Royce

Royce

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Some years ago, Issue 12 of Rouleur reawakened an obsession in me, one with a peculiar nature to it that only bicycle parts can invoke. For as long as I can remember, Royce hubs have seemed like the ultimate bicycle component: painstakingly hand-crafted to the tightest tolerances for error in the industry. With a reputation for indestructibility, ulta-high performance, and unmatched beauty, their appeal was made irresistible by the fact that they are completely unknown and seemingly impossible to come by in the United States.

Back in the early nineties, when the Internet was but a sparkle in Al Gore’s eye, Cycling coverage in the States was much more sparse than it is today. Television coverage was non-existent, VeloNews and Winning were the only two worthwhile cycling periodicals, and if an American won a race, it might make the back page of the Sports section in some papers that week. I filled my days devouring and re-devouring any Cycling-related books I could find, watching whatever VHS cassettes World Cycling Productions made available, and leafing through all of the Cycling Magazines my family gathered for me during trips abroad.

It is therefor impossible for me to say exactly when it was that I first heard of Royce and how I got my hands on the story, but it was of Will Fotheringham famously recounting that during the 1993 Tour de France, he was asked to bring a specialty wheelset over from the UK for Robert Millar, who at that stage in his career was struggling a bit and hungered for any advantage he could find. The wheels were built around a set of Royce hubs.

Having no means to learn anything real about the company, it took on the mystical. It was all rumors, but the name kept creeping about; Sean Yates used their components and Chris Boardman – the quintessential Bike Geek – was said to absolutely love their bits and had a particular affinity for their bottom bracket axels which he used in all his time trial bikes. For Boardman’s 2000 Athlete’s Hour Record, Royce was in charge of the wheels and supplied the hubs, machined the nipples, and customized the spokes (the nipples were recessed into the rims).

Then the trail went cold.

With not enough fuel to sustain the burn, the fire eventually died down, until that issue of Rouleur turned up in my mailbox with a dozen pages dedicated to the company and to Boardman’s attempt on the Hour. With the power of the Internet at my disposal and the information provided by the article, I was able to discover much more about them than ever before, but the rationalization to buy a set of hubs – should I even be able to track some down – didn’t present itself until Keepers Tour and its inevitable justification for building a set of indestructible wheels.

Royce is a small company, who focuses primarily on building their parts to order. They don’t mass-produce and provide stock the way companies like Shimano, Chris King, or even Campagnolo do. They work closely with select riders and work to provide highly specialized equipment; while they do produce standard road hubs, their production is limited and are generally fairly hard to come by.

One of the things I love most about handmade products is the small irregularities that remind you that a person – not a machine – crafted the product you hold in your hands. The finish on Royce hubs is otherworldly, but at the same time, the marks of a craftsman are upon them everywhere; in those small ways, the hubs I own are different from every other set in the world.

Handmade hubs also take time to break in. The Royce hubs, as they emerged from their box, held a stiffness in their bearings that would require several hundred kilometeres before they would adopt the feathery lightness for which they’re known. Having to ride the lightness into a set of hubs bonds you to them in a way a perfectly machined set will never do; with every turn of the silky bearings echoes each kilometer you worked together to arrive at where you are.

My handmade wheels – with the Golden Tickets and Royce hubs, represent for me the ultimate in customized bicycle components. They are not as fast as my Zipp wheels, and not as light. But in our short months together, we have already built a story that only serves to strengthen my love for Cycling. When my wheels and I return from Belgium in April, battered and bruised after carrying each other over the harshest and most sacred roads in Europe, the story will have become only richer.

Vive La Vie Velominatus.

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// Accessories and Gear // Nostalgia // Tradition

  1. @Buck Rogers
    Thanks Buck! I was concerned that 32 spokes 14/15 with the Heds might ride harshly; a few posts in various palce suggested you could run fewer spokes than say with a Nemesis. But my bet is that 27mm Pave’s put the cush on big time.

    Were you thinking you wanted 32 hole rims fro strength?

    Eager to hear the post strade bianche/grave/pave ride report!

  2. @teleguy57
    Yes, purely for strength. These are my rough-road-race-wheels and will most likely be my every day trainers as well. I have a decent set of wheels that I will use on regular races but wanted something beefier for Paris- Roubaix and the like.

  3. +1 to scaler and Oli

    just rub it a bit, reapply
    methodically, layer it, for mine it takes 3 days, one layer base to the rim, then 24hrs, reapply to rim and tyres and wait for final coat 24hrs later.

    The prior rim cement actually cumulatively adds a base, so as Oli mentioned, just get the lumps off.

    Some do like Buck mentions, and clean it pure. Its another way to do it, clean every time. & to each his own

  4. @Oli

    @grumbledook
    Absolute rubbish! DT spokes are great. Sapim are fine too, but not better than DT – in fact I have seen many more unexplained spoke breakages from Sapim than from DT. I’m not a huge fan of DT hubs and rims, but the spokes are the best.

    Oli, I didn’t say DT spokes would be crap, I just said that their hubs are
    overrated. DT spokes are fine, that’s right, but still rather ordinary spokes.
    I had a few (but not many) failures of DT double-butted spokes in the past.
    From my experience, the Sapim CX-Ray are unsurpassed and something special that
    would be the perfect match for the Royce hubs.
    (But I must admit, I don’t know about the longevity of other Sapim spokes.
    Maybe when you compare their Race or Laser spokes to DT Competition or Revolution,
    DT spokes last longer. But still, I would consider CX-Ray spokes the best off-the-rack spokes.)

  5. @grumbledook
    Have you tried Aerolites? Easily the equal of the CX-Ray. And you’re of course entitled to your opinion on your favourite, but DT are no more “ordinary” than Sapim.

  6. @Oli

    @grumbledook
    Have you tried Aerolites? Easily the equal of the CX-Ray. And you’re of course entitled to your opinion on your favourite, but DT are no more “ordinary” than Sapim.

    Whatever. Both spokes would have been a better choice for a Royce-based wheel than any double-butted spoke. And when you talk to professional wheelbuilders they do prefer the slightly bladed spokes because they can build a better wheel since they can prevent the spoke from being twisted while adjusting the tension. And DT as well as Sapim using the best of their alloys for the Aerolite and CX Ray, resp.. (Your preference may also depend on which side of the ocean you live. This is true for other preferences as well: While DT hubs seem to be much admired in the US, over here in Europe it’s Chris King.)

  7. Ok, just for context – I am a “professional wheelbuilder”. I’ve been building wheels for over thirty years; wheels for National Champions, Commonwealth Games medalists and riders at all levels, wheels that I’m proud to say are renowned for their reliability and ride quality.

    I disagree entirely that Aerolites or CX_Rays would have been a better choice for Frank, and point out that Aerolites and CX_Rays are great spokes in their application but any “professional wheelbuilder” worth his salt will choose the specific spoke for the specific application, not use one type of spoke in all cases.

    The main reason for Aerolite/CX-Rays (other than aero reasons, of course) is for building super high-tension wheels of great stiffness, not necessarily what you need in a wheel for riding the cobbles where some resilience and give are paramount. With oiled threads wind-up is reduced on spokes anyway, so using that type of spoke just to be able to “prevent the spoke from being twisted while adjusting the tension” isn’t really the best reason, IMO.

    Anyway, someone wise pointed out earlier in the day that arguing on the internet just makes us both look stupid, so I’ll leave it there and let people decide for themselves with both points of view on the table.

    Cheers, Oli

  8. @Oli

    … but any “professional wheelbuilder” worth his salt will choose the specific spoke for the specific application, not use one type of spoke in all cases.

    Cheers, Oli

    Completely agree. And the rest of what you’ve been writing is fine with me too.
    (There is one “+” for the Aerolites/CXRays, and that’s the weight, which could add up to a 100 g/wheel.)

  9. @Oli
    I’ll be the judge of that! How about you build be a set of wheels, send them to me, and I will test them over the next 10 to 15 years and get back with you on my opinion.

  10. @Monkeyscat
    Wish I had thought of that reply first! Great post.

    Oli, you are, once again, Da’ Man. Dang! What DON”T you know and do when it comes to bikes?!?!?! You are an awesome resource to have around here.

  11. @Monkeyscat, @Buck Rogers

    The real question is how did you get a picture of @Gianni in bed with a bone but without his syrup?

  12. @Chris
    This just got awkward. I didn’t expect anyone to recognize Gianni!

  13. @Monkeyscat

    @Oli
    I’ll be the judge of that! How about you build be a set of wheels, send them to me, and I will test them over the next 10 to 15 years and get back with you on my opinion.

    I never claimed to be a great wheelbuilder (although I built a few pairs myself using DT as well as Sapim spokes that are still true), and all of my more recent wheels were built at whizz-wheels.de and light-wolf.de, but I’d like to test a pair of Oli’s wheels myself in direct comparison to the ones I am riding currently.
    In the end the skills of the builder make probably a much bigger difference than the spokes.

  14. @Buck Rogers, @frank
    @Tommy noted to leave the old tires on till the last minute to keep the glue from getting crap innit.

    I’ve seen suggestions of using paint remover if you need to strip the rims.

  15. @Nate

    @Buck Rogers, @frank
    @Tommy noted to leave the old tires on till the last minute to keep the glue from getting crap innit.

    I’ve seen suggestions of using paint remover if you need to strip the rims.

    Acetone will do the trick. And although hexane is used as solvent for most tubby glues I would not suggest to handle this outside of a fume hood.

  16. @Oli, @grumbledook
    Really interesting stuff there on both sides of the discussion and I think that when I lace my Record hubs to the Mavic rims Gianni gave me, I’ll try out either the Aerolites or CX_Rays. If nothing else, just to gain some experience with different spokes. Great info!

  17. @Monkeyscat

    @Chris
    This just got awkward. I didn’t expect anyone to recognize Gianni!

    The only reason this is awkward is because I’m not used to seeing Gianni without his toupé!

    @grumbledook

    In the end the skills of the builder make probably a much bigger difference than the spokes.

    Uh-oh.

  18. @grumbledook

    (There is one “+” for the Aerolites/CXRays, and that’s the weight, which could add up to a 100 g/wheel.)

    Sorry – which are you saying is lighter? The Aerolites/CXRays or the DT Swiss?

  19. @frank

    @grumbledook

    (There is one “+” for the Aerolites/CXRays, and that’s the weight, which could add up to a 100 g/wheel.)

    Sorry – which are you saying is lighter? The Aerolites/CXRays or the DT Swiss?

    The Aerolites are made by DT. I don’t know how “heavy” they are compared to the Sapim CX Ray, but CX Ray spokes definitively lighter than the DT double butted spokes (“DT Competition”). So if you want to reduce the weight of your wheel and improve the aerodynamics to some extent without compromising reliability, you may want to try the CX Ray. But the wheel may feel a little less stiff as with “ordinary” double butted spokes. And you will probably need a tensiometer if you are going to lace a wheel with the CX Ray for the first time, since the CX Ray require a lot of tension due to their bigger elasticity. But I am sure Oli can give much more competent input when it comes to lacing, tensioning and trueing.

  20. @frank

    @Monkeyscat

    @Chris
    This just got awkward. I didn’t expect anyone to recognize Gianni!

    The only reason this is awkward is because I’m not used to seeing Gianni without his toupé!

    But you’re quite cool with seeing him in bed with a bone?

  21. @frank

    @grumbledook

    DT Aerolites and Sapim CX-Rays are almost identical weights, and both are within a few grams of DT Revolutions for 64 x spokes, or 100g lighter than 64x DT Competition or Sapim Race spokes.

    However, they wheels built with Aerolites/CX-Rays will be stiffer than Comp/Race not less stiff, due to the higher tensions involved in building with them.

  22. @Monkeyscat
    Where’s your sidekick?

  23. @Oli

    @frank

    @grumbledook

    DT Aerolites and Sapim CX-Rays are almost identical weights, and both are within a few grams of DT Revolutions for 64 x spokes, or 100g lighter than 64x DT Competition or Sapim Race spokes.

    However, they wheels built with Aerolites/CX-Rays will be stiffer than Comp/Race not less stiff, due to the higher tensions involved in building with them.

    Another “+” for the aero spokes? :)

  24. @grumbledook
    Jeepers, you’re hard work. For the cobbles, the most durable wheels are built with less stiffness, not more. Hence, for Frank’s purposes, the CX-Rays or Aerolites would NOT be a plus. For other purposes, of course they might, but not with his choice of hub and rim and not for the very specific purpose he built the wheels in question for, i.e. the COBBLES. Please try and keep up.

  25. @Oli

    @grumbledook
    Jeepers, you’re hard work. For the cobbles, the most durable wheels are built with less stiffness, not more. Hence, for Frank’s purposes, the CX-Rays or Aerolites would NOT be a plus. For other purposes, of course they might, but not with his choice of hub and rim and not for the very specific purpose he built the wheels in question for, i.e. the COBBLES. Please try and keep up.

    And your reply was so easy to guess.

  26. @Monkeyscat

    @Oli
    I’ll be the judge of that! How about you build be a set of wheels, send them to me, and I will test them over the next 10 to 15 years and get back with you on my opinion.

    Why is there a picture of Gianni in this thread? And what have you done with his hairpiece???

  27. @grumbledook

    @Monkeyscat

    @Oli
    I’ll be the judge of that! How about you build be a set of wheels, send them to me, and I will test them over the next 10 to 15 years and get back with you on my opinion.

    I never claimed to be a great wheelbuilder (although I built a few pairs myself using DT as well as Sapim spokes that are still true), and all of my more recent wheels were built at whizz-wheels.de and light-wolf.de, but I’d like to test a pair of Oli’s wheels myself in direct comparison to the ones I am riding currently.
    In the end the skills of the builder make probably a much bigger difference than the spokes.

    These guys might have a say in spoke choice,

    My Cycling Sensai always chose and used DT’s
    In the end the skills of the builder make probably a much bigger difference than the spokes.
    Agree. Spreading the spoke tension evenly throughout the build was the key. Early days saw me building egg shaped wheels.

  28. A quick read here on spoke tension

  29. Just back from Bespoked (Bristol UK) … Met the guys from Royce, top top peoples !!!

    Even got a fine alloy Royce shot tumbler !!!

    A few pics …

    The golden carbon ones …

    Up close …

  30. Also, Franks hubs with new (read NEW Frank quick releases !!!) These are the first three off the mill.

    Photo from Nicole Cooke, a very famous cyclist from Wales.

    Royce car. Not Rolls Royce, that is made a few miles away in Goodwood ten miles from where I live.

    Cliff, Mr Royce and another cool car.

    My shot jigger / tumbler !!!

  31. Yeah.. you’re so right. Royce hubs are fine pieces of craftsmanship. My wheel sets are build on Royce Venus Titan, 36 holes, high flanges… have a look.. they’re so smooth.

    http://voyageforum.com/v.f?post=4358596;search_string=royce%20titan;page=6

  32. @Gilbert Gaumerd
    Beautiful! Is that setup for a touring rig?

  33. Thanx for this article frank. These are the hubs that haunt me. I have a pair of Victory Strada 36h rims that I would want to build up with Royce and FMB.

  34. First things first, build a wheelset on Royce hubs. Then find a way to the cobbles.

  35. @SimonH

    My shot jigger / tumbler !!!

    That is excellent, will have to try and get hold of one of these as a Christmas present for my dad…

  36. Slideshow:

    Fullscreen:

    28H, mid flange. Big thanks to Justin at Luxe.  Such a great guy and builder.  Now to get down there and pick them up!

    @frank, Thank you for shining the light!

  37. @roger

    Really nice roger.Bet you can’t wait to pick’em up.

  38. @roger Hey, saw those on his tumblr.  He built my Nemesis wheelset too, to Alchemy hubs.  I got them almost exactly a year ago.

  39. Shit, I wish I hadnt seen this picture ………..   my brain now hurts …..

  40. LBS wants $75 to glue tubulars.

    Per wheel.

    I’m going to have to learn to do this myself.

  41. @G’rilla

    LBS wants $75 to glue tubulars.

    Per wheel.

    I’m going to have to learn to do this myself.

    That’s a we-don’t-want-to-be-bothered price.  It’s not really that hard and we’ve discussed it before but we could always revisit.  If you’re gluing for CX, people that know think highly of this method:  http://www.embrocationmagazine.com/online/how-to-gluing-cx-tubulars

  42. @G’rilla

    LBS wants $75 to glue tubulars.

    Per wheel.

    I’m going to have to learn to do this myself.

    F’n a buddy. I’m positive that for a $10 sixer of fine PNW IPA Frank would show you how. And he’s like a mile from you.

  43. @roger

    Those are fuckin’ dead sexy. Very nice!

  44. @scaler911 That’s my plan!

    Got the rims. Need to buy hubs and spokes. And tires and glue.

    And nipple lube.

  45. @G’rilla The hardest thing about glueing tubulars is remembering to get them on with the logos on the drive side. With the mix of glue fumes and heat of the moment “must get this on before the glue dries”, it’s the only problem I’ve had with glueing.

    Oh and make sure your valve core is screwed in firmly/locktited. It’s a bit of a bastard when they come out when you want to get some more air in and work the tubular into it’s final position.

  46. @Chris Yup, this.  I’ll confess to having made this error, aided and abetted not only by glue-fumes but copious IPA.

  47. @G’rilla

    @scaler911 That’s my plan!

    Got the rims. Need to buy hubs and spokes. And tires and glue.

    And nipple lube.

    And scented candles.

  48. @itburns Hah!

  49. found some time to grab the hoops.  R for roger, not Royce.  now the glueing begins!

  50. Hi I am looking at selling my hand built pair of wheels: never raced summer use only on my best bike, intended for racing but work commitments never allowed it so I am selling them on to fund touring bike purchase:

    wheels built by Chaz Curry, top pro wheel builder for pro tour teams.

    Specification:

    Hubs:

    Royce Titan small flange super light front hub 28hole, titanium axle and cones.

    Royce Titan small flange super light rear hub 28hole 6/4 titanium axle, 6/4 titanium cassette body and cones etc…Campagnolo cassette compatable

    Rims:

    Swiss DT R.R1 The lightest strongest and best money can buy.

    Spokes:

    DT Competition Stainless Steel Double Butted, rear wheel tied and soldered for extra rigid rear race wheel, all spokes bedded onto brass washers onto hub flange drillinga to prevent hub deformatity and spoke head failure not many builders do this any more as very time consuming and costly

    Wheels are absolutely immaculate, super light and extremely strong with the very finest hubs and rims money can buy, come complete with Zipp titanium skewers, perfectly true and very special, a real climbing/ road race wheel

    Price £575 pair no offers

    tel: Dom on 07976 362097

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