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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Jaeill – We appreciate your support and we understand your feelings, but it's an absolute ton of work to make not much money at something that our philosophical enthusiasm for has waned. Rails haven't ever gotten their due as being really competitive aerodynamically within their category, as well as being "out of category" easy to handle. I don't know why. If, as we are so often accused of doing, we just bought Rail rims out of a catalog, no sweat we could just hot swap to another vendor whenever an order got held up or whatever, but that's not how it is. And at the volumes where we've sort of plateaued, the insurance is just an absolute skinning (see above re: not making much money). Richard – Fundamentally, no. There will be no more November branded products until further notice. There will be stuff with out name on it, but as when we've done that before, you'll know what products they are – not like all these other places that have 19 different "proprietary" alloy rims and "proprietary" hubs that are OEM hubs you can spot a mile away. There is plenty of OEM stuff worth working with, but nothing's worth lying about. The frame more or less died of natural causes. We made a nice run of them, I believe that everyone who owns one is madly in love with it (I know that I still am with mine two years on), but interest has waned. And again, what we thought was the self-evident value of a full-blooded S-r-o frame with a graphic scheme that still causes me to get stopped with a "wow, what is that? It's great looking" every time I ride, for whatever reason it didn't strike a broader chord. It struck enough of a chord to make it fun and worth doing, but as an ongoing business it's not viable. And the manufacturer has nominal representation in the US so the couple of frames we have left are still salable.


DaveThere isn't even a whiff of malice from my last comment. I am sorry you perceived it that way. There does seem to be a change of messaging now that you no longer have a wheel that competes with a 404, which you set as the benchmark when designing the Rail.From how I read these posts, it sounds to me that the Range has found an adequate replacement in the Al33 rim. The Rail has not, and it sounds like an aluminum replacement is not feasible. The real question for those looking for something like the Rail is how the Al33 compares to a 404 rim, and not a 303 rim.


Hi Joe -I think you need to give these blogs a little bit of a closer read. We discontinued the 34 because we didn't feel it served the use case for which it was designed as well as simpler and much less expensive builds do, builds which have alloy braking.The 52 and Range are being discontinued because they cause our insurance to be 11x what it is without them, the supply chain input required of us is massive, alloy rim options are ever more attractive, and the daily deluge of "50% off brand new this year's model carbon wheels" emails means that 52 sales are getting crowded, while we are probably a bit ahead of market with Range. Per my other comment, I don't understand the malice but if you choose to approach it that way, so be it. Dave


Why are now using the 303 to 808 comparison when your whole marketing of the Rail was to compare it to the 404?You discontinued the 34s because you couldn't justify the benefit compared to the Rail 52. Now that you are discontinuing the Rails, you are now touting the benefits of a 33 mm deep rim? Are you now suggesting that the benefits of the Rail were largely overblown and the need for a 52 mm deep rim were over exaggerated? Lastly, if I wanted to a new set of wheels to replace my Rails, what would you recommend?

Joe Ajello

Well Dave, I'm sorry to hear that the rails will be no longer. However, I'm very glad to have mind. I bought them used and they are fantastic. I was annoyed that they didn't get the press I thought the should have gotten. They are very fine wheels. You guys should feel very accomplished in developing such a killer wheelset. I understand your decision and direction. Insurance and over head is, at the very least, a thorn in the side when it comes to turning a profit. Do what you gotta do to stay relevant and competitive. Perhaps, don't sell those molds though. I mean out happens when you guys make it big time and you have money to throw back at some classic stellar wheels i.e., the rails. All the best and keep making an impact!


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