The rim brake product conundrum

The rim brake product conundrum

We've beaten this drum a bit lately, and with good reason - though Wout van Aert keeps winning on rim brakes, rim brakes are indeed being marginalized by the industry at large. This puts a lot of people in the difficult position of not knowing whether to invest in their rim brake bikes, specifically their wheels - wheels being challenging to transfer from a rim brake bike to a disc brake bike.

Mike and I have this conversation often enough, and as repetitively enough, that it could be a comedy act if some talent were thrown at it. It goes like this (and I'll just refer to us as "x" and "y" because either of us could take either role at any time):

x: You know, what the product landscape needs now is a great rim brake product with hubs that are better than the OEM stuff but less expensive than White Industries

y: Agreed. The only way to really do it is to invest a ton in having our own hubs made.

x: You're right. And the only way to really do that is not to offer any color options, and limit it at least to 20/2 and 24/28 drillings.

y: Yup, and we know that as soon as we pick one color, people are going to ask how they get it in other colors. Or other drillings.

x: Yup. We've learned that a few times. But there's really no great product that fits in that market gap. Makes you wonder if there's really a market gap there. 

y: Yup. There are so many other things we can and have to invest in, it just doesn't seem like our own hubs can ever really make sense.

x: Agreed. Well, let's table this conversation until the next time Dave has too much time alone and starts thinking up stupid crap again.

So, really, there are decent hubs out there at the OEM level. They're not great, but they're good. How good do rim brake hubs need to be at this point, where a lot of people are kind of one foot out the door on rim brake bikes? Good question. We don't know.

And then there are great hubs out there at the "boutique" level, where you know you're getting an insane hub, but is it more than you need knowing that the hub could outlast your use of rim brakes? Good question. We don't know.

What I can tell you is that two products in the last month have poked out - Boyd Altamont Ceramic with Chris King hubs and HED Belgium+ with White Industries hubs. Some of this has been because supply of these parts has been good where others have been out of stock (Velocity Quills are still 3 weeks out, for example). We've had to invest in alloy rim stock more than we usually do in order to keep stock of these rims, and that's a new reality to which we've adjusted and it's fine. The geometry of a slightly narrower product line allows for a heavier stock position, and alloy rims as a component are relatively cheap so it's not a huge deal. Problematically, King is out of 20h front hubs until a long time from now (New Years?) so while we've been able to tap dance around that for a few hours, our dancing shoes fell apart the other day and we have to succumb to that reality for a bit. EDIT - CK has updated us to say that they are out of rim brake hubs until late January/early February. Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it. It's craziness out there. 

Rails have also been selling well, more 55s than 25s but both are doing well, both predominantly with White Industries hubs but also with Industry Nine hubs. These patterns I just can't explain. 

Most/all of the popularity of those two products is driven by consumer choice without any influence from us, overt or not. Perhaps we generally talk about them more simply because they're available, and for example this post reinforces that. I don't know, my girlfriend is the one with the Masters in Psych, I'm a dummy on the topic. Probably they're just good products that make sense and, in the realm of quality versus price, they still have a lot of value. Tough to say. 

Mostly I think just the way we rerun that hub conversation internally is funny, and thought you might as well.

If you've watched any of the Vuelta, holy bovines is Sepp Kuss a star. Bernie Eisel has been my spirit guide since beyond forever, but Sepp is making one heck of a case for himself. 

Have a nice weekend. 

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I live in Pagosa Springs CO which is about 50 miles and one pass east of Durango which is where Sepp was born and raised. Sepp Kuss an American name? Never heard of him until the Veulta and now I’m a fan. Great to see an American generating interest in the sport. Strong kid,

Danny Bartley

Funny I was just reading Boyd Cycling website about how their molds broke – will be fixed in November – I was heading to suggest you work with them – and here you are – you are doing that! Collaboration clearly the answer.

David Webber

I see…there are definitely some downsides there! Thanks for the explanation :)


Joe – It’s possible with fronts, although you’re compromised in a lot of ways:
1. You’re stuck with a rim brake rim, which either has a machined brake track you don’t want when you do go to disc, or you have a carbon rim that’s engineered for rim brakes (and likely has a visible brake track).
2. Most rim brake bikes are limited with tire sizes that make narrower rims make more sense, and when you go to a disc bike you’re likely to want a somewhat wider rim to use wider tires with
3. Not a huge deal, but rim brake fronts are stronger spoke-for-spoke because no dish.
4. 20h fronts (which are most of the rim brake fronts we sell) not a good idea with disc hubs
5. You have to have a hub that takes QR now and will take 12mm (which has become a solid standard) later, and do both well.
I don’t see any aero gains coming from using a disc hub in a rim brake application, perhaps you could explain that?
For the rear hub, you need QR 130mm spacing now and you’re going to need 12×142 later, and maybe there’s a way to cadge that together but I’m pretty sure it would be full of compromises.
So as I see it there’s quite a bit of downside.


Why not build your rim brake wheel with disc brake hubs? You gain a little in aero (maybe?) and a lot in “future proof-ation” right? Is there any downside?


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