NAHBS 2018: Are you a custom frame builder?

Posted by Jerry Chabot on

We often have discussions with customers building up bikes for themselves who want to hand select every part and create something unique. We have done a lot of that type of build over the past couple years, and we really enjoy the process and client interaction. 
Fast forward to 2018: we have matured as a business and settled down a bit on the pace at which we are developing new models, as I now feel we have a great, well thought out, customizable wheel option for most every category of bike (except maybe pure DH). 
One of our 2018 business initiatives is to push into the custom frame builder market, as I feel that the NEXT brand aligns very well with the ethos and business model of the custom builder. Looking in from the outside, especially as we come up to NAHBS, I see amazing, unique frames custom designed for the rider, coated in custom paints, trying new things, striving to stand out in a sea of beautiful creations, but almost universally clad in Enve rims laced to King hubs. Both great products, no question, but one could easily argue that Specialized and Trek make great frames. They are just, well, a bit ubiquitous and over saturated at this point for my taste. I feel the same way about Enve's on King. Would I spend my own money on them? Yes I would. Would I prefer something that not everyone else has, that is more unique to me? Absolutely.
At NEXT, we bring an analogous level of customer interaction and client specific build specifications to each wheelset as the custom frame builder does, and we have a broad selection of our rims that we hand build on a wide selection of hubs. We also have the time and interest in custom projects – be it rim paint, custom logos or other details – that a traditional wheel company does not. They are at a volume point that precludes that kind of service.
Along those same lines, we see Enve as a rim company that will sell you a built wheel. Designing and manufacturing carbon rims is their focus and core competency. We see boutique wheel builders as just that, a wheel building business, pulling from whatever rims Enve or others in the market choose to make commercially available. Assembling wheels to a custom spec from what they have  wholesale accessibility to is their focus. 
NEXT is unique, even in the crowded space that has become the carbon wheel market. We combine that focus on superlative build quality and client customization with an equal focus on ensuring that we have high quality, ride tested, consistent rim stock. We know how all of our rims will perform in various build configurations, with various tire sizes, on all sorts of road (or non-road) surfaces.
We ensure that we have a model in the pipeline for where we see the market heading, rather than waiting for sales demand to build and then entering the market and capitalizing on it financially. That model is the only one that really makes sense for the larger companies. There has to be an ROI on any market they enter. As a small company we have the luxury of flexibility to pivot on a dime, try new things in small batches, and drive development of new products to keep pace with the frame industry and emerging standards. And then, at the end of the day, we still are able to build each wheel by hand with spoke selection, color options, material prep and final tension to as high a standard as any boutique wheel builder.
Frame building is still a business, and a significant portion of the operating margin comes from building up the frames and selling the customer a complete bike.  Given that we draw solely from our line of rims, we can buy in good quantity and avoid the layers of mark up that come from passing through dealers and distributors, and then on to the bike shop or frame builder. We can leverage what buying power we have in our supply chain to drive down our costs. This allows us to offer a wholesale price point on a built up wheelset that meets the business needs of the frame builder or shop (read: there is still some meat on the bone to make a profit at point of sale on a custom product). 
If you are a frame builder or a bike studio whose business is more focused on assembling a bike to spec from the frame up verses the preconfigured models, we would like the opportunity to earn your business. If any of this strikes a cord with you, drop us a line and lets chat. 
- Jerry