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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  • Phillip on

    Gee, thanks Autocorrect.

  • Phillip on

    Dave,

    At some point I’d love to see you take a comparison between the erotica and g25a. I’m sure they are both great rims, but apart from the offset on g25a they seem mighty similar from the other side of the interwebs.

    I’m also curious to know if you think these rim dimensions are getting too wide for cyclocross racing (making tyres illegal, or other issues). Certainly the older Belgium+ has been top notch in that application.

    P.

  • Dave on

    Thanks, Ryan! That’s really nice of you to say. HNY and good luck in 2020 to you, too.

  • RyanBuildsWheels on

    Just wishing November all the success you folks deserve for 2020 from Bristol, UK.

    As another group of wheelbuilders who value honesty and straight talking coupled with doing the very best we can for our customers (and being intensely aware of how challenging running a business can be at times: we’re with you!), your blog always brings me joy to dip into and helps to remind that we’re not the only one’s who are walking the minefield that can be the bike industry at times!

    A huge thanks for your continuously candid writing.
    R> X

  • Dave on

    Dave – Thanks!
    Steve – Great, now we have to live up to THAT expectation! (jk)
    Joe – Can’t make it up
    Curious – Nope. The guy behind it was an pompous ass and that’s what I have to say about that.



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