Crankbrothers' 2014 wheels feature bold new graphics, minor alterations to peripheral technologies, and otherwise all the same stuff from their wheels from 2005.
Nov 18, 2013; Irvine, CA: Crankbrothers Inc. released a new line-up of wheels intended to compete in an ever-widening segment of the MTB market: overly complicated wheel systems that are nearly impossible to repair or replace. The full line of wheels are in line with industry standards, complete with proprietary, bizarre, and hard to repair or replace spokes, hubs, and rims, but unlike other brands, Crankbrothers' wheels are an industry first for being almost indistinguishable from the wheels they offered when Honda had a downhill team.
The new wheels strike a balance between being slightly different and being almost exactly the same.
Reusing technology that's almost a decade old posed many problems for a high-end wheel manufacturer. The biggest problem Crankbrothers faced was in using existing components while still making sure that spare parts were not available to consumers. Crankbrothers engineering and design departments didn't just accept that challenge; they embraced it.
Jim Brownrigg, Crankbrothers' head of engineering elaborates: "To make sure that high-end wheel consumers would be completely stunted in any and all attempts to replace or repair their damaged wheels, we had to strategically optimize every wheel component to be slightly different than the part it's replacing, while being functionally identical to the wheels we launched in 2005. Eliminating all backwards compatibility was a big challenge for us, but with a lot of hard work we made it happen."
Careful stress analysis was required to evaluate how little the engineering team could change while still making existing spare parts useless.
"After a solid team effort and a lot of long nights, we're confident that we've made enough minor changes that all pre-2014 spare parts will be rendered all but useless on the new wheels. Marginally wider rims, new end caps, redesigned freehubs, we left no stone unturned."
When asked when spare parts would be available to consumers for the new 2014 wheels, Brownrigg responded that "That's really a question for our customer service department."
Crankbrothers VP of marketing Bob Weston expanded on the new line-up:
"As the expensive, flimsy, and needlessly complicated segment of the MTB wheel market heats up, Crankbrothers is excited to meet the demand head on with our new 2014 line-up. Of course real riders determined long ago that the only reasonable option for wheels was to build cheap rims onto a solid, rebuildable hub with J-bend spokes, but with the recent influx of doctors, bankers, and lawyers into the industry, we needed to offer a flashy fully color-anodized option for riders with lots of money, poor taste, and little to no common sense. With our 2014 wheels, I think we knocked this one out of the park. And come on, why wouldn't we release these wheels? We've had all the CAD drawings and tooling since Kirkaldie was still racing."
Crankbrothers is optimistic about sales in the international market, where consumers are mostly concerned about what was happening in North America 10 years ago.
We spoke with Rolf Van Sosen, a Redmond, WA resident and account manager at Bellevue firm EquiMidas Equity Management and Investment Capital Strategies, LLC. Van Sosen had this to say about the new 2014 Crankbrothers Iodine wheelset:
"After color-anodizing all of my stem bolts, headset spacers, my seatpost clamp, and my pedals in the same cardinal red color swatch, I realized that I just had to have the new Iodine wheels from Crankbrothers. Sure, Mavic also offers straight pull spokes that I won't be able to find in any of my local shops, and of course Easton has poorly engineered hubs that come loose and destroy themselves in the process, but nobody offered the complete package quite like CB. I need to know that nobody who's making working class money can afford to run the same wheels as me, and Crankbrothers gave me that confidence."
When asked about rim replacement, Van Sosen responded "Who has time to track down a replacement rim anyway? If I get a small ding in my rim and can't seat them up tubeless anymore, I would just be buying a new wheelset anyway. What, am I going to hang around a bike shop... like an animal? That was the main thing that turned me off on Enve wheels: sure they're expensive and that's great, but the standard j-bend spokes and completely serviceable DT and Chris King hubs just had 'bike shop' written all over them. If I can't buy it on my I-pad, then no thanks."
In closing, Van Sosen also added "Man, these things are going to shave seconds off my Strava time on Basecamp at Duthie."
Crankbrothers new wheel systems have received strong reviews early on from many industry insiders for their ability to stifle even the most determined head wrenches in repair scenarios at bike shops across the country. But the new wheels still have their skeptics. Joe McIver of Easton-Bell Sport's cycling division has doubts about whether the new wheels can deliver.
"At Easton, we've been making inconvenient wheels with bizarre acronyms for as long as anyone in the industry. I'd love to see it, but I just don't know if Crankbrothers has what it takes to hang in the high-end MTB wheel market. If Crankbrothers wants to make replacement rims and spokes adequately hard to source for bike shops and individual riders, their customer service dept is going to have to step up to the plate. I heard rumors of replacement spoke and bearing availability in QBP, and in today's competitive high-end wheel market, that just isn't going to cut it. If riders can get their hands on new bearings and spokes, how is this even a high-end product?"
Novatec's Sun An Wei also weighed in on the new Crankbrothers lineup:
"It 2014 and Cranksbrother not offer carbon? What they thinking? Easton have carbon, Enve have carbon, Reynolds have carbon, even Novatec, we have carbon. Are Cranksbrother serious? Novatec, we have Kyle Strait, win Rampage. What Cranksbrother have? They have Richie Schley on homepage right now."
After finishing another wheel build, Wei added "TEAM ROBOT writer do bad imitation Taiwanese accent. He really fallen off lately, need to do some think and come back with material that is some better funny."
In related news, Richie Schley was seen at the Crankbrothers new product launch, beating the odds and eeking out one more year of old-ass semi-retired MTB legend money from mediocre pedal/wheel/handlebar brand Crankbrothers.
This makes Crankbrothers a stand out brand, as one of the last remaining English-speaking sponsors of the once iconic Whistler, B.C. free rider, whose current sponsors include German brands Rotwild, Continental, Adidas, and IXS. When reached for comment, Richie added "With all my German sponsors, doing helmet cam runs at Telonics is like printing money."