Recently, the product launch landscape (at least what we see - I'm not going to pretend that we're aware of every product launch out there, and we might miss some significant ones) has been about gravel. Gravel gravel gravel. The spate of 25mm internal width alloys (and tomorrow's post will continue our reviews of them, with White Industries' G25A on tap) has been this winter's story.
I'm not 100% sure that these rims are actually where the market is now. That's not to say that they don't have a place, and we're glad they are available, but I'm not certain that that many people are using the width of tires that are in the range of those tires. The "alpha users"/cooles kids, cycling news sites, and instagram stories are all around that use case, but from what we see with our own riding awareness and with our customer interaction is a little more g-rated than that. Our guess is that the world tends more toward "road with off-road curious capability" than "drop bar mountain bike." For a lot of people (myself included) that's for no better reason than that the terrain for the real beast mode ride requires a drive or crazy long ride to get to. I can ride to pretty tame mtb trails, but there and back is 2 hours without my tires ever meeting dirt.
(this is a spectacular color for hubs)
Which is probably to say that more or less every little niche is covered by products that a small wheel building shop like November has access to. If the components that you simply must have in order to best serve your customers are all available as components, then unless you're doing huge business and/or want to be in the component business, don't be in the proprietary business. Innovation, at this point, seems to be a dead end for proprietary. A consumption rate that allows you to shorten your supply chain is the justification I can see. Even then, private labeling can work just great. Hunt Wheels has the entire world believing that off the shelf Kinlin rims and Novatec hubs are the apex of innovation and value (they must have naked pictures of cycling site editors - seriously). We've always taken a more transparent approach to private labeling, but it's not hard for it to make good sense.
The "want to be in the component business" is an interesting one. If that many people were into building their own wheels, it would make sense that we'd be supplying the world with build kits. Our price for a built set of wheels is usually within a whisker of the retail of the components, the components aren't usually widely available for less than retail, and the build kit is $100 less than the built wheel set price. Plus you get the guess work taken out because we size the spokes. You do the math. But we don't sell too many of them at all. Why? For one we don't promote them but for two I just don't think there are that many DIY wheel builders. But we wouldn't mind selling private labeled hubs as components. But the sales and promo function to go out and set up a legit dealer network and drive in-store sales ain't happening.
That scrapes the absolute dregs of my mind on proprietary. Next thing we'll do is have a look at the White Industries G25A rims tomorrow.
AC – good input, thanks. Since we just did our annual price increase we aren’t going to go up more, but we’re now talking about making the rollyourown coupon a little more valuable. Shipping build kits is generally much less than shipping built wheels, and the time differential of putting a set of built wheels in a box versus doing that with a build kit is big.
Paul – Funny how that is, huh?
This: "Our guess is that the world tends more toward “road with off-road curious capability” than “drop bar mountain bike.” For a lot of people (myself included) that’s for no better reason than that the terrain for the real beast mode ride requires a drive or crazy long ride to get to."
When I lived in Colorado I wanted to be one of those Rodeo Labs guys…but that was rarely realistic.
Totally agree on CK slate grey. All CK colors really. Toughest part of a CK purchase (after getting over price) is always picking the color.
Personally, I don’t mind building my own wheels, but I do it when I can’t find the exact combination I want elsewhere for a reasonable price. I would be unlikely to buy your kit, because you could build them for me with the same components, faster than I can, highly likely at a better build quality (although I get them very equally tensioned and pretty damn true…), and at a reasonable price. So perhaps the building component of your product offering is underpriced.
Rob – Love the grey. Also love that your wheels have worked out so well for you.
Chris King slate grey really is a spectacular colour and since my Café Racers arrived last January I’ve had many compliments on them.
The wheels themselves have been amazing, fast rolling and bomb proof. I rode and raced on them into the fall last year with GP5000 TL 28s, switched to Terra Speed 40s for the winter and they’re currently mounted with GP5000 TL 32s for the spring riding season. So good.