Garçon, the bill por favor!
No matter how we torture ourselves to try and make a better and more differentiated mousetrap, pricing pressure is omnipresent. Which means that you can't really get paid for said self-torture, it only results in a somewhat depressing sinkhole of time and effort and concern for which you hopefully get rewarded in more sales, but the margins aren't ever great. All three of those are real, but the concern one seems ultimately the most dangerous. Long ago, I'd thought that the vertigo of "holy crap I'm about to send out this relatively complicated structure with 100+ parts and interactions between parts and good lord though I've tried to make it perfect oh man, please let me have done it right" would eventually fade. That hasn't happened, and just like in spokes I think there is cycle fatigue that is a grave risk. Though stuffups are really really rare, it's devastating to the psyche when they happen, there's no other way to say it. For the record this was not inspired by a recent stuffup, I just felt it particularly keenly at the stand yesterday.
Concern seems fatal but time is finite. As such, we're constantly trying to figure out ways to save it. This is a REALLY high touch business, and it's unbelievably easy to spend "too much" time in the consultation and sales process. If you've ever sent us an email and gotten a response, there's a significant amount of time in there. I've gotten into the habit of putting a stopwatch on phone calls, as I enjoy sales and talking to customers but I need discipline. If I can't do it in 15' then I really have to either get faster/better, or take a few moments and evaluate "is this interaction going somewhere or not?" Ultimately, we can't be unpaid consultants and that's a trap I'm liable to. I wish there was a business on that, but we haven't yet found it though we continually tempt ourselves to try ideas we've had.
Part of the price pressure is games builders play. A lot of times, a build will be priced with spokes you really don't want to use, for example. So the headline price is X but the price of the wheels you really want is X + 10% or more. And the headline price is less than ours, but the equivalent price is more, yet we get in trouble for having a higher headline price. Keeping it strictly to spokes, based on customer feedback and preference, as well as what we've found to work really well, we use CX Rays as default in most builds. We've been able to get lower pricing based on committing to them, and so there really isn't that much lower we can go with different spokes because of the way we build prices. We can be great at some things but not great at everything. But please check the specs.
One of the things we've always struggled with is lower cost wheels. If we're going to do the hand build process, there are relatively high fixed costs to that, which may exceed the component cost by more than a little bit. We keep hashing this one out, and we're going to pilot test offering pre-built but hand checked lower cost wheels. And since we're doing that, we're going to add in a few options for wheels we really like, but which use components that aren't available to us as components for hand builds. We see a lot of pre-built wheels where the build quality can be significantly improved relatively efficiently, so these will all have that value adding process done as well. By checking them.
Last, I watched yesterday's Tirreno stage on the trainer, and man there are a lot of teams using Oakley helmets this year.