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A trip to the service department

The room in which I now sit is as close as it gets to our sales department, service department, purchasing department, marketing department, etc. There's not much to see here except a desk, a printer, some filing stuff, a bunch of binders, and adjunct rim storage, so I don't think anyone wants to visit here. But a guy took a trip to a car dealer's service department the other day and tweeted some interesting things ab out it, which I thought would be a fun discussion. 

I don't want to get too literal or specific, but this was a luxury car dealership and it was a close relative's car. Why exactly he was there for two-plus meals worth of time is a good question, but it's left unanswered. 

"ALL THE FREE COFFEE!!!" "They're bringing out FREE wraps for lunch!" "Bowls of FREE Kind bars." All nice stuff, to be sure, but despite his inclusion of "FREE" at every turn, was any of it actually, you know, free?

When you drop the huge coin on a car, the country club experience is part of the bargain, for which you pay. Many people take advantage of it, but I'm sure that "many" in this case is a word that doesn't mean anything close to "everyone." But everyone who buys such a car pays for it. The dealer's margins are no worse for giving away all this "free" stuff, in fact there's a pretty good chance that their margins are better for giving away all this "free" stuff. There are many pockets in the corporate pants from which this "free" stuff could be paid - sales, marketing, service, G&A, whatever - but those pants and pockets are entirely funded by customers.  

There are many dealerships where they don't roll out a Thanksgiving feast on white linen every day. When I most recently bought a car, as I recall there was a bowl of Jolly Ranchers in the customer lounge. We bought a car and paid for a car, which came with a quite good ownership experience, but it wasn't like all of a sudden we'd joined Congressional, by which approximately 93.7% of DC group rides pass.

Sorry, no free wrap sandwiches

Mike and I try to give each of our customers a great experience. That experience includes all of our knowledge and insights, which we are more than happy to share. It includes the delivery of a product at least as good as what you thought you were getting, and all of the attendant accessories as noted. If the product fails to satisfy in any way, it includes our furious effort to make things right. We also try to include as much candor, humor, panache, and witty repartee as we can muster. If you see us at an event and you're over 21, you're also likely to walk away with the best beer you'll have that week. But that's about it for "free," because doing so otherwise would mean we have to add price or subtract product, simple as that. 

Take our $585 FSWs with White Industries hubs, Sapim Lasers, and Kinlin XC279 rims. We've priced these wheels in order to give you an absolutely premier set of wheels at the lowest possible price. We're making enough to cover cost of goods and overheads (which we keep low), and to be able to swiftly and effectively respond to any issues which have a super low chance of arising anyhow, and to make enough money to make it worth while. The price also reflects an opportunity to use sales to balance inventory. But they don't come with soigneur service or a follow car - you'll have to bring a banana and change your own flats. 




An Alloy Awakening

Yesterday, I got a message from a friend, to whom we are about to deliver a set of FSWs with a Powertap, in which she asked if it was weird that she was so psyched to have a new set of alloys. This is nearly in the same breath as when she'd told me she had ridden her Rail 34s outside for the first time in a long time (this winter has SUCKED) and how she'd fallen in love with them all over again. Some women like shoes, I guess...

Anyhow, in our professional opinions, there is categorically nothing wrong with being psyched on alloys. I've been on a set of T11/Grail/Laser road disc wheels, set up tubeless, since the Arizona trip. Couldn't be much happier with them. 

Alloy wheels are often an afterthought, or relegated to the wayback machine, with up to date alloy rims not getting their due at all. As we've proven, today's alloy rims are more than aerodynamically competent, and when spec'd, spoked, and built correctly can have stiffness on par with carbon for a small weight penalty. 

At this point, we wouldn't be here were it not for carbon and our Rail wheels. They're awesome, we love them, they continue to make tested and proven world class performance accessible to a huge number of people. But we also have a ton of love for a great set of alloys. Whether disc or rim brake, the options available today are fantastic.

And then there's the price. For example, starting today, we're doing a special run of FSW23 wheels with White Industries T11s, Sapim Lasers, and Kinlin XC279 rims, all in black, in 24/28 or 28/32, for $585 plus shipping. This is only possible with an absolutely standardized build, but what you get for that price is quite astonishing - investment grade hubs, world class spokes, one of the most well regarded rims around, and 100% hand built here by us. 



Pretty Standard, Really... or Fricking Lasers

Whenever you're stumped for a blog title, Dr Evil can reliably get you out of a jam. James Huang, aka the Angry Asian, seems like he wants to see all of the new "standards" placed in a burlap bag and beaten. Admittedly, all of these new "standards" makes ordering a "standard" set of wheels a bit ore complicated. With the increasing popularity of disc wheels (still in the minority, but way way less so than ever before), it's not so easy to build wheels for stock and ready shipping. The color choices are always going to be the color choices, but with two popular axle choices for front and rear, it gets even a bit more complex. We'd sure hoped that one format would win out, but now there's even a new front format coming out so it looks like we're moving in the wrong direction there.  

One of the things we've sort of been dragged along with is the use of CX Rays for every application. They're great spokes, but it's seemed maybe a bit overblown to use them as pervasively as gets done. Does a 28/32 "do everything" set of alloys really benefit from CX Rays? Does that set in 24/28 really benefit from them for that matter? This came to a real head for me as I was recently building up a set of road disc wheels for myself - on which I chose to use Lasers in a decision that felt less like a decision and more like the obvious right thing to do. All of my personal mountain bike and cross wheels use Lasers, which seems an awfully great reason for us to be using them more pervasively.  

When we measured CX Rays versus Lasers at the A2 wind tunnel a while ago, we found a measurable but small difference between the two. Used in a wheel like a Rail, this difference is worth the price of entry. In a wheel with a less significant aerodynamics mandate, the cost of CX Rays becomes a bit harder to justify. If your wheel set has 52 spokes, the retail cost of your spokes (at $3/per) starts to approach or possibly exceed that of your rims, and matches the cost of many Asian OEM hubs. 

Lasers and CX Rays are the same weight. CX Rays have some cycle fatigue and ultimate breaking strength advantages that are incredibly unlikely to ever come into play in the lifespan of your wheels. Dirty little secret - CX Rays are easier to build with. So at some point, it starts to feel like you're paying a bunch of extra money to make the wheel builder's life easier and not getting a whole heck of a lot in return. So in our new standard alloy wheel set, Lasers will be the norm. There will be a CX Ray option, and they will both be tremendous values, but picking up the Laser flag once again seems like a wonderful decision. 

I've just used a phrase "new standard alloy wheel set." Huh? Yeah, the cat is struggling with the bag, but we're going to have to keep him in there for a tiny bit more. What we can say is that, having grown this little endeavor with an ever-increasing number of people choosing custom options, a standard wheelset offers some great advantages for us. A build that needs no specific planning, made out of parts that are easy to keep on hand, and able to be built both during planned runs and whenever there isn't another build on the board, that's a huge advantage to us in keeping things rolling. And you will share in that advantage. Sorry to be a tease. More soon.



Time and Place

An eye-opening article in this week's Economist (I could link it but you'd be in front of a paywall about 2 sentences in) about corporate HQs in Silicon Valley makes this a good time to talk about our new office. 

For the last year, we've been operating in two states: Mike remains in MD, while I've been in RI since last winter. The riding- and racing culture around DC has been wonderful to be a part of, but my entire family and many life-long friends live in RI, so when I had the chance to move back, I took it. This adds a wrinkle to how Mike and I do what we do, but the way our roles split makes that aspect pretty painless. 

On the other hand, having a work space that's 100% committed to allowing November's operations to flow as smoothly and effectively as possible has introduced efficiency and - I think you'd have to call it joy - that lets things work better than they ever have. In our case, place creates time that supports our mandate to keep overhead as low as possible. 

It doesn't hurt when this is the course for your Tuesday Night Worlds

A palacial monument to ourselves will never be us (in line with The Economist's view), but neither would some cinder block bunker in an industrial wasteland. Our operations base is actually a perfect reflection of November's soul - efficient, small, human, colorful, and slightly quirky. You'd also have to throw hand built in there. It's a story of value and values - just like in your wheels, you want something that absolutely works the part, and looks the part, but gives a big middle finger to what most of the world is telling you costs the part. 

There's still a ton of moving dust and the time of the year means that some work on the place takes a decided back seat to getting orders out the door. And ongoing struggles with the switch to a new phone mean that most of the pictures are inaccessible at the moment, but what better time to follow us on Instagram and see the pictures we've posted there?

Apart from the office, we've got one more piece of ultra exciting product news that's a bit too premature to talk about. Don't you hate teasers like that?



Picture Pages

So we've kind of been on the rivet as far as getting everything built and out the door, without much time for our usual erudition. Lots of things going on beyond, as well - a new corporate address, some really neat product stuff, long term projects with some suppliers coming to fruition. Life is, indeed, a rich pageant. It's also a frozen pageant at the moment. Anyhow here are some pictures.

People are getting on board the color train. Love it. These live in FL now.

Actually, these also live in FL now.

These live on the left coast. Everyone's warmer than me.

Scarlett came to stay for a few days

Paul, caught in the act of winning life. On Mt Lemmon. He and I actually even made it rain out there.

All work and no play makes Dave a dull boy.We're in this "kaizen" mode, trying to make continual improvements all around. It's working out. Happy with the work we're shipping now, but striving to do better all the time. 

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