Tuesday 8th September 2020
We longed for high performance wheels from the moment we were overtaken in our one and only attempt at a sprint triathlon. One of the pro's came through and the roaring sound of the deep aero wheels made us forget about the blood pouring from our leg from a fall moments before. Dov Tate took our dream and made it a reality by starting up his own wheel company. Parcours pride themselves on backing up their wheelsets with some very intense and impressive data. Granted, you might need to know a bit about aerodynamics to understand it all but add in the option of customisation and you have a brand which ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to product value. We threw Dov some emails to pick his brain about the birth of Parcours, his vision for the company and which World Tour team would he prefer to partner up with...
Thank you for the taking the time out to speak to us. First up, we want to apologise for not being able to meet up for a ride even though we’re both local. A back injury and COVID-19 had put a spanner in the works our end but we will cruise for a coffee one day and maybe see how fast your wheelsets really are! Let’s start from the beginning. What was the moment when you knew you wanted to build up your own wheel brand?
Sorry to hear about the back problem – I can definitely sympathise having been off the bike for the best part of 18 months with a disc extrusion myself.
The story of Parcours started back in the summer of 2015. I was racing a triathlon at Dorney Lake on an old set of tubular race wheels. I punctured mid-race, which with a tub effectively meant race over. Feeling a bit miffed I then started looking at new wheel options and was pretty startled to see that you were either in second mortgage territory price-wise, or having to take a chance on an unknown “brand” with no data to back up the performance.
I could see there was a gap in the market for a reasonably-priced wheel option that had some solid data to support the aerodynamics so I set out to make it myself!
Anyone taking a quick glance at your site can tell all the Parcours products are extensively back up with data. Is this something you pride yourself on?
Absolutely, yes. Having trained as an engineer and previously worked in the aerospace industry, I know the value of having test data. I founded the business on the basis of “Accessible Aerodynamics” – that covers two elements:
Accessible data – so not hiding behind acronyms or excessive scientific terminology. I want our data to be understandable and relatable to all of our riders
In terms of testing, is it all done in a secret Russian lab or are you very much open in testing each wheelset in all different types of terrain?
Ha, no, as I mentioned above we’re very open about our testing. The majority of our aero testing is done at the A2 Wind Tunnel in North Carolina. We started testing there when there were no really viable options in the UK, but having tested there multiple times since 2016 I don’t see why we’d want to go anywhere else.
Then our “real world” testing happens all over the place. That’s where a lot of the fun comes in as you have to really push prototypes to the limit. Easier said than done when it comes to things like gravel wheels!
And then of course there’s secret Russian lab testing that I can’t tell you about…
What’s your own personal favourite wheelset out of the Parcours bunch?
That’s like asking someone to pick their favourite child! It really does come down to the sort of ride I’m out for. But I’m really proud of the Strade, our newest addition to the line-up, simply because it’s the culmination of 12 months’ worth of hard work and development. It’s incredibly satisfying to see a project like that come to fruition and hear from all sorts of different cyclists who are out riding on a set.
If you were to list a top 3 criteria when choosing a wheelset (obviously it would depend on type of bike too), what would be the most important factors?
You’re right, it really would depend. It’s hard to pick out three fixed criteria as you’d probably apply a different set of features for different types of riding. The first thing to consider is whether you’re looking for a specialist wheelset or more of an all-rounder – will this be your only wheelset or are you able to choose from a few?
Once you’ve decided that, I’d be looking at things like the tyre you’re wanting to run, how that will impact the aerodynamics and rolling resistance, then what sort of conditions (wind etc.) you’ll be riding in. Each of those will influence things like the depth, width and shape of the rim you’d look for. Also think about the type of surface you’ll be riding on which will have an impact on how durable or robust you need your wheel to be. I’d probably put weight quite low down on the list, but it’s not something to ignore completely.
Have you had many high profile athletes rolling a Parcours wheelset and is it the dream to have a pro’ team choosing Parcours as their go to rims?
We’ve been lucky to work with a huge range of riders and athletes in the past few years. We’ve had Parcours riders winning professional Ironman races, podium finishes at UK National TT’s, UK Tour Series racing, competing in National Road Races and even at hill climb championships. More recently, we’ve had riders at UCI-level cyclocross races and also taking part in the Trans-Continental Race.
With any partnership it’s always a two-way process. We clearly want to help the athlete or team perform to their potential, but it’s also important to consider how they can help with our business growth and product development. We have had opportunities to work with a couple of professional road racing teams, but it needs to be the right opportunity for us to go for it.
What’s the one common issue do you come across when wheel building? Broken spokes? Misjudged measurements?
To be completely honest, we have a very highly-skilled team building our wheels at the manufacturing facility in mainland China. One of the first things I did when launching the business was spend a lot of time out there in person, working with the team on the build process. We now have a dedicated team of wheelbuilders who only build Parcours wheels, so we know the quality will be spot on. By the time a finished wheel reaches us in the UK, our quality-control checks very rarely flag up an issue.
Wheelbuilding is often made out to be more complex than it is. The key is patience and attention to detail. Outside of our own build process, the mistakes or issues I see most often will almost always lead back to someone being impatient or trying to cut corners. As an example, you can build a wheel that’s radially and laterally true quite quickly. But if you want it to stay that way you need to take the time to ensure that the spoke tensions are correctly balanced, otherwise the wheel will just pull itself out of true over time.
We already asked the pro’ team question but how far do you want to take Parcours?
I think it’s the same as when the business first launched – I’d like Parcours to be the go-to brand for any rider who wants to have a wheel that delivers high end performance without breaking the bank.
What’s really exciting is following how the sport of cycling is developing and what that means for wheel development. Things like the introduction of disc brakes on road bikes and the massive growth of gravel or road+ riding have really opened the door to some cool innovations.
So what does your bike fleet look like? Are you a n+1 guy or are you in a committed relationship with just one machine?
Let’s just say that my wife and I are currently in the middle of moving house – lack of bike storage is definitely a contributing factor…
I think there’s so many different types of riding open to us these days that it’s impossible to have one bike that is perfectly suited to everything. I’m very fortunate to be able to choose between bikes depending on where I’m heading that day. I’m also very fortunate that my wife is also a super-keen cyclist, although it does usually mean that it’s N+2!
Final question and we’ve been drawn back to the pro’ team question. Scenario is all the World Tour teams want to use Parcours for their wheelset, who do you go with?
The business side of me would say the one that’s asking for the least money…
All things being equal though, we always look to partner with teams or athletes who buy into our approach. Being British, Ineos is the obvious answer, but I actually think it’d be really exciting to work with a team like EF Education First who are able to look beyond road racing with their “alternative calendar”. If we’re looking purely at riders, I’d love to see someone with the panache of Julian Alaphilippe racing on a set of our wheels.
Thanks again and we look forward to a ride soon, just bring your best wheelset because we will be bringing our A game!