As we've discussed a few times, there's a lot of light and heat around warranty and crash replacement coverage for carbon wheels these days. Our general position is that brands put these big warranty and, particularly, crash replacement deals on their wheels in order to justify big retail pricing. When a set of carbon disc wheels rolls out the door for $1700 to $2000 with pretty basic hubs, as so many do these days, well that's like us charging you for a full set of replacement rims right off the bat.
There has to be A TON of pricing pressure on all these "premium" (which I put in quotes because I think our wheels are pretty f-ing premium by any sane metric) brands, and they have to justify their bloated prices somehow. Warranty is likely a cheap way to do that. The tail-off in warranty from year 2 (just to peg it at a conventional length) to year 5 has got to be asymptotic. Our experience is that warranty issues show up relatively early, but more importantly our experience in the last several years is that warranty issues don't show up at all. So a reasonably cheap way for brands to give you the warm fuzzies and help you feel like you're getting more when you pay more.
The "free" crash replacement policies are more troublesome for us. The moral hazard potential with these things is significant. We don't think that our audience is inclined toward that kind of behavior, but "our audience" and "our customer base" aren't necessarily the same thing. Even LL Bean had to change their policy because people were taking advantage, and I would guess that it wasn't their core audience that necessitated this change, if that makes sense. So we're terribly ill-inclined toward "free" (which I put in quotes because there is no free lunch) crash replacement, and we're not going to do it.
Our historical crash replacement policy has been along the lines of "we're going to do as well as we can for you," which again we think works quite well with our core audience, but doesn't translate as well to people who don't have 3 or 10 years of background with us. So it's begun to feel like a growth limiter.
Here's what we are going to do. Starting now, and retroactive to 11/1/19, all of our carbon disc wheels are covered by a 5 year warranty. All alloy wheels and aftermarket carbon wheels (Enve, Boyd, whatever) are covered by their supplier warranty, as they have been. Labor costs related to our rims are covered - they get rebuilt for free. Alloy and aftermarket carbon wheels will have a $40 labor charge. Shipping costs are not covered (they never are by anyone).
For crash replacement, our carbon disc rims are covered by a $200 replacement for the first 2 years to the original owner. Crashed alloy rims are will be rebuilt for the retail cost of a rim, with no labor charge, 2 years to the original owner. Needed additional parts (spokes and nipples) are case by case (if you need one spoke we'll include it, if you need 14 we can't). Neither of these covers any semblance of our cost incurred, so while they aren't "free" to you, they leave us both with skin in the game.
The pre-order has become a mainstay of our business in one short year. The tweak we introduced in December, of offering a kicker to those getting in before the 15th, has worked well so far (and if you want in for this month's kicker, you're burning daylight - GET!), so we plan to continue some offer like that. The value of that kicker will vary with the season - when we're flat out in June we probably aren't going to give you a free set of tires - but it will be compelling. Interestingly, this month's cassette offer has had more uptake than last month's tire offer. Could just be January versus December, could be that there are too many tires in the world, could be a butterfly effect. No one knows.
And then of course the last bit is that pricing will change starting 2/1. It won't be earth shattering, but some prices have changed (HED rims went up a solid notch, for example), shipping costs are up significantly, we have to salt something away for the liberalized crash replacement, and we're paying our rim supplier for the enhanced warranty. Add to all that, we continually do a better job at the most important thing - helping you choose the best wheels and then building the living h--l out of them.
Thanks, all. To be clear, it’s not like people were violently emailing us being like “you guys suck you don’t do free replacements.” But you do compare type of email inquiry to sales success, and it’s clear that there are many people to whom a more precisely worded and “market current” warranty/crash replacement policy is important. It’s likely that we’ll still lose a lot of them to higher cost of ownership wheels with “better” crash replacement policies, but we might bring some in, and it’s probably good to have these things clearly stated anyway. The warranty jump is available at pretty low cost to us, and so long as we don’t get smoked by a rash of warranty claims 4 years from now (which is a vanishingly small possibility) then everything should be good anyway.
Well, I guess you had to do it but I’m sorry you felt that pressure. I had no worries that you would do right by me or anyone else in the event of an issue and that likewise, decent customers would not be unreasonable. I guess I’m still naively hoping the world is a reasonable place. Personally, I love the craftsmanship in the wheels I’ve gotten- by far the best ones I’ve ever owned and the only non-Mavic rims I’ve owned (don’t judge, I’ve never had an issue with them). In fact, yours are the only wheels I didn’t build myself. I hope the gravy train expectations of the emails you’re obviously receiving die down and you can focus on the build quality and materials which actually matter. Folks who want a safety blanket shouldn’t be out on the roads and trails anyway imho. I’m a lot more scared of the imminent risk of being mowed down by a car or a horse than I am of my wheel failing and if I crash, then I should have been paying attention and it’s certainly not the fault of my wheels. I’ve literally never had an issue with any wheel I’ve ridden.
I’m on my 7th or 8th set of November wheels (my Rails have ~12k miles on them, 2 other gravel/cx sets in active use, rest were sold with the bike they were on), never needed any sort of warrant on them, and even the aforementioned Rails have barely needed any truing despite their age and the type of riding I’ve done on them. You guys will be my goto for wheels until I die or you cease to exist. Keep it up :)
I’m sorry you need to play by the same rules without the requisite cost inflation…