The new era of hand built wheels?

Sometime this month, component carbon rims will be available from Mavic. This is notable for a couple of reasons, the two primaries being that 25 or so years ago "hand built wheels" meant wheels using Mavic rims, and that 24.5 or so years ago Mavic launched the Helium pre-built wheel, which started the era of pre-built wheel dominance.

Markets are funny things. Maybe it's just that things go in cycles, maybe we're in a generational shift where people are more confident in choosing what it is they want instead of showing up with what everyone else has, who knows? But if and when a hand built set of wheels is as likely as not to have a carbon Mavic Open Pro rim, some revolution will be complete and we will indeed be living in the future. 

I should note that we have yet to see a new Mavic carbon rim in person, and we may or may not work with them. The Open Pro UST rims had some misses in product design in our opinion (too light, too prone to compression), and most damningly failed to catch on with the market. Can't sell what people don't want. 

Interestingly, the appeal of alloy rims for mountain biking seems undimmed. Perhaps even reinvigorated. This could just be that more people are buying mountain bike wheels, as we've had a bunch of repeat customers get mountain bike wheels lately. MTB race participation in New England is really high, and these things really do go in cycles - dirt was dead while road raged, but now the worm may be turning back. But there are a number of great alloy rims out there for whatever dirt purpose you might have, and the lower cost and "they bend before they break" feature of aluminum is pretty nice. 

Easton/RaceFace played hide and go seek with a former favorite rim, the Easton ARC24. It went away one day, totally unexplained, only to come back with an offset profile, a 1mm bump up in width, and RaceFace rather than Easton branding. This is our third set of these going out in relatively short order since the relaunch, and yes we are very enthusiastic about these. I'd ride these suckers any day, though my set of Easton ARC24-based wheels will do quite nicely until they die.

And yet another leg of the mountain bike thing is that we've done some builds with selected Chinese rims at customer request, and they've gotten really nice. More expensive than the equivalent RaceFace alloy build, but lighter. They still don't bend, so when you hit them hard enough there's no coming back from it, but from what we've seen "hard enough" is pretty spectacularly hard. We're thinking about offering them as regular products, just as we would with any other branded rims, but it's a bit to chew on before we say "PAM let's put the hammer down!"

The buds are starting to come onto the trees here in RI, and the trails are drying out and getting nice. It's amazing how much moisture the vegetation can suck out of the soil when things are getting ready to go all spring time crazy mode. Getting to ride in the woods in shorts and a jersey on Sunday was a pretty nice bonus.


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Mavic Helium. At the time, I remember thinking “Who in the hell is ever gonna buy those?” Yeah, right up there with mid-90’s prognostications of “the Internet” being nothing more than a fad. I guess that’s why I let other people manage my stock portfolio. Regardless, you can have my hand-built alloy rim-brake wheels when you pry them from my cold, dead hands. There’s just nothing better for non-racer, regular road riding (of which one or two of us still do).


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.
[Eric McKeegan — May 13, 2016 “DirtRag”]
BTW .. I’m hungry – what’s that power washer food for my insides 🤔


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