We here at the OGRE HQ ( otherwise known as the Swamp ), have a strong bias towards shopping local, shopping small, and shopping made in USA. It is hard to do all of the above these days, but with care, you can usually hit 1 or 2 out of the 3. In addition, we like to add a 4th category, and that is shop with quality people.
Shop Small: Yes — Shop Local: Sorta — Shop Made in USA: No
Today we are profiling a relatively new wheel vendor that fits the ‘Small’ category nicely. They are sorta local, though they do not currently have any retail options, they are based more or less locally in South Carolina. Made in USA, not so much. With the lack of carbon fiber foundries in the US though, it is hard to find on-shore manufacturing for carbon fiber, so while we would normally whine about the off shore fabrication, we understand the market realities here, so while not a full pass, they get a partial pass.
We didn’t start off searching for a smaller wheel vendor. Like many people, our first pass at carbon wheels was with a large brand that is well known. Those wheels are very good, but at those prices, you do not want to ride them every day. At the expo for IM Chattanooga 70.3 2015, we met Jason Williamson (and his lovely wife and new baby) of ORR Cycling. At the expo, we had a chance to chat for a while, and that is where Jason did a great job of articulating what he and his brother wanted to accomplish.
In short, the mission is to build and sell a quality carbon fiber wheel set that is race ready, at a price that can be used as an every day wheel.
I was not ready to pull the trigger to give them a shot at the time, but after the race and some challenges with my big name wheels, Jason’s pitch kept percolating in the brain. The more I thought about it, the more interested I became. It took about a month, but eventually I gave him a call, and purchased a set of his wheels to give them a try. That said, at the time, Jason did all the right things from a customer service perspective. With the death of customer service in most industries, that was a truly refreshing start.
The wheels arrived promptly, and in true bike nerd fashion, within an hour of arriving home that evening, cassette, tubes and tires were mounted, and the wheels found their way onto the bike.
On a side note, these are not the first deep profile/aero wheels to find their way onto this bike, but they are the first that did not require an hour of adjusting the rear brakes to make them work without an almost zero tolerance configuration. Unlike almost every major competitor, the width of the wheel at the brake track is almost identical to the 23mm width that is the standard for many ‘stock’ wheels, while most of the aero wheels are as wide as 26mm at the brake track. Not unexpected, but there was a tiny bit of adjustment required to get the shifting back to where I prefer.
A month later, the wheels have seen about 800 miles of wear and tear, in a wide mix of conditions, including a race on broad range of road surfaces (brand new asphalt, really crappy old asphalt, concrete, tar snake encrusted asphalt, and my personal favorite, WTF is this / who put this speed bump in the middle of my race way) these wheels have answered the call. Solid performance with a minimum of flex even when being pushed hard up an 11% grade. In reality, the ONLY negative on the wheel so far has been the one tube change on the side of the road, and this is not really a wheel problem per se. The tires are a VERY tight fit, and while most of time, I can change a tube quickly (under 6 minutes), it took closer to 10 minutes for me to make the change simply because I had to work harder to get the tire bead over the rim. This is not a bad thing really, but it is worth noting.
So here we are, a month later, and my verdict on ORR Cycling is simply this. Excellent customer service. Great people. Good product at a great price point. How good? well, the plan is to pick up another set with a shallower profile to use on the road bike as it’s every day wheels. Yes, folks, I like them that much. I have already recommended them to a couple of buyers, and will continue to do so.