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!

Back to blog


Removing the SOB build will only encourage larger riders to ride with fewer spokes thus compounding the issue. Anyone, essentially no matter their weight, that abuses carbon clinchers as claimed is going to run into problems. How will removing the SOB build stop this from happening with a 20/24 build? It seems the best answer is to try to inform your customers the best you can, update your policies to not cover gross misuse of any wheels, and those that do misuse the wheels are on their own. This will allow you to keep more business, further education throughout the biking community, and allow those that want the SOB build (be that for weight, durability or any other reason) to still have a great economical choice for a carbon clincher. I was hoping to have a 28H powertap, that I already have, built into a carbon clincher when the money was available. Unfortunately it looks like it won’t happen with November now which is a huge disappointment.


▄▄▄▄▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▄▄▄▄▄▄ ░░░█░░░░▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒░░▀▀▄ ░░░█░░░▒▒▒▒▒▒░░░░░░░░▒▒▒░░█ ░░█░░░░░░▄██▀▄▄░░░░░▄▄▄░░░█ ░▀▒▄▄▄▒░█▀▀▀▀▄▄█░░░██▄▄█░░░█ █▒█▒▄░▀▄▄▄▀░░░░░░░░█░░░▒▒▒▒▒█ █▒█░█▀▄▄░░░░░█▀░░░░▀▄░░▄▀▀▀▄▒█ ░█▀▄░█▄░█▀▄▄░▀░▀▀░▄▄▀░░░░█░░█ ░░█░░▀▄▀█▄▄░█▀▀▀▄▄▄▄▀▀█▀██░█ ░░░█░░██░░▀█▄▄▄█▄▄█▄█░░█░█ ░░░░█░░░▀▀▄░█░░░█░░░█░█░█░█ ░░░░░▀▄░░░▀▀▄▄▄█▄█▄█▄█▄▀░░█ ░░░░░░░▀▄▄░▒▒▒▒░░░░░░░░░░█ ░░░░░░░░░░▀▀▄▄░▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒░█ ░░░░░░░░░░░░░░▀▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄█Mad bro? But, seriously, if you can't realize that this was by no means the rim's fault, get a life. Or a brain.


CM – Solid point, but I don't trust that warranty statements are personal injury lawyer proof. To paraphrase the late, great MCA – we don't want more suits than Jacoby & Meyers (which one might have had to grow up in/near NY to get), and more than getting sued or whatever, we don't want something we've built to be the instrument of someone getting hurt/killed. This situation could have had a much worse outcome. The guy in question LOVED his wheels, which clearly encouraged him to broaden his usage of them when he should have been (even per our directly delivered recommendation to him) using other wheels. Jere – Perhaps not, see below. Bill – Good one, golf clap. Kevin – Little c versus Big C matters, yes. Nothing about long rides increases risk inherently. But organizers of rides, frequently for profit, seeking more "epic" routes and larger fields with consequently more congested descents are problematic. I am scheduled to ride nearly a route that's nearly 100 today (for all the riding and racing I've done, I've never to my knowledge done 100 miles in one ride) and I'm doing it on carbon clinchers. We've never been fans of weight limits because one guy's 190 can be way different than another guy's. We've tried to go beyond that to match rider and use to spoke count. We also have a continually developing data set of what works for people. We know that 20/24 58s are more than good for 205# guys with crazy strong sprints. We know that 85s will handle huge riders and are the last wheel someone is likely to use for a climb/descend fest. So we are putting out new weight limits later today. These will reflect weights that will give the wheels good durability and give great performance to users within the range.Another thing to mention which we have confirmed many times ourselves and users have confirmed for us is that our brake pads do not build heat like many others, SwissStop yellows in particular. Thank you to all (except maybe aah roid/drop dead fred) for the comments. This dialog is valuable and important to us.


Dave,Just a few quick things, First the new police states "Warranty coverage for use in Gran Fondos, Centuries, and Alpine tours is specifically excluded.."Now, just to clarify, I am assuming this means organized rides rather than say, me and two of my racing buddies going out and hammering a 100 mile "century" on a random Wednesday? Second, the 20/24 build, what sort of rider weight limit would you put on that, without even considering ascents or descents, just flat terrain that may include a few bad roads? Would 205 be fine? 215?


Should have named the post "The Wrong Fool for the Job"


Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.