Beyond Carbon

Over the last year, we’ve been developing a decision which goes into effect tomorrow. Which is that as of tomorrow, we’re discontinuing our carbon rim lineup. There is a confluence of factors that goes into this. I’ll briefly explain them.

The biggest objective factor is the cost of insurance. Directly importing products of any sort generally puts you in a more expensive category, but the proper coverage for importing carbon increases that cost well over tenfold. [EDIT 10/6 8:20p - That sentence should have read better. Being in the "manufacturer" category takes your insurance up the first huge amount, carbon just takes it up higher]. Obviously we’re not going to sell wheels that leave you or us exposed if something goes wrong, but the economics of things as they are just don’t stack up.

Another part of it is production control. If domestic production was available (we’ve tried, hard), carbon still wouldn’t be easy but it would be manageable. As it is, with our production geographically, linguistically, chronologically, and culturally as far away as it could be on this planet, we don’t have the level of supply chain control that we want.

This isn't to say that all carbon rims are bad, and in no way is it to say that the carbon rims we've sold have been bad. All told, we've had a good record. But there are still serious limitations to carbon. As heat resistance improves, brittleness increases. Heat resistant resins are much more finicky in the molding process and generate much more scrap. Disc brake rims have no need of high heat resins and can significantly benefit from not using them, but that introduces complexity into the manufacturing process (keeping two lines separate) that a) we don't foresee any companies actually doing and b) if they do, the record keeping and shop floor process to ensure that doesn't get messed up aren't things to take for granted. We've never been able to reconcile the fact that bad technique and the wrong hill can overdome even pretty extraordinary heat resistance. Does physics offer a warranty? And heat is far from the only risk with carbon. 

The changes in the aluminum rim landscape over the past few years have been as profound as those in the carbon landscape, albeit with several orders of magnitude less promotion and hoopla around them. We’ve simply come to the conclusion that once you get past the “ooooohhhhh, carbon!” thing, aluminum clincher rims are simply the better choice for nearly every application (if you’re going for the TT worlds, carbon’s a good choice). 

As a small company, we have to focus on those areas where we can add profound value. At some point, it was inevitable that we’d have to choose between being a “products” company and being a “service” company. We’ve got some great stuff happening on the products side, but really we’re a service company. Between our product experience and expertise, our profound wheel building skill, and the awesome array of components we use, we’re comfortable stating baldly that we feel we offer the best value, execution, and service that you can find. You may be looking for carbon for the sake of carbon, in which case we'll have to part ways. But if you're looking for an insane set of wheels for your actual purpose, built with extreme skill and care and delivered at exceeding value, you're in the right place. 

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For my next set of wheels, you guys are still unquestionably my first choice!!


I completely understand, Dave. Don't worry, when I need new shoes, we'll be in touch. I have nothing against aluminum!


AC – I think it has nothing to do with road versus mtb. Insurance underwriters generally aren't going to understand or have the authority/ability to categorize that finely. Either those guys do pay a lot of money, or they've found less expensive proper coverage than we ever had, or their sales and business – being exclusively in the carbon game – justify it, or they don't have the proper coverage. Any one (or more, I guess – currently reading a book on Venn Diagrams) could be the case.Phil Liggett – They're going to have to dig into their suitcases of courage a little harder now! Salvatore – It just gets to a certain point in the calculus. Glad you love the wheels. PC Mtn – Yeah, lots of thought, lots of experience, lots of money, lots of success, lots of frustration – the whole kitchen sink goes into this deal.

Dave Kirkpatrick

Wow, I'm shocked! I was prepared to buy a second set of Rails in the future. But I'm sure you're doing what's best for your company and put a lot of thought into this. If I buy alloy rims it'll be from you guys.

PC Mountain

They are aluminium… and there is nothing wrong with that!Dave, for aerodynamic purposes, do you forsee aluminum going deeper, to Rail depth, or have other factors mitigated the benefit of 50ish deep wheels?Also, November's decision seems super solid after the AForce hoops you recently wrote about. The advances in aluminum production of frames has taken major advances in the last couple of years. Seems reasonable these advances, combined with brake track technology gains, make their way to wheels.Don't call it a comeback! Aluminum for life! CAAD 10 aint no joke!


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