Since the beginning, we've focused on doing what others either wouldn't or couldn't. Early on, this meant delivering reliably sourced and expertly handbuilt wheels (the FSW clincher and RFSW tubular), and the Wheelhouse. The Wheelhouse, available as both a component frame and complete build, wound up being far far more than we ever imagined it could - those who've owned or even ridden them are absolutely smitten with them, even after all this time. Unfortunately, the supplier went nutso on terms and we can't offer the original any more, but the lingering enthusiasm for what it is and what it does has moved us to have one of the world's top builders resurrect it for us. More on that later.
The Rail rim series was a big step for us, a heat resistant carbon clincher with verified world class aerodynamics, built by hand with the best components you can find. Developing the Rail opened our eyes to the value testing offered to us and our customers. As ever, the "how" of testing was just as important to us as the "what" of it - just proclaiming empty and untethered statements like "10% faster" or "18% stiffer" without explicating what the comparisons mean, and being transparent about how we arrived at them, didn't do it for us. It had to be the November way, completely open book, as objective as we could possibly be.
When we test in the tunnel, it's directly against a proven class leader, as when we benchmarked the Rail 52 against the Zipp 404. This week, we're excited to be going back to test an actual production 52 (with 20 spokes rather than the 24 that our prototype had), as well as to test a 34 against an Enve 3.4. Beating up on some nebulous "standard 32 spoke box section wheel" that no one has any interest in riding anyway is one way, but openly testing against known leaders is a much more informative (and, for us, exciting) way to do it.
Now we've gotten into testing wheel and rim stiffness, in ways that allow us to get much smarter about what wheels we recommend. Since so many of the wheels we sell are available from other sources, why do we do it? Who in their right mind would test their proprietary carbon rim against an alloy rim that you can get in a build from many dozens of builders? We're excited to learn, and we know it improves what we do and how we do it. If knowing what we feel like we need to know costs us the time, expense, and potential risk that these tests expose us to, so be it. The final result, whatever the result, is that we're better able to help you find the build that's best for you.
And what of the shared benefit of this knowledge? We know that once we publish what we find, the info is going everywhere, and people who've gained knowledge on our dime can use what we've shown to their own benefit completely outside of us. For one thing, results are one thing and process is quite another. Going through all of the steps to learn what we are simply makes us smarter. Borrowing our facts is well and good, but the fundamental knowledge we gain is ours to keep. For another, being a leader in the testing game has already opened doors for us and continues to do so in exciting ways.
In the long run, we know it comes back, and that people want to work with the people who move the game forward. To date, we feel that we've helped drive the conversation to more rational places. For example, the way we benchmark aerodynamic tests is something that's gotten a lot of notice, and people now expect more from the information they're given. The joke that is "claimed weight" is being exposed for the farce that it is. We'll be more than happy if we can help drive a substantive change away from the way a lot of this stuff has been done, but if we have to be out standing in our field, we're good with that, too.