I've noticed that cyclists (along with runners) are unique in the way they talk about their participation in their sports. More often than not, we actually call ourselves "cyclists" (or "mountain bikers"), instead of saying that we like to ride bikes. I know a lot of people who play golf and tennis and soccer and hockey with the same frequency and enthusiasm that I bring to bicycles, but they are far more likely to say, "I play tennis" or "I golf every weekend" than "I'm a tennis player" or "I'm a golfer." For many of us who ride bikes, our involvement in the sport is more than just recreation - it's identity. Being a cyclist is part of who we are, part of how we think of ourselves, part of how we want others to think of us.
Maybe it's because being a cyclist transcends the moments we are on the bike. If you're competitive, your training and ambitions are nagging you when you're eating, having a beer, walking up a flight of stairs. And competitive or not, it's easy to remember you're a cyclist when life conspires to keep you off the bike for a whole entire day. I've rarely felt more like a cyclist than when I really wanted to be riding but couldn't be.
It's not surprising then that our bikes very often become an extension of that identity, and that cyclists place a great deal of importance on not only the extrinsic benefits of their equipment (weight, aerodynamics, gear ratios, tire width) but also the intrinsic value of things like brand and aesthetics.
I was thinking about this looking through our custom orders, which have always comprised a high percentage of our total wheel orders. Try as we might to streamline rim and hub offerings, many of our customers still want something that feels as bespoke as they are. Which I totally get, not just as a marketer and business owner who should absolutely have it through his thick head by now, but also as a cyclist and consumer myself, who will spend 3 hours looking for the tires whose width and tread pattern I've decided on, but have not yet found in the sexy tan sidewall I have decided is non-negotiable.
When looking through our custom orders, what was interesting is that the majority of the customization was aesthetic, not functional. Sure we get some functional customization - we are doing a Lefty build for a Cannondale Topstone right now, and are often asked to build with dynamo hubs as well. But the single most common customization request has always been hub color. It's an easy way to personalize a build, without requiring customers to be an expert on lacing patterns or points of engagement or other aspects of wheel technology. And while our "standard" builds you'll see in the Wheels section are all built with black hubs, know that we're happy to build your wheels with whatever hue hub you prefer (along with many other options you'll see on our Wheel Customization page).
We talk a lot about what's the right wheelset for a given riding style or intended terrain. But most of the value I think we bring customers is helping them find the right wheelset for them as riders. And the experience, we've learned, is not a purely functional experience. It's a matter of identity. And that makes your wheel choice, well, pretty personal.
*Header image: Bitex oil slick hubs. And yep, we'll build with them.