Execute or Die

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Apologies to the slogan I'm blatantly paraphrasing here, and to clarify, no this isn't a double entendre suggesting "kill or be killed." Kill or be killed happens in the first lap of a cross race, to be sure, but it's not a concept that's generally on our corporate to-do list. 

So much emphasis is placed on "new and improved" and innovation in the bike business. There could be a million reasons behind this, but generally splash sells. Put a lion on it, make it high-viz, make it wider, make it lighter, call yourself an engineer when you're not, hash tag it with #whateverdoping, pay some pros to endorse it, get a pile of brand ambassadors to spread the word, and off to the races. Sometimes that works, but way too often it's a DNF on the card.

This isn't to say that there's not cool stuff going on in the wide wide world of sports. The new Enve carbon hubs take a lot of flack for their price point, but I think they're interesting. The price is high, but there are people who will pay it. In the end, it's a super light version of a DT180 with improved flange geometry (the critical liability in DT road hubs) from a company that generally executes quite well.  

Zipp also has a new hub product out, in their new 808 NSW wheels. Zipp's carried a lot of water in the journey towards better aerodynamics and carbon wheels that can thrive in northern Classics (credit where due), but as a hub innovator they've not done as well. New graphics make the podium as a selling feature of the new wheels, though. 

VeloNews just panned the Stan's Grail wheels which come on the Cannondale SuperX, which certainly got my attention. We've built a ton of Grail-based builds and I use them all the time myself, and have not only not had the impression that the VN team got, we've experienced the opposite, both firsthand and through a ton of customer experiences. Our builds are meaningfully different from the wheels that come on the SuperX, with much different (I'm just going to come right out and say "way better") hubs and heavier gauge spokes, and of course we also offer spoke counts beyond the stock 24/24 delivered there. Sort of kind of also have to question how they can parse out that flexy wheels make a hash of things on a bike that tracks surely wherever you point it, but that's just healthy skepticism coming through.

In contrast to all of this, we're painfully boring. We're a small company that recognizes what we can do well, and what's beyond us. We can't innovate a new hub design and properly test it, but we have managed to value engineer the process of two of the most attractive hub sets on the market in order to be able to sell very affordable ultra premium builds. We're good enough at riding bikes and testing stuff to figure things out, although I'm apparently not good enough at CX to avoid getting lapped by Ryan Trebon on the last lap (hereinafter to be referred to as "being TreBONED"), and where we need help on that, we get it. We can't innovate seven new rims every year or three (one every couple of years is about our limit) but we can take a proven design and process improve it in order to make it slightly better every year while lowering the price in real terms. We can stay on top of what's available in the alloy market in order to offer the best of what's around in well-executed and reasonable builds, and also give you uniquely informative insight into using the equipment in question.

We can't do everything. We don't blow up the instagram with outrageously awesome pics all the time, media and the rest of the industry ignore us completely (with which we really couldn't be more at peace), we're just way more LL Bean than haute couture. Which means doing what we can do as well as we can do it, which hopefully means doing it fairly close to as well as it can be done, and quickly and completely making it right on the rare occasions when something gets sideways. 

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  • Rico on

    The Grail is as 'stout' as one can expect from a 460 gram 622 mm diameter rim, with the chosen dimensions. This isn't Hogworts, and Industrial Design on Terra can't make magic. We might expect Velosnooze to know this…but we'd be all wrong. The spoke count and type have a serious hand in any perceived lack of stiffness, but whatever. Grails work well for me, and if they get destroyed, you don't cry and check your credit score, like with some carbon rims. Years (decades) ago, rims were seen a a wear item—when did that change? Told you Boost 148 was coming….Boost 165 FTW!!

  • Hans on

    I agree re: Grails. Ok, so I've only built like 3 Grail wheelsets, but I have found these to be an absolute joy to build (even tensions, etc.), a joy to setup (tubeless tires seating easily with floor pumps, etc.), and a joy to ride. My wheelset is 28/28 with D-Light spokes and I beat the hell out of those on singletrack and then on the paved ride home from said singletrack. I don't notice any flex and haven't had any other issues. It's the first rim I recommend if someone is asking about a disc-brake wheelset and If I could only have one wheelset on my commuter/cx bike, it would be built with Grails.

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