Neugent 50mm Carbon Clinchers

John Neugent has been in the bike industry forever. Maybe not literally, but longer than the vast majority of people currently working, and he has developed a really unique way of creating product and looking at what is happening. John started Neuvation wheels in 2002, and was the owner of the value-based wheelset company that had a loyal, yet small following. John shut the doors to Neuvation in early 2014, but is already back with a new approach to bringing high-value wheels to the cycling industry.

There are no minced words when John speaks about his company, or how the industry works.  It is refreshing and honest, something he says is what creates his loyal followings.  There are a lot of people out there who just want to ride a bike, and not sift through the clutter, and John speaks directly to them, both literally with his popular newsletter, and through the products he is bringing with his new company, Neugent Cycling.

We recently caught up to John to hear his thoughts on starting something new, and where he thinks the industry is doing things right or wrong…

Neugent 23mm Alloy wheels
Neugent’s 23mm wide alloy clinchers are hand-built in the USA using Sapim spokes, but don’t have decals, or even a name other than a descriptive part number.

BIKERUMOR: Often times, when building a brand, the high-end product is created first to create a brand image, and then its quite easy to filter down. You are going the opposite, which can be a challenge to get the higher-end product accepted. What sets your high end product apart enough to pull through this?

John Neugent: I am not looking for the super high end. I focus more on really good product that offers a good value. Currently, it’s my reputation that is selling wheels. I have about 25,000 sets out there and people like them. I do my best to tell it like it is and honesty is very attractive. So in that sense, I brand myself rather than my wheels and if I say these are a great deal people believe me.

I should be clear in saying that I do believe my wheels would be competitive at the highest levels. When I go to Asia my strategy is to keep my head out of the wind. Let the big guys teach the factories the hard stuff and I will just go and take their development for free.

I was the first to set up high end wheel building in Taiwan (2000 for Velomax – I went over with Brad Hunter – the Velomax owner and Rick Hjertberg – Wheelsmith – and we taught high end hand building. Schwinn was specing Velomax wheels on their bikes. Since then there are hundreds of good wheel builders there but it took us about a year to get it right the first time. So everyone takes advantage of everyone else – it’s normal.

BIKERUMOR: You said that you wont even be making budget-priced items anymore. Why the complete switch?

John Neugent: There is little profit in the lower price points. No other reason.

BIKERUMOR: Your prices are still really good, for a high-end wheel. Is this attainability something you plan to carry through to the new product?

John Neugent: You were a product manager, so you know what things cost. A $50 retail stem often costs $6-7 – the rest is mostly overhead of one sort or another. I do my best to keep my overhead low and give the savings to the consumer. I still make a good profit. I am never going to have a $2000 set of carbon wheels. I don’t need to and honestly almost no one needs to pay that much for a really great set of wheels. I may do some wheels with straight pull spokes – which cost more and that will knock prices up about $100. I also have some new rims coming that are 31 mm deep and 24 mm wide and still weigh in the 470g range. That will make a sweet set of wheels. They are due in around the end of the year.

BIKERUMOR: I don’t see any trademarked acronyms or proprietary technologies on your website. Whats up with that?

John Neugent: I don’t have a decal for Neugent Cycling yet – I do, but I haven’t put it on the wheels yet. Outside of that I really try to avoid trademarking things because, for the most part, it’s marketing hype. It does sell product and people believe it, but my message throughout the years has always been anti-hype. I have been heavily involved with both marketing and product development and management since 1982 when I became, I believe, the first product manager in the industry (or the first that had that title that I am aware of). Things I did to sell product were frequently sales pitches of one sort or another. I am tired of that.

Neugent 38mm Disc Carbon Clinchers
The C38 carbon clinchers are 38mm tall and 25mm wide, hand built with Sapim Laser spokes for only $1049

BIKERUMOR: What are your thoughts on the “wide rim revolution” that everyone is talking about?

John Neugent: It’s the best thing that has happened to road wheels in a long time. It really works. I first heard about it because Bob Stapleton is a local here and when he was selling off all of the old HighRoads Team bikes, he sent people to me for wheels and told them to get them made with HED Belgium rims – which are 23 mm. He said the team won’t ride anything else. Everyone I sell wide rims to loves them. There is no down side and they go a long way to improve performance.

BIKERUMOR: Is there any mountain product on your horizon?

John Neugent: I tried it once and failed so not at this point.

BIKERUMOR: Are you working with any athletes or teams to get the word out?

John Neugent: Just my long time wheel tester – John Kodin (11K miles a year for the last 30 years or so and age group state road and TT champion over the last few years). But he’s just for wheel and bike testing. I do offer team discounts and have a few teams that take advantage of them – that will continue. It’s my opinion that if you really want to sponsor teams you need to do it at the highest level and I don’t have the budget for that. Scott Montgomery, when he was at Cannondale, told me either go to the top pros or don’t do it at all and I believe he’s right.

BIKERUMOR: The bike industry is pretty small, and a lot of different branded parts are made in the same factories. Some companies even tout their product is made at the same place as some larger, more well known product. The larger companies will say that design and technology is everything. What do you think here, can getting something out of the same factory yield similar results?

John Neugent: Absolutely. That’s the problem with bringing production to Asia. You can protect patents but you have to give up many trade secrets if you want something done right and when you do, you open up the door to any other customer. That is why when I go I like to visit their factories and see who they are working with. It’s relatively inexpensive and I still love going.

BIKERUMOR: There is a lot of changes in road bikes, with disc brakes, wider tires, it seems it is starting to segment up into smaller niches like mountain biking did 15 years ago. What do you see in your crystal ball for the next 10 years?

John Neugent: Road bikes are becoming skinny tire mountain bikes. I love it. More comfort and more stability, possibly better performance (depending upon how big the tire). I believe that will continue to evolve, but outside of that I see no new magic material coming that is going to dethrone carbon. The modern generation of carbon (unlike the carbon of 15 years ago) is astounding. Electric will continue to evolve. I also believe electric bikes could be one of the real growth areas for the sport. I worked with Lee Iacocca on his e-bike project for a year and for the “sport side” of it I imagine a pedal assist bike that could do 20mph on it’s own but with a stronger rider, up to 50mph. Somewhat like a motorcycle race but with endurance being a key factor. It’s a dream right now but you never know.

24 COMMENTS

  1. So before one shells out money for your wheels, what
    what was the reason for Neuvation closing and its stock ending up at a local
    auction house? Knowing that there is good longterm after sales
    support is a big reason in deciding who to buy from

    • I have a set of carbon wheels that I bought from John before he closed Neuvation. When I bought a new bike last year with an 11-speed grouppo, I sent the rear wheel back to John and he rebuilt it with a new 11-speed hub. Not really a warranty issue, but I was still able to get something done to a wheel purchased from his old company.

  2. “Knowing that there is good longterm after sales
    support is a big reason in deciding who to buy from”

    I get this, but in reality, what kind of “long term” support does one need for wheels? Any company big or small can fold. Although after sales support is important, on something as simple as a wheel it seems kinda crazy to hold a new company hostage over it. If everyone thought like this, nobody would be willing to buy a wheel unless it was made by the few big names out there. A company like ENVE would have never gotten the chance.

    I have a set of Neuvation wheels that have been excellent. Will I be left without “support” should my hub/rim fail. Sure, but I can also go to the LBS or online and order a set of bearings, a new hub or replace a spoke. Its not like my $35k car failed to start.

    • I too have a set of Neuvation alloy wheels and my LBS didn’t have replacement spokes so an email exchange with John and I had several replacement spokes in my mailbox within a few days, gratis. Can’t beat that for stand behind your “former” products. The LBS regularly comment on how quiet these wheels spin. Thanks John!

  3. Disappointing to hear ‘no mountain bike’ products. I’d think there’s a golden opportunity to make a wheelset that can be used as a road disc/cross/29er. Since there is becoming less of a difference between the hub/brake/axel requirements for those 3 disciplines. Also, been to the new website, really need to add both rider weigh limits and max tire pressure.

  4. Kris,

    Excellent comment. I am honoring all of the warranty issues with Neuvation Cycling at NeugentCycling.com. I can’t fix everything but so far have been able to take care of every one who has contacted me. I don’t want to go into the specifics of why I folded NeuvationCycling – it’s a long story. But I do want to make sure that anyone who bought my wheels has the same level of support from me in my new venture.

    Thanks – John

  5. scentofreason

    You are absolutely right and it’s on my radar only because the lines of distinction are becoming less clear. Also since I only do custom, I have no stock – less risk.

    Re rider weights and max tire pressure: I have found that that using rider weights as a indication of wheel durability falls far short. I know of 150 pound guys who can break anything and 250 pound guys who can ride super light wheels. It’s really how you ride that matters.

    Tire pressure is a part of the above. Most riders do not understand that less pressure (within reason) is better. You get more contact area, it’s more comfortable, better rolling resistance (the sidewall flexes instead of the wheel hopping). High pressure also destroys wheels (that’s why Cross is not hard on wheels). So to indicate a maximum pressure has little value to me.

  6. “BIKERUMOR: Is there any mountain product on your horizon?

    John Neugent: I tried it once and failed so not at this point.”

    This is step four in the “Seven Steps to Stagnation”

    Epic fail.

  7. I stand with John 100%, I have had 4 of his wheelsets and have had a number of my friends pick them up here in Sonoma County (our roads SUCK), whether it was running over a toe nail file of bunny hoping a downed group of crit racers on a prime laps his warrantee work has been shockingly incredible! Who else, would send a replacement wheel and ask that you use the same box to ship the old one, once the new one is received? Id buy the alloy, carbon, mountain and scandium stuff if it becomes available!
    No flash in the pan.

  8. Well by John’s reasoning, there is absolutely no reason to even buy his wheels. Because after all, every company is out there to screw you over and charge too much, you might as well just hop on ebay, buy the chinese rims, and hubs straight from the source and have your wheels built by a local wheel builder you trust. Why even pay $1050 to Neugent when all he is doing is marking up the same parts you can get for half that price.

  9. I have had several road/tri wheelsets up to 2k carbon tubulars. The best value wheels of the bunch have been from John Neugent. I think they were the second lightest clinchers I have owned and the second most inexpensive of the bunch too. The performance vs. cost of the R28’s from 2008 have been phenomenal.

    When the rear rim had a spoke pull through after 6 years and 10k miles, John offered to rebuild it with a new rim for ~$95. Other than some super heavy Mavics, I have never gotten another wheelset to make it to the 10k mark. Especially not a 1400 gram clincher under a 200lb rider.

    I would not hesitate to buy wheels from John the next time I’m in the market.

  10. I have John’s new aluminum tubular wheels….I also own R28 sl’s which have become roller/trainer/bad weather wheels…I owned C50’s that gave me 4 years worth of racing before I cracked them on pot holes. When you buy from John you get a solid product at a good price and piece of mind knowing your wheels were built well…and if something should fail, John will take care of you with one email. I’m an advocate and a happy customer.

  11. Agree with the comments about John Neugent. I have 3 sets of wheels (2 tubulars for cyclocross), and a F100 road bike. John has provided fantastic service, quality and unbeatable value. Building a set of wheels that are consistently durable is a much art as science, and his wheels have been outstanding. I will continue to buy from him, although I wish he would build a wheel that would go for a cyclocross and 29er mountain bike setup in the future

  12. Theothermtbr, you’re correct that if you have a GOOD local wheel builder, you can probably build wheels cheaper than John can sell them. I build my own wheels and it’s surprising what’s possible for short money. For example, I’ve been riding sub-1300 gram alloy clinchers that handle my 175# weight and rough New England roads and cost under $250 to build, even buying the parts from domestic sources (primarily BikeHubStore.com).

    The problem is that if you buy carbon rims direct from China, you’re not absolutely sure of the quality of the product you’re getting unless you know who’s actually manufacturing them. The situation is definitely better than it was just 2-3 years ago and there are manufacturers that have developed good reputations for quality and service. I recently ordered some fat bike rims for a bike we’re building for my girlfriend. She’s tiny, they won’t see huge stresses and I bought directly from a manufacturer with a good reputation, so I’m confident that they’ll be fine.

    While Neugent Cycling is moving upscale somewhat, his wheels are still dramatically cheaper than the $2000 – $4000 offerings from the boutique brands. I cannot see any justification for that kind of pricing and I applaud John for challenging this “race to the highest price” that seems to dominate the industry.

  13. I own two sets of John Neugent wheels and a CX100 cyclocross bike from the era when he was building those. Outstanding quality and a good value. As a small business owner myself, I completely understand why John wants to focus on road wheels for now: its roadies who buy his products and talk-up the brand. That is his business model. My guess is that 40% of his customer base are repeat customers and that is darn good for a category where there are so many discounts and brand options.

  14. OK, I’m sold. How do I get a good set of clincher wheels from John?
    Love his attitude and the reviews speak for themself.
    Can go into specifics of what I want later. Quiet / silent hubs is #1.

    Bill

  15. I have been riding wheels built by John Neugent for 8 years. I have 4 sets. The oldest set has over 15k miles on them and I have never needed to true them–only needed new bearings and free hub. I just bought a new set of wheels from John’s reformed operation. I expect that the new wheels will be the best yet. I ride a lot of miles between road and CX racing all year long and I could buy wheels from Zipp, Mavic, Enve, or any number of luxury brands, but it’s simply a matter of diminishing returns. John’s wheels are fast, light, and bulletproof; the quality is excellent and the value is attractive. Thanks John for sticking with it and re-focusing your business back to your core strength: Building awesome wheels for people who love to ride bikes.

  16. Good on ya, John!

    I came across this article while I was searching to find out simply how you were doing. Always loved your attitude toward the business. Not to mention, you went out of your way to not only sell me what I needed, but hooked me up when I required support. (For the record, a full set of spokes and nipples for one broken spoke falls under my definition of “hooked up”…!) Glad to see you are still at it, remaining stuck to your guns and all.

  17. I ride a pair of Neuvation M28s that are strong enough, and yet still light and agile enough, to defend America from aliens, zombies and Abba. Hell, they can probably handle cross, too.
    And now, I am sooo looking forward to stepping up to order some even lighter racing wheels from Neugent Cycling soon.

    Trust me: I’m an old school curmudgeon from the rock-ribbed hills of mighty New Hampsha’! And yet, my gut and some research tell me Neugent is the real deal: Building great, b.s.-free wheels at a price that’s just wicked hard to match. (And did you know that cutting the b.s. shaves 100g per wheel?)

  18. Own a set of tubular wheels from Neuvation. I love those carbon wheels built by John. I am looking for clincher wheel set. Disappointed when I found out last year that Neuvation wheels closed its doors. Saw some brnaded carbon clincher but knowing that John is opening its doors soon, I am looking forward to get another set built by John. His wheels are lighter than other products and performance is excellent. Looking forward when your product is available. Please email when they become available.

  19. I am grateful you have returned to building wheels. I love my Neuvation wheelset, and will now be starting a savings fund for a new set for a future bike build. Thanks for your dedication to high quality products at a reasonable price. Best wishes to you.

    Wendy

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