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The last blog mentioned an unusual period of quiet, which in my experience almost always precedes even more quietude.  In this case, precedent has held and it’s been even more quiet around here.

On our Facebook page, we posted a picture I took during a mountain bike ride over the long weekend.  Before posting it, Mike and I discussed whether posting a picture of a “November Mountain Bike” would be a good thing or a bad thing.  You see, despite the fact that I have the bike that would have become the November 29er, we decided even before we’d gotten the prototype/sample frames that the mountain bike market wasn’t a good fit for us.  Between cross country hard tail and full suspension, all mountain mid travel and long travel, enduro, and gravity, across three wheel sizes, two or three rear axle formats, 3 front axle formats, and usually with the desire for a single speed variant in each, a player like us has lost before we’ve stepped onto the field. 

Putting aside for a moment the risk of having a container full of hard tail 29er frames when all of a sudden dual suspension 650B (or 27.5, whichever the world decides to call it) becomes the belle of the ball, there’s the simple obstacle of our ability to do everything we do as well as we can.  Quite simply, you can’t have expertise in everything. 

While the mountain bike market is moving ever further away from consensus on materiel, the road market at least has moved to a unified aesthetic: black.  Black, black, black, it must be black.  I get that Schooly D song “Am I Black Enough For You?” stuck in my head every time I think about it.  This is a slight challenge for Mike and me because it’s not the look we prefer, but while we’re unwilling to sell performance or functionality in which we don’t wholeheartedly believe, we’re less resistant to accommodating a prevailing aesthetic.   So our aesthetic direction, for good or bad, is generally “fade to black.”

Going back to Facebook, we were just asked for a status update on a shallower Rail.  Having now gotten a collective 10000 or so miles (actually, probably quite a bit more at this point, maybe I should track that more closely?) on the pre-production Rail 52s, we are overwhelmed by how universal the “I can’t believe how stable these things are in cross winds” feedback is.  We’ve felt it ourselves, of course.  The first several times I rode them my overriding thought was “I’ve got to get someone else to confirm this because I can’t even trust what I’m (not) feeling here,”  but we’re biased and it wasn’t until more objective people confirmed it that we really let ourselves talk about it. 

What does that mean for the shallower Rail?  It puts it firmly on the back burner.  With significant aerodynamic advantages and enough stability in breeze to make that a non-issue until it’s windy enough that just plain riding bikes is an issue, we struggle to find the objective need for a shallower Rail.  Knocking off 80 or whatever grams per set would be endlessly more beneficial on paper than it would be in actual fact.  Speed that exceeds our old 85s at stability that exceeds our old 38s, all at very very raceable weight, makes the 52 look an awful lot like a one wheel solution.   


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Speaking of aesthetics, I was hoping for a Rail 3X just because I am not the biggest fan of the look of deeper profile wheels. But I suppose performance should trump appearance…On another note, can you report on that one set of disc brake wheels you built up with the Rail? Is that something that might be regularly available in the future?


Moving the Rail 3X to the back burner frees up one in the front, and the Rail 52 tubular moves right into that spot. Our opinion is that no carbon clincher is a true climbing wheel – it will always be heavier than the tubular version of the same shape. And any big climb is either followed by or preceded by a big descent, so the superior heat management of the tubular shape (or the properties of alloy) make them a better choice for rides like that. That said, we would sell a crap ton of Rail 3x clinchers and we know it. Dave and I have this conversation a lot – about how much to pay attention to market demand. Ultimately our position is not to launch products we know will move a lot of units. Instead, it is to meet the needs of as many racers as possible. They sound similar but they're not exactly. We tried to come up with a race for which a Rail 3X would be a better choice than a Rail 52. Because the crosswind stability of the Rail 52 is so superb, all we could come up with is an uphill time trial, which is a pretty limited application. Everything else – flat, rolling, even big climbs followed by bombing high speed descents – we'd much rather have the extra speed that comes from the Rail 52's depth and shape. If we launched the Rail at 60mm deep, it might be a different story. It would be heavier, and leave more room underneath for a shallower wheel to claim it's meaningfully differentiated on weight and crosswind stability. But we think we better serve the needs of most racers with a single wheelset that does everything really well, instead of a wheel portfolio with different depths aimed at more specialty applications. We tried that route and saw how paralyzing the decision-making process was for a lot of customers, despite relatively insignificant differences between wheels of different depths. Most don't want to choose which wheels are ideal for today (and have to invest in multiple sets to enable the luxury of that decision). They want a damn fast set of wheels they can put on their bikes and know they've got an edge no matter what the terrain and conditions.

Mike May

Erik – We're on track for later this month. Avi – Never say never, right? It looks pretty unlikely though.

Dave Kirkpatrick

Some part of me is still holding out hope that you'll sell a mountain bike frame someday. And by "some part of" I mean "all of."


Any updates on the Rail pre-order status? How soon until we start seeing them out in the wild?

Erik S

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