Shared by, Loren Mason-Gere – Rolf Prima’s OEM Sales and Brand Manager
A Ralos wheelset brought me to Rolf Prima. Ok, not literally. My first visit to the facility in the corner of Eugene, OR, took place in an Astro van. But from a certain vantage point, the Ralos is what led me there. Let me explain:
It was after college while working in a bike shop that my riding and racing obsession fully took hold. With xc race ambitions growing, I was looking for a light-weight race wheel, but couldn’t afford carbon. I’d demo’ed alloy “race” hoops and had come away disappointed. They were flexy, narrow and confidence-robbing. I wanted to go fast up, but couldn’t handle sacrificing the descending speed and joy of technical riding. The purported stiffness of a unique looking paired-spoke mtb offering by Rolf Prima hanging in the shop drew me in. They were just a touch heavier than carbon, but half the price. The fact that they were made here in Oregon solidified my decision.
They were clearly cut from a different mold than the xc wheels I’d ridden. They held tight lines and didn’t budge or complain a bit, even on decidedly non “xc” trails. Satisfied that I’d made the right decision I pulled them out of my bike, swapping them back in only as race days emerged. Well, at least at first.
After a month or two, my self-discipline waned. “I’ll only be riding a few days between now and next race,” I’d tell myself, “I’m too busy to swap them out.” But of course, time constraints were only half the picture. Riding those wheels was simply more fun. Literally, everything was improved – climbing, cornering, rough descending, you name it - those wheels transformed by mid-level bike into a snappy smile-machine.
Before long, I’d given up. They’d become my daily driver and “race” wheel in one. They stayed in that role through that year, then the next. Eventually, I graduated to carbon hoops (and more than one mountain bike), but the Ralos kept their place as my do-it-all wheel. I no longer thought of it as an “xc” option. They were just for “mountain biking” – in all the forms that can take.
As I write this, they’ve now lived through 7 years of abuse and untold thousands of miles. They found homes in four or five of my bikes before I moved them on to my then girlfriend’s. I wanted to lighten her bike as she developed as a rider and thought they might be growing weary of my level of abuse. But two years (and innumerable bad and hard lines of the learning rider) later they came back to me. Our new mountain bikes have boost spacing (ah, new standards) but my gravel bike does not, so there the Ralos roll today, soaking up epic backroad adventures well beyond the beaten path and romping down single-track trails when the mood strikes (go gravel riding with a life-long mountain biker, and you’ll understand).
Of course, somewhere along this line, I needed more wheels, and in that occasion, I saw no reason to look elsewhere. As more Rolf Prima wheels mounted in my bikes, my relationship with the company grew. Real people worked there. They remembered my name, congratulated me on races, the owner himself followed up on a rare occasion when I needed tech support. This was a company I could get into!
Writing this story from inside the Rolf office where I work today, I feel slightly silly; not because of the personal nature of this story, but because I once thought it so unique. “I’ve had wheels for 7 years without ever truing them!”, I boasted. I realize now I’m just one in a crowd among thousands of happy Rolf Prima riders.
This year, the Ralos was further updated. Now, with a wider ASYM rim, it builds even stiffer and supports tires even bigger than what I’ve known and loved so long. While some folks still look askance at the seemingly minimal spoke count of those wheels, I wasn’t surprised a bit to read that sponsored athlete Adam Ward and a group of friends ran a “test run” on the new wheels, riding the Colorado trail over Molas Pass and down Moab’s Whole Enchilada, for 7 days of epic gnarly trails. Fully loaded, with 50 lbs of gear, they rocked down rubble-strewn desert single track day after day, finishing with a 7,400-foot descent - and the wheels didn’t budge a bit. I remember when that sort of thing used to surprise me. Now it’s just par for the course.
As for my career choice, who wouldn’t want to work for a company where such stories are the norm. Everyday customers call in and end up sharing their tales of Rolf wheels that seem to have been bathed in the fountain of youth. They share their successes, epic adventures and plans for more to come. These are common stories we simply never get tired of, even though we know how they end. (spoiler alert: they just keep on going…)