In my past life as a marketer working for multinational companies I worked on several new product launches, some with no real marketing budgets where all we had to work with were seemingly impossible sales targets. I thought I had a good idea of how launches work.
Boy was I in for a surprise!
Launching your own company from zero with nearly no budget is vastly more emotionally and soul draining than just launching someone else’s product with someone else’s money as part of a large team of similarly divested people.
2010 was by most accounts very successful, but 2011 will be a huge year for Velocite. In 2011 Velocite will be a lot more visible and available. We are expanding our distribution networks and increasing the promotional budget. We will also for the first time start considering full sponsorship for professional athletes and high performance teams.
In product news for 2011, we are launching three new frames and working on three more. We are also committing a large amount of resources into developing and improving upon high performing alloy and carbon wheels. We will again stick to proven technology since the aim is to deliver products with no caveats or limitations. Everyone should note however that not all wheels will be suitable for all end uses by all riders. We will thus also aim to inform the customers what wheelset will work best given their desired application. We see our wheels development project as integral to the “Velocite Experience”. To get the most out of your Velocite frame of bike, you should use the components that allow you to appreciate how great the frames are. I will explain this a bit more below…
The future: Velocite Experience concept – Ride Velocite Feel Invincible
This is the driving force behind our product range and performance targets and the Ride Velocite Feel Invincible tag.
To experience the best possible performance from our frames or bikes, it is important that suitably high performance components are used.
In our opinion besides the frame and fork, the two other extremely significant components are wheels and stems. This is because together they have the most impact on how you perceive the bike handling, and comfort. The overall goal for the frames and forks is to have zero lateral, or torsional flex, wheels to have zero lateral flex and for stems to have no flex of any kind in any direction. These are not achievable parameters, but they are our performance targets.
While it is becoming more accepted that frame flex is not a good idea, and that lateral frame flex is a particularly bad thing; it is now rare to see claims that frame flex does not matter, the same cannot be said for wheels, or stems.
Many wheels are still made with rider weight limits and extreme lack of lateral stiffness in pursuit of low weight, (supposed) aerodynamics, or appearance. We will not do this. Our wheelset range will continue to evolve with the primary goals being to achieve maximum lateral stiffness, minimal weight and acceptable to exceptional aerodynamics.
Velocite’s view on stiffness
Several times I have been asked why do we focus just on stiffness, and if that is a valid point of differentiation since “everyone else claims that their products are stiff”.
Thus I feel I need to clarify what we mean by stiffness and how it is relevant to Velocite and to you, our customers.
1. Velocite does not just focus on stiffness. It is but one parameter that we take into consideration. We do however set very high stiffness targets and (within reason) spare no expense in reaching them. We go as far as to redesign a perfectly good product, the Velocite Geos, since there were two testers that mentioned that it did not feel as stiff as they would have liked. Four other testers thought Geos prototype was awesome in all respects. The end result is that the production version of the Geos will dominate its market segment in terms of performance.
2. “Everyone’s products are stiff” claim. This is a case of “everyone talking about it, but [just about] nobody doing it.” Additionally, there is no “BB stiffness” or “Head Tube stiffness” (except in severe cases). The actual measure is torsional “stiffness at the BB” and torsional “stiffness at head tube”. There is no magic in obtaining lateral (torsional) stiffness. Two main parameters in modern bike frames determine lateral stiffness – and one of them can be visually assessed.
- Width of the tubes – narrow profiles are more aerodynamic and look more “dynamic”, but offer very little mechanical advantage. Thus, it does not matter how overbuilt the BB is vertically, if it is narrow horizontally and if the down tube and chain stays are narrow the stiffness at the BB and the head tube will be low. Tiny profile seat stays also do not help since keep in mind that the “Stiffness at BB” takes into the account how much the entire frame bends at the bottom bracket. Thus if the rear triangle is soft, the stiffness at BB will be relatively low regardless of how creative the design department was with the actual BB area appearance.
- Carbon fiber layup and modulus – the more layers you use of any carbon fiber grade, the higher the stiffness. However more layers means more weight and more cost. Thus the onus is on reducing the number of carbon fiber layers to save weight and money. We do not do this. In some cases higher modulus carbon fiber is used to achieve higher stiffness with fewer layers, but even then there are limits. Using too few layers of high modulus carbon fiber in order so save weight and money can lead to sudden frame failures.
The benefit of actually delivering, not just promising, stiff products is that your confidence as a rider increases. Stiff frames (and bikes) are also safer to ride at the limit – they will not step out of line during fast cornering, they will not fishtail in sudden direction changes, they will not suffer from the potentially fatal “high speed wobble”. This means that you can ride faster and safer at the same time. The fact that riding a stiff frame feels great is just a way that your mind tells you that you are in control, “safe” and to hammer it…
Note about the Helios Aero. We also had no magic solutions to the inherent lack of lateral stiffness of the true aero profiles. Thus we resorted to multiple layers of high and ultra high modulus carbon fiber in key areas. I cannot share the layup map, but it looks extreme. There was simply no other way to achieve for us adequate stiffness, especially at the head tube. Even with the large 1.5” bottom bearing and correspondingly larger area of the head tube/down tube junction it was difficult to reach our stiffness target. Doing it our way is a much more expensive solution than simply widening the profiles and risking redefining the laws of aerodynamics to suit.
Regarding stems, the situation is very different. The belief that there are “harsh” and “comfortable” stems and that stem “comfort” is a desirable feature is very widespread. Our position is that a stem should not be comfortable (or harsh for that matter). Stem should be an inert, perfectly rigid and immutable control element whose only purpose is to safely and transparently secure your fork in the frame, and connect it to the handlebars. We have been working on just such a stem for more than a year now, with some progress. I am hoping to have it available in 2011 and thus complete the first Velocite Experience system: frameset, wheelset and stem.
Using the Velocite Experience components will allow you to get the most performance from the components when it comes to lateral stiffness, reliability, comfort and safety. The end benefit of using Velocite Experience components is increased speed, superior confidence, and increased enjoyment of riding.
I should add that there are of course other brand components that can meet most of the performance objectives and that we will not purposefully change the standards to force anyone to use just Velocite wheels or stems, or whatever other future product (handlebars for example) that we release in the Velocite Experience range.
As readers of this blog you are already aware that the Helios Aero, Geos and new Magnus are almost ready. I should also add that a revised and lightened Flux is on its way, and that we have made progress on the time trial bike as well as the 29er projects. They should all make their first appearance in 2011.
We are working with Giant (yes the Giant bike company), more specifically GLM to develop new 30mm alloy rims. These rims have been in live testing for several months now and even in prototype form they have been shown to be very strong and stable, with amazing braking performance. The weight will be very low – we are aiming to make them lighter than the excellent Kinlin XR-300 rims. The rims will be welded, not sleeve joined and will have a few other technical details that have not been seen before. These rims will be used with our new all-round training and racing wheels and lightweight racing wheels.
The training wheels will use a very sturdy and surprisingly good hub we sourced from Chosen – we have yet to give it a user friendly name. It is a remarkable hub set that I am sure will gain a lot of fans due to their stiffness, durability (the sealed bearings it uses are huge, and the environmental sealing is incredible – there was no water ingress at all during testing in wet weather), reliability (bearing preload can be adjusted for play) and long term compatibility with Shimano cassettes due to the use of a steel hub cassette body.The only drawback is slightly increased weight, and unresolvable incompatibility with the Campagnolo system.
The racing alloy wheels will use a new hub set that is currently being developed for us. Its design imperative is to offer the highest performance under load – ie. when it is being used, not when it is spun up in a shop. It is a modular hub system that will allow multiple configurations in the rear: 15mm CrMo axle or 15mm alloy axle, alloy cassette hub body, or titanium cassette hub body in Shimano or Campagnolo variants. Front hub uses a 12mm alloy axle and both front and rear hubs feature bearing preload adjustment. Weight will be in line with similar high performance hubs.
There will be one other wheelset that will use rims made by Giant and our new hub. It is a brand new carbon/alloy 25mm (UCI Compliant profile) rim set that is currently being developed for us. The weight target is just under 450g which will allow building of very light wheelsets that will remain stiff and will not be limited by rider weights. The current version of the rim is 470g which is already very good, thus achieving 450g is not a big stretch.
There will also be new carbon wheels as we fine tune the technology. I will write more about our considerable efforts on this front in a future post.
I also feel that I need to add that as Velocite is growing and the awareness of our brand transcends the keen cyclists that the nature and frequency of our blog and Facebook posts will change to reflect the new reality.
We will aim to maintain transparency whenever possible, but will by necessity need to focus on covering already finished products and talk less about our plans, the technologies that we use, and the future product development.