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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

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Old 05-30-13, 01:31 PM   #1
bianchi10
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what could possibly be different between real vs replica!? (wheel builders join in)

Posting this on behalf of a friend to help get some feedback on the decision being good or bad.


I know someone who is considering a purchase of Chinese carbon zipp FC replicas because they are so much cheaper than the real thing. He is hoping to build them uph novatec hubs and CXray Sapim spokes. Something like 1640g for about $750.

This friend of mine seems to think that because they are identical in shape, they will perform the same or close enough. I seem to think that there would be numerous reasons why they would perform differently Such as build quality, build procedure, materials used etc....

I'm not saying that they wouldnt work or that there aren't people out there that haven't purchased this set up that haven't experienced failure or issues. Obviously, the thought of spending $750 vs. The $2000+ on real zipp sounds intriguing, but is worth the savings? Maybe I'm being sceptical but I'd rather spend my hard earned money on a product (wheels, frame, shoes, sunglasses..etc) that was real and at least had some mental peace of mind about quality and safety rather than gamble on the "what if".

What say you?
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Old 05-30-13, 01:37 PM   #2
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biggest difference will likely be in the resin used. Zipp claims to use a proprietary heat resistant resin that helps with heat dissipation and resistance. Whereas the chinese carbon rims may or may not play well with heat. Plenty of accounts of failure there.
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Old 05-30-13, 01:42 PM   #3
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With the name brand wheels you know what you are getting, and if something does go wrong, you have a place where you can get help to get your product fixed vs. being left in the dark if you encounter a problem. No company is going to have a 100% success rate with respect to a product never failing, and some of the Chinese companies will replace (especially if you mention that you post on the forums).

Here is where the big difference is. The quality of the direct from China products keeps going down and down. They are all competing with each other based on price, and if they find a way to save a dollar here or there they will take it. This means using inferior resins and carbon, skimping on labor, and moving to a new factory (most direct from China wheels are actually coming from trading companies, not direct from the manufacturer). So, while somebody may have bought the wheels and been fine, you don't know if when you get them if they used an inferior carbon in order to save a couple bucks. Eventually they change names or start up as a new business and can start this cycle all over again. As somebody who pays a lot of attention to this I have seen it happening for years.

People see a big company and think what they are charging must be outrageous and only fueled by profit. They want to think that if they go around the umbrella of the big company that they can get the exact same product for ridiculous prices.
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Old 05-30-13, 01:48 PM   #4
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If the wheel collapses when the rider is doing 45mph downhill he is going to feel awfully stupid for buying a knockoff.....and he will have nowhere to go for a product liability suit.
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Old 05-30-13, 01:52 PM   #5
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And be out $750
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Old 05-30-13, 02:04 PM   #6
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The real ones asplode in a very controlled fashion, with a nice mushroom cloud. When those counterfeit ones asplode, there is just no symetry or beauty to the flame pattern or mushroom cloud.
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Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.

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Old 05-30-13, 02:18 PM   #7
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Buy them...ride them...see what happens.

That is the only way you'll find out.
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Old 05-30-13, 02:23 PM   #8
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the real ones asplode in a very controlled fashion, with a nice mushroom cloud. When those counterfeit ones asplode, there is just so symetry or beauty to the flame pattern or mushroom cloud.
lmao!
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Old 05-30-13, 03:16 PM   #9
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The difference is not hubs, spokes or necessarily build. It is, as already mentioned, all about the heat behavior of the rims. Nick, I suspect (just an observation, no offense intended) you still think that there is some magic in wheel building. I assure you many folks do as well at home as Zipp on the build and there is no reason why a Chinese factory can't asssemble wheels as well as possible. And good hubs and spokes are readily available. But the rub is in the rims.

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Old 05-30-13, 03:19 PM   #10
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Zipp's process is extremely elaborate and extreme. No one in China is getting anything even remotely close to what Zipp is doing. Zipp's, remember, are still laid up by hand in Indianapolis. Although with SRAM at the handlebars that won't last forever.

So if you're buying a knockoff Zipp rim from China, it's not even like it was a defect out of the same mold or a blemish, etc.....it's just a copy of a Zipp. Nothing about it would be remotely close except maybe the outside shape or look/feel. The carbon wouldn't be the same. The resins wouldn't be the same. Any compounds they use on the brake track, etc....not even close.

EDIT: ...and I am sorry, but at that point what in the hell is one trying to achieve? Is it about having good wheels or is about having Zipps but not having to "buy" them?

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Old 05-30-13, 03:27 PM   #11
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The difference is not hubs, spokes or necessarily build. It is, as already mentioned, all about the heat behavior of the rims. Nick, I suspect (just an observation, no offense intended) you still think that there is some magic in wheel building. I assure you many folks do as well at home as Zipp on the build and there is no reason why a Chinese factory can't asssemble wheels as well as possible. And good hubs and spokes are readily available. But the rub is in the rims.
You know...sure, I have some skin in the game, but there is some very specific "magic" in building. It's not anything that isn't written down in the books or on blogs, etc about how to build wheels, but it IS about how certain steps are done. Those who build every day know what I am talking about. It's enough of a "thing" this "magic" that it's the first thing I was grilled on when a pro racer I sponsor finally met me a couple of weekends ago. She asked about it instantly because it turns out she's worked at Easton for a great number of years as head of their quality and warranty/returns (left last year), and after riding my wheels....she just couldn't figure out how I did it.

I've known it from day 1 and it's something that I have never revealed even in PM's here or in emails.

So can anyone build a wheel? Yes. Great wheels consistently? Nope. Turns out there is magic to that. Just like any other business that makes a lot of anything at a great level consistently.
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Old 05-30-13, 03:52 PM   #12
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The difference is not hubs, spokes or necessarily build. It is, as already mentioned, all about the heat behavior of the rims. Nick, I suspect (just an observation, no offense intended) you still carry some doubt about amateur and small wheel builders and doing it oneself. I assure you many folks do as well at home as Zipp on the build. And the best good and spokes are readily available. But the rub is in the rims.
Its not about the building from small companies or at home builders, its about buying parts that I would imagine to be sub par. I dont believe that replica wheels is a good safe choice IMO. Just because something has the same shape or look alikes, doesn't mean it has the same quality.
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Old 05-30-13, 04:05 PM   #13
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You know...sure, I have some skin in the game, but there is some very specific "magic" in building. It's not anything that isn't written down in the books or on blogs, etc about how to build wheels, but it IS about how certain steps are done. Those who build every day know what I am talking about. It's enough of a "thing" this "magic" that it's the first thing I was grilled on when a pro racer I sponsor finally met me a couple of weekends ago. She asked about it instantly because it turns out she's worked at Easton for a great number of years as head of their quality and warranty/returns (left last year), and after riding my wheels....she just couldn't figure out how I did it.

I've known it from day 1 and it's something that I have never revealed even in PM's here or in emails.

So can anyone build a wheel? Yes. Great wheels consistently? Nope. Turns out there is magic to that. Just like any other business that makes a lot of anything at a great level consistently.
Rob, I have to respectfully disagree. Even if you are saying you know something others don't, you could teach it to anyone. Not that you ought to. Trade secrets are valuable property. But anyone willing to follow your method could build a great wheel consistently. And other folks must have also discovered your magic too. I bet Coach Boyd and Dave November are mighty proud of their own techniques. Why not the Chinese as well? it is just desire and technique, not chemistry like in the case of the rims. So I just don't believe we can automatically say someone's build can't be as good.

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Old 05-30-13, 04:09 PM   #14
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EDIT: ...and I am sorry, but at that point what in the hell is one trying to achieve? Is it about having good wheels or is about having Zipps but not having to "buy" them?
I think its a matter of really REALLY wanting deep carbon wheels and all the benefits you get from them, but not being able to financially afford them. I think he is trying to push a square into a circle and by that I mean fitting quality deeper carbon wheels into a budget that is more in line for a mid line aluminum wheelset.
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Old 05-30-13, 04:11 PM   #15
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Yup, it's cheaper price . . .

Would you fly in an airplane if W-mart or Huffy were involved?
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Old 05-30-13, 04:14 PM   #16
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I bought a set of new reynolds dv3k 46mm clinchers from someone on this forum for $700 ish. They weigh in around 15XX grams and look very pretty. They even came with skewers and brake pads. I'd trust them going down a hill over some unknown manufacturer. Why doesn't your friend just wait around for something to go on sale and get something brand name? The only thing I've ever bought a knock off of that I've been satisfied with is some carbon bottle cages. Everything else I've gotten that was a Chinese knock off I've been disappointed with.
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Old 05-30-13, 04:16 PM   #17
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And there are quality choices cheaper than Zipps... but not $750.
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Old 05-30-13, 04:51 PM   #18
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Rob, I have to respectfully disagree. Even if you are saying you know something others don't, you could teach it to anyone. Not that you ought to. Trade secrets are valuable property. But anyone willing to follow your method could build a great wheel consistently. And other folks must have also discovered your magic too. I bet Coach Boyd and Dave November are mighty proud of their own techniques. Why not the Chinese as well? it is just desire and technique, not chemistry like in the case of the rims. So I just don't believe we can automatically say someone's build can't be as good.
Good technique takes TIME and a bit of material. That equates to COST. So if you are in a very, very VERY price competitive market, as a manufacturer how to you lower costs?

You can't do it on labour as labour costs in China are rising roughly 20% a year. Labour turnover is pushing 80% a year as well which means you are constantly training new people and throwing poorly trained people into the process

Materials costs are rising.

Energy costs are rapidly rising in China.

So where can you shave a dollar. Yes, a dollar, so you are temporarily less expensive than the other factories supplying the trading companies selling these rims? Material? Yes. TIME? Yes.

As for hubs you can swap out quality Japanes or German bearings and use Chinese bearings. There is a SIGNIFICANT cost savings there.

Nipples? Sapim nipples are expensive. So why not use cheaper Chinese nipples that no one can tell and cost a lot less?

Then, once they've done that and are a dollar cheaper what do they do when the other factories follow suite and are now a dollar cheaper? Cut costs again.

And down goes the spiral.
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Old 05-30-13, 04:56 PM   #19
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Good technique takes TIME and a bit of material. That equates to COST. So if you are in a very, very VERY price competitive market, as a manufacturer how to you lower costs?

You can't do it on labour as labour costs in China are rising roughly 20% a year. Labour turnover is pushing 80% a year as well which means you are constantly training new people and throwing poorly trained people into the process

Materials costs are rising.

Energy costs are rapidly rising in China.

So where can you shave a dollar. Yes, a dollar, so you are temporarily less expensive than the other factories supplying the trading companies selling these rims? Material? Yes. TIME? Yes.

As for hubs you can swap out quality Japanes or German bearings and use Chinese bearings. There is a SIGNIFICANT cost savings there.

Nipples? Sapim nipples are expensive. So why not use cheaper Chinese nipples that no one can tell and cost a lot less?

Then, once they've done that and are a dollar cheaper what do they do when the other factories follow suite and are now a dollar cheaper? Cut costs again.

And down goes the spiral.

Great insight
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Old 05-30-13, 05:24 PM   #20
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For the record, and to clear a few things up, the friend is me.

I'll only be buying the rims from China, and having the rest (spokes, hubs, nipples, build, etc.) done by a local wheelbuilder. I'm willing to chance the rims being slightly sub-par or heavier, at less than 30% of the cost (for the entire build) of Zipp 404 FC or similar.

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Old 05-30-13, 05:29 PM   #21
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I see your thought process, but the Rim is an essential part of the wheel. Just because you are getting ONLY the Rim from china doesn't mean the wheel will hold up with better hubs and spokes. You dont do a lot of hills, that doesn't mean the brake surface isn't a concern anymore. Just because you do mainly flats, doesn't mean the rims wont be compromised and still have other areas where it can fail. As I said to you earlier, you seem pretty set on doing this since it will save you money. I just hope that it doesn't bike you in the ass after you do.
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Old 05-30-13, 05:33 PM   #22
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I bought some relatively cheap open mold carbon clincher rims, Novatec hubs, and Sapim spokes. I had my LBS build them, because they have folks who have built a significant number of wheels. These are pretty light, as light as I would ever want, and probably lighter than I need.

Are these comparable to Zipp or Enve, or even Boyd or Psimet wheels? No, and I don't expect them to be. Did they build up true and round, and do they perform reasonably well and do I feel safe riding them in any conditions? Yes. I wanted to try some carbon clinchers at a relatively low price to see if I might want to drop $2k down the line. Mission accomplished. Not complicated, not rocket science. I
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Old 05-30-13, 05:33 PM   #23
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You may want to check these out for only $760

http://www.boydcycling.com/products/...-tubulars.html
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Old 05-30-13, 05:51 PM   #24
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He doesn't want tubies
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Old 05-30-13, 05:53 PM   #25
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He doesn't want tubies
^^^^
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