Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Neuvation R28 Aero4 Wheels
The great pitfall of equipment reviews comes from reviewing those items that are most desirable. Generally, manufacturers want to be portrayed in the best possible light, and understandably, they tend to send their very best products for review. Consequently, many products pricier than the Average Joe’s cycling budget support most of the ink.
Of course, the manufacturers aren’t exclusively to blame. Reviewers should be credited with the lion’s share of the blame. If you’re going to try something out for two months, no one should be surprised that you’d like to wear silk rather than polyester. Getting reviewers excited about budget-oriented gear can be difficult as well. Often, the most affordable parts are just inferior versions of the good stuff. Ho hum.
That’s what makes Neuvation wheels so different. Relatively light in weight, hand built and rolling on high quality precision bearings, they cost a fraction of what the competition runs. Our test set weighed 1640g, about 20 off of the claimed weight, which is a very respectable margin of error. I checked the wheels to see if they were true and found them very straight and spoke tension very even. The rims have a machined braking surface that is a few millimeters wider than many competing rims, making brake shoe adjustment simple, or at least less critical.
Neuvation included quick release skewers with the wheels and while they were certainly of high quality, the cam action graduated very quickly which I wasn't wild about. Open to close was a turn of less than 45 degrees, though the wheels did seem secure enough. I'm accustomed to the 90-degree turn closure of Mavic and Shimano quick releases; they are still my gold standard.
Our test wheels have a suggested retail of $499 because Neuvation sells consumer direct. Given these wheels reliability, weight and bearing quality, they are a steal at this price. They are stiffer laterally than my daily wheels and I have enjoyed that extra firmness when I stand on the pedals. Now here’s the kicker: Neuvation sometimes runs specials. Special pricing can turn these great deals into seemingly accepting-hot-property affordable.
The economics behind Neuvation’s business model are simple enough: Product is sourced overseas and then sold directly to consumers. Neuvation’s brain trust has a single Social Security number: John Neugent’s. Neugent was the head of Sachs here in the U.S. and his skill set is unusually broad; the guy has done everything from CAD drawings to sales and marketing, but relationships being what they are, Neugent’s most important asset is his 25 years of experience sourcing product in Taiwan. And if you’ve ever heard anyone haggle with a Taiwanese businessman then you know that garage sales are for the faint of heart.
It’s true that his web design isn’t too exciting and the graphics on the wheels aren’t exactly sexy, but that’s really the point: You purchase Neuvation wheels not because they have the allure of a Victoria’s Secret model, but because anyone gainfully employed has the coin for a set.
That the wheels are as good as they are is no mystery. The pricing is no mystery, either, but it’s a bit like a magician showing you his trick. Even after you know what’s in his left hand, you’re still scratching your head. A wheel this good is just supposed to cost more.