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Maybe it's a tiny bit about the bike?

Another road frame pre-order done and dusted.  Thanks to all fans, friends, customers, family members, and whoever else has helped us to live this rock and roll lifestyle.  Without going into it too deeply, our sales growth this year has been rewarding.  October and November are the first two months where we can track same store year over year sales, and if November (the month) ended today November (the company) will have done very well.  So thank you. 

When we launched our first road frame pre-order last year, we did it without any track record.  November was brand new, and though we'd shown demo frames at cross events, no one locally had raced on one of the frames.  We'd ridden on them a lot, and a lot of you rode on them a little bit, but there was little depth to the story.  A year later, with a year of credibility for our company and a year of our road frames proving themselves in races all over the joint, and with our wheels becoming something like a phenomenon (thanks, LL Cool J!), our second order has succeeded our first like you would hope that a successful start up would do.    

The cross frames are a bit different.  We would have preferred to have them about a month before we got them, but sometimes the slings and arrows cause things to go that way.  Had we not gone through the exercise we did with the scandium frames, we wouldn't have been as sure of the choice we made with the carbon bikes.  But, when we picked the carbon bikes, we already had a year of experience with the supplier, and the world had a year of experience with us.  So asking our team to switch from their bikes to our new frames a few weeks into the season wasn't ideal but everyone was great with it and loved the new bikes almost from the first pedal stroke.   

We don't make a general habit of being the douchey guys who brag on all the podiums and everything, but the team has been doing extraordinarily well on the bikes.  Since the first race at Winchester, a bike has been ridden to a podium spot in every race they've been to - and you don't even have to count my measly one in there to make the stat.  We're working on a three week winning streak spread around among various team members, and the wins are being backed up by 2nds and 3rds (and 7ths - give me a little time I'm getting my feet underneath me).  I can personally say that I was nervous as hizzell when Paul started using the bike after he'd pedaled his old one into the MABRA Masters leader's jersey.  Fortunately he's gone to plaid in the last couple of weeks and done even better on the new one than his old one. None of which is to place responsibility for any of these great results on the bikes.  Far from it.  But it's readily apparent that if you want to race and race well in smoking hot fields, the HOT BUNS is more than capable of making that journey with you.  Unlike when we asked you to place great faith in us last year without having too much in the way to show you, there's a great deal more filling out the story this year. 

But why even believe the results and the pictures and the stories?  Come and taste our HOT BUNS for yourself.  Over the next few weeks*, we're scheduled to appear* at the following races*:

This coming weekend: Schooley Mill*

Next weekend: Vint Hill* and Rockburn*

The weekend after that: Taneytown*

The weekend after Taneytown: Capital Cross*

*It's flu season, duck season, rabbit season, and every other kind of season you can think of. I might go on a binge the likes of which the world has never known.  Or catch a flat tire on the Beltway.  Scheduled to appear. 

Okay, time to go pluck the mud out of my helmet and count how many crossresults points I'm ahead of someone by. 




Not A Pro Bike - My HOT BUNS

It's easy to find photo profiles of the pro's bikes, but you don't see so many profiles of the bikes that normal people race.  Since I had it on the stand to get it ready for tomorrow, I figured I'd take a few shots and give you a tour.

Here's the big thing about my bike in particular - it's got a disc rear brake.  We needed to get in front of this in order to make the best decision.  For a whole lot of reasons, we're heavily leaning toward cantis.  


The canti brake bikes that the rest of the team has look like this.  Note the full housing setup on the rear derailleur.

The headtube is pretty stout - 1-1/2" at the bottom.  Plenty of mud clearance too.


Plenty of tire clearance in the back, too.


The BB cluster on the disc bike is a little busy with the cable reverser, front derailleur clamp and K-Edge chain guard.  The canti bikes have the front derailleur cable mounted under the BB, which cleans this up.  A derailleur clamp mounted K-Edge works great with that setup.  


We plan to go heavy on Rival in the HOT BUNS build.  It's great for cross.  Most people on the team dig on the Crank Bros pedals, except Paul uses Time ATACs.


The canti-equipped frames have this nice barrel adjuster for the front derailleur.


This is where I park MY hot buns on my HOT BUNS.  We're going with Prologo saddles this year.  They're awesome.  The ti-reailed Nago Evo is my new all time favorite.  It's a small upcharge from the Kappa Pas, knocks off about 110 grams, and it's awesome.  

So that's my bike.  We've had a lot going on with the Wheelhouse order closing on Monday and the buildup to the CX frame.  People are LOVING the HOT BUNS (I mean, who wouldn't, really?) so once the road order closes it will be full court press on these babies. 

Race smart.



What's Cookin', November 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 November 2011 edition:

Rolling Boil:

  • November 7th Pre-Order: For a few more days, we're all about fielding questions on Wheelhouse fit, Max Perkins configuration, and wheel recommendations. If you've got last minute questions don't actually leave them until the last minute please - there's racing to do this weekend and Dave can't type with muddy thumbs.
  • The Customer Store: If you click on the "Pre-Order Store" tab it opens up our entire store, including a category currently labeled "Customer Store." I know the picture might suggest we'll be selling beer (or giving it away), but the Customer Store is instead our way of thanking our customers for buying a frame, wheelset or bike from us. We'll be filling that store with all manner of gruppos, individual components like cranksets, shifters, handlebars, stems, saddles, posts, consumables like tires, tubes, cables, chains, nutrition, embrocation, and the other stuff racers need like trainers and rollers, and car racks. Buying our stuff gets you a nice discount on everything you'll see in that section. (We can't say how big the discount here since some suppliers may hit us with cease and desist letters, but email us if you're curious.) You can use the discount as often as you like, for 3 months if you buy wheels, 6 months if you buy a frame, and 9 months if you buy a complete bike. The discount won't be Holy Crap pricing, but it will be as good a deal as you'll find without resorting to eBay or buying from an online store overseas, relieving you of the burden of deal shopping online. Like everything else we sell, it will be as good a price as we can afford to give.
  • HOT BUNS: On November 8th we can shift our attention from the November 7th pre-order to the HOT BUNS. We've almost finished with the spec for the complete bike, which will probably have a little less SRAM Force than the Wheelhouse Max Perkins (since rear derailleurs are not components, but consumables on a cross bike), and therefore should run a little less expensive than the $2285 complete Wheelhouse Max Perkins. We'll have it all worked out by next week.


  • Wheel Price Increase: After the November 7th Pre-order closes, we'll be raising the prices of our wheelsets by $60, both for pre-order and in-stock. Our wheel pre-orders are really popular, but much of the interest has been because it's the only way you've been able to get our RFSC 38s and 58s. We're making a big push to change that and keep them in stock for immediate(r) delivery. Inventory means expense, and since our rims and hubs come from Taiwan it's expense we need to incur several months in advance, adding a financing cost to the inventory. So shifting the model towards greater in-stock availability costs some money. The only way to keep prices the same and still be able to sell our full in-stock line would be to use lower quality components or to spend less on building and service, none of which we're willing to do. Like, ever.
  • TT Bike: We had intended to order demos last month but decided to hold off and buy them instead after the November 7th pre-order deadline. So we'll get these ordered next week and begin testing them right away. Lead time is quicker on these than the road frames so we will have them in during the winter. If they're awesome, we'll open up the pre-order on them as soon as we can in the late winter or early spring. Like the Wheelhouse and HOT BUNS, they will be available as a frameset or a complete bike with your choice of any of our wheelsets (or none at all). 
  • 29er: We've already ordered some demos, which should be here before too long. You'll know the day they're here.

Back Burner:

  • Pins and Numbers: Even though we read most of the other cycling sites out there, we're not enamoured by them. Like the industry they cover, there's a lack of transparency and integrity that requires that racers become domain experts in order to make an informed decision about who to trust, and when. We started selling bikes when we thought we could do a better job meeting the needs of racers, and we've identified another need.


Back Burner:


The Big Brush Off: How to Glue Tubulars

A lot of people get freaked out by tubulars. They have heard horror stories about rolling tires and the painful $100 flat. They think it's messy and difficult to install tires. And to a degree those stories are true. There is a cost of doing business with tubulars, but oh what a business it is. 

First, the benefits. Blah blah modern clinchers yadda yadda latex tubes lorem ipso e pluribus unum. The road (grass/mud/gravel) feel of tubulars beats the pants off of the best clinchers. I could blind taste test this and bat 1000, easily. Of course I would run into stuff and fall over and possibly cause more school absences so I don't want to do that. 

It's also REALLY hard to pinch flat a tubular. I used clinchers at one of my favorite races (Poolesville) last year because I didn't want to flat a tubular so close before Killington. What happened? I pinch flatted at Poolesville, but while using tubies at Killington I hit 10 things as bad or worse than what did me in at Poolesville with no flats. 

In cross, you can run crazy low pressure with tubulars, which gives you insane traction. This is a good thing. 

That said, I saw a LOT of rolled tubulars at Kinder Kross last weekend. Why?  Tough saying without knowing but I think it's all down to bad prep and technique, so I'll walk you through gluing a new tubular on a new wheel. I'm no one's super genius but the wheels I've glued have stayed put through thick and thin.  Here's how I approach it. Your mileage may vary and you might be all thumbs, so I offer no guarantee other than to tell you I've never had a problem. 

First, the materials list. You need:

  • Acetone
  • Tubular glue (Vittoria or Continental)
  • Flux brushes
  • 120 grit sandpaper 
  • Clean rags
  • Solvent proof gloves 
  • Tire pump
  • Valve extenders

New tires are TIGHT, so before anything else you're going to stretch the tire. Wipe the rim clean with acetone and a rag (wear the gloves, your kidneys will thank you) so you don't get any leftover oil from the wheel build embedded in the tire, install your valve extenders if needed, and stretch the tire onto the rim. Pump it up to 80 psi and leave it overnight. 

When that's done, remove the tire from the rim and clean the rim again. For metal rims, I do a quick pass over the rim bed with the sandpaper to scuff the surface, then clean with acetone.  Paint one thin layer of glue onto the rim. The edges of the rim bed are FAR more important than the middle. Be neat and avoid getting glue on the brake track. Thin coats are better. The edges. The edges. 

Inflate the tire enough to give it shape and grab it in the middle to give it a figure 8 shape. Paint the base tape from edge to edge with glue. Thin coat, and going over the edge of the tape is fine. 

Let both rim and tire sit for 24 hours, then repeat the exact same process. 

Before installing the tire, you're going to deflate the tire and put a third coat on the rim. Then stand the rim on the ground with the valve stem hole at the top. Make sure that your tire's tread is facing the right way!!!  Insert the valve stem through the hole and begin stretching the tire down onto the rim. When you're most of the way on, flip the wheel over and finagle the rest of the tire on.  Then put just enough air into the tire to give it shape and get the tire straight on the rim. Use the base tape as a guide but on a lot of tires the tread sort of wanders in relation to the base tape. You want the base tape in contact with the rim and the tread as straight as possible. 

Most cross tires are a little lumpy, so you want to stretch the lumps out. Just push away from the lump on either side and it will minimize. 

Once you're happy with the tread orientation, pump the tire up to 80 psi and leave it for 24 hours. This will really create a strong glue bond. 

I do not use Belgian tape for either road or cross. Since all of our rims have wider rim beds, I don't think this is necessary and I'm loathe to screw with what works. 

We'd love to be able to offer this as a service, and we meant to. Unfortunately a few stories about shops getting sued by people who rolled tubulars (the decider was the guy who stored a wheel for three years and then used it without getting it reglued - OF COURSE the glue dried out and became useless in three years) put us off of this completely. Even if our insurance covers it, I have no interest in spending days or weeks or hours in court dealing with it.  Even if we're super confident of our technique - enough that I send the would-be mother of my would-be children out every weekend on tires I've glued.  Even though you are not the type of person to sue, someone else definitely is. 


How to cheat our custom configurators

I've just finished building the custom Campagnolo configurator. Now you can go into the pre-order store and spec, price and buy a custom SRAM, Shimano or Campagnolo bike of your choice. 

We had to make some pricing decisions when setting up the custom configurators, the most important of which is base pricing - or what to charge for the least expensive build we offer across each of the gruppo brands. The Max Perkins is a pretty outrageous deal, and we're not able to offer the same value in custom builds since each one takes a lot more time and mental energy to sell, organize and fulfill. But at the same time, the configurators and our new shopping cart make the selling and organizing a lot easier, so we're still able to get pretty aggressive. For example, the Max Perkins with a Force / Rival mix is $2285. A custom SRAM Wheelhouse with the same spec except for full Force is $2487. Still a good deal, but not the same value we can offer with the Max Perkins. So one way to cheat the configurator - on a SRAM bike at least - is not to use it and opt for the Max Perkins instead. But not everyone wants to do that.

There are a couple of ways to squeeze more value of the configurators. One is to not buy something you already have. Let's go back to that Force bike for $2487. Maybe you already have a nice Ritchey WCS cockpit and post at home that you'll use. You can opt not to include the stem, bars and post in your custom build and your price comes down to $2345. So functionally, you're going from the Max Perkins to a full Force build for only $60 more. That's not a bad upgrade price at all.

But the real loophole comes from the wheels. Our wheels are really popular, but we elected to offer all our bikes without wheels since a lot of our customers bought wheels from us first, and are now coming back to buy a bike to build around their November hoops. Our standard spec on all bikes is with the FSW 23 alloy clinchers, but if you go with no wheels you save $300. You don't save the full $485 from the wheels because we cut the margins on wheels when they're part of a complete bike. (And we cut margins on the frame, and on the gruppo and build kit.) So buying a bike with the wheels is a better value than buying a bike without the wheels, and then buying the wheels separately.

To wit: The Max Perkins with a RFSC 58/85 combo is $2735. Let's say you don't want any wheels - you pay instead $1985. But your buddy is lusting over a set of RFSC 58/85s. They're available as an option in the RFSC 85 page for $835. If you buy the bike without wheels and your buddy buys the wheels, between the two of you you're spending $2820, or $85 more than you'd spend if you bought the Max Perkins with the 58/85s. 

The lesson here is that if you want a bike without wheels, find a buddy who wants wheels and split the savings (or try to keep it all, hoping he doesn't read this). And if you're looking for a set of our wheels and have a friend who is shopping for a bike to place on top of some wheels he already owns and loves, see if you can't swindle a savings on your wheels by talking him into a Wheelhouse with the hoops you'd love to roll next season.

Is this legit? It must be - you read about it on the interwebs. 

Race Smart.