2020 plans and predictions

I have to "ok, boomer" myself for using this image. We got into this YouTube thing that started with Eddie Murphy on SNL and it wound up with a whole lot of Johnny Carson clips and holy cow it was hilarious.

Anyhoo...

As I think we've said before, 25 is the new 20. HED has finally launched the Eroica rim a year and change after it was first announced (our collection of builds with them is here), White Industries is beginning to ship their G25A (we'll build out product sections very soon), rumors of a new Boyd rim are strong (okay, stronger than strong), and there will probably be others before too long. All of these are 25mm internal alloy rims, intended for the wider (call it 36 to 47mm) gravel tires that the hip kids all use these days. 

It's a good thing we had that blossom of really good rim brake rims 3 or so years ago. The Al33s, Boyd Altamonts, and Easton R90SLs all came out in relatively short order, to complement the already there and already fantastic HED Belgium+. I say it's a good thing, because the rim brake rim reached a design apex just before it became time for all the rim makers to bail on further development. The market has moved so quickly away from rim brakes, it's freaky. We still sell a good fair number of them, for sure, and I think we will for some time to come, but that idle "I wonder when we will start selling more disc wheels than rim brake wheels" thought has passed its sell-by date by like about two years. 

Something which became a big topic in a hurry is warranty and crash replacement. A few manufacturers made the move to increase warranty to 5 years or lifetime or whatever, and also shifted to very low cost or even free crash replacement. We thought, and think, it's a gimmick, but we were asked to respond to it more and more immediately than we'd expected. I recall a customer asking if the wheel he'd recently crashed could be re-rimmed for free because that's the way the market had moved. In my mind I thought "well, yeah, if we can go back in time and more than double the price you paid for the wheels in order to match what other brands are banking in order to support this program*, then sure." In my email I wrote that we'd be happy to do it for a very reasonable cost, though given the tenor of the original inquiry (which felt a small bit like gunpoint) I wasn't surprised that it fell flat.

*I wrote that other brands charge bank to support the huge warranty and crash replacement programs, but it's reversed - the warranty and crash replacement programs justify the fat prices you pay. I'd hope it's evident that we can't keep charging the same amount and then just include free crash replacement. That's insane, as that would go a long way toward negating the margin we make on the original sale. No. Thank. You. And we don't think all customers are well served by us charging them an expensive insurance policy against something that's not that super likely to occur, nor do we think that the moral hazard created by "free" (there is no real "free" anything in the world) crash replacement is sane. Nonetheless, it's something we need to think more about. Our carbon disc brake rim vendor has offered us an enhanced warranty proposal, which we're batting back and forth. Again, there's no "free."

This is not an easy business. Trying to differentiate yourself in a crowded market, where people come in with more enthusiasm than planning, and a worrying level of comfort with building a brand (bro!) at a loss and figuring out how to make money later (narrator - they never make money later) isn't a layup. Instagram doesn't recognize the slow methodical work of trying to master quality. We just don't have time (which, to beat a dead horse here, ain't free) to capture those "magic hour" moments, and we're not going to raise your prices so a bunch of hipsters can be brand ambassadors and provide absolutely nothing of value to you. Ok, boomer, indeed. Each passing year sees some culling of the herd, and 2019 took some pretty significant scalps (and one to which I will admit no small amount of personal schadenfreude) in the wheel and bike business. That's probably a trend that will extend this year. 

At root, we plan to steer straight and make only those adjustments needed to stay on our general course. It's served us well for over a decade, now (see what I did there?) so we'll just stick with that. 


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  • Dave on

    Thanks, Trey!

  • Trey on

    I wanted to speak up and let you know that I am a customer for a lot of reasons, but the big one is value for the dollar. Sub-$1300 sexy wheel…I’ll take two (sets). I “need” a fast and cost effective crash replacement more than I need endless free rims/spokes/labor for double the price. The psychology of thinking a set of wheels at double the price is justified for lifetime crash replacement is a frightening proposition, I don’t want to ride around people who rationalize that as cost-effective, lol.
    I also noticed something interesting when I showed-up with the Sex Panther™ All-Road 50s…the rich guys quit razzing me about rolling a wheel without Enve, Zipp, or Extralight stickers on them; they weren’t snubbed as “China-carbon”. The All-Road wheel is November’s ticket to the employee Lamborghini bonus.

  • Dave on

    Hi Julien -

    Thanks for the note, good to have allies out there, although I have to cop to not being an actual boomer. More of a Gen X. Good luck in 2020!

    Dave

  • Julien J Meissonnier on

    Dave,
    As another Boomer wheel builder, that prides himself in building wheels that are the right fit for my customers at a reasonable price and also that the value comes from a combination of good advice, smart choice of components, quality building technique and reliable service and support. I enjoy the depth of knowledge from your blog and quite often, when looking for input while considering build options, your blog pops up in my searches with exactly the kind of considerations I am looking for.
    In a world, where there are a lot more “wheel sticker designers” than “wheel builders”, it is refreshing to read from someone that does not pretend that neither sticking a fancy label on a Kinlin or Carbon rim nor laser engraving a batch of Bitex hubs, justifies calling it “our new proprietary bla bla…” nor doubling its price while counting on the gullibility of customers…
    Wishing you a successful 2020.

  • dave on

    Hi Phillip – It’s in the plans. We’re waiting for one that we know of and possibly another new rim before doing another rim roundup for all of these.

    Our time with both the WI and the HED is really limited to date, and you’re right they are certainly more similar than different. We’ve encouraged people to make choices between similar excellent products along aesthetic and brand-affinity lines for a while now, and at first look this new crop continues that trend.



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