The arms race and the check valve

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Hard to believe, but here we stand on the eve of the Tour once again. If you don't have a calendar, you could know this by the inevitable pre-Tour release of a large doping investigation, a clash between the Tour's stakeholder parties, and of course the new tech and product releases.

The doping and the infighting I'm sure we could all live without, but the product releases are always interesting. The tech stuff really had me sit up and take notice. With half the world on Strava, people are more interested in going faster for any given metric of input than ever before, plus let's face it - going fast is freaking awesome. Being a sort who could teach Kierkegaard how to see a glass as half empty, I of course also had the immediate thought of "who's actually going to buy this stuff, and how many people will look at their perfectly lovely bikes and perceive a staggeringly costly and quick obsolescence and say f it, I give up"?

In truth, I don't think any of us imagine that we'll show up to tonight's ride and be the only one without one of the new brand of wonderbikes: the simple fact is that these are driven by the needs and wants of top pros, and their use by those pros drive awareness, which then drives sales for more accessable products. These are, in fact, halo bikes. They might have enough unit sales to actually work as products, but my guess is that the halo is the bigger deal here. 

I fell in love really fast...

Of course, there's always the check valve, which in cycling's case comes in the form of "tribute" designs and trickle down tech. Trickle down tech justifies the costs spent on tech developments, simply because the development costs are amortized over many product cycles. Tribute designs (edit - by which I mean knock offs or the appropriation of the research of others, to be clear. Rails even have some "tribute" knock offs, which I guess means we've made the big time) are a more effective check against runaway crazy stuff, simply because imitation is both the sincerest form of flattery and an unbelievable way to save development costs. We learned that when we were doing the world's homework in the wind tunnel the last couple of years - we anted up so that things could quickly become common knowledge (or in some cases, uncommon knowledge - sometimes myths die hard) - we made the investments, and everyone else became experts about it when we shared. No one's going to spend ALL the money just to do something the rest of the world will be doing by the time the September issue rolls out. This keeps things a little bit in check. 

We're value investors.

It's a funny situation for us. Our stance may often read as "you kids get offa my lawn," but we think the vast body of evidence points to our minds and pencils being pretty sharp indeed on this stuff. The innovations we've been pursuing lately have been more along the lines of finding ways to make better stuff available to more people. We just sent my buddy Christian off to go race Exeter with a set of wheels that will cost less than 20% of what the new crop of wonderwheels cost, with better hubs to boot. Our biggest project of the moment is all about finding out which cross tubeless tires work best, which we think will be of huge value to a ton of people. 

In the end, there are a lot of people out there trying to move the ball forward, and we're glad of it. It's sometimes hard to even see this ourselves, but not only does a more competitive market serve consumers, it provides contrast against which people who are working hard can really show up. 


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  • Jeremy on

    I love the dedication y'all have to testing stuff. And since it's gonna be the Year of the Disc for me (coined it just now!), I am really looking forward to the tubeless testing results and am pretty certain to be using it to influence what I end up ordering from you ;) Especially after two consecutive years where I had tubulars cut by a rock — they aren't fool proof for this fool either!

  • Jeff W. on

    Just bought a pair of the Alloy Ti Nimbus—Pacenti rims, setup tubless with the WTB Nanos. I'll be racing 'em this season instead of my trusty HED tubiess. I'm excited to see how it turns out!


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