If you live in much of the country, you may have noticed that it's cold. You may also be forgiven for thinking that this is the work of hell freezing over, given this blog's title. It isn't, so bear with us.
This is probably too long for one post, but it's pounding snow outside so nothing in the shop is getting done, and I've spent hours and hours this morning building store pages. So in the interest of not leaving this on my plate for tomorrow, the whole shooting match goes up now. If you want to skip the backstory and go straight to what's up with builds, skip to "PART 2" down below.
I could write a book on this whole topic (which I might have done here), but let me start by saying that none of this erodes our advocacy of alloy rimmed wheels as legitimate, awesome options. We're still the guys pushing hard in that direction. But we need to continually question ourselves and ask whether we we're doing all we can for our customers.
PART 1: The Backstory
A year and a hunk of change ago, we pulled the plug on carbon rims. There was a boatload of reasons behind this, including the punitive logistical and monetary costs of sourcing, managing, and product-liability-insuring our own products, the ongoing headaches related to rim brakes and carbon rims (an ongoing issue for those still involved with it), the rapid fire product lifecycle that ensured a product was either ahead of its time or out of date at launch (we felt both), and the general "all of this hassle, risk, and expense isn't buying you any benefit over what we can easily do with alloy." There was also a torrent of really great alloy rims coming onto the market, and we don't feel that there's any need to rationalize or justify those great products. And given that situation again, we'd make the exact same decision.
Of course, having made that decision, we immediately set to ruminating on what, if anything, could get us back into building with carbon rims. There were three immediate things that we remain wary of - rim brake interfacing, hooked beads, and the rate of premature spoke pull through we'd seen in carbon rims. Rim brakes are easy to avoid - we're not doing rim brake builds. The other two, we just need to be as watchful as ever.
Another more subtle one was that we'd never have any interest in rim brake wheels that were repurposed for disc brake use. As you may or may not know, as simply as I can put it, heat resistance and brittleness move in tandem - as you increase the one, you increase the other. Not necessarily from our own firsthand experience but from external things we've seen and heard, it appears that a lot of rim brake carbon rims have hit a spot of not enough heat resistance but too much brittleness. Worst of both worlds. I still think that there is a ton more potential out there in terms of different materials that wouldn't be possible to use with rim brake rims - materials like dyneema and kevlar that introduce desirable properties for a rim to have, but which are incompatible with either the heat or friction of a rim brake system.
We also had no interest, and I mean absolutely none, in sticker brands that were just importing Yishun or Yoeleo open molds and selling them as their own, or buying them ourselves and playing the "our new proprietary rim that's totally awesome and you won't find anywhere else" BS game. They have no product liability coverage, we'd be dealing across the planet all over again, we don't have complete trust in what many of these companies (and I don't know whether to call them manufacturers or resellers) are doing, and we don't see a ton of compelling products there. Which, for us, means building with primary brands.
And here is a good place to start Part 2.
Executed as well as they can be, carbon rims do two things really well. They're light, and they're impact resistant. We love CXN+1 builds for example, and they are a CRAZY efficient and effective build for gravel and cross, but if you hit a root/rock/whatever hard enough they are going to dent. If you saw the wheels I used for the 2015 CX season when that year was done, they were murdered with dents but still held air perfectly and rode great, but I was still a little weirded out by their condition. So if you're able to replicate the good things that they do, while dropping like a significant amount of weight out of the build (I mean we're talking like a big piece of a pound here), and increase their resistance to the things that I apparently like to subject wheels to, why not?
The fulcrum is cost. We sell a Stan's Grail/White Industries CLD build for $805. We think it's a great wheel set and a great price. The equivalent build with Stan's Valor rims will be $1620. So you're doubling the price of the build, or however you want to account that. Is it worth it? It easily could be. The easiest evaluation of it is along durability lines. Do you expect the carbon rims to last enough longer than the alloy ones in order to justify their cost premium? Do that math and set it aside, and then evaluate what's to be gained by cutting like 300g out of the build. Is that all worth it? Put an Al33 build against a Zipp 303 set, and in our minds that's a bloodbath in favor of the Al33, but it's far from that clear in the Grail versus Valor comparison. And the Enve disc rims for road/gravel and cross/gravel/mountain present some really appetizing options where we can do a very very nice job for you.
So there are a few new products out there that compel us along this axis, exhibiting the primary traits of really light and really strong, where the tradeoff is basically purely cost. But we can do great builds with these products, and give you a crazy array of hub options with different features and price points, and they have benefit. And they're leading edge products for the direction a ton of people are moving in terms of how and what they ride.
See all our Stans NoTubes Valor carbon disc builds in here.
And all our Enve carbon disc builds are here.
Enough, time to go shovel.