Handbuilt Soul

Inspiration for the title comes from Nightmares on Wax, whose "Carboot Soul" certainly does have a lot of soul.  Give it a listen.  It's one of my favorite records to build wheels by.

A couple of weeks ago, I was beffuddled to read on some forum that our wheels aren't "true handbuilts." The only thing I can guess is that a wheel only qualifies as a "true handbuilt" if it's built to order for a specific person, out of parts specified either by or for that specific person.  We were also once accused of having no soul.  I can fluidly rhyme the entirety of Paul's Boutique, which I'd think would qualify me as having at least some small modicum of soul, but again I mostly plead ignorance as to what goalpost exactly we're kicing at there. 

This handbuilt thing popped into my head yesterday as I was building two sets of Rails, one putatively destined to become Mike's, the other mine.  I say putatively because it's a fancy word that I know and I do like to use fancy words, but also because the wheels in question are the first we're doing with the new White Industries colored T-11 hubs.  "Mine" are blue, "Mike's" are red.  The simple fact is that we are going to get decals on these, put them on Facebook, get orders for them within a half hour, and send them off without them over having had a tire mounted.  **EDIT - It already happened, without them getting on FB - Mike got screwed, his wheels are sold.  Sorry Mike**  And as I was building them, that knowledge was firmly in my head - that here I was building two sets of wheels, and whether they were going to actually wind up as ours or yours was totally immaterial to the process.  The simple reality is that they got built the way I build wheels, which through iteration, testing, and refinement has become what I'll modestly call a quite good way to build wheels. 

As the builds pile up and pile up, I know that my general skill at building is way beyond what it once was.  At this point there are two guys who help me with wheel production, and they are also very very good wheelbuilders.  I would gladly ride wheels that they built (part of the process of their builds is my post-build QC), and if Fabian Cancellara urgently needed a set of wheels and we had a pile of wheels sitting there I'd happily (eagerly, even) grab any set out of the pile, give it to him, and have it represent our wheel builds.  The corollary to that is that we could be building a set of wheels intended for either Mike or me, or Fabian Cancellara, and ship them to you instead.  There would be no difference.  I don't necessarily know why I use Cancellara as my example other than that when I've talked about this concept I've always used him for some reason.  That and that he's won big things and worn special jerseys while riding wheels from companies where that's not the case - wheels for pros are built off line, not for public consumption. 

So despite their being built by hand, they aren't handbuilts, and despite my obvious possession of mountains of soul, we are a soulless company, and that's fine.  I don't care about that, I just care that whatever you get from us is as good as it can be. 

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If anyone questions how well your wheels are built they are just wasting their energy. I bought a set of FSW23s(Kinlin xc279 rim) in the SOB build in March of this year and absolutely love them. I've managed to put about 1300 miles on them with zero issues. On a few descents in the Santa Cruz Mtns I just nailed pot holes that I couldn't see in the shade of the redwoods and the wheels were completely unaffected. Friends that have checked out my wheels agree that you did a great job hitting the intersection of quality and price. Thank you for the great wheels. Someday I hope my skills will merit the Rails.Steve Salas


MikeM – The post isn't really about carbon wheels. It's about our wheels. Aluminum wheels are built with the same care that carbons are – in fact carbons are easier to build so generally more time goes into an alloy build. We also don't use A23s anymore. Velocity had some teething pains when they moved production to the US from AUS, especially with the OC rims. We had to switch and we're very happy with the rims we use.As for what you'd gain with carbons, I think for your use they're unnecessary. To use perhaps a tired analogy, FSW23s are like a 5 series and Rails are like an M. They're both fast and respond well to hard driving, but when you're throwing them around really hard, the differences come out. With their stiffness, Rails hold aggressive lines more easily and give you some free speed. The 5 Series is perhaps a bit more at home when you're off the gas.Rails easily manage 300*, but alloy wheels are always going to offer a wider safety zone for timid descenders. Not so much for the rim warps anymore, but you can throw a tire off the rim with heat and pressure. Also if it's your preference there are some very aggressive pads you can use with alloy rims. They'll eat the rims more quickly, but there are trade-offs in everything.

Dave Kirkpatrick

I just wanted to know what I'd really gain. I don't race; I'm a rec rider, and I'm proud of my own personal records.I feel like I need the security of AL rims, and think your A23 wheels are as much as I need. Those are great rims. The OC option on any 11-speed bike is a great idea.For someone who doesn't race, but instead spends time obsessing over finding steeper climbs (did Iowa Hill last weekend, wish you were here) and isn't completely comfortable with the idea of bombing every descent, does it make sense for me to get a carbon wheel? I think I'd notice a little difference on the climbs, but I've also heard stories of 300 degree braking surfaces, and I don't really think I'd like that.


A lot of parts seem to come in a list of "standard" colors. The one that immediately comes to my mind are K-Edge chain guides. If you could somehow convince White to do something like that, you'd be close enough.I'll take my hubs in Conti 4000 Red, please. For no particular reason, of course. Need a mailing address?


Great to hear, Steve. Thanks.

Dave K

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