1mm per year

Since we've been in business, the internal width of rims we sell has grown almost 1mm per year on average. Smaller internal widths have never regained popularity, and each new threshold seems a mere way station en route to even wider rims. Have rim widths now gotten to where they've been going?

In about 2014, I remember having internet "discussions" with people who didn't believe that the rim's effect on the tire could influence ideal inflation pressure, or that the rim's influence on the tire could influence rolling resistance. Those debates are all thankfully settled, but they were more or less debates about road tires for road use. How we ride bikes, and the bikes we ride, has changed quite a bit in even the short time since then.

Not many would have seen the rise in gravel riding and racing. All at once it went from this fringe thing that didn't get much credit to like everything and then some. And there are a lot of reasons for that, but simply that kind of riding is where a lot of the light and the heat is, and 23mm road tires (seems like I'm talking about dinosaurs, right?) work best with a different rim than a 42mm gravel tire, which is how you get to wheels with rims that work awesomely with what people are riding today, that can fully swallow the rims that people were using then. 

Observers of the great circularity of things could have seen the current mountain bike up-phase. Mountain bikes "killed road" in the early 90s, and then road (and Lance Armstrong) "killed mountain biking" in the late 90s. And then cross killed them both in the early aughts, when mountain biking hadn't yet recovered and everyone was taking road too seriously (and taking a bunch of things to help them take road too seriously). And then cross got too serious, and now mountain biking is having its next moment. Mountain bike wheels, as a category, have taken off like a shot for us. But even within the category, where 25mm internal was "holy cow" wide 5 years ago, it's "too narrow" now. Tires have gotten wider, and tire model designs have also started to account for wider rims. 

So again, has this all gotten to where it's been headed? Have we arrived? There's no way to say, but I'm inclined to say that the frenetic and vast changes are past, and we'll see shading differences for a while. Maybe I'm wrong and in 5 years we'll revert and all these wide tires and rims will seem like outdated silliness, or they'll seem just as quaintly narrow as 14mm internal width road rims do now, but I don't think so. 

 


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  • Jon on

    Sane thoughts in an insanely competitive industry. I think you are getting a lot out of your MBA training.

  • Christian on

    I always enjoy your posts, keep it up.

  • Chris on

    As you’ve mentioned in previous posts, 1 bike with multiple wheelsets is great. And going over 28-30mm tire width for general every day road riding starts to compromise agility and nimbleness too much, so I would guess wheels with external widths of 32-34mm would be ideal for most road riding with 28-30mm tires.

    And anything beyond that for true gravel riding will run the gamut.


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