We've been talking a bit about the alloy rim brake rim market tightening up lately, and it looks like one of our greatest fears may come to pass - we think the Belgium+ is going away. HED hasn't announced it, and they probably won't. That doesn't seem to be the way they do these things. But we noticed that the 32h had slipped away a while ago when it went out of stock and had no restock ETA, and then finally was taken off the order page. Now the 28h is in the same spot. We just ordered a stash of 20 and 24h rims to have some for orders, but once those are gone we don't know.
This leaves us in a bit of a spot. Easton R90s are available for the time being (although the forecast for those is a little grim). Boyd Altamonts and Altamont Lites are still around, although the drillings are getting a bit limited especially in ceramic (not really ceramic). Al33s have pretty much left the building except in super limited supply.
The Astral Radiant slots in nicely in the Al33 and Boyd Altamont spot - 32mm deep, 20mm internal, that same ~500g rim weight, and Astrals are nicely made. Pricing is in line with Easton. We'll be building pages for that this week.
This unfolding situation was what precipitated the introduction of the Rail 55. There are still a lot of rim brake bikes out there, and people who own them want good wheels for them. DT Swiss has a few rims worth looking at, and Velocity makes the Quill. When the Quill was originally introduced, and I hate to say this, it was a terrible rim. Too light, extrusion irregularities, wobbly under spoke tension - just a bad scene. To their credit, they recognized it and changed the extrusion, and then relaunched it. By then we'd move along from giving it a slot, simply because there were more good rims out there than we could support. How times change.
We've talked about some pretty big moves, one of which is doing a kickstarter to produce our own alloy rim. The problem with that is that our audience just isn't that huge. The typical minimum quantities we've been quoted are like 2 years worth of alloy rim brake wheel sales, and that's rolling all the varieties we sell into one. There's also the small fact that hitting the green light now (which we're miles away from ready to do) probably gives us rims to sell in like a year. People have expressed more desire for choice, but maybe that wanes in favor of having something really good at the ready.
And then the other possibility is carbon. We recently did a special order 25mm deep front wheel build for a Rail 52 customer who wanted a very shallow wheel for breezy days, and I have to admit the thing was dead sexy. It's narrower on the inside (but wider on the outside) than a Belgium+, but again all of the things that support the Rail 55 keeping a slightly narrower inner width apply there. The risk is that people see the specs and think "finally that carbon climbing rim I've been dreaming of" and, to beat this dead horse, there is no carbon rim brake rim on the market that is meant to take the flogging of inelegant braking down big hills. None. We have some limited ability to filter this, but already with the Rail 55 we're getting a bunch of "and how does this deal with brake heat?" questions. "About as well as any other good rim" is the answer, which is to say that there is almost not a situation where I could smelt one. That's not applicable to everyone.
So, we've got a lot on tossing this bomb back and forth between ourselves, and we'll try and get to a good solution soon.
Jamie – The problem is you have to buy a kazillion of them to get the pricing that big users like Hunt get. And for us that means putting all of our chips on that bet, where variety has always been something that people like from us. They’re also quite good rims, but simply they’re not a lot of these rims that we’ve gotten used to. The alloy is a bit softer, the braking is a bit mushier and they wear a bit quicker. They’re good rims, just not what we’d bet the farm on, and in order to play against the mass-produced stuff, we’d have to bet the farm on them.
Nate G – Only the rim brake ones are going away, so the Eroica and the Belgium+ both cover disc. I don’t see standard Belgium having the draw that the + did, it’s not tubeless, it’s somewhat unfashionably narrow, and we haven’t sold more than a set or three a year since about a year after the Belgium+ came out. The 32h standard is gone already, too. They may just be running them out.
Google da Boogle – Rim brakes aren’t going away I don’t think, but I bet we’ve seen the last Dura Ace rim brake brake update. Perhaps others down to like Tiagra level, too. I don’t know. The thing that gets me is that as rim selection narrows, someone with a great product can pick up a lot of slack. Hence, our kickstarter idea.
JLP – Well, notice that I didn’t call it a Rail 25 because there is no Rail 25. And definitely not a full range of Rails – we’re not stocking four depths. The thought of two is already giving us the sweats a little bit.
Appendage – You missed a key word there – inelegant. Also the “that’s not applicable to everyone” rejoinder. At 165, and a very confident descender who is able to smoke most people I ride with down road descents, yeah I really can’t see me burning up a carbon clincher. I never did in like 6 or 7 years of riding them daily, and the tech wasn’t as good as it is now for most of that. I’ve gone down some of the East Coast’s toughest descents on them time and time again, but I’ve studied how to brake, I don’t weigh all that much, I go fast enough that the wheels get a bunch of cooling, and I DO NOT allow myself to “get stuck” behind slow moving cars. I either pass the car or pull over and wait until I have a clearer run. So yeah, I could ride Rail 55s every day until they wear out and then lace up a new pair and do the same, without ever cooking one. But that’s not applicable to everyone…
You say there is not carbon rim brake rim that can take the flogging…then you say about the Rail 55 that there is almost not a situation where you could smelt one. So confused.
Special order for a 25mm deep Rail? Can you tell us more? Does this mean we will see a range of Rails going forward?
Wow…no place in “the market” for what is often recognized as the best specimen among alloy rim-brake rims? I wonder at what point “rim brakes” themselves will just cease to exist as options in the top-echelon group sets? There’s just something about the simple elegance and functionality of a nice rim brake caliper. I would hate to see them thrown into the scrap-heap of (not really) obsolete technology. Of course, I felt the same way about quill stems and these days none of my bikes has one of those on it. Things change, I guess, whether we want them to or not.
I presume this is because the eroica meets the disc brake rim need and the standard Belgium rim continues on, right?