The Wheelhouse - Like a Home Run - is a Mistake

When I was 10 years old and playing Little League, one of my dad's friends was the coach of the varsity baseball team at the high school where both he and my dad were teachers. Noting my interest in the game at a young age, I remember him telling me once, "You know, a home run is actually a mistake." He explained to me that as a batter, you are taught to swing perfectly level, and that you are also trying to hit the ball flush on the center of the bat. If you get it right, you slap a sharp line drive, ideally in a direction unoccupied by fielders. If you hit a home run, you've either caught the underside of the ball with a level swing, or hit it flush with a less powerful upswing. 

It turns out that the advice, however sage, was not an original thought by the coach, but rather borrowed from Reggie Jackson, appearing in a Puma magazine ad in 1978 (see right). Which I'm fine with - ideas want to be free for the borrowing, and the ad is an early and exquisite example of content marketing. Plus Reggie Jackson was in 1977 as Philippe Gilbert in 2011, both to his sport and to me. I can't take offense to someone borrowing his quotation any more than I could to someone dropping me on the 1km climb to the finish.  

When we set out, it was to fill what we saw was a vacancy in the industry - the ability to buy a high quality, reliable racing frame from a trusted brand, at a fair price. The model we came up with to strip out as much of the expense as possible was the pre-order model: by pre-selling our entire order of frames before we bought them, we strip out inventory expense, inventory risk and the inevitable discounts and margin erosion that come from having a lot of stuff you need to turn into cash immediately today now. In theory, that's the way our frame business operates.

In practice, however, there is this detail called MOQ, for Minimum Order Quantity. It's what separates the suppliers whose bikes you are happy and confident selling (and racing), from the suppliers giving you a deal that may be too good to be true. Better suppliers want more reliable customers, and the MOQ wards off buyers who aren't serious about a long-term vision in the bike business. It is very easy to find a trading company on Alibaba who will sell you 2 or 6 or 10 frames - enough to paint in different schemes, take pictures of, put on your website and claim - poof - you're a bicycle brand. (Or, more commonly, a "manufacturer.") It's another thing entirely to get them from a supplier you know to be reputable, who does EN testing, navigates patent law and is not just looking forward to their next order, but is looking forward to your next order. Simply, MOQ is a barrier to entry if you want to buy frames or rims or components of known and reliable provenance. 

MOQ is also what - so far - prevents us from executing on our model with complete purity. We did not pre-sell all the frames we needed to in order to hit our MOQ this year (which was higher than last year's MOQ, and is multiples more than 2 or 6 or 10 like you'll find on Alibaba). As a result, we have about 20 frames in inventory. (And by inventory, I actually mean in Queens, NY being loaded on a truck, right now.) We failed. We made a mistake.

Yet like a home run, our mistake is actually a happy accident - for anyone in the market for a frame, at least. It is not easy to find a new standalone carbon fiber racing frame, particularly for under $900. Yet we have some. Us, those pre-order guys who make you buy a bike at the very moment you want to stop thinking about riding for a month, we're the ones who can actually feed the need, and without the months-wait compromise we normally ask customers to make. 

Of course, our model doesn't take kindly to inventory, so our best prices are still reserved for the customers who paid in advance. Still, even at $885 the Wheelhouse Frameset - with frame, fork, headset, headset spacers, compression plug, BB cable guide, seatpost clamp, a couple water bottles and a sleeve of Veloshines - is still the best deal we've seen, and the best price we're - by definition - able to offer.

Honestly, we wish we didn't have any to offer right now, but we do. So if you're in the market, we hope you'll take advantage of our screw-up.

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I keep waiting/hoping for a row of mistakes to have their picture taken. A row of Wheelhouse frames ready for delivery would be a good picture indeed.




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