You rarely see "New and Improved" splashed all over our website. It's not that we're particularly fond of old and lousy; it's just that we don't make changes to our product lineup very often, believing that "old and proved" usually ends up being a better value for our customers than "new and improved". Technology marches on every year, but we don't feel the need to adopt the newest new thing as soon as it's available. Instead, our approach is to let a trend evolve past a fad into a proven evolution and then we'll adopt it. I suppose that makes us R&D wheelsuckers but if it lets us use our energy wisely so we have enough left in the tank to lead you out for the sprint I think you'll forgive us. It's the strategy we choose to increase our chances of success against the other dominant teams in the race.
Besides introducing new products, we've made only one significant product change so far: we switched from a 19mm wide alloy rim in our FSW wheelset to a 23mm wide rim. We're believers in a wider rim and adoring fans of the utility of alloy clinchers, so the change was warranted.
But now we're in our third year and it's time to roll out a few more changes, ranging from superficial to significant. Here's what's new:
Red is the fastest color.
We love the house hubs from Novatec we have been using since our outset. At 76g / 253g they're exceptionally light (the only way to shave weight is through smaller bearings or thinning out some of the shell with advanced machining, which adds expenses and reduces durability - not attributes we're looking for); the ABEC-5 bearings roll great, and the flange geometry lets us build them into stiff and strong wheels. Most importantly, we have years of direct experience with them and are fully confident in their performance and durability. We've seen nothing new hit the market that justifies switching away from the hubs that have proven themselves to us over the past three years.
Our new hubs, then, are the same hubs we've been using, with a couple of changes. First, the Anti-Bite Guard freehub body is now standard on all SRAM/Shimano hubs. It's an alloy freehub body with a single steel spline that helps prevent your cassette from digging in to the softer alloy. (The Campy design is superior and doesn't need an ABG to discourage the digging.) Second, after three years of foster parenting the Novatec hubs we've formalized an adoption of them, so they display our logo. And third, we've improved their performance by having them anondized red, which is the fastest color.
We start shipping the new hubs with the current Wheel Pre-Order. We will no longer carry the black Novatec hubs but if you want to go all murdered out we still offer the White Industries T11 and the Chris King R45 in black (as well as all their other colors).
Pretty hubs need pretty skewers. Ours have a stainless steel shaft and alloy levers, weighing in at 54g / 59g for front and rear. The logos on the levers are set so that they're rightside up when you close the front skewer towards the back of your bike, and the rear skewer towards the front of the bike. We don't even charge extra for that.
Beating the Drum.
We've made the decision to use every point of customer contact to help educate riders on the performance and care of carbon clinchers, from requiring customers to read the terms and conditions before buying, to including a printed version of carbon clincher care and feeding with every set of carbon clinchers, and by writing about them ad nauseum here on the blog.
In our search for more educational media, we realized we'd been neglecting the rim strip. Plain black, they served only the single purpose of preventing the nipple holes on your rims from puncturing your tube. They can work harder than that, so we're turned them into another content channel. Now they remind you to always use carbon-specific pads, to keep your tire pressure below 120 PSI, and to make sure your skewers are tight. Also they're grey so they contrast better against the tube to help you make sure you're tube is seated correctly when you inflate.
23mm Wide Carbon Tubulars.
We're moving to a 23mm wide carbon tubular for next year. The rims come from the same supplier we have always used for our RFSW and RFSC wheels, so the quality and reliability are as superb as ever. For 2013 we are only offering the carbon tubulars in a 38mm depth (the go-to cyclocross and climbers' wheelset, at 1350g for the set) and a 50mm depth (outstanding all-purpose depth for road racing, yet light enough for cross at 1460g for the set). We start shipping the new wide-rimmed wheelsets with the current Wheel Pre-Order, starting at $785 / set (not a typo).
A Proprietary Carbon Clincher Design.
The wider tubular we're using is an open mold. We wanted to go to a 23mm width principally to improve the adhesion and feel of both cross and road tires. We thought about going with a proprietary design but it wasn't justified because aerodynamics are not a driving part of our carbon tubular market. We also wanted to keep them as affordable as possible, and a proprietary design would push the price up several hundreds of dollars.
It's a different story with carbon clinchers, however. We tested a 23mm wide open mold carbon clincher and found it lacking in two regards: first, it was heavy for the depth, as it was also billed as a cyclocross carbon clincher (an application we feel is poorly suited to carbon clinchers), and second, the road feel of a 23mm alloy clincher is a function of its internal width, not brake track width. A 23mm wide carbon clincher does not ride as comfortably and confidently as a 23mm wide alloy clincher because the carbon brake tracks need to be wider than alloy. To get the same internal width as our alloys (about 18mm) you need to go about 25mm wide at the brake track.
So that's what we did when we designed the prototype rim you see at right. There is a lot more to this story which we'll tell in more detail over the coming weeks, including pictures of the prototype when it's in our hands, as well as wind tunnel and other data we're using to evaluate its performance across all aspects of racing - aerodynamics, acceleration, road feel.
We don't have a release date yet but we're hoping for a pre-order by Summer 2013. If you're evaluating the new wheel against our current carbon clinchers, note that the new one will be offered in a single depth (likely 52mm), will have about a 40g heavier rim than our current RFSC 50s, and will be several hundred dollars more expensive. Moving from an open mold to a proprietary rim really makes this a different product from our RFSCs. We expect the performace will justify the price increase, but it will be more expensive.
So that's what we've been up to. What's new with you?