Race Ya To The Top

We've been moving the shop this week (pics when it's done, it's still a raging disaster), which proves that you never know how much crap you have until you have to move it. The move came at the right time during the inventory cycle but the wrong time of the wheel box cycle, and moving a few hundred empty boxes is such a joy. But the new place is great, in a cool historic building which we share with a clock maker/repairer, an art gallery, and an architecture firm. There's a neat energy of creation and craft there, which I've found inspiring. Plus we're on a cobbled street so if that doesn't give us "street cred" (see what I did there?) I don't know what would.

Nothing says "street cred" like a street with cred.

Without wishing to relitigate carbon (seriously), it's easy to observe both a race to the bottom and a race to the top in that market. I use this purely as a foil for my main point. If you'd like to spend more than $3000 on a set of wheels, the market is rich with options. You also now have plenty of options if you'd like to spend $600 on a set of carbon wheels. I have my doubts as to what's actually in a $600 set of "carbon" wheels, but we'll take it as face value. $2000 now seems decidedly mid-market. Perhaps there will be a resurgent rush to the middle?

The interesting contrast comes with what's going on in alloy. Bike marketing within the performance sphere is completely dependent on pro racing. The funny thing there being that the tubular wheels that the pros race on are far more different than their clincher stablemates which everyone who buys wheels uses than Brand X's tubulars are from Brand Y's tubulars. Or than Brand X's clinchers are from Brand Y's clinchers. But one thing you know for sure is that you ain't seeing any alloy wheels on a Pro Tour team. So the traditional marketing realm really has no place for them.

Despite that, innovation and compelling new product abound in alloy. I'm intrigued by this new set from DT, which despite a higher price point seems like a really neat product. While it's expensive in context, without having seen them or riddent them, they at least seem to give you some nice value for your spend. And they look cool as what. I don't love Mavic products in general - it's just a different philosophy to mine - but their Exalith stuff is cool. HED does some neat black metal, Fulcrum/Campagnolo do it... And it's not just about legitimately durable black brake tracks (although let's face it, that's a HUGE resistance point to alloys) - there seems to be an identifiable move toward companies making an earnest effort at putting out something other than a "let's just dress up whatever thing we're dumping into the OEM market and call our alloy product box checked off" alloy wheel product. 

It was really really recently that if you wanted a premium component (which is to say "not pre-built into a factory wheel set") alloy rim, HED was the only game. They're still a GREAT game, we love when we get orders with HED rims if for no other reason than it just says someone's interested in buying a quality product in what's been an underappreciated category. But Easton's rims give HED's an awfully, awfully close run in terms of refinement, fit, and finish. And those are just two examples in what's somewhat recently become an exceedingly "not boring" category, in very short order. 

Without going into too many details, my one prediction for 2017 (and I just wrote an email to a vendor a few minutes ago claiming that forecasting 2017 seems more like pure gambling than any previous year has) is that there will be hot competition in the premium alloy segment when we see 2018 products launch. 



Back to blog


Oh I forgot that one too. There are two funny traps that the industry has sprung on itself here. First is of course disc brakes, which make the world safe for carbon clinchers. But the perception is that the only differentiator between good and bad carbon clinchers was brake heat engineering. The reality is that carbon construction is unbelievably process in tolerant, so while disks removed one hindrance, bad carbon is still bad carbon The other is that display however fast 30-ish millimeter clinchers may get, no brand that also has Carbon will fully tout the aerodynamics of their 30 mm alloy. Because that would move sales out of the higher revenue and higher margin carbon into the lower revenue and lower margin alloy. When I feel as though we can once again discuss those topics rationally without being trolled, you can bet that we will talk about them at length.


I was looking hard at the Ritchey Superlogic Zeta until the RFSW3 pre-order opened, but I'll take the little aero bonus and the extra $300 in my pocket, thankyouverymuch.


You're right, if I had the choice of a black brake track or silver, with 100% confidence that the color would last, I'd take it. I raced on training wheels yesterday, felt pro. Actually, I think I was the only guy in the field on Al wheels, strange times.

Pro Cat-4

Good points and good questions, but if we just look at this:"Why would a company like DT-Swiss spend money and time on a rim-brake, black brake tract wheel when they would presumably be all-in on road disc? Still enough consumers who want the carbon-fiber wheel look, who don't want disc, or who don't want a disc bike?"There are absolutely completely enough consumers who want the carbon-fiber wheel look, who don't want disc, or who don't want a disc bike. I'm still consistently the only person on a disc bike (when I use mine). The switchover, should it happen (and I think it likely will), will take years. And some of the coatings do improve the wheel by making the brake track more abrasion resistant. As for the look, my guess is that nearly 100% of people, given equal access to either a black brake track or silver, would choose the black one. In the greater picture, the point is that it's nice that some companies actually seem to be paying attention to alloy wheels. "Race wheels" doesn't have to mean carbon.


The feats of engineering by manufacturers and financial extremes consumers will endure to get rid of a silver-colored brake tract is crazy. I'm sure people probably think the same about by blue/pink/gold/purple hubs but "hey! They are functional!". I also had the pleasure to advising someone as to why I'd "spend all that money for T-11/R-460s when I could buy race wheels", and then advised him that the race wheels had pink hubs. lol Race wheels are for racing, training wheels are for destruction. I'm thinking the black brake tracts will pull in a lot of consumers who want that all-black look, but I will take a silver brake tract over guessing what that black, ceramic brake tract will look like after 10k miles. Why would a company like DT-Swiss spend money and time on a rim-brake, black brake tract wheel when they would presumably be all-in on road disc? Still enough consumers who want the carbon-fiber wheel look, who don't want disc, or who don't want a disc bike?

Pro Cat-4

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.