Blog time has been at a premium lately. The other element, quite honestly, is that the editorial idea pile hasn't exactly been overflowing. Today's topic comes, as many have, thanks to my morning perusal of the industry headlines. It's about hubs.
Very early on, we became convinced of the value of great hubs, and we emphasized it. Certainly with rim brakes, the hub is the only non-consumable part of the wheel. Spokes can act non-consumable, but when your rims wear out and you get new ones, if you get different rims than the ones you had you probably need new spokes. But a great set of hubs can be used nigh on forever if it's well cared for. Plus they usually survive whatever crash you might throw at them.
A lot of the brands against which we're compared have always primarily used hubs that are closely comparable to the Novatec hubs we first sold. That's not a bad thing, as they are pretty nice hubs. You can read more in-depth about hubs in this post which is from 18 months ago. Now, many of those brands are offering more boutique or name brand hubs as options in their builds. The critical thing is that we were so often being compared against them as we were at or near price parity with them when our build had name brand hubs (White Industries T11s more often than not) and theirs had OEM-spec hubs. Now they are bolting a few hundred dollars onto their prices with the name brand hub options. For many, it's an exercise in "more expensive must mean better." If you're reading this, I expect more from you than that.
We're currently doing a featured build with Industry Nine hubs. We've been flirting with I9 for a long time, and I'm not going to lie a big part of that has been that they are dead sexy, but they've also got a great rep coming mostly out of the mountain bike sphere, and mountain bikers trash hubs. Like the old Life cereal ads, if they like it, it's got to be good. They also do some things uniquely nicely, which is a separate topic. But we're also not far away from adding back some OEM hub options to the mix, which will provide a marked contrast to some of what we've seen.
Let's say Wheel Company A has a build for $750 with OEM hubs, good house-labeled alloy rims, and CX Rays. Leaving aside the whole "are CX Rays worth it over Lasers" question for a moment, there is no second of my life that I'll think that our $785 Select+ build with T11s, Easton R90SL rims, and CX Rays doesn't absolutely blow Company A's build out of the water. There's no comparison to me. But when Company A adds a name brand hub as an option and adds $300 or even more to the price of their wheels, you have to be kidding me. The only thing better about the Company A proposition in that case is their increased margin.
Conversely, when we reintroduce OEM spec hubs as an option, we will categorically NOT be chopping $300 or more off our price. They will be less expensive, for sure. The benefit of offering a still-awesome set of wheels with a more attainable price is self evident - they will be great wheels and a great value. But we never puffed up the price with the name brand hubs so there won't be a price reduction equivalent to the increase we're seeing from others as they add name brand options.
Not to say one way or another on I9's, as I have no experience with them, but I would not look to mtn bikers opinions as carrying much weight (and I am one). They simply don't ride as much as roadies, thus never see longevity issues that come up with roadies. They also rarely ride in mud the likes of cross races, and when the do, they mostly have the sense to not quickly hose a bike off mid race. My opinion – roadies put much more wear on wheel components, while cross racers stress the bearings and seals vs mtn bikers.
Your wheels are still one of the best bargains out there. I am looking forward to what you have up your sleeve next!
I had 10K miles over 3 sets of the Novatecs and never had a single issue. Current set (the 4th) on my Rail34s has close to 4K and I still haven't needed them serviced (nor has a spoke wrench touched a nipple yet).
Still can't believe people couldn't figure out the November hubs. I miss them.
Company A is Boyd? ;)