In which everything goes nuts.

There's been a lot to think about and talk about and do lately, and it was obvious to us that we had to do a lot of learning and thinking, and then do some talking and doing. We're still on that, full speed ahead in fact, but there's still this small matter of being a wheel company and keeping things moving forward. In no small part so that we have the space and voice to try and help make a difference where we'd like to.

So we've already talked about the new Zipp and Enve wheels (over a month ago - ho.lee cows the time it does fly) but now Specialized has jerked the wheel in the entirely opposite direction. Despite being what you could fairly call evangelical about road tubeless over the last few years, their newest wheels need tubes. You can't use them tubeless. Their reasoning for this hinges on things we first posted about in 2016, which we then followed up on the next year. Is this a case of the broken clock being right twice daily, or did we really have our gaze on the horizon? Maybe some from Column A and some from Column B.

If you don't want to follow us back in time with the links, the brief description is this - you can engineer carbon to handle the compressive stress of tubeless tires, but doing so adds weight. Specialized is saying that that juice ain't worth the squeeze, tubeless isn't a big enough benefit to overcome that weight penalty, and the tires aren't really where they need to be anyway. So there you have it. 

There's been some amount of flak they've taken for jerking the wheel on this, which I guess you can see, but if you're paying attention, this bike marketplace moves pretty darn fast. A lot of these companies and products have to hit the trend bang on or miss it entirely, or be in terminal limbo. 

We have perhaps a much bigger jerk of the wheel of our own to talk about, but ours is like anti-trend. We're bringing back carbon clinchers. Rim brake carbon clinchers. 

I'll give you a few minutes to load up your rotten eggs and tomatoes in the slingshots, prep your missives, and mash the unsubscribe button, and then describe this strange decision.

As we talked about not long ago (but again, feels like yesterday, tastes like a month ago), the sun is setting on the alloy rim brake rim market. We sold the last set of Al33 ceramics we'll have for the foreseeable future this morning. They may be done forever. We know that one other is being run out, and the bad news is stacked up behind that. We've considered a million different approaches to this, including doing a kickstarter to do our own great alloy rim brake rim. We're committed to the world's need for them, and we're absolutely happy to be on the back side of the trend with a great product for those the industry seems to want to leave behind. 

But it would also be dumb of us to ignore how carbon can fit into this portfolio. If it wasn't really a crappy name for a set of wheels, the carbon clinchers would be called the Don Pan. Why? Because the Don Pan ride, from Coconut Grove on weekend mornings, is both one of the more crazy fun rides I've ever done, and the absolute perfect venue for these. It is a f--king HAMMERFEST, pinned from the gun, a glorious Latin flavored throttle twisting let's just go smack the hell out of each other for a few hours and then get a Cuban coffee on Key Biscayne, mkay? experience. So awesome. People aren't riding on 30mm tires on this thing - the roads are fine, the bikes are unabashedly of the road denomination, the speeds are ludicrous, and that's pretty much that. And the Don Pan or something a lot like it is a staple of most healthy cycling communities we know. Brake heat? They don't need no stinking brakes. Most people's brake pads last so long they can legally vote before they wear out. 

Most of the market that we saw as problematic for carbon clinchers has moved to disc. If they haven't, we're warning them away from these and being just as enthusiastic as ever about alloy. 

Again, this is 100% NOT to say we don't think alloy rims are the bees knees and we're working hard on figuring that piece of it out for the long run. We're also absolutely unapologetic in talking about the liabilities of carbon. These have great brake tracks for carbon, which means they stop fine in dry and it's less of an adventure in the wet than carbon rims used to be. As we established however many years ago, there's no valid case for "carbon climbing wheels."

Our new carbons come in one depth - 55mm, which is as deep as our carbon supplier goes. A set with White Industries hubs weighs in the high 1500 gram range. If you want light climbers, we can build you a set of Altamont Lites that knock 200g out of that and stop you on a dime on the way back down. These are all about twisting the throttle. Their shape and dimensions are what we like to call a "Rail tribute" - 18mm inner width, 25mm max outer width. They're Rail 52s that grew 3mm. Builds will start in a price range that's overlapped with the higher range of alloy builds, which is to say WAY WAY less than you can spend on a lot of other wheels with lesser hubs and lesser build quality. As with the rest of our house carbon builds warranty is 5 years. Notably, that excludes melting them coming down Mount Doom. We have crash replacement for that, but these aren't for exploring in the Alps. Just don't do it. They have great heat management relative to the market, but the market melts when you overstress them. You want to use tubes? Great. Tubeless? Yup that too. 

We've actually already sold a chunk of the first shipment that's on the way and we're reloading the next order. If you want in on the first round, get in touch while we post the product pages. 

As my Uncle Lou liked to say, "trend my ass."*

*I don't have an Uncle Lou who ever said that. 

 


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  • Dave on

    Yeah, there’s a very involved calculus to this, which we’ll describe later this week.

  • JLP on

    Dam Dave. I commented that you guys should bring back the Rail 52 couple of blogs back and your response was…more or less….OH HELL NO. I knew then that the Rail was going to rise from the ashes!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Weiwen on

    I’d definitely consider a set some day. If you somehow had been able to procure some alloy rims with non-structural carbon fairings (e.g. Hed Jet, some Shimano DA models, Bontrager Aeolus Comp, some Flo models), I’d actually prefer those to rim brake clinchers. But that is such a niche market!

    My road bike is almost surely the last performance bike I’ll own with rim brakes. I have a nice set of T11s to Boyd Altamont Ceramics on it right now. When those wear down, I might just go full carbon.

  • Patrick Carlin on

    I live in SW Florida and most road rides are a pancake flat hammerfest. I don’t ride in the rain and I barely use my brakes. One set of pads lasts almost decade. I’m exaggering only a little but this is why I still prefer rim brakes and run Rails.

  • Dave on

    North – What you should think is that there are a lot of people out there whose preferences and use patterns have no overlap with yours. There is a consistent demand for rim brake products, the installed base of active riders on rim brakes still dwarfs that of disc brake users, and if you go to road races or fast group rides you’ll see an AWFUL lot of people who either haven’t switched yet or have no intention of doing so. We’re happy that there are products out there that suit your use case. From the cavalcade of interest that we’ve gotten in the last day, there are a WHOLE lot of people psyched to see November offering a great product for their use case. These are not about wide tires or disc brakes (or even braking at all) – they’re about going fast in unabashedly road and speed oriented uses.



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