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.
Sal and Scott – ThanksAndrew – I modestly agree (as the designer) that the Range is a great design. If you know someone who wants to buy the mold, it's for sale. But in all seriousness (the mold is seriously for sale) aluminum's disadvantages to carbon are I'd almost say vanishingly small, and its advantages are pretty compelling – one of which being that your scrimping and saving days are done. The price advantage to aluminum is profound.James – No I don't think aluminum will ever match carbon for ultimate aerodynamics. You can't make alloy rims that deep or they get f'd up when you roll the excursion into a rim. But by the time you're on the search for ultimate aerodynamics, you're probably sponsored and that sort of finite "win Kona" or "win the TT Worlds" level of aero has never been a product fit for us. The world buys the crap out of 303s, the world does not buy the crap out of 808s. And we'll have a much more definitive answer soon, but I'll go out on a limb and say that the aerodynamics you'll see from great alloy is very much at 303 level. So then what are you getting from carbon there? The AForce rims are some of the most enjoyable wheels I've ever ridden, perhaps the most enjoyable, and just from riding them around in circumstances with which I'm way too familiar, they are plenty fast. Christopher – I'm glad you love your Ranges and I'm glad you understand. We were worried about Range owners feeling that the rug had been pulled out from underneath them. And I think you're at a similar point to where I got in the process of winding up where my perspective is when we made this decision. I'm not anti-carbon at all, I'm just sort of over it. I'm no pro racer but I ride bikes a lot, what most would call fairly aggressively, and I really just came to notice myself being pulled toward using aluminum wheels more and more. The title of this blog is actually a very accurate articulation of my half of the decision – given all the pros and cons, I've moved beyond carbon and there is most definitely life beyond carbon.
Hi Scott -I understand your perspective, but I would suggest that you continue to enjoy your Rails without regard for whether they're an ongoing product or not. We'll have stock available to cover any warranty issues, so that's not a concern. To continue to sell Rails, Ranges, or any other product for which we qualify as "the manufacturer," which is any product that we import and sell that's from a company that does not have a domestic presence, the insurance costs are beyond prohibitive. If we divide the added insurance cost by the number of crash replacement wheels we've sold in the last 12 months, it would be several hundred dollars of insurance per. Neither we nor any other company can do that. I know no one believes that insurance is as big of an issue as it is, but our manufacturer policy is 11x the cost of our assembler policy. We don't have absolutely perfect solutions for crash replacement, but we have very good contingencies. As a customer, you're much better served with us making this move and staying enthusiastically in the wheel business than by us saying "what kind of idiot hitches his wagon to the bike industry? We're out." And there is not one person who bought carbon wheels after this decision was made. As soon as we started seriously considering it, affected wheel products were listed as out of stock, and any inquiries were given full scale of what was going on. Products go in and out of production every day, companies go in and out of business every day. We are not abandoning anyone.Dave
I normally enjoy reading Dave's blogs but was really concerned when I read this one. I have only had my Rails for a few months but absolutely love them. How much will I will enjoy them now that is it is uncertain if replacement rims will be available for crash replacement? Wrecking wheels does happen, I've done it. I can't imagine being left with one good wheel and trying to match it with some other manufacturers rim. As totally thrilled as I am with my Rails, if I would have had even the slightest inkling November was going to discontinue their carbon rims there is no way I would have purchased them.I would ask November to please not abandon the customers that have had faith in you and your products and continue a crash replacement program for the Rails.Thanks,Scott
Yup, of course. Got tons of them.
So there will be no more "November" branded products? Is the frame still alive?