Engineered for the Ride
Words/photos by Chili Dog
Do you ever think about how much time, effort and sweat goes into making the products we ride? Sometimes as riders it’s easy to loose perspective on things, forgetting that every single component on our bike is the result of teams of people dedicating months or even years of their life to making it a reality. These unglamorized worker bees work tirelessly to drive the industry forward in hopes of making mountain biking more fun. Often times, at the expense of their bank accounts, sanity and sleep. While we may be some of the first to complain about the high prices of MTB gear, we don’t want to discredit the NASA-level engineering and thought that goes into the designing and testing of each small part, down to every last threaded bolt.
When we asked Colin why he felt the bike world needed another wheel brand he replied, “I wanted to solve the complaints people were having. The changes and fine-tuning you can achieve with carbon are infinite. People were complaining about harshness, wheel failure and other issues. I knew I could make something better.”
Like many good homegrown projects, Colin Esquibel started Spēd in his garage. Things weren’t easy, especially in the hyper competitive and heavily saturated wheel market. Making a quality product was only half the battle. Once the product has landed, you have to fight for a name in a market separated by fractional differences, or more often than not, marketing dollars.
Colin Esquibel knows a sleepless night all too well. After working at several big name companies, like GIANT, Crankbrothers and BOX, he has a long history of making parts and tools that we’ve all used. After years of countless overtime hours he felt the call to start his own project and work the long hours on his own terms. Only true masochists want to start their own company from scratch– we would know.
After years of working on projects big and small, Colin realized that there are three major parts of a bike that affect the way it rides in a significant manner: the frame, suspension and wheels. With passion and years of experience on other wheel projects, Colin knew he had what it took to make something better. Spēd Precision was born.
After months in Solid Works creating digital models of wheels and then testing them virtually using FEA, Colin opened his first mold. It would take a total of seven physical iterations of the wheel before he finally arrived at the end layup for the 27.5 Maul TR. His first wheel threw rules out the door, opting for a hooked, low profile, wide design when other big name brands were going tall and hookless. To say Colin is attentive to detail would be an understatement. While so many brands have established themselves by simply labeling off-the-shelf products, Colin has been committed to taking the extra step from day one. No matter the delay. His new 29″ Maul TR wheels are the next logical step. Instead of just making the 27.5 wheel larger, he started from scratch to design a profile that had the same characteristics. He doesn’t believe the easy way is the right way.
Colin elaborates, “The amount of layers in a certain area serves as your base. Then in areas like the nipple blisters, it’s the crossovers, the angle of the crossovers and the thickness of the crossovers and how they play into the overall shape of the wheel. We use unidirectional for the big structure and tuning, and a 3k checker weave over parts of the rim walls and bed for impact absorbtion. The different weaves and the direction of the layers controls the give in one direction or another.”
While the rim is often the most glorified part, it is just part of the wheel, and Colin wanted full control over the entire system to ensure perfect results. To achieve this, he created hubs and spokes unique to Spēd wheels. This ensures that the spoke pull is as direct and straight as possible, yielding what Colin believes are optimal ride characteristics.
Because of the precise nature of carbon, one is able to achieve exactly the physical and strength attributes desired. But getting there takes an immense attention to detail. Every single fiber must be in the right spot, and facing the right direction. Resin type, the amount used and the wheel’s physical structure and shape all play an integral role in the overall ride.
For those unfamiliar with carbon, it has unique properties that allow it to give in one direction while remaining entirely rigid in another depending on the orientation of the fibers. Face the fibers in one direction and the piece will move up and down, but not side to side. Move them 90 degrees and the opposite happens. This directional stiffness is what allows engineers to precisely tune ride dynamics in ways that wouldn’t be possible with aluminum. Aside from weight, this tuning is what makes carbon wheels better than their aluminum counterparts.
It’s these minute changes that make the difference between a good wheel and a great one. Having vertical compliance and lateral stiffness are descriptors brands want to claim when describing their product, but they don’t always deliver. While Solid Works and FEA take some of the guesswork out the design process, a deep knowledge of carbon fiber and manufacturing techniques can’t be acquired as easily. It’s something that only a lifetime of experience can create.
Colin’s own riding experience also plays a massive role in development. A passionate rider through and through, he’s able to actually put his own products to use. During our photo-shoot, Colin rode right along Spēd professional Barry Nobles. The two compare notes on design and feel, which play a major role in final changes to layup and design. While Barry may take the title for head wheel destroyer, it’s awesome to see the CEO of a company out shredding with his pro athletes.
Like every mom thinks they have the cutest kid, every wheel company wants to claim that they have the best wheel. While being a newer, small brand, Colin can’t claim any big title yet, but after spending quite a bit of time of our own on Spēd wheels, we can attest that the proof is in the ride. It’s also the rewarding part for Colin as he’s now beginning to reap the benefits of those sleepless nights hunched over a stack of carbon models and data plots. Colin’s attention to detail and relentless motivation to never settle for anything less than perfect has resulted in a wheel brand that he can be totally proud of, one with humble roots born in his garage.
Spending time with passionate brands like Spēd reminded us that for every new shiny product we see on the market, there are countless hours of tinkering by heartfelt people behind the scenes. It’s refreshing to see underdogs are still putting up a fight and making products they truly believe in.
If you want to see more of Colin’s work, check out the Spēd Precision website.
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