How to break into the cycling industry – Josh Liberles and Bre Rue of New Brand: HiFi Components
Recently, new brand HiFi Sound Cycling Components rolled onto the scene. Their focus is building performance oriented wheels that won’t break the bank. To do this, HiFi has a Taiwanese partner that helps them source the best rims and components coming out of Asia. And while specific parts were not identified, they did let us know that there are some US based rims being sourced as well.
The rims are laced to HiFi’s proprietary, in-house designed, hubs using Pillar brand spokes (1420 X-tra for road and 1422 X-tra for MTB). Most builds are done overseas where the rims are tested, wheels get pre-stressed, and a rigorous QC process is completed. Once the product arrives stateside, the wheels are then put through another QC process here in Portland to ensure a quality product is delivered. In the case of US sourced parts, the wheel builds are done here in Portland, OR. Spokes on these builds vary per the needs of the wheel, but are typically Sapim Laser or something from the DT Swiss lineup.
Roll past the break for more on the brand, their products, and an interview with Josh and Bre.
Those parts are used to assemble a product catalogue that includes a full complement of carbon and aluminum road and mountain wheelsets. For the road/CX they offer the 60mm deep Long Play carbon tubular, the Extended Play 39mm carbon tubular, the 8-Track 85mm carbon tubular, the Mixmaster X aluminum tubular, and the Mix Tape aluminum clincher.
For the dirt scene, HiFi has the Session carbon MTB wheels that come tubeless ready, are 26mm wide, and have options for 650B and 29er tires. They also have an aluminum MTB wheel, the Hootenany. They have the same feature set, but weigh a bit more (and cost a bit less).
Full product details can be found on HiFi’s website. Should you choose to buy, contact them directly for now, as a dealer list is in the works but not published. If you happen to live in Portland, swing by Sellwood Cycle Repair to check some out in person.
Now, lets get to know the people behind the brand.
Who are you and what are you doing here? (ie. who do you work for, what’s your job title and a short description of your role in the company. In other words, what do you do?)
JOSH: Hey there. I’ve pieced together a variety of freelance jobs for the past dozen years, ever since moving to New Mexico to be a ski bum. I turned into a bike bum soon after that, and combined jobs I could do while traveling the country to race – running the Carectomy environmental blog, creating content for the Cyclo-Club.com cycling fitness training site, writing for a variety of publications and even writing book indexes. I spent the 2008 cyclocross season driving the Clif Bar Development Team’s “Big Green Bus” around the country to support the team, racing once I got there and busting my ass to shoot and then edit video coverage of the Elite Men’s and Women’s events for the now-defunct VeloNews TV.
Since then it’s been pretty much all bikes, all the time. I worked as editor of Cyclocross Magazine for several years, and now I split time between running HiFi – my “official” title is Super Domestique”; editing the Portland, Oregon, About.com website [portlandor.about.com]; coaching a dozen cyclists; and managing and racing for the Hosmer Chiropractic – RPM Mortgage Cycling Team in Portland, Oregon. I keep busy, for sure.
BRE: I am the engineer and wheelsmith behind the wheels at HiFi.
What was your first job or experience in the cycling industry? How did you “break” in?
JOSH: If bike messengering counts as “the industry” – which I doubt it does – then I did that back in ’96 in San Francisco. But it was in 2006 when I decided that writing about cycling and bike racing while traveling around to ride and race made sense. I wrote for a bunch of publications back then, but editor/publisher Brian Riepe of Mountain Flyer, based out of Colorado, gave me the opportunity to write my first meaty pieces.
BRE: I got my start at a neighborhood bike shop back in 1988. I was a sophomore in high school and would hang out at the shop so much that eventually they put me to work.
What’s your educational background?
JOSH: Public high school in Massachusetts, then a philosophy degree from Pomona College in So Cal. Perfectly pre-professional, right?
BRE: I graduated high school in 1992 in Salem, Oregon, and then took some college courses. Racing my bike took priority for many years and I just never got back to finishing my engineering degree. I have studied composites as well as aerodynamics, which lend nicely to working with modern bicycle wheels.
After that first experience/job, what was the path to your current position?
JOSH: Convoluted! But cycling has been a central thread through my life for a long time. And although there are a lot of wheel companies out there and it’s a crowded marketplace, I saw an opportunity to do things a little differently. We hit a very high quality and performance level at a very competitive price. All of the people involved in HiFi are bike racers, and we wanted to produce wheels that we’d be excited to race and would seek out as customers. Actually – we do race them, every week, so we’d better like them.
BRE: I have worked in both bike shops and in the manufacturing side of the bike industry since 1988. I was also doing a lot of building and painting – I’m also an airbrush artist – with my custom carbon frame brand, Ruegamer bikes, before we put the project on hold during the financial meltdown in 2009.
What’s a normal day for you?
JOSH: As you can probably surmise from my crazy mix of jobs, there’s not really a “normal” day. HiFi is taking up progressively more of my time though – which is great – and based on our trajectory, I hope to be close to full-time with that by the end of the year.
BRE: My typical day sees me leaving the house at 8 a.m. and getting home at 9 p.m. or later from work, with a little training on my bike along the way. In addition to HiFi, I’m currently working full time at Lakeside Bicycles in Lake Oswego, Oregon, as well as racing both mountain bikes and on the road at an elite level.
What are the highlights of your job?
JOSH: The cycling community is a very cool one, and I really enjoy producing products that excite cyclists and inspire them to ride. I also obviously really like to ride myself and, although I’m a far cry from a pro cyclist, riding my bike is an integral part of my “work.” That’s OK by me.
It’s not all tailwinds along the way – we’ve certainly hit some snags. While they can be frustrating, both we and our products have evolved through those trials, and we have better wheels as a result.