We take a lot of pride in our craftsmanship. It’s true, we don’t actually manufactures the frames, rims, tyres, shifters, derailleurs, and so on. We put all of these components together in a complete bike, ready for the road. It is in this deceptively simple set of operations, putting things together and making sure that they all work, that we choose to manifest the quality of our craftsmanship and our creativity.
This is a process, not a single operation, and is anything but simple. All of these parts were not made by a single manufacturer but by many from different cultural backgrounds, standards of quality, and objectives. And so we must select the components that are most appropriate for specific purposes, such as for example, go for the wheel spokes that make the ride smooth for commuting, rather than those that would be the pick for speed. How important is weight? How relevant is durability? What is the bottom line? Once these components coexist in a coherent whole, they must be pleasing to the eyes of our customers and, of course, our own.
Our customers are like us: not entirely satisfied with what comes off the shelves, they want to put their own stamp on things. We like experimenting, trying out new components, tinkering with them, talking to manufacturers about their next new big thing, getting prototypes into our shop and putting them on our bikes. Knowledge and experience are dynamic.
Take these two sets of wheels, for example. The wheels made by Ambrosio, an Italian manufacturer, have an outstanding reputation for reliability in the world of pro cycling. For years, they were a regular presence in the Paris-Roubaix spring classic race.
We have taken their rims, made of alloy with finished braking surfaces, and laced them with DT Swiss aerolite white spokes.
These spokes are double butted and bladed, ensuring elasticity (read comfort) together with aerodynamic efficiency on the road. We also rely on DT Swiss hubs, our workhorse, that is light, sturdy, pleasing to our eyes, affordable, and extremely reliable.
Not all of our bikes are road machines. A large section of our customers also rides on the dirt trails of the Bay Area and elsewhere. Some of us, not all, even prefer mountain bikes to road bikes. The world of mountain bikes is in no way simpler than that of road bikes, and its lexicon is, if anything, a tad more complex.
Jumping over boulders or doing wheelies on the trails is not something we typically associate with carbon-fiber wheels. Understandably, these riders don’t want something that requires particular attention and withstands the stresses of the ride. During the past few years, however, carbon-fiber has infiltrated the mountain-bike world, traditionally populated with alloys.
The main feature of this wheel set is their carbon-fiber rims, made by DT Swiss. They are XRC 330, their cross-race rims, where the C stands for carbon fiber. No, you won’t find this particular model either online or in the DT Swiss catalogue. We managed to get hold of a set of them. We laced them with DT Swiss aerolite spokes and also equipped them with DT Swiss 240s hubs.
Why are wheels so important to us, that we are willing to spend so many hours making sure they are what we need and want? The canned answer would be that wheels are important because they connect us to the surface of the earth. In reality, there are no parts in our bikes that are more important then others. We need our wheels as we need our frames, handlebars, and everything else we need; we want all of them to be just right. Yet, we can't help thinking that, everything else being equal, it is the wheels that make the difference in the way we ride.