If you haven't yet figured it out, this "brief" history is no longer very brief.
As 2016 drew to a close, we put ourselves in the position of no longer selling any wheels with carbon rims. Our mix was still heavily skewed toward rim brake wheels, and the machinery of the bike industry at large was in full rip convincing people that carbon rim brakes were perfectly safe for all people in all circumstances, no need to worry.
The foil to that story was the huge number of articles and debate about which rims withstood heat the best, and you know - when there's THAT much conversation around an issue and it won't go away, there's probably something there. Carbon rims had been an important part of our story, and by and large the experience for customers was great, but the "safe for all people in all circumstances" piece had revealed its fallacy. We wrote about doubts we had as to the viability of carbon at all in this piece - and a note on that is that I now disagree with my then-stance on hookless. Hook molding has become quite a bit more reliable than what we saw then, and they leave you the option of using any tires you want.
Anyway, there we were, having chopped out the product category that made up somewhere near half of our business. Would we survive? Spoiler alert - we did. A number of things came together at the right time, and it worked. First, we had a golden era of alloy rim products. There were actually more good alloy rim options than we could realistically support as primary product offerings. But the ones that we did - Boyd Altamont, HED Belgium+, AForce Al33, Easton R90SL - did such a good job and offered so much as products that we barely skipped a beat. The ceramic options from Boyd and AForce meant that people could get the look of carbon, at similar all up weight to aerodynamically equivalent wheels, and worry nothing about riding their brakes however much they wanted. The Belgium+ proved to be just about as good a rim as could be made, and the R90SL wasn't far behind.
We insisted that if AForce was going to spout off about how their rims were such aero hot shots, that they prove this in the wind tunnel. The results were pretty shocking, as we discussed here and in subsequent posts. Clearly, there was little to no penalty there. And in 2017, we sold just and absolute ton of Al33 builds. That was such a good rim for us, but the others weren't far behind, and gradually the HED Belgium+/White Industries T11 build became (and remains) our number 1 alloy rim brake build (for good reason).
Sadly, that golden era has closed. AForce never really hit stride as a company, though they are still going in reduced ways. They pissed the US distributor off with delivery and communications shenanigans, and lost that outlet. By the time this all happened, we could do nothing but sympathize with the US distributor's position and agreed. Boyd did very very well with the Altamont and Altamont Lite (Altamont in particular) but the process of getting good ceramic rims proved over time to be more than they wanted to go through. They're retooling a new alloy rim to be launched imminently (though without ceramic options), which we're psyched about, but in the meantime we have a dwindling stash of ceramic Altamonts. If you want some, get some. HED is discontinuing the Belgium+ rims over time, though they're still available except for 32h. Easton is done with the R90 for rim brakes, and the disc model seems to be out, too.
Let's not let the close of this era diminish it, though. It was a lot of fun to build so so many great alloy builds, and to buck the general BS and prove a great alternate path. I would call us exceptionally risk tolerant with the business, which gives us huge latitude to make the moves that we think are best with diminished regard for their commercial viability, and if they work they work. This part of our history was the ultimate example of that, and thriving through this part of our journey is almost without question the period of November of which I am most proud.
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Jim – Wear wouldn’t cause a hop. Generally wear smooths brake tracks out if anything. Hops are cause by inconsistent wall thickness of the brake track (tire pressure pushes out unevenly), bad joints, or dents. As mentioned, we rejected some Al33 rims with weird joints and I can’t recall doing so with Boyds, but as also mentioned these are VERY similar rims, manufacture wise. I’d bet long dough they’re made in the same place.
More important point is that anytime a product we supply doesn’t perform at least as well as expected, let us know so we can do something about it.
Jon – Do you recall if the AL33’s thumped from day one?
Dave – Is the likely cause inconsistent wear of the coating over time? I would think any factory pin or coat issues would have been detected at the final truing stage, yes?
Jon, I have a Velocity Offset Aerohead rear wheel that thumps (not from November), it is incredibly annoying and makes it a no-go for me as well.
No worries Dave. My Al33’s from November while a shorter lifespan than desired served a purpose. The hubs are still good and plan to give them to a local bike org. Have a great weekend.
Interesting. Definitely not in line with our experience, and construction of the rims is remarkably similar (joining is the same). We rejected a few Al33s for bad joints, which is about quality assurance throughout the value chain.
In any case, it’s a moot point now since the ceramic era is closed again. We look forward to the new Boyd rims, shouldn’t be much longer per their timeline.
Having both Altamont and AL33 coated rim brake versions:
- AL33 front and back thumped hard when braking (pinning joint?). The Altamont’s are smooth braking
- AL33 special coating wore off to 50% by 5,000 miles. The Altamont’s at 5,000 miles there was a couple small spots of the AL surface showing. The Altamont’s at 5,000 miles had much harder braking from descending significantly more than the AL33s
For me the AL33 thumping is a ‘no go’ for riding down mountains as it does not inspire confidence. The wheels now sit in a closet collecting dust. Just one persons experience.