Our year of living dangerously

When we first started this thing, Mike and I agreed that the blog wouldn't ever be some sort of a happy smiley "I rode my bike today" kind of thing. Instead we'd focus on actual information, an agreement to which we've generally hewed very closely.

So now I'm going to break that rule a bit. I really like riding bikes. In the midst of being quite busy in the life outside of work (which gets short shrift when you're your own boss), I had a few weeks where I was grabbing a half hour on the treadmill versus going for a ride, and while that generally staves off the need for me to go live in a padded cell, it's subsistence at best. I'll say that I think I like mountain biking the best, but since it's either drive to the really good stuff or do a quite long ride to the mediocre stuff, and my back is a limiter to how much I can take, I always want to do more than I can. Which is probably Exhibit A in why it's #1 for me. Road is always good for me, pretty much never gets tired, so many different ways to do it, etc. Cross racing is just not happening this year for a lot of reasons (old man back and time sucking house renovation being the primaries), but I do like riding the cross bike and whatever around here might pass for gravel. So that's it, bike riding's neato, hooray bikes.

The bigger part of today's story is that it's just over a year since we stopped selling carbon wheels. It was a BIG MOVE, born out of a lot of components - our faltering belief in carbon's benefits and viability for the riding most people were using it for, the punitive cost for proper insurance coverage, an emerging crop of super compelling alloy rim products - and you'd have properly called us insane to do it. I'm reading the Steve Jobs biography right now, and there's a moment when Larry Ellison (founder of Oracle, racer of sailboats) tells him "Steve, the moral high ground is some expensive real estate!" Not that we're on any kind of moral high ground, but our principles seemed a bit costly at the time.

Now?

It's sort of the biggest non-issue we have now. We almost never even talk about it internally. The February tunnel test gives us absolute faith that we're asking our customers to leave zero benefit on the table, that it's all upside. Our sales numbers immediately following the decision were, quite frankly, bleak, but they've rebounded better than nicely and we've got a full head of steam. We spend no time screwing around on Skype with Taiwan and get to use all that time and energy doing more high value stuff. And by and large I think we've lost some audience among people who think we did the wrong thing or are convinced that carbon's the only way, but we've picked up a lot of audience that sees us focused on something that serves our customers phenomenally well, even if it's potentially not as short term profitable for us. 

The funniest thing, which we no way could have envisioned a year ago is that the percentage of wheels that leave here with all black rims is actually higher now than it was then. 


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  • Rico on

    Back issues? We’ll all go there, at some point…
    Foundation training has been highly touted, by both road and mtn bike cyclists (incl. some late, near great, named Lance something). www.foundationtraining.com Buy the book on amazon.

  • Dave on

    James and Dave – Glad to hear it, thanks!

    NEil – Glad that you love the wheels. The vast majority of people who bought them from us do, too, and we’re proud of that. But we never saw much (any) in the ride quality columns between carbon and alloy. The only reason we even made Rails in the first place was because we liked wide – they were and will always be the first road carbon rims with what would now be called a modern internal width. If you controlled for width and tires and tubes and pressure and everything except rims, I’d bet anything you couldn’t tell the difference between carbon and alloy in a blind test. And the ownership experience – initial cost, likelihood of having a problem, braking performance, cost to repair/replace following a crash, etc – is tilted WAY in favor of alloy. And that’s kind of our whole point, soup to nuts.

  • NEil on

    Too bad your not doing carbon. I love the carbons I bought from you 2 years ago. Been riding them on gravel and trails with no issue since purchase. Am I missing something? I have 3 sets of carbon wheels I really prefer them over metal wheels.

  • Dave In ME on

    I have a set of your wheels and they do everything I want with none of downsides of carbon. They perform great and after 3,000 miles I have yet to touch them with a spoke wrench.

    I recommend them to all my friends!

  • James Kirsten on

    Other than racing on tubular Zipp 202’s, carbon wheels have no advantage for me either. Good for you for taking the high road. I love my Easton R90SL rims.


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