Saturday, December 17, 2016

Rugged Wheels update and preview

Rugged Wheels is my new business venture born in the woods of Eastern Ontario, a destination with thousands of square kilometers of gorgeous wilderness for epic rides on and off road.

Why Rugged? Because out here, buff trails are the stuff of fantasy. Here we contend with Canadian Shield, limestone flats, dismal swamps, rooty cedar and pine forests, sticky clay, water crossings, and pointy rocks everywhere.

The lightest gear is no use if it breaks. Even on a road ride here it can be a long hike back to civilization and you can't count on others along the way. So our wheel vision emphasizes quality and durability: built to service, built to last. Rugged Wheels for rugged rides.  

For the last couple of months I've been spec'ing wheelsets, ordering parts, and building wheels in preparation to launching my web site. Here's a preview of some of the goodies.

The following are custom carbon rims, all for tubeless mounting and built on DT Swiss 350-series hubs. There's an 80mm-wide fatbike rim, a 38mm deep road rim, and a 60mm deep road rim. The road rims are 25mm wide to allow for wider (e.g. gravel) tires and include a rim braking surface, although I'll be building these up for disc brakes. I'm also looking into an option for a more discreet rim graphic, but hey--these are meant to show off the brand!

Here's the 3 Amigos together for comparison:

Light dual-sport motorcycles like the WR250R, CRF250, and more are rightly gaining popularity. Upgrading the wheels or having a second set with different tires improves the ride experience. Here's the set of SMPro wheels I built for my WR250R, mounted with an MT-21 in front and D606 in back. Hubs and rims are SMPro with Bulldog stainless spokes and aluminum nipples. Everything is made by the same company in the UK--they supply wheels to many well-known factory brands in Europe. 

Ignore the ghetto balancing weights. The nice ones I had in stock didn't fit the slightly larger Bulldog spokes, so I need to order new weights. 

Note these wheels look a little grungy because they have 500km of trail riding on them, and the tires have about 2000km.  

The hubs have a nice, clean design, include spacers and bearings, and build up well.

Here's a close-up of the Dirt Tricks sprocket I've run for 13,000 km of filthy trail riding. 

It shows no functional wear compared to a brand new sprocket on the right. Amazing. 

Like DT Swiss on the bicycle side and SMPro on the moto side, Dirt Tricks is a brand I've chosen to import because it's such good stuff.

I also rebuilt my stock WR250R hubs with new SMPro rims and Bulldog spokes to be able to run a more street-oriented tire. 

The real show here is that zirconium PVD-coated sprocket from Dirt Tricks. This coating is expected to be more durable than the chromium plating on the regular sprockets. Colours look amazing when you change the lighting angle. 

Rugged Wheels will offer these products and more in 2017:
  • Wheelsets for bicycles and motorbikes. These are sold as predefined upgrade packages based on carefully selected components and sizes that are most popular and optimize performance, durability, and cost. Lightest and cheapest is available elsewhere; that's not our market. Retail sales are through bike shops only. You can order bicycle options from Imad or Brian at Rebec & Kroes in Ottawa. We're interested in hearing from motorcycle shops that want to offer wheels and parts for dual-sport and off-road applications.
  • Small parts for wheels. Whether you need hubs, rims, spokes, or other related parts, our plan is to provide sales and technical support. If you've ever tried to spec a wheel, you know there's a lot to figure out. One supplier has over 60,000 SKUs just for wheels...
  • Custom-cut spokes for bicycles. Our Morizumi spoke machine enables us to offer precision-threaded spokes as cost-effective options (order 1 or 500!) for servicing your own wheels.

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