The 24 hour news cycle has definitely come to coverage of pro cycling, with I don't even know how many sites all carrying either the same exact story or slight variations thereof. Which, as I write it, is perfectly in keeping with today's topic: re-branding. Rebranding news, rebranding parts, rebranding sponsorships.
One part of cycling coverage that's generally original source is small tech features. Yesterday or the day before, Velonews.com had a photo essay on Denis Menchov's Fuji Altamira. Nice bike, a lot gaudy for my taste, but nice. I'm sure it's vertically compliant and laterally stiffer than get out, but the rear wheel photo instantly got my attention. Before I even had a chance to see the caption I thought "what the heck is a Reynolds hub doing on those wheels?"
Geox's wheel sponsor is Oval. This makes perfect sense from a corporate standpoint since Geox's bike sponsor is Fuji, which is owned by Advanced Sports. Advanced Sports also owns Kestrel, and if I'm not mistaken the Geox TT bikes will be Kestrels. Advanced recently bought Oval Designs to give them a branded house brand for parts, not at all unlike Trek's positioning with Bontrager. From a product standpoint, I'm pretty educated on wheels and to my knowledge Oval doesn't have much history in wheels, but then again neither does November. Not a huge deal. But it gets sticky from there.
DT Swiss is a sub-sponsor of the wheels. Their stickers go alongside the Oval stickers on the rims, which you can see on the bike behind Menchov's in this pic. What does DT provide, exactly? I don't know. Their strongest product lines have traditionally been their excellent hubs (which they got into the business of by acquiring Hugi, another swiss company - and phasing out the Hugi name) and spokes. They have also become known for alloy rims and pre-built wheel systems, and are now making a bigger push into carbon-rimmed pre-built wheels. DT supplies hubs on an OEM basis to a bunch of different wheel brands, including but not limited to Fast Forward, Enve (nee Edge), and... Reynolds.
A Reynolds DV-series wheel, to the best of my knowledge, is composed of a Reynolds-produced rim, a DT-produced hub (which I think is identical to a 240 except in branding), and DT spokes. Reynolds makes their own rims, which are fairly easy to spot with their unidirectional carbon weave and slight green/brown hue. They're nice rims, I've owned a set of them (although not exactly matched, keep reading). Lower-tier Reynolds carbon wheels (Assaults, Attacks, etc) use a slightly heavier ("less refined" in catalog-speak) rim layup in the same mold shape, Reynolds-branded KT hubs, and DT spokes.
Reynolds sell their carbon rims to a few other companies. One of them was Cane Creek, who produced the front wheel that was a very very close cousin to the Assault that I owned. Cane Creek seems to be either completely out of the wheel business or maybe sort of in the track wheel business, but in either case no more road wheels. Another company that sources rims from Reynolds is... (wait for it)... DT Swiss!
A DT Swiss RRC Tubular or RRC Clincher wheel set consists of a Reynolds-produced rim (same mold shape), a DT 240, and DT spokes. So the only difference between the Reynolds wheels and DT's RRC-T and RRC-C series is... labeling. And from sitting in our seat, we've got not an issue with that. Anyone who wants to forego restful sleep could source, buy, and sell EXACTLY what we sell - with whatever stickers please them. Unlike most, we don't rebrand our hubs because it seems more of a PITA to do it and it adds zero amount of value (actually we'd argue that it subtracts value), but the rims don't come with any branding so if you want some branding you have to make some branding.
I need to note that DT also sells a carbon wheel set called the RR1250, which has a notably different rim and which uses DT's 190 hubs instead of 240s.
But back to the picture of Menchov's bike. Who's on first there? The only company that seems to have nothing to do with anything there is Oval. It's a Reynolds-produced rim, and it looks an awful lot like a rebranded 240 hub, and from what I can tell those are DT Revolution spokes. Unless Oval is buying Reynolds-branded DT hubs from Reynolds, and DT-branded Reynolds rims from DT, and DT spokes from someone else, and that's what an Oval wheel is? In which case not only can you buy the same exact wheel set from DT and Reynolds, you can also buy it from Oval.
But if that's NOT what an Oval wheel is, then what's the point of this sponsorship? Mike and I could buy a rack of wheels from someone else, put our stickers on them, and give them to a team and be a sponsor of that team. But with the massive amount of information that's out there on all the internets, from blogs to news sites to forums, the days of plausibly passing something off for something else, especially in a market that craves information the way cyclists do, is long gone.
If you're looking for me to make some huge relevant and poignant point here, I apologize but I'll have to disappoint you. Mostly this falls under the category of idle navel gazing. I just really can't understand what the point is there? Of course when I brought this topic up to Mike, he sent back another picture from the same series - can you spot the "WTF?" without looking at the caption? Is ANYTHING what it's supposed to be?