Long live the 34

nimbus products Rail 34 Uncategorized

So, 34s have been out of stock for a little while and we've been vague about the restock timeframe, because, well... there isn't one. It was time to cut a new mold, so we had to decide whether to reinvest a lot of money in the 34, or reallocate those resources to other projects that we think are better opportunities for us (don't ask yet, we won't tell).

Shallow carbon clinchers exist in an odd space. They're not appreciably lighter than aluminum rim options, they don't give a big aerodynamic kick like a 52 does, and at the end of it all they still have carbon brake tracks. We're sending out a set of Pacenti SL23s with Tune hubs today, and they weigh 1370g. The lightest set of 34s we ever built was heavier than that. Enve's new SES 2.2 clinchers, which they very nicely and openly state prioritize weight savings over aerodynamics (you have to click the "learn more" button), weigh 1400g per Competitive Cyclist. Zipp claims their newest 202 clinchers weigh 1450g. You can't use them tubeless, either. With our testing having shown that good alloys can be within a loud whisper of the aerodynamics of Enve's 3.4, is it realistic to think that the weight-prioritized-over-aero 2.2 is at all better in the wind than a good alloy? I'd bet they're worse. 

Built right, alloys are as stiff as carbons. Add tubeless-ready and the weight gap can grow (it would have for us had we done a tubeless 34). Today's SL23 set was built with 20/28 lacing and slightly heavier Sapim D-Light drive side rear spokes and brass nipples. It's no weight-weenie special use freak wheel set. And it's $565 less than a standard set of 34s - you could get a set of Nimbus Ti wheels with DT R460 rims to keep them company with that. Our standard Nimbus Ti 20/28 clocks in at almost exactly the same weight as a set of 202 clinchers, but gets you much better hubs and saves you $1505. The price differential to the Enve 2.2 is even greater - a set built with DT240s (to which we much prefer the T11/Nimbus Ti) is $2900, for a difference of $2305. Since a portion of you are right now thinking "but the SPOKES!!!" - well, Zipp quietly changed from CX Rays to CX Sprints, which are a wider, heavier OEM-only version of CX Rays. Enve uses CX Rays. Doing a custom set of our alloys with colored T11s and CX Rays would knock the price difference with Enve down to a mere $2125. 

Trick question - is 1370g of aluminum lighter or heavier than 1450g of carbon?

On the other side, the aerodynamics of shallow carbons don't compare well to Rail 52s. There are few situations where the math works out in favor of the modicum of weight saved in the 34s versus the significant aerodynamics benefit of the 52. For quite a while, we've answered the "I want to go fast, which wheels should I get" question with an unqualified and decisive "get 52s." As we've known for a long time, and had proved in the wind tunnel last summer, 52s are easier to handle than other wheels of their depth/speed class. Between the two, the choice is obvious. 

We have to have an opinion about what makes sense and what we're most enthusiastic about having our customers ride. A very good and proprietary carbon rim like the 34 is certainly an easier business case. Since we build by hand, we're capacity constrained. It's harder for us to make money selling less expensive wheels - quite hard. And we're selling a recipe that many other kitchens have access to, so we need to differentiate ours through a withering pursuit of quality, and by selling at a fantastic price. Even to this day, a huge number of our customers seek our direct counsel, whether on the phone or through email or on forums. We've really come to a point where the answer between 34s and a great set of alloys is always "great set of alloys." Between 34s and 52s, it's 52s.  
We've got what could easily contend for the title of best alloy clinchers at any price, they happen to have a huge price advantage over anything to which they could fairly be compared, and we're just as ethusiastic as we could be about that being our solution for the broad use case zone they cover. 

 

 


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  • Mike T. on

    That is a very interesting and honest blog entry. Your credibility shines through. Thanks November Dave.

  • Dave Kirkpatrick on

    Good question, Brian. You're not going to get a set of 1150g clinchers without making some serious concessions to usability. Tubulars it's pretty easy to hit with carbon, but not easy to hit with aluminum. Part of it is that carbon clinchers just need some mass to be able to handle heat. When the Firecrest 404 came out, Mike and I looked at the heat claims and the specs and I IMMEDIATELY said "okay, so they just threw mass at it." A larger pot of water takes longer to boil than a smaller one, given a fixed amount of heat going into each. That's what I mean there. And a tubular tire imparts almost no stress onto the rim, which is so super not the case with clinchers. 202 tubulars are about 1.25 pounds less than 202 clinchers. That's not splitting hairs, that's a lot of weight. The world can debate for years about the difference those 1.25 pounds would actually make, but it's a difference that people seek. So we would say that shallow tubulars are a better application for carbon than clinchers are.

  • Brian on

    So the one question that I have is do you gain back the advantage over alloys when you go from clincher to tubular? I have a set of your tubular 38's that I guard with my life because I absolutely love how light they are on climbs. My guess is that they're around 1150 – 1200 grams.

  • PC Mountain on

    makes sense to me

  • Dave Kirkpatrick on

    Thanks, Mike



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