Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Prototypes!

Prototypes of the of the Road 2.2 and Road 5.0 wheelsets have been built. The weights are slightly less than expected which is always a plus.




An Introduction




Last June, I was fortunate enough to find myself on vacation in the French Alps. We had timed our arrival in Annecy with the conclusion of the Dauphine Libere. After riding a portion of the day's stage and watching the finish, we came back to hotel to find that Mavic and the Suanier Duval team had taken over the courtyard and lakeside bar. They were having a press event for their new wheelset, the R-Sys.

These events are fairly typical of the industry: Tech editors from various cycling publications are put up in a nice hotel, plied with free booze and gourmet food, mingled with a few sponsored pros, and taken for a ride on the new product the following day. From there, the journalists borrow heavily from the manufacturer's press release to write an "objective" review which generally runs next to ad placed for the product.

I wandered around a bit, hoping to score a free beer and maybe a conversation with a pre-Chipotle David Millar. Neither he, nor anyone else speaking English, were in attendance so I just made my way over to check out the new wheels. The big news was obviously the carbon spokes: large hollow rods that borrow from wagon wheel technology to work in both compression as well as tension. I can't say I was terribly impressed. Although they make claims on stiffness, they aren't terrifically light - Mavic claims 1355g - and they looked about as aerodynamic as, well... a wagon wheel. The mechanic in me always looks at new products with an eye towards serviceability and one of the first questions that came to mind was, "How do you replace a spoke once one of them breaks?" It turns out that that's probably the last question you'll be asking if you're unlucky enough to break a spoke.

Later in the year, as cross season became imminent, I found myself lusting after a pair of mid-section carbon tubulars. Light weight, low tire pressure and the ability to quickly shed mud and sand: Exactly what I needed to finish last in the B-races in style. To my disappointment, the availability of cross specific carbon wheels was pretty slim and I'd have to fork over at least $1700 - $2000 for them. Even if I did have the money, would I really be able ride full bore over rocks, roots, curbs, mud and sand on a pair wheels that would cost more to replace than my wife's engagement ring, without a nagging paranoid feeling running though my head?

I decided that the bicycle industry, especially in regard to wheels, has gone crazy. Retail prices bear little resemblance to how much the components actually cost. Each year we see innovation for the sake of innovation. Engineers answer the question of "Why?" with "Because we can" instead of "Because we should." Marketers take over from there and make wheels like the Ksyrium look cool enough to make you forget that you're spending $950 on two heavy parachutes for your bike. I don't intend to keep picking on Mavic - there are countless other examples of rolling idiocy.

I decided to find out if it was possible to produce wheels that are durable, lightweight, aerodynamic, serviceable and affordable. To make a long story short, myself, my business partner and many friends along the way found out that yes, it is. The result is Revolution Wheelworks.