Why you have (hypothetically) not bought our wheels, Part 1

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This is neither a nod to a meme nor to Dave's #whyareyounot tweets, but a conversation Dave and I had back in May. The Rail was in production and scheduled to go on sale within a month and Dave challenged me to identify some of the reasons people (you people) might (hypothetically) not buy them. So I came up with this list:

  1. Want ease of service provided by LBS
  2. Want to physically inspect wheels before purchase
  3. Want a lower price
  4. Want to feel line they are getting a special deal
  5. Are suspicious of our product quality
  6. Are suspicious of our product provenance 
  7. Doubt our longevity
  8. Believe we do not stand behind our product
  9. Do not have enough perceptible evidence that our product is high performance
  10. Do not see enough brand cache
  11. Do not like red hubs and/or silver spokes 
  12. Do not know our full product offerings
  13. Do not want to wait 2-3 weeks or 4-6 months
  14. Believe we are too inexpensive to be high quality
  15. Are not in the market currently
  16. Are pressured to buy team sponsor equipment
  17. Do not live within our geographic distribution
  18. Are waiting for an upcoming product from us
  19. Are in the process of saving enough money to buy from us or do not have enough money now
  20. Are giving credence to some industry misinformation they received

That's some list, we realized pretty quickly. So the next thing we did was set about addressing as many of these as we could, with the aim of removing as many obstacles to purchase as possible once the Rails hit the market. It's now a quarter of a year later and I've been measuring our progress against all of these. I thought you might like to see where we are as well. Here's what we've done and how I score each (+1 means we've addressed, +.5 means we've done something but not enough, 0 means we haven't made any real progress here):

1. Want ease of service provided by LBS. Technically, that already exists. Our wheels are made with standard J-bend spokes available at any shop, and any qualified mechanic can true our wheels or replace a spoke no problem. But part of what we think this means is that customers don't want to feel like heels bringing internet wheels into a shop for service, and/or they want free service on our wheels like they think they'd get if they bought them at a shop. The only way to make a dent in this one is to have some sort of a dealer program. We've done that with the Rail, and are now offering Rail rims to the LBS channel to custom build with whatever spokes and hubs they (and their customers) want. So if you want the LBS experience and a set of Rails, that's now an option. Score: +1

2. Want to physically inspect the wheels before purchase. Short of opening a retail store (which would increase our overhead and end up raising the price of Rails a couple hundred bucks a set to cover it) or holding trunk sale parties (which are lame), we can't tackle this one head-on. But we do let our customers send any wheels back for a full refund within 14 days if they get them and don't want them or can't use them. I'm not giving us points on this one though since we still do a crappy job communicating that. Score: 0

3. Want a lower price. A friend of mine went to a travel agency to book some wild adventure trip for his family. The agent asked him how much he wanted to spend. Wrong question. "Zero! I want to spend zero. But I know I can't so I want to spend as little as possible and still get something great." If you want a lower price than the one we're offering, you want a lesser product than ours. Sorry, we can't help you. Score: 0

4. Want to feel like they are getting a special deal. I believe the prodeal / brodeal is the scourge of the cycling industry. There are brands that sell direct at artificially inflated prices, then give everyone who asks some sort of a prodeal code for a discount, just so customers feel special. (Rudy Project is an example, but I bet you know more.) Know what we think is even better than a special deal? Brands that don't bullshit you with pricing tricks. We launched around the tagline (and philosophy) that "we're a pro deal for everyone." We know that doesn't make you feel special. You don't need to be special to keep from overpaying. This topic makes me seethe so I'm going to stop. Score: 0

5. Are suspiscious of our product quality. This one I completely empathize with. We know that one of the most common proof-of-concepts (proofs of concept?) in our business is to throw 20 wheelsets at some continental pro team to demonstrate they're up for the task. We call BS on that model of course (whose wheelsets are more pampered and enjoy frictionless replacement - yours, or some pro's?) but we recognize that it still alleviates some anxiety over an unknown product. But the kernel of this approach is a testimonial. See a pro racing a wheel and it's a tacit testimonial. Read a review from a respected authority or within a respected publication and it is a more explicit testimonial. We're making headway here, getting some of our demo Rails reviewed by an elite triathlete and currently being tested by road.cc over in the UK. The real progress is yet to come, with production Rails now on a press tour in the US, UK and Australia. As for pro team sponsorship, we're still unmoved. If we do it, it's because we see it as a means to an end, and we'll openly describe it as such. Score: .5

6. Are suspiscious of our product provenance. This particular hypothetical objection is the secondary driver behind the design and development of the Rail (the first is that we think it's a better product than anything else out there, and the market would benefit from its arrival). It's ours and ours alone, a point that we believed would lend increased legitimacy and trust to the brand. That's why we didn't just do a big reveal and say ta-dah! we have a proprietary wheel!, choosing instead to chronicle the development process, prototype development, wind tunnel testing and the path to production right here on the blog. We don't want you to just know that the Rail is ours because we said so; you want to provide you with enough empirical evidence about its provenance that you hold in your heart with conviction that we're not blowing smoke. Score: +1

7. Doubt our longevity. This is less about doubting that we've been here since 2010 (which is observably true by looking through the blog archives - but don't unless you have a lot of time. We've heard stories of people binge-blogging on our site and missing happy hour), and more about how long we would be around in the future, probably driven by concerns for service, warranty and resale value. I think part of the reason for this concern is that most of our products previously had a 1-year warranty. The truth is that anything that is likely to result in a warranty claim happens within the beginning of a product's lifecycle - usually within the first month or two depending on how often it's used. So we could have had a 5 year warranty and it probably would have resulted in little additional liability. But would you trust a pop-up brand that had only been around for a year or two that promised you that they knew the cutting edge space age composite products they were sourcing from the Far East were unequivically going to last 5 years no problem? Even if you would, we wouldn't ask you to. It's disingenuous. But anyway, we're still in business and the warranty on the Rail is 2 years, same as almost every wheel by bigger brands. We extended the warranty because we know exactly what went into production of the Rail, and it is being built by the same supplier that we've worked with since 2010. No smoke is blown. Score: +1

8. Believe we do not stand behind our product. Doubling the length of the warranty addresses this. So too will the press tour, which we would not embark on unless we were confident our wheels would stand up to professional scrutiny. (Our previous wheels would have also, but as open molds there really wasn't much of a story there.) Score: +1

9. Do not have enough perceptible evidence that our product is high performance. We tested in the wind-tunnel to address this objection. Honestly, if you're in the aero wheel game, the cost of entry is testing in the tunnel against a relevant benchmark. You just can't make aero claims anymore without tunnel time, and consumers are too smart to think the gains a wheel makes over a 32H front Mavic Open Pro are meaningful. Now I don't believe for a minute that the fastest wheel in the tunnel is the fastest wheel on the course, but the days are over when you can claim a wheel is fast without some objective and relevant measurment. Score +1

10. Do not see enough brand cache. For this, I'm making Dave race cross this season in a pink Rapha jersey and a pair of Assos Zeghos. Not expecting that to move the needle, we also redesigned the decals for the Rail and are about to launch a revised website. We know also that celebrity influencers are big on cache. So far, emails to the guy on Franklin and Bash (who is a Cat 2 evidently) and Patrick Dempsey have gone unanswered. We do have Gilbert Gottfried's agent's attention though. Probably the better indicators of broader appeal is the collection of well-respected wheelbuilders who are now offering their customers the Rail. Ergott and Tati Cycles in the US, Strada Handbuilt Wheels in the UK and now Wheelworks in NZ are VIPs of the wheelbuild craft. So yeah, we're leeching off of their cache. It still counts. Score: +1

So out of a possible score of +10 we're at +6.5. We're not sitting on our thumbs (all the time) over here. Next time I'll score us on the second half of the list. 

 

 


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  • Rico on

    Mike, thanks for the reply. I wasn't clear—sorry. I meant bring back the open mold 16/23mm CF 38 rim from 2013, and price it under $1k, with Laser spokes…bet you'd sell a bunch, and you know it builds up to a damn fine and fast wheel. Regardless, though, you have a winner on your hands with the Rail. Congrats.

  • Joe C on

    I was dying to get some rails, but they were too far in the future when I needed some new wheels and had a grand burning a hole in my pocket. And yes, I do kind of regret it, but at my ability level, I was probably better off last weekend in the big mountains of New Mexico with a carbon/alloy hybrid. I'm sure when another bonus comes at Christmas, I won't be able to resist.

  • Mike May on

    Hey Ric. Ride the 58s and the Rail one after the other and it's the width you'll find is the big difference – comfort, handling, crosswind facility, everythang. I'm afraid the days of sub-$1K carbon clinchers are over – not just with us, but with any reputable brand that's not willing to enter the market with a loss leader. If we were to bring a shallower Rail to market, we'd incur the same costs as we did developing the Rail 52, so the price would be the same also. The only way to do a sub-$1K would be to go back to open molds, which we're not going to do (see # 6 above). And the only way to do a sub 1400g 38mm is with a narrower rim like our previous RFSC 38s. The wider rims are heavier at the same depth, which means they need to be aerodynamcially tuned to ensure they're faster despite the weight. That rules out open molds even if we were still open to using them.

  • Rico on

    11. Already have an awesome set of the RFSC wheels, and just don't see enough of an improvement, based on the Nov. Bicycles wind tunnel data to justify the purchase, at present. Under 5 watts 'improvement., at 30 MPH? The Rail hits all the marks, but it's still hundreds more than then the prior RFSC wheels. Once y'all get caught up, maybe a sub kilo-buck CF 38mm / under 1400gm wheelset can again be offered. Would think the sales #s would justify it. But then again, what do I know…?

  • Mario on

    17,18 &19I have a good 2 yr old 50mm… Hoping for 38 or35 from you guys- plus the novatec 11spd



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