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The new tubeless ready Rail 52, arriving next week. 

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It's Novemberfest!

Sunday was our honest-to-gosh 5th anniversary. We had a beer and took a selfie. 

We haven't aged a bit!To celebrate the month of our birth, we're declaring Novemberfest! Through Wednesday, 11/11, this means FREE SHIPPING on any set of wheels.* Knock(wurst) yourself out with custom or go with an evergreen Nimbus Ti-based build - Novemberfest! applies to one and all. Simply enter coupon code "Novemberfest!" in the checkout screen and you're on your way.

The harvest has been good this year*free shipping applies to continental US orders. For other orders, a $35 credit will apply to the regular shipping rate.



The best spoke for the job

TLDR Version: As disc and tubeless usage increases, responsible wheel builders are discarding the idea that any single spoke is "best," and are instead focusing on which spoke is the best for any given role. This also holds for different wheels of the same format, where different purposes may place higher emphasis on one trait over another. The idea that there is some universal "best spoke" for all purposes is as outdated as wooden rims.

As we've grown, one of the more difficult things for me to manage has been inventory. As a child of the Great Depression with Scottish and German heritage, I'm by nature what some might call parsimonious, and acclimating to ordering spokes in quantities appropriate for our current use rate has taken some time. We go through massive quantities of them, so I'm adapting. 

The right spoke for this particular job

There are two things that bring the topic of spokes to mind. One is a comment I read on a forum recently, comparing our wheels to those from a competitor. The comparison was Nimbus hubs and Lasers, versus OEM Asian-sourced hubs and CX Rays. The gist of the evaluation was that our wheels were less expensive, our hubs might be slightly better, but  our spokes were decidedly lesser, which I found intriguing. I won't bore you again with why or how much I think Nimbus Ti hubs beat the pants off of what's out there at any price, but calling Lasers decidedly lesser than CX Rays really got me. Lesser how? Aerodynamically? Don't guess at that when you can know. Weight? It's the same. Strength? Far beyond relevant needs in both cases. Cycle life? If we do our job correctly, also very (very) secondary. Cost? A blooobath in favor of Lasers.

When we put the Nimbus Ti packages together, we studied the spoke question from every perspective and came up with the decision that when you consider all of the factors, Lasers are a pretty obvious choice for that package. I'd LOVE to switch to bladed spokes simply because they're so much quicker to build with, but delivering quality at a price doesn't allow us that luxury. At some point the efficiency might be worth it, but we're not there yet. Also, don't ever forget that a bladed spoke is not a bladed spoke is not a bladed spoke - if that were the case we'd use bladed spokes for sure, but it's not. A good round spoke beats the snot out of a lesser (that word again...) bladed spoke. 

Interestingly, our thinking was reinforced by the recent "fall colors" promo (sorry, if you missed it, you missed it, but judging from the response to the thing, no one missed it), where very very few people wound up choosing CX Rays for an extra $80. The $80 premium for CX Rays over Lasers is as low as we can reasonably make it, and represents slightly less than the price gap between the two wheel sets in my earlier example. So it seems that, on balance, people agree with our choice but still we are forced to question things.

Sienna Miller makes every blog post better!

The increasing popularity of disc-, and tubeless-, and tubeless-disc-wheels, especially road tubeless and the new generation of cx tubeless with tight-fitting reinforced beads, calls a lot of the old dogma and assumptions about spokes and builds into question. At this point, I'd say it's silly and simplistic and quite flatly wrong to call any well made, quality spoke the lesser of another. I'm quite certain that there will be applications where spokes we previously never had much use for will become important to us. The spokes in a Rail 52 front and those in the rear non-drive side of a Nimbus Ti CLD build experience such different dynamics and forces that to carte blanche say that one spoke is universally "better" is preposterous. 


The colors of fall promotion

It's no secret that we love color, always have. It's also no secret that we love fall riding, whether at the cross race or having an easy ride and taking in the sights. Lucky you, we've decided to combine these two loves in one great deal. The cost of bringing some color into your riding just got a little lower, because starting today and running through Sunday November 1st, you can choose any White Industries T11 of CLD build in full blooming technicolor (silver, black, blue, red, gold, green*, pink, or purple) in any of the alloy rims we offer from Pacenti, Stans, DT Swiss or Velocity for the price of a regular Nimbus Ti build. 

Ah, the lovely colors of fall.


To order, simply go ito the Custom Alloy page, and have at it. Prices in the store reflect the fall colors offer. Standard custom shipping time of one to two weeks from order (usually closer to two) applies, subject to availability at WI. 

Made with bits of real color, so you know it's good.


*limited availability of green - it's being phased out


The confusion industry

From the sound of it, I wasn't the only one who was nonplussed by the Velonews review of the Cannondale SuperX. My ennui focused mostly on the broad brush smearing of the Stan's Grail-based wheels, one of our favorite rims. We're shipping two sets built with Grails today, and I have zero doubt that the customers to whom they're headed will see none of the perceived deficiencies that were noted in the VN review. 

The other thing I noted (or should say nearly rolled my eyes out of my head at) but didn't comment on was the advocacy of the Boost standard. Boost is this week's latest rear axle "standard," with a 148mm wide axle. It might sneak into XC mountain bikes, but in general it starts at enduro and goes from there. So far as I know, no cross bike is made for Boost, and none are slated to be so made. As the author rectrospectively notes in his second article, the added width of Boost requires manipulation to get ankle clearance from the chain stays, and tortures the chain line even worse than 135 or 142mm axles do, given accepted chainstay lengths and bottom bracket widths. This is a topic we've discussed to exhaustion on this here blog. 

The other thing that would happen, should Boost come to pass, is that the market will justifiably want future-proof hubs. All of the additional stiffness from Boost is supposed to come from the wider hub flanges Boost allows. But guess what? When you future-proof hubs, you don't maximize flange width. The pic above shows two Nimbus Ti CLD hubs - one for 142x12 TA (left) and the other for 135mm QR. Notice that the flange spacing is exactly the same - and you can tell it's precise because I included a ruler in the shot! If you want your hubs to be able to switch formats, which people demand, you need to use the same hub shell across those formats. Ergo, exact same flange spacing. This is not to say that 142 doesn't have advantages over 135 for cross, I very much believe that it does - a stiffer axle, a more secure attachment, and more precise rotor alignment are the three main points we've espoused before

The point of all of this is not to bash on anything, but I guess primarily to note that if a VeloNews tech editor has trouble staying up with tech on all the different fronts, what hope does the average consumer have? My cross bike is starting to get a little long in the tooth, being a 2011 vintage and an early stab at a cross disc bike, so I'm thinking about a new one for next year (and sorry to disappoint, there's an infinitessimal chance that we'd do a November cross bike for 2016). The frame is likely to be aluminum from a smaller, direct to consumer production/custom builder (someone told us that model works real well!) like Zanconato, Squid, or Rock Lobster. It's going to be 100mm TA front, 142x12 rear, and disc. Aluminum's a concession to both budget and the builders I'd like to buy from, but the other specs are what I think works definitely the best for the committed enthusiast amateur cross racer. 

A final note on the blog. This blog took 28 minutes start to finish, including taking the picture and discussing current and imminent hub needs with Mike. We publish the rough equivalent of a 400+ page book every year on the blog. The writing is generally good, the grammar is generally good, we don't mix up plurals and possessives, and there are generally plenty of typos. Get the point across quickly and with as little friction as possible, and move on to the stack of wheels that needs to be built and shipped today. That's just how we have to do it.  


A dirty little secret about disc rims

Disc brakes are gaining ever more adoption through road and cross uses. There's even an emerging category of aero road disc bikes, which may seem an oxymoron to many (honestly, myself included), but it's a wide wide world and there you go.

One thing that most people have probably never thought much about is that aluminum disc rims that are actually designed as disc rims and aren't just fully anodized versions of rim brake rims, the rim sidewalls aren't machined. Machining a brake track is a lot like sending a piece of wood through the planer; you make the opposing sides darn near perfectly straight and parallel. Obviously, this is super important when you are going to use the rim as a braking surface. Any irregularities on the brake track would make braking interesting, which is precisely what braking should not be. 

When you don't machine the sidewalls, those little irregularities are left in the rim. The extrusion process isn't that precise, than then when you roll the extrusion into the rim more imprecisions are introduced. Functionally, these are completely meaningless in a disc wheel, because the role of the rim as a brake rotor os eliminated. The number one thing we're working toward in disc rim builds is making sure the tire bead hooks are as parallel and aligned as possible, and the outside of the rim gets lower priority than it does in a rim brake build.

It's not like you're going to see the wheel wobbling all over the place, or anything like it. If you put it on a stand and know what you're looking for, depending on the rim, you'll notice it. Our tolerances on rim brake builds are pretty tight - we like to refer to it as "slice of paper straight," as in you have trouble fitting the thickness of a slice of paper into any variance. On aluminum disc builds, that's not as regularly achievable, not is it something even to worry about. Everything is as straight as can be without compromising the overall integrity of the build to chase out functionally meaningless little imperfections. You still worry about round like it's nobody's business, though.

Carbon wheels aren't subject to this discussion since they're molded to high precision without need for machining. 

This is probably something that 99% of wheel owners would never notice, but since we have it in mind that each wheel we send out will be inspected with withering scrutiny, we figure it's worth mentioning.