The best laid plans

People seemed to enjoy yesterday's post, so in that spirit we will share some of November's origin story today. And though I realize that we said and very much meant that we're emptying the clip on blog posts just for entertainment, it's the end of the month and that means we would normally send out a "hey, the preorder is closing" note. So, hey, the preorder is closing Monday. Though the wheels of commerce (see what I did there?) are moving a bit slowly these days, preorders are quite close to schedule. 

This is the first bike I raced on, pictured in a job site office which is now The Tasting Room at Brabo, near the King Street Metro. Want funny looks? Ride your bike to a job site. Good thing I was the boss...

So, there we were. Mike had started and run GamJams for a few years, and - I get to say this, he won't publicly - it was one of the best things that had ever happened to a local/regional racing scene. And he thought "I'm not wasting nearly enough time and money on this web site, let's double down and start a race team." I had done some writing for GamJams, and Mike and I had become friends, so I helped a bit with organizing the team. It was a Cat 3 team, say what you will, blah blah, it was also probably the best road racing experience anyone who was on the team ever had or will have. Mike gets the credit.

When you got invited to the team, you learned about it by Mike sending you a pair of these socks.

When my last pair (Mike slid me a couple on the dl) died a few years ago, a part of me died with them. 

Mike actually got frames for all of us to use. This was in the early early days of open mold stuff, and he went through headache after headache with the guy who had the brand that "supplied" our frames. As a result, Mike go to know pretty much what there was to know about sourcing frames. I was trying to find a frame to build up for Katie, who wanted to try racing, and was having a not very fun time with that. So we activated our wonder twin powers and the idea for a racer-oriented brand to supply good, cheap frames that you wouldn't cry about if they died a bloody mess in corner 3 was born. 

Gus took the idea a little too far once. But we went through about a lot of frames and then finally the frame that became The Wheelhouse (I get credit for the name) landed on our door, and immediately we knew it was the one. So that was sorted. But we also knew we wanted to make some wheels, and so we did that. The alloy wheels were easy, we just got Kinlin rims and Novatec hubs, and then I luckily got hooked up with the US Sapim rep, so that was that. Carbons were a bit trickier, as they cost more, the supply end was a lot murkier, and we didn't know all that much about them. The good news was that, back then, real race wheels meant tubulars, and it's almost hard to build a bad tubular rim. We got some, and built them up*, and I rode road bikes in the woods for a couple of months. We didn't know how else to really test them, so we just beat the shit out of them and they lived and we were cool with that. 

*Now a tricky part. Larry was a teammate and a good guy but kind of a flake (a thousand heads just nodded, this is not a controversial revelation) and he was going to be our wheel builder. So we gave him a pile of stuff to build some wheels and he delivered us... something. I broke a spoke the first time using one set. They weren't good. So off I went to buy Jobst Brandt's wheel building book because we had a WHOLE bunch of people expecting good wheels and now our plan was in tatters. Good thing we had time, that was the only asset we had. In my living room, I built and rebuilt wheels until the spoke threads wore out. Compared to what I could do hammered today, they probably weren't all that great, but they were better than most of what you saw and I was getting better by the day. And we had like 2 choices so it wasn't like I needed to become the DaVinci of wheel building right away. That came later! (sarcasm)

While that was going on, Mike and I would show up at all the cross races and do demo rides and let people use wheels in cross races and all the other stuff. It was a total bootstrap grass roots sales effort. Not sure I could ever do it again, but we did it for quite a while and we wouldn't have gotten started without it. 

And now the part you really want to know - why November? First, have you ever named a business? It's tough. Names sound good, then you find out they're taken or there's no good domain to go along with them, or they start to sound stupid after a bit. Second, on the classic road prep calendar, you start training for next year in November. The cycle starts in November. Third, we opened the web site for sales on November 1, 2010. So November makes sense. 

I missed most of it, but that gives you some of the flavor of it. 

Okay, so after two weeks of blogging basically every weekday, I'm tapped. Hopefully the coronavirus thing dies down quickly for a ton of important reasons, but for me my virtual voice is a little hoarse, and more than that my idea bank needs a bailout (after all, it's too big to fail!), so here's the deal - next week is ask me anything format. It's not going to be live, but we'll take questions on the info line at info@(our website domain) over the weekend and then post answers next week.

For real, please stay isolated and do the right thing. This sucks, but the alternative is way way worse. 


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  • Mike E. on

    Steve,
    My Wheelhouse is still my primary road bike…I also had their alloy prototype cross frame, then their Hot Buns CX carbon frame. Had put the deposit down for the Timoneria, but had to pull it back due to a career move that resulted in a pay cut (which I will never do again)…so I ALMOST had one of each frame November had in their line-up, back when they sold frames.

  • Dave on

    Thanks everyone. Were glad you enjoy the posts.

  • Chris in PA on

    Thank Goodness for everything you Guys do – build awesome wheels and help us keep our sanity. I Love my HED Belgium Plus/WI T11/CX Ray wheels you made. The Blogs have been enlightening, entertaining, and enjoyable. Keep em coming when you recover….

  • Brett on

    I ride my November wheels out here in San Francisco/Marin and I love them. They go fast up hill. Can you please make a run of GamJam socks? I bet you sell out.

  • Jeff on

    Thanks for the daily diversions, Dave. Greatly appreciated.



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