes and that just works out brilliantly there.  I don't know maybe we've got a little "low spoke count" weariness going on (actually I know I do, it's out of hand how lustful a lot of people are for low spoke counts), but I know I'm responding like a bastard to the like kind of classic utilitarianism of these things.  They're Freaking Sweet Wheels, that's for sure.  I dig em.  Bad. 

When you're me, and you literally have an embarrassment of carbon wheels to choose from for any road ride you might want to do, it's pretty hard to get up for a set of aluminum wheels.  Normally aluminum wheels sort of lose me when I pick them up - they have a "not tight" feel that I couldn't describe in 1000 words.  Our FSW 27s come close to not having this (good thing because I actually use them all the time since my wife stole the 38 clinchers which I really liked for daily use), but the FSW 23s and FSW CX have it not at all.  Got to be the width.  It's a pretty neat aluminum wheel that actually makes me say "gee I can't wait to get on these."

Job number two is to get them proofed in use.  For this I took a bit of an interesting tack.  Since my mountain bike's front rim couldn't hack life as a mountain bike front rim, I decided to build a mountain bike wheel based on the spokes and rim from the new FSW23.  This actually had two points other than just to beat the living snot out of most of the components.  First is that we want to test the tubeless setup, and second is that we want to test our spokes and rims as a disc brake setup.  We're really pretty sure that discs are going to become a bigger thing, and we want to be ready for it. 

So how is life treating this wheel?  Wonderful, thanks for asking!  I let a wet root take hold of it at about 30mph on Saturday, going a bit too rapidement down some part of Morning Choice in Patapsco.  The bike and I apparently did a full somersault (wife was behind, already dialing 911 when I landed) and landed in a heap on two logs and under two others, including one that will now be named Vlad The Would-Be Impaler.  Front wheel?  100% fine.  Back wheel?  An unholy mess (but not nearly as much of a mess as my right hip and butt cheek).  Score one for the A23. 

Tubeless testing has gone well too.*  I'm currently set up with one layer of yellow tape and a 29er rim strip.  The 29er rim strip is W I D E R than the CX rim strip and really helps prevent the burps.  The tire is a Geax Saguaro 2.2, non-tubless variety.  Inflation with a compressor was instant.   The only hiccup in getting it to hold air was that the sidewalls of these suckers are pretty porous, so it took a lot of the old shake and bake routine to get the sidewalls sealed.  After the beads were set, I inadvertantly removed the valve core and as you can imagine it deflated instantly.  Reinflating with a regular floor pump was no sweat.  I don't yet have enough miles on it to pronounce an unqualified success, but it's a solid showing so far.  Typical inflation pressure for me on this is just shy of 30 pounds.  I'll try lower since that relatively high pressure has held so well. 

Next step is to get the cross bike built up and glue on some tires to the one set and replicate my tubeless setup from the mountain bike with the other set.  Tires in all iterations will be Challenge Grifos.  I'm a bit concerned about the porosity of the Grifo sidewalls for tubeless, but that's why we test these things isn't it? 

We'll have photos of them up in the next couple of days, and they're already in the old shopping cart deal (clinchers) and the other one too (tubies).  You can also get them with a Powertap for a song, since the current model Pro+ and SL+ Powertaps are getting blowed out for the next year's model.  You have to contact us for the lowdown on that.  It's one of those deals. 

*If you have absolutely no idea what any of this drivel is, fear not.  It wasn't too too long ago that I didn't either.  And once we get the tubeless deal all pinned down as well as we want it to be, we'll set yours up for you. 


What's Cookin', August 2011

Dave and I don't really have staff meetings, but we do go through a list of current projects each week. I figured the easiest way to keep our customers in the loop is to just publish the list here, along with some explanation of what we're doing and what the status is. I've also broken them into categories based on immediacy.

So here's What's Cookin', the August 2011 edition:

Rolling Boil:

  • New FSW Wheelsets: We just launched the new FSW 23 and FSW CX wheelsets. The latter is a tubular whose name telegraphs its principal application. But don't discount the FSW 23 for cross also. It's built on a 23mm wide rim and Dave is currently figuring out the tubeless configuration for it. He's also running the same rim on his 29er as a proof of its durability. 
  • Cyclocross Framesets: We owe you a more detailed update here, but the one pictured on this here page is actually not the cyclocross frame we'll be demo'ing and showing off this year. We like our Wheelhouse road frame so much that we're testing two different carbon cross frames from the same supplier - one with cantis and one with disc brakes. You'll see them this fall.
  • Cyclocross Factory Team: You'll see them this fall too, riding said carbon fiber cyclocross frames, and also our alloy and carbon tubulars. Ask them questions, including "Hey, can I try your bike?" and "Would you like an Ommegang Abbey Ale?" They're contractually obligated to say yes to both. 
  • Premium Hubs: We're now offering Chris King, C-4 and White Industries hubs in all of our wheelsets. Pricing is already programmed into the "Add to Cart" functionality of the FSW 23 and FSW CX wheelsets, and will soon be added to our other wheels. If you can't wait, we have this handy little doodad here. Read more about our Premium Hubs here
  • Bonus Wheel Pre-Order: We ran out of just about everything again so are putting in another rim order with our supplier next week. That means you get another chance to pre-order any of our carbon wheelsets, by Monday August 15. Save $140 on our carbon clinchers and $100 on our carbon tubulars. We're anticipating that wheels from this order will be in customer's hands in early November. 


  • 2012 Wheelhouse Pre-Order Pricing: We're working on this now, both for the Wheelhouse frameset and the complete Max Perkins configuration. We are waiting on costs from our suppliers and to finish some internal analysis on what, exactly, is the best possible deal on the Wheelhouse we can afford to give, since that is what our pricing will be. We're also looking at selling the Max Perkins without wheels, for our wheel customers who want to add on the rest of the bike (and of course for other people who are happy with their wheels, even if they're not ours).
  • TT Frame: We just received the geometry charts for a carbon fiber TT frame that's pretty appealing. We're looking into some additional suppliers as well and will order demos from at least one of them before too long. Shortly afterwards, I'll be traveling to races with prologues, as I'm pretty good at anything under 5 minutes. Ask me to motor along for anything longer than that and I fold like a Dahon.
  • Custom Wheels: Now that we've got all these Premium Hubs, we're close to launching a custom wheel program. It's different from premium hubs in our standard wheels because you can choose any drillings you want (through the magic of rim pre-order), go for colored or alternating nipples or spokes, configure your build any way you like, and otherwise make the wheelset unequivocally yours. 

Back Burner:

  • 29er Frame: We've mapped out the ride to there on the Garmin but haven't technically clipped in yet. Also Dave forgot to fill his bottles and I promised my wife I'd help her move some bags of mulch before we leave. But the ride is still scheduled and we're leaving soon.
  • Coaching: What does coaching have in common with wheels and framesets? Two things: Racers want it, and if there's a better way to deliver it we'll figure it out. 

We'll give you another update next month. If you have any questions until then, use the comments here.



Friggin Sweeter Wheelsets

People who bought FSW wheels have confirmed that they are, indeed, freaking sweet wheels. So of course it’s time to come up with something completely new.  

For some time, we’ve been captivated by the new wide rims that are becoming more popular, and which are the basis of our new FSW 23 wheelset. Whether using them with 23- or 25cm tires, they make good tires feel great and great tires feel stunning.  They also help decrease the risk of pinch flats. Contrarians to the core, we’ve actually decided to bump up the spoke counts – we’ll be offering both a 24/28 lacing 2 crossed all around, and a true SOB 28/32 lacing, 2 crossed in front and 3 crossed in back. The rim we’ve chosen is Velocity’s A23, which has been getting rave reviews (not only from Mike, who’s been secretly testing them for most of the year), and which are a development of the popular Aerohead.  Slightly lower rim weights allow us to add the strength of the extra spokes and bring the standard build in at a shade under the weight of the original FSW. We still hate weight limits, but the crossover point will be at around 185 pounds: under that, stick to the standard build and over that go with the SOBs.  If you plan to use them as “race day only” wheels, you can move that range up by around 10 pounds.  If you’re using them for ‘cross, move the range down by around 10 pounds.  

Speaking of ‘cross, we also now offer the wheels in a tubular version called the FSW CX, using Velocity’s Major Tom rim.  The 23mm width works great with road tubulars but is a positively fabulous match for ‘cross tires.   The wider tire bed provides a more secure gluing surface for ‘cross tubulars, and allows less tire squirm at lower pressures.  Best of all, the low cost makes it possible for people on a budget to have a set of pit wheels that’s just as nice as their “A” wheels.  

All of the wheels will continue to use our sealed bearing Novatec hubs and Sapim Laser spokes as standard.  Both are also available with premium hubs including the White Industries H2/H3, Chris King R45, or C-4 RH205/FH-76 hubs. Sapim CX Ray spokes are another upgrade option.  

And just when you've finally figured out the whole pre-order deal, we keep you on your toes again. Both the FSW 23 and the FSW CX are in stock right now, waiting for you to order them so we can build them up right quick.