Mad Wheel Men

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As Mad Men has largely taught the people who didn't already know it, the commerce of advertising traditionally existed by the agency's media function buying space and then reselling it to clients. The creative side of everything got done to win the business, but the shameless commerce was actually all in the media. That's a strong enough analogy to what we do here. 

Let's take a two second look at what we percieve to be our strengths and weaknesses. We are good at wheel building, we are good at customer service and relations, we give well-informed and "as objective as we can be" advice, we're trustworthy, our prices are good to excellent, our selection is broad, and we do a good job connecting with people through the blog. We are bad at having a high margin product that either is percieved to be or is exclusive to us (carbon), our web site's shopping functionality is challenging, scaling our operations is a huge challenge, and the greater industry hates us.  

All of the advice and wind tunnels and measuring this and observing that exists in service to selling wheels. We do all of that so we can do "our job," which is to monetize the situation by selling well made wheels. If there was a business in doing the other stuff without selling well made wheels, it would perhaps obviously be of great interest to us. There is not, but since scaling our business is very hard (compensating people to develop and execute the skill of building wheels to our standard isn't easy), we continually bat around ways of alternate monetization (now THERE'S a tortured B-School phrase for ya!) of the "foreplay" stuff we do. And selling stuff packaged with our knowledge but without our execution is likely the best route for that. 

What do I mean there? Well, we're pretty sure that we build a set of (as an example) HED Belgium+ with T11s as well as anyone out there. We know how to vary the inputs (spoke type and number) to suit basically anyone. We have the spoke lengths to within like a quarter of a turn of optimal every time. We know how different tires are going to affect the build, and we know how the build is going to affect different tires. We just don't know if packaging that in an "everything but the build" way will work.

As stated, there's no business in spending however much time delivering this info to people without getting paid in any way for it. Part of that is just being in business, as every person who "walks into your store" doesn't buy. And it could easily be that for a lot of people, the thing that we more or less require you to buy in order to be a customer - the build - isn't the compelling way for us to provide transactional value. A lot of people want to build their own wheels, a lot of people have a buddy who'll do it for a six pack. Having owned that "buddy for a six pack" set of wheels, and having had that be a significant precursor to my position in the world right now, well... But in any case we've developed a body of knowledge that can provide transactional value without us actually building the wheels. And that's a far easier thing for us to scale. 

Of course our conundrum (and I have a long-planned post about the harrowing conundra that face the industry at large) is the our pricing for built wheels is such that there's no across the board "$X discount" for getting an unbuilt set. We just plainly don't do pricing such that the cost of the build is factored as a standalone thing, and we know that that would be the first hurdle in this.

I guess this is something of a trial balloon. Is a "Blue Apron" approach, rather than us requiring you to dine in at our restuarant, a valuable option?

 


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  • Shep on

    All I know and care about as a rider is quality and ultimately value. The decision years ago to buy a set of open molds built by you guys was a great decision. The build quality is top notch and they are still as true as the day I bought them. I have since had other sets built by my LBS wheel builders that didn't hold a candle to the November build.It has taken time, but I have come to appreciate the value of a well built wheelset by pros that do just that for a living, and would never consider buying a build kit so a buddy could build em for a six pack. The reality is I could source the November parts and build them up anywhere. However, to me the real value is in the quality of the build, research behind the component mix and knowing the November people take pride in their product that goes beyond raking in huge mounds of cash (although that is nice too!).Looking forward to a wheelset for my new cx bike! Looks like you have put together some sweet options!Cheers

  • Andy on

    Dave,I am not a customer of November because I like to build my own wheels. This does not save me money even if I value my time at zero dollars. I have found, through trial and error, that a spoke calculator is only so good. If I use an unfamiliar rim my method is now to send the rim to PWB and have them correctly size spokes. So yes I pay for their service and freight both ways. Works for me because I like learning but it makes no sense. So yes I would purchase a "kit" from you. I doubt that there are many like me who would dedicate so much time to building wheels instead of riding…….Good luck.Andy

  • Scott on

    Ok, vocabulary duel over… dave wins! Back to bikes and language I can easily understand and follow!



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