The Wrong Tool For The Job

Well, we've had this year's warped rim incident.  It happened in a century ride, on a hill that the rider described as "incredible.  Long, steep, and windy..."  The rider is a big guy (240 pounds), making his situation a perfect storm of the sort that I described here last year.   The disappointing thing about this is that the rider who had this happened got in touch a few weeks ago to tell us that he loved the wheels, but had popped a tube on a descent and wondered if the 145psi he regularly used was too much pressure.  We reiterated that we recommend no higher than 125psi, that 145 was dangerous, and that we did not recommend carbon clinchers for situations where one might need to control one's speed for long distances. Exactly the kind of situation he was in. 

A lot of companies out there will tell you that carbon clinchers are a great choice in any situation.  It's our firm belief that this has never been the case and that it is not now the case.  Carbon clincher manufacture has improved, as has brake pad compatibility.  Some situations that would have demolished first generation carbon clinchers are well within the envelope now.  As a testament to the strength of our carbon clinchers, consider that the rider who warped his rims had already exploded two tubes on this ride, without damaging the rims.  This is in addition to the tube he'd exploded prior.  So his tubes gave him two very loud (I presume quite literally) and clear warnings, yet he pressed on through.  

The concerning thing for us in not that we now have to make with a new set of rims and build a warranty set.  Yes, we are going to warranty this set, although the absolute disregard for what we thought were pretty customer-centric use and warranty terms and conditions have caused us to modify them (new T&Cs here).  The concerning thing is that by using such the wrong tool for the job, the rider and all of the riders around him are put at serious risk.  

Carbon clinchers are a fantastic tool for a lot of riding.  I am I don't know how many thousand miles into my set, and they have been flawless, and they are currently the only wheels I have to use.  That is the kind of faith we have in our carbon clinchers - they are the only wheels I currently use.  I'm also 165 pounds, don't ride down monster switchback descents in traffic, don't ride my brakes, maintain my brake pads, and generally stay within the use parameters we've always espoused.  Although we really don't recommend it (and have always excluded damage from it), I raced our district's annual "spring classic" - complete with one mile of dirt road per lap, for a total of six miles of dirt road taken at race speed - on RFSC38s last weekend. And I wasn't dicking around at the back of the field either, I made the break and got fifth.  Last night, I took several trips down a hill that's about 1k long, straight and steep, using several different braking techniques.  Normally, you'd get to about 35 on this hill before needing to brake for the light at the bottom.  I held my speed to 20 on one descent, and though the rims were warm to the touch, there was no issue. 

Heat warping does not happen in normal use modes.  It happens when you take the wheels out of the parameters in which they work.  There are few better wheels to use in your typical road race or office park crit than a well built set of carbon clinchers.  As evidenced by prominent rides (notably, Levi's Gran Fondo) preventing their use, there are some situations in which carbon clinchers are the WRONG choice.  Going down what would ordinarily be a fast and challenging descent with 500 or 5000 of your closest friends, some of whol might be a heck of a lot more proficient at going up hills than they are going down them, is the wrong time to be on carbon clinchers. 

Despite quite a bit of marketing to the contrary, this isn't an issue that the expensive brands have solved.  A bit of Google will show you that, and I'll tell you once again that almost exactly one year ago I saw, firsthand, a set of the most heavily marketed carbon clinchers fail due to heat - in exactly the type of conditions where we warn of their deficiency. The specific set of wheels that are more than any other responsible for the decision taken at Levi's Gran Fondo cost well in excess of $2,000.  You can't hide from physics, no matter how big your marketing budget. 

We like our customers, and want them to enjoy cycling and be safe and have stuff that performs well.  It doesn't take a lot of customer education to convince people that, for example, a mountain bike race is the wrong place to use your road bike.  Unfortunately, it takes quite a bit more effort to convince people that carbon clinchers are not a wheelset for every condition - even direct and specific warnings emailed personally go unheeded.  That being the case, we feel it necessary to take a couple of actions.  First, the terms and conditions have been updated.  Second, we will no longer be selling carbon clinchers in spoke counts higher than 20/24.  The world's most powerful sprinters don't need higher spoke counts than that (although they do all seem to prefer 24 spoke wheels), so wheel stiffness is not a concern.  This move is purely to discourage those riders who are bigger than would be adequately served by 20/24 spoke counts to choose wheels other than carbon clinchers.  We will lose sales because of this, we know that.  There are cases in which riders might wind up with the exact same rims we sell, but with higher spoke counts.  We simply feel that this is the reasonable and responsible course of action for us and our customers.  

See you at the office park!

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Joe,Believe it or not I thought a lot about you when I wrote this. Simply put, the few bad apples have spoiled the barrel. I see you riding your wheels and it's a pretty darn good argument for keeping the SOB build. Unfortunately, realizing that we could send an email directly to a customer and have what we say blatantly ignored is unfortunately a stronger argument. Remember that our standard build has more spokes (usually 4 each wheel) more than many others. The wheels "they" are putting together for 180 pound guys who throw 1900 watts in a sprint are laced like our standard build. We will continue to offer tubulars in SOB build. But the bigger question to you is, knowing the potential misuse of our wheels that's out there, what would you have us do? Cone up with a better solution and we're all ears. I'm sorry to disappoint you but we unfortunately can count on people to not act like you do. Dave


this only goes to show what you get when you buy from a company that puts in ZERO dollars to R&D….your chinese/taiwanese/indonesian knockoffs will eventually catch up to you, and or, get somebody killed or seriously injured. You have no idea what quality control the company you've never visited puts into the hoops you use. You know nothing about the carbon or the resins they use. You guys have got it coming.


While I understand your reasons for coming to the decisions that you did, I have to say that I am very disappointed that November will no longer be selling SOB builds for their RFSCs. As a cyclist of, shall we say, a meatier build than the average (or stereotypical) enthusiast I found the added spoke count offered by the SOB option to be of paramount importance in creating a strong, stiff and durable wheelset.Does this mean that if I buy a set of 20/24 RFSCs and knock them out of true using my ample girth and ham-fisted riding techniques you will warranty the build? Will you offer 2x lacing on your builds regardless of spoke counts?I am also disappointed in your statement: "The world's most powerful sprinters don't need higher spoke counts than that (although they do all seem to prefer 24 spoke wheels), so wheel stiffness is not a concern." Another reason that I was drawn to this company was its avoidance of using the "if it is good enough for the pros…." brand of faulty logic.

Joe Ajello

Isn't the solution telling the guy who repeatedly ignored your advice to f&( off? Or – if you want to be *really nice guys – posting this post and ending it by telling everyone that "Hey, act like this idiot, and you're on your own"?Something tells me that the same people who ignore your technical advice and bomb-beyond-parameters on your existing SOB builds are the same people who will buy 20-spoke builds and do the same thing. So I'm really not sure you get what you want (I presume it's fewer big guys on your wheels) with the new policy.Just thinking out loud, here. Got a lot of respect for what you've done/what you're trying to do.


While I'm disappointed I'm not surprised. I love my SOB 38's but I know there is a time and place for them. Luckily for me there are no long, steep technical descents anywhere around me so I get to use them every time I ride. And even on relatively short descents I feather the brakes (per your suggestion) and have not had any issues nor do I expect any.And I wonder if roooh-aaahdd is trolling the boards for Edge, Zipp, Boyd, Williams etc..? Like you said, this situation would have destroyed any of their wheels with carbon brake tracks. I, for one, will be back for another set. I may wait until I'm less than 215# though.

Chris P

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