The World's Most Expensive Suffix

Another company has come along claiming to be "the world's fastest wheels." It strikes me that "-est" must be the three most expensive letters in the English language.  

We've done a good fair bit of testing, and in doing a lot of testing, you learn a lot. To the good, you learn a lot about what makes your products good, and you learn how you might make them better. You learn how your products compare to others, which increases your ability to help people match a product to their intended usage. Like the torture that was Stanley Kaplan's SAT test-prep course, testing also teaches you how to test better.  

There is some expensive, but low-hanging fruit out there.  If you test your wheels with a whole range of tires, there's bound to be one that gives you an edge relative to the others.  If you are close enough in the first place, that might nudge you over the edge and make you "fastest." Doing this kind of testing is like lighting $100 bills on fire, which eventually the customer (or the bankruptcy) will pay for, and it doesn't actually make your wheels any better, but when you NEED to show the magical "-est," I guess it sounds like a smart spend.  

If you want to do the same with wheels-in-bike testing, that's also expensive but easy. Ever wonder why the copy says "these wheels were the fastest in the test on bike x" but the picture shows said wheels in bike y? Because they tested bike u, v, w, x, y, and z in order to find the one case in which the "-est" bell rang in their favor.  

You can also do some pernicious things, like this "removing the tare" thing that some wheel companies do.  When you test a wheel in a tunnel, something needs to hold that wheel in place. Some companies (oddly enough, there seems to be a correlation between companies claiming "-est" and this technique) run the support struts independently, and then simply subtract that drag from the figures their wheels test at. To use the simplest analogy that I can come up with, this is like saying that if you have an anemometer directly upwind of a brick wall, and another directly downwind of a brick wall, that the sum of their readings is what an anemometer would read in the absence of the brick wall. But set my analogy aside and use the analogy of the wind tunnel (A2) at which we've done our testing - "we don't consider removing tare to be correct protocol." Wait, that's not an analogy, that's a direct statement.  Sorry.  And it's not standard industry practice, either.   

Then you have the simple things.  When we tested 52 versus 404, we used a tube with an 80mm valve stem.  If we wanted to optimize our drag readings for public consumption and comparison, we'd use a short stem and inflate the tires using an extender, then tape over the hole.  The 6mm of extra valve stem that pokes out of a 52 versus a 404 may not amount to the difference that lets us claim "-est," but it's fairly likely that we're the only ones leaving that freebie on the table. Why do we do it the way we do it? Because that's the way people do it when they ride.  

The other challenges of "-est" are more subtle but perhaps more costly in the long run. If you play tricks, they're going to come around and bite you in the ass sometime, somehow. Mike and I put a lot of stock in what we've said in this and other channels, and there's nothing we'd ever have to backtrack and try to "unsay." We would hope that if you read the blog from post 1 to this one that you would see a ton of development, consideration, reconsideration, and incorporation, but no vast right wing conspiracy could justifiably call us flip-floppers on anything. Everything we write is as honest as it can be when it's written, there's no trickery at all whatsoever.  

The other, HUGE cost of "-est" is what do you do when it's gone?  You put yourself on the hot seat, and then someone knocks you off.  Your whole story had been "-est" - what's your story now? We like to think that being really really good at everything means a heck of a lot more than being "-est" at anything.  

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The new wheels you tag lined I sure will be fast, but my guess is that, in real world usage, they're "fast" just like most aero wheels of similar depth and width achieve similar drags and stabilitiez. This reminds me an awful lot as a physician of the claims drug companies make about side effect profiles and efficacy. Lots of "-est" claimed when the testing is done in house., especially when you're charging a premium and need to recoup R&D and marketing fees. When residents ask which antibiotic to prescribe for certain conditions ( there are often 3 or 4 competing choices), I usually tell them to pick the least expensive. When they ask why, I tell them nobody's marketing it any more, so the newest data on it's efficacy is likely to be reliable, and cost is cost. Your designs are solid, and cost is cost. Looking forward to building up some rails at home while my son crawls around the floor. Keep up the good work.


Jay – Pink ponies are easier than mtb rims. Balkanization of sizes and purposes, much much smaller market, and people's general willingness to take chances with rims produced who knows where and by whom are obstacles. We build insanely nice mountain bike wheels, but they're based on Stan's rims. We're actually 0% marine, but would love to chat with your brother. Generally, the molding process for rims isn't something those guys want to deal with. I've talked to several who were happy to learn if we'd pay them to do it. Dave

Dave K

This is entirely unrelated…or mostly unrelated…why don't you bring this same refreshing approach to MTB wheels? A light, strong, resonably priced 29er XC wheelset is separately needed here. Requirements: ca 1400's total wheelset weight, seals as well as a Stan's offering, is stiff like Enve, can survive the Cape Epic. If you need mock-ups or composites help, my brother owns a composites company in Bristol, RI (much like you two, it's mostly marine, Carbon Ocean Yachts), a short distance from you. My contribution to the process will be mostly moral support, and heckling with South Park quotes. And, theoretically, I need these wheels for next spring. I'd also like a pink pony. Thank you.


MDBiker – ThanksTom – I didn't mean to blow your mind. It's a pain in the butt (a regulated air source really helps) but sure absolutely you can do it in a race


I have a feeling that no matter which of the many high-quality wheels Nairo could have ridden on the Stelvio this year, his margin of victory would have been about the same. Sure, he used Bora Ultra IIs, but had he been riding Rail 52s, he'd have won by about the same margin.They're all "good enough" to where it comes down to what is more reliable. And I still haven't heard of a pro losing a stage because a wheel bearing blew up. When anything blows up, it's usually something to do with shifting.I think Rails are pretty dog-gone good. Sure, Bora Ultras are good too, but for that price, they'd better be!


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