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Monday
Apr032017

Shimano Hubs - #missedconnections

Shimano generally makes fine bike stuff. Exploding wheels in Adriatic team time trials are much the exception for them, rather than the norm. About the biggest knock on their road groups is that Eddy didn't ride them. And they make good hubs. Or at least, they make hubs that are good at being hubs, but can really suck at being applicable products.

Payers of close attention will note the color that we loveTake, for example, the CX75 hubs. These are disc brake hubs that Shimano brought out, as the name implies, for cross disc. They're great - quality work, pretty good geometry, outstanding color choice, all in all they work well, very cost effective, and they come with great skewers. Which is the rub - if you don't have a quick release disc bike, these aren't for you. And if you do have a quick release disc bike, you're probably thinking you'll wind up with a thru axle disc bike at some point in the not too far away. And these can't be converted. Lame. 

If the CX75, which only comes in 28h drilling, had axle adaptability, we would sell the daylights out of them. Pair them with a set of the HED Belgium Black tubulars and you've got like a sub-$600, quite light set of wheels that oozes quality and makes carbon tubulars look pretty frivolous indeed. Pair them with Easton R90SL or Stan's Grail rims and your tubeless wardrobe gets a big dose of "What's up NOW?!?" But the axle deal makes them kind of a non-starter. 

They also make a road hub that I think is called the HB505 (some sailors among you will know why that's such a cool number), and it's got the same exact deal - quick release only. Lame.

So if you want to use a Shimano disc hub with thru axles, why not just get their mountain bike hubs. Good idea, except it really doesn't work. I mean, the front will work just fine, so long as you have a 15mm axle (someone made me aware of a 12mm axle hub but I haven't found it). And so long as you want 32 or 36 hole lacing, which a lot of people don't. But the rear just ain't gonna work, because they don't do road 11 speed.

What's the difference between road and mountain 11 speed? Good question. Mountain 11 speed cassettes fit on road 10 speed cassette bodies. So a Shimano mountain cassette body is the same dimensions as the old 10 speed Shimano/SRAM cassette bodies. The difference is in the clearance, and to illustrate that I made an illustration. 

Road 11 speed cassette situationMountain bike 11 speed situationSo the reason why the mtb cassettes work, apart from the cassette actually fitting on the cassette body, is the increased space gained by having the big 36 and bigger inner cog on the cassette. That gives the drive side spokes more run to slope away from the cassette (and derailleur) and gain the requisite clearance.

Then there are other things like the fact that Ultegra hubs, which would otherwise be mint, don't come in anything below 32h. When the new Open Pro comes out we'll definitely do a build with that combo because that's like an iconic setup, but boy would it be cool if they made them in 24. Heck, even 28 would make them a heck of a lot more attractive. But then they'd run the risk of selling too many hubs and not enough built wheels, and the better game for them to be in is built wheels. A similar dynamic goes on with rim makers.

Anyway, as we're in the game of trying to figure out how to build better mousetraps, it's a shame that the mousetrap part that is the Shimano hub range gives such roadblocks. We'll keep trying, but ugh. Good thing there are so many other awesome choices. 

Thursday
Mar302017

Solving for X

Although we're struggling with how best to make them easy to order on our current site, we've been selling a lot of tires to go along with wheels lately. We think this is a great thing for several reasons.

First, with all of the stuff we've learned about wheels - widths, depths, aerodynamics, tension drop, stiffness, spoking, and all of the etcetera - it's hard not to come to the conclusion that being wheel builders and wheel sellers is as much about selling "tire holders" as it is selling wheels. 

Wheels can certainly augment the appropriateness of a tire to a certain use case, while similarly a wheel can really be the wrong match for any given tire. "What tires do you plan to use" has steadily crept up the pecking order of questions we ask when discussing a wheel purchase with a client. And similarly, there is always the "oh man, yuck, why would you buy wheels that great and use those tires on them?" (looking at you, Gatorskins) 

After we get through the consult that lets us come up with a wheel recommendation, if you hadn't come in with a tire in mind, we've almost certainly got a strong candidate in mind for you. Which is the foundation of our "Solving for X" mindset. 

A small subset of the solutions for "x"

Solving for "x" is simply an approach where we apply what we've learned in seven years of unhealthy obsessing about wheels and everything related to them plus just plain too much awareness of what's on the market, which tires have the best rolling resistance/had the best puncture resistance/have good durability/corner the best/blah blah blah to the question of getting you on the ideal combo. 

Not everyone has the same mission. Maximizing performance in crits is different than maximizing road race or gran fondo or certainly gravel grinder performance. It's overall "performance" rather than any single compenent of performance that counts, and that's where we think we can be the most help. 

We're happy to share our recommendations with you, but having us supply the tires works even better. For one thing, when we supply the tires, your wheels will get a final adjustment with your tires installed on them. Not that there are enormous differences o be made there, but there are small ones. The tires that you put on a wheel affect the wheel, as well as the reverse being true. 

perfectly adjusted and ready to go (except apparently sideways)

For another thing, it's pretty nice to just pull your wheels out of the box and be able to inflate them to final pressure (we ship them with minimal pressure) and go. Tubeless tires bought with wheels include valve, tire and sealant installation, while tubed tires go set up for tubed use. We can of course also supply cassettes and rotors installed to make things really really ready to go.

The more we learn, the more we learn just how freaking important tires are and how much benefit there is to be had from them, and we're excited to keep pursuing a total solution approach.

Friday
Mar242017

Easton's Excellent Rims

Without a lot of the fanfare that's accompanied many new rims onto the market, Easton has quietly muscled its way up the mountain to, or at least exceptionally near, the top of the component rim heap. With rims for every application for which we build, they're exceptionally high quality rims that we love building and are excited for people to use. They are available in Select and Select+, Select Disc, Select MTB, and Custom builds, and we also ship standalone rims. 

A knife for every fight

When we first started working with Easton rims about a year ago, they were a little bit of a tough sell even with their evident quality and great specs. Several people mentioned bad experiences with Easton hubs, and also trouble with lower spoke count builds that were marketed as being appropriate for really heavy riders. We understand the sentiment, but neither of those is at play here. And yes, we can get R90SL road rims in 20 hole. At first we couldn't but we've been stocking them and shipping them for a good long time now. 

So what do we like about them? Right in the front door, they're great looking. The finish is superb and the graphics are tasteful and removable (just like me). They're light enough but they're not trying to press it in a "hey look at me, I'm so light!" way that's going to wind up giving trouble down the road or trail. 

As a product lineup, they've got the use gamut covered. From road racing to fat bike, they've got a width and a diameter that makes perfect sense across the board. Totally complete product range. What might confuse you a little bit is that the mountain oriented stuff is branded RaceFace while the roadie stuff is Easton. Same company, same everything, it's just a continuation of brand heritage. 

A lot of builders out there are starting to consider the R90SL as - blasphemy, heresy, sacrilege - superior to the HED Belgium+. Not sure I can call it superior, but enough people will have heard me describe it as a peer and probably an equal. You really just don't see better made aluminum rims. And that goes right across the board to the other rims as well. I use a set of ARC24s on my cross country bike and ooh la la are they nice.

The R90SL is perfect for any kind of road use, from racing to touring to "groad" (h/t Caley Fretz, a portmanteau I can get on board with). It's also an excellent CX tubeless rim. For dedicated gravel and XC use, the ARC24 is our top recommendation. And then for burlier MTB uses it's a matter of matching width and diameter to your bike and tires. 

We have a bunch of Easton builds on the board (part of the reason that this will be shortish - we're slammed) in everything from R90SLs with T11s to R90SL disc with CLDs to ARC30s with I9 Boost hubs. I'm sure they'll all pop up on our Instagram feed so take a look there. 

Not that many wheel companies have seen the benefit of offering well made component rims for custom and semi-custom builds, but Easton has done it and we thank them for it. 

Wednesday
Mar222017

Colors of Spring

Two notable things happened yesterday: it was nice enough to ride outside (which I did), and during said ride I noticed the first crocuses out (which like any other child of the '80s I had to look it up because I thought it might be spelled "Krokus" - a hair metal band named after a colorful flower? Oh '80s, you were a supreme decade). So it's time for Colors of Spring. 

During Colors of Spring, wheels that don't normally have color choices (FSW3 and RFSW3) do, and all other wheels which would normally have an upcharge for color have no upcharge for color. 

Speaking of spring, it's spring. Ceramic RFSW3 builds sold out, then sold out again. However, now that the fur has flown and the dust has settled and the chickens have been counted, there is good availability of machined brake track versions of the RFSW3. Those are available for order and standard delivery, as well as being eligible for Colors of Spring.

Our initial stock of November by Novatec hubs have sold out, so for those of you looking for a good, basic, fully functional, durable, performance-oriented hub at a more budget friendly spot, we're offering Bitex RAF/RAR12 road hubs and Bitex 106F/106R centerlock rear hubs in the interim. Black 20/24 road hubs are November branded, while colored road hubs and disc hubs (available in black only) will have standard branding.

The new shop is fully functional, and pleasantly more functional than the old shop. Not only that, but it's a much more public-friendly space than the old one. While we don't foresee ever becoming a regular full-line bike shop, we are stocking a selection of stuff that "people like us" have trouble finding at the regular bike shop - specific stuff that savvy riders look for to make their bikes work better and go faster. Kind of a pro shop experience. Come visit when you're in Newport.

Along with that, our Parts and Pieces selection has filled out a ton and we're now offering tires, tubes, cassettes, rotors, an expanded selection of skewers, and other stuff (need second cup of coffee) that you can order along with your wheels. Anything ordered with wheels that fits in the box ships for free (can't think of anything that wouldn't fit in the box but, again, second cup of coffee), and anything that can be installed* comes installed - saving you the inconvenience and headache of having to do that. Plus we use torque wrenches and know what we're doing. 

Uncharasterically short one today, but these wheels ain't gonna build themselves so back at it.

*The only thing we know that can't be installed is a cassette on a wheel set that also has disc rotors installed - the wheels won't nest correctly in the box. So if you order rotors and a cassette, we'll include a cassette lockring tool, which also conveniently works with most rotor lockrings.

Friday
Mar172017

RFSW3: We got extra, who wants in?

Mr FedEx showed up with the shipment of Al33 rims for us to start building, and holy moly. They are incredible. The finish is just unbelievable, the graphics are as nice as HED Belgium graphics and more subtle, and the first two test rims I built tell me the next week or so is going to be full of very enjoyable builds. Awesome. 

Better than we'd hoped for.

This one time we did a pre-order and I botched the counting and oversold the order. It was about 5 years ago and still stings. I hate doing stuff like that. That's also a cover for my inability to count (so I'm in favor of maintaining NEA funding so Big Bird - or really The Count - doesn't get kicked out of his home on Sesame Street).

We weren't sure they'd include these graphics. We very very dig.

Anyhoo... we wound up with a few extra sets of ceramic RFSW3 rims. Whaddaya know about that? 20/24 only. And we have even limiteder availability of 20/24 machined sidewall builds. We don't expect either to last very long. Based on last time we had them open for order, by the time you read this you might be hosed (though that's probably pessimistic for you and optimistic for us).

Shrink your carbon footprint, raise your sexiness quotient.

There are those among you who will be thinking to yourself "but I ordered a set of 20/24 ceramic and was told I wouldn't get them until May!" Well, you're going to get them a lot sooner than that. 

As always, every one of these suckers is going to be hand built and checked, checked, and rechecked, and we're only going to ship the first pre-order orders out early next week. So you won't have them for your race on March 25th. But they'll be to you one heck of a lot earlier than we thought they'd be available. 

In any case, please order wheels because now I need to pay for remedial counting lessons.