Thursday 30 April 2020

Triplet hubs & wheels from BlackCat

The more wheels you build, the more you learn. Experience is something that comes with time and amount of wheels going through your workshop. Rims, hubs, spokes, wheels - you see them all... those good and those really bad... but well marketed.
On top, if you ride them all, you get something which others don't - you confront theory vs practice. You test them not only on the paper but primarily in real-time conditions, in my case: the Swiss Alps. 

Dear reader, today I'd like to introduce you to BlackCat triplet wheels.

Why triplet?

Being a roadie, what do you expect from the road wheels? Low weight, stiffness, durability, affordable price, and good look. Ideal wheels? 

Most of the wheels on the market are laced in 1:1 way. Nothing bad with that, however, there is a nice alternative to this, which gives incredible stiffness without additional weight penalty. 

Back in time, my first "serious" system wheels where fulcrum. Although they were very narrow, I felt in love with them. They were laced in G3 system (sort of triplet) and provided incredible lateral stiffness. They served me for a long time until one day I came too fast on one switchback and crashed. Unrepairable. Campagnolo/Fulcrum makes one of the stiffest wheels I'm aware of, but they are "one-time" wheels. If you crash, then you need a new pair. 

From that moment, during my whole wheelbuilding time, I was researching for a good alternative to G3 lacing, but in "serviceable" option, meaning possible spoke/hub/rim replacement if necessary. 

The proper Triplet hubs

If you google "triplet hubs", you'll find so-called "triplet hubs". Don't get fooled with that, most of them (if not all) are not triplet hubs. Geometry-wise, they are standard 1:1 hubs, only drilled to 1:2 lacing. Call me Hambini, but in my opinion, those are far from the proper triplet hubs. In order to provide this magical lateral stiffness, the left flange must be pushed at least 45mm from the center. If you see "triplet" hubs with 35mm-37mm left flange from the center, then go away. With such hub, your rear wheel will be soft as a cheese. 

The closest to my "holy grail" where BORG's triplet hubs which I had a pleasure to test and ride all year long. Excellent hubs, bulletproof, and very well made. 

The downsides? 
- A bit on the heavy side (only for weight weenies)
- A bit high rolling resistance of the rear hub. Nothing which you can feel on the road, rather on truing stand and during servicing. 
- No XDR freehub option 
- Only black finish

All the rest is perfect, especially geometry. Those hubs are the first proper triplet hubs on the market for custom wheelbuilding. Reasons why are explained in mentioned entry.

As we all know, life is full of surprises so one day I got the opportunity to get in touch with a company based in Europe, which makes excellent hubs for many years. The owner thinks in the same way as I do in terms of hub's geometry, lateral stiffness, and bracing angles. All my instincts told me that this is the right direction so a few weeks later, I've got beautiful, shiny Blackcat triplet hubs:

Those hubs are my "holy grail". They have IDEAL geometry for triplet lacing. Besides geometry, they are extremely well made and finished. 
They come in all freehub options: Shimano (+ titanium as an option), Campy, and XDR. The cherry on top is the finish option: black, silver, red, blue, orange, gold green, purple and pink.

Some specs:

1. Front
38mm PCD, 38mm flange to center. 80g weight. Two 6803 bearings.

2. Rear
49mm PCD, 51mm/17.5mm from flanges to center. 230g weight. Four 6902 bearings.

Manufactured in EUR, lifetime warranty, available for retail and b2b format. Shipment from EUR, so no customs will be applied for EU countries. Hubs are available on the online-shop. For B2B sales, please contact me separately. 

The BlacCat triplet wheels

Wheels will be built using my alloy rims known from "The Swiss Climbers". Stiff, wide (20mm inner width, tubeless compatible), welded joint and nicely finished. The alloy triplets will come in 25mm or 30mm profile. 

Weight-wise, using Wing Aero spokes and alloy nipples, the 25mm set will be approx 1450g and 30mm set approx 1550g.

Spokes will be available not only in black but also in painted versions. Pairing them together I'll be able to represent your flag. For example:
- red spoke, white spoke: Poland
- blue spoke, white spoke, red spoke: France
- green spoke, white spoke, red spoke: Italy

Matching that with black or colored hubs will give even further customization options.

Price-wise: 699 CHF for alloy set. Painted spokes, if required, will be free of charge.

Carbon rims will be also the option and depending on the rims, pricing will be approx 1099 CHF.

Guaranteed stiffness program

This is something new I'd like to introduce. In the nutshell the idea is the following:
- Before purchase, you follow the configuration procedure where I can match the right spokes for your weight and power
- I build the wheels for you and you (or me, if you visit my shop) install them on the bike
- Frame must be without cracks, quick releases must be solid and thick, brake pads must be placed at least 2mm from the rim on both sides

In case during the ride, my triplet wheels will rub your brake pads, you can return the wheels and get a full refund or get a 50% refund and keep the wheels. This is the "Guaranteed stiffness program" about.

Why do I do that? Because I want to give you the confidence that those wheels are really stiff and responsive. Not on the paper or nice pictures, but in real life. From all the wheels I rode so far, those are on top of my list.

How can I be so confident with those? Because I test them. Here is my testing procedure:

1. Pickup a nice route

with some really nice climbs:

make sure you hit the steepest one:

2. Ride the bike and push your limits during those climbs. Bounce the bike left and right and listen if the wheel is not rubbing the pads.

3. Enjoy the views and shoot some pictures:

4. Repeat the procedure:

5. Ride, eat, shoot pictures:

6. ... and repeat again for the next 5-10.000 km. 

Myself, although I'm 75kg and with average power, I'm not able to bend those wheels. I believe that with proper spoke thickness selection, they will perform very well for you too. 

The triplet wheels will be available as of Q3 this year. I have a workshop change on my way, so I need some time to settle in the new place and buildup the stock of triplet drilled rims and triplet hubs. Shipment will be happening from Poland, so EU zone (no extra taxes for EU countries).

Give me a shout on my email If you'd be interested in such setup. That would help me a lot to understand the potential demand and prepare for it in advance. 

Thanks for reading, hope it was useful


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