As soon as we got some better photos of our frames in circulation, we started getting the "so, what is it?" question. There's a prevalent, lingering thought out there that our frame is a knockoff or unlicensed production of a well-known brand's frame. It's not like that.
That's not to say that other brands aren't using the same frame. They are. I can't say who, primarily because I don't know. It might be a pretty significant brand, it might be smaller brands. The manufacturer has created and offers this frame expressly for what we are doing, which is commonly known as "white labelling." The demo frames that we have in our possession are from another company's production. The aesthetic top layer of carbon on three of them is 12k (the fat weave) while the other is 3k (the thin, good looking, weave). All of them have gloss top coat. We chose 3k weave with matte top coat because we think it looks sensational, but the fact is that the rest of the pups from the litter that our demo frames came from are going to some other place, to be branded by some other company. And when their customers ask "so, what is it?" they will reply "well, don't tell anyone, but it's a November Wheelhouse!"
A friend of mine runs sales for a company that does this in the outdoor clothing business. Occasionally they will produce a piece that gets uptake from one of the major "hard core street cred" brands, but mostly they sell technical gear to stores and outfitters who will then private label them as sell them as their own brand. So it's not like the fleece jacket they are selling is coming off the same line as the Patagonia Retro-X, or is a counterfeit of it, it's just a similar product in a category where product evolution has gotten to the point where product differentiation is fairly minimized.
That said, it might be that, you know, some larger brand thinks that the product is a perfect fit for their lineup and is doing what we're doing. Say you're a pretty big mountain bike brand with an established competency and a good following among that crowd. A lot of your customers are asking "so when are you guys going to come out with a road bike?" You'd like to give your clients what they're asking for, and you'd certainly like to get paid for doing so, but the resources it would take to design, engineer, and build a road frame from the ground up is beyond you. So you go to a company like our supplier, whic has lots of design experience and competence, is pumping out frames for a huge client list, which has significant resources to invest in R&D and testing and certification, has a long and verifiable history of providing good product, and has the wherewithal to provide good warranty protection because stuff, unfortunately, does happen. And you place an order for a daunting number of frames to meet their minimum, you get your graphics package sorted out, you nail down your logistics, and BAM you're in the road bike business. It doesn't take a genius, you just need to hit about 1,000 singles in chasing down all of the little things that, if you don't mind them, will grow into issues. And you need to place that minimum order.
Yes, there are some similarities between our frame and others. I noticed the other day that a very prominent brand's model year '11 top/seat tube cluster looks a whole lot like ours. Does that mean that they copied our manufacturer? More than likely, it just means that as carbon bike engineering and fabrication continues along, the right answers will become ever more evident and product differentiation will narrow. Look at steel frames from 25 years ago - except for artisanal lugwork, steel frames had gotten to the point where differences were mere shading. Try to find a bike that doesn't have a fairly chunky bottom bracket, or a similarly stout head tube cluster. There are only so many ways you can skin the cat of a tapered head tube, so of course they are all going to look somewhat similar.
Mike and I are fairly enthusiastic followers of a fellow named Rick Vosper, who has an incredible depth of industry experience but never lets "the way we've always done it" shade any of his thoughts. He's pretty devout in his belief that quality products are more or less at parity. It's not just what we want to believe because we (and you) would benefit from such a paradigm, it's what we actually DO believe. Firmly.
So it may be that you see a frame somewhere along the way that is a long lost brother of this handsome devil, but the story of how it got to be that way isn't necessarily what a lot of people assume to be the case.
Come to the Great November Ride on Saturday. Rock Creek Park - parking lot immediately below Beach/Broad Branch intersection. Demos start at 930. Ride rolls at 1030.
Thank you for your support.