We post a lot of photos of beautifully machined and anodized parts from the likes of Chris King, White Industries, Paul Component, Industry Nine, Onyx Racing Products, and Phil Wood, and it can be easy to forget that the lovely finish is just the icing on the cake, as it were.
You can kind of look at the world of bike parts as coming in two types: those that come from a company with a clear history, an accessible staff, and a design process that takes their future usefulness into account, and those that don't. While there are some really high quality parts coming out of Asian factories, the nature of many of those parts is that they are designed fill an order and that's that. This is probably largely because so many of these factories have grown up to fulfill OE (Original Equipment) orders, where a bike company needs so many thousands of a certain hub one year, and then a year later they want something different. The mentality in this model is one of replacement in the case of failureÃ¢â‚¬â€not service. Another aspect of this is simply one of distance and language. These factories are far away from many of the end users (that's you and me), and aren't set up or in a position to hear much from them, so making and supporting a product that is durable and serviceable just isn't part of the business, and even if it is, the end user might have a very hard time actually reaching the company.
But that's not the case at all with the parts we sell. Rather than being in the business of supplying large bike companies with cheap, replaceable parts, the companies that make them are almost all founded by people who wanted to create an alternative model in which parts are designed to be durable, serviceable, and as future-proof as possible because they were tired of dealing with low-quality parts that broke.
One example of designing from the standpoint of future-proofing is the White Industries freehub system. When a new freehub standard comes out, White Industries is great about designing a driver that will work with their current hubs so that if you have a wheelset you like, but you want the latest drivetrain, you aren't forced to retire your old wheelset to get it. And should you need a small part like a pawl or bearing for your older hub, getting one is easy.
Another perfect example of this is a Chris King bearing. Not only are these bearings made to extremely tight tolerances so that they run smoothly and efficiently from day one, they are also designed so that as they wear over thousands of miles, they can be adjusted and serviced so that instead of degrading, they wear-in to roll even more smoothly. And when, after who knows how many tens of thousands of miles and grimy conditions, a bearing actually needs to be replaced, you can rest assured that there will be a replacement available. This ensures that rather than having to simply buy a new wheelset when your hub fails for one reason or another, you'll be able to service or replace the part that is worn, and keep going. Whether it's the bearings or the freehub, which only fully develops its classic buzz after hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles, Chris King hubs recall the best aspects of a time when the best parts were made to be broken in a bit in order to achieve their full potential because the intention on the part of the manufacturer was for the part to be in service for a very long time to come.
And finally, one point that may be immaterial to the function of the part, but which bears serious consideration, is what happens to all of the metal and cutting fluid that's left over after the part is finished. Chris King has to be the gold standard here, and has talked more than most about their careful recycling of everything from aluminum scrap to cutting fluid, but they're not the only company that we sell who is careful about the disposal and recycling of their waste products. The regulations governing how these things are dealt with in the US are often a headache, but with each year bringing more news of the messes that are being created in places where there aren't any such laws, we think they're worth it. We'd rather pay a little extra now, if it helps ensure the future of the people who make the parts we love, and the places we love to ride those parts.
So next time you find yourself contemplating whether that Chris King, White Industries, Paul, Phil Wood, Industry Nine, or Onyx part is worth it, these are some things you might add to your list of considerations. We tend to think that most of these parts look like a bargain once you think about them this way. What about you?