First, here is a link to an episode of The Honest Bicycle Program in which I (Dave) spoke with Greg and Mattio. It was a fun conversation, and though the terror of how it would come out was very real for me (have not done too many of these things), it came out well. Enjoy it. Those guys do a good podcast.
Per the last post, there's really not too much left in this topic. It is our firmly held belief that people are capable of building better high-spec wheels than machines are, and that a high end set of wheels, using exacting components, must be built by hand. Which brings me to the last embers of the topic.
In general, the better performing wheel components are less tolerant of inexpert assembly workmanship. A semi-competent wheel builder may do fine with 550 gram rims and straight gauge spokes, and a machine will also do that job quite well. But take 120 grams out of each rim and go from 14g straight spokes to Lasers or Revolutions, and the job gets quite a bit more challenging. That's where a skilled wheel builder becomes relevant, and quite necessary even.
We've considered whether we can do less expensive builds than what we do, and it's a big challenge. To frame the idea, this is not an "is there something that can do the job of Nimbus Ti builds as well or better than they do, for meaningfully less money?" question. For their level of performance and durability, we're convinced that the Nimbus Ti builds are it - best in price class, and way less expensive than their performance peers. But could we do a wheel that had good quality and performance and durability, though a step down from Nimbus Ti options, that would be both a good product for our business and for our customers? It's quite difficult for us.
Our material costs (Cost Of Goods Sold, or COGS - a "20 times a day" expression around here) are high. Our hubs are expensive (just like T11s and CLDs - which they functionally are), as are the rims we use, and though the spokes we use are a significant cost savings over using the CX Ray option, they're not cheap, either. Just a set of Nimbus Ti hubs costs us more than the bill of materials for most of the direct to consumer wheel sets we often get compared with. But while we could compromise materials and chop down their costs, the cost of our work and of our service is fixed. Even if the materials cost $0, we couldn't win the game of low cost commodity wheels. The value curve of what we impart into a set of wheels feels like it makes the most sense across the ground we cover. A lot of the OEM wheel sets that come on bikes can be bought for like $130 wholesale. That's where the machines win - for 6 minutes worth of electricity and opportunity cost, your machine just spits out easy to build wheels with low cost components all day and all night. That's how the mechanics and ecomomics of that capital equipment works.
Since I've apparently got a little of the P&V in me this morning (I'm a bit riled up, I don't know why), I'll admit that I just read a wheel review that made small puffs of smoke come out of my ears. It's not that it's a badly done review, it's just that - really? That much money for what you get? (US MSRP is $1000 - $AUS is pretty cheap these days). I just don't understand the mentality that would make anyone think that that's their best (or even a good) purchase decision in this category. This would be a fairly good value wheelset at $550. What Mike always says to get me off the ledge when I get worked up about stuff like that is that we're building a universe of people who get what we're doing, and basically to hell with the rest of them. So that's what I'll tell myself here, then.
And a good day to you.