In the ultra competitive arena of high-end cycling wheels, Brady Kappius sees his company's target customer as the rider seeking the best all-around experience. They want a high-end product that's lightweight and works well, the complete package if you will. And that's just what Kappius Components says it's selling.
"Whether its hubs, rims or complete wheelsets, we feel like we have that whole package," said Kappius during Mtbr's visit to the small company's headquarters just north of Boulder, Colorado. "Right now we're still just getting our name out there as a viable option on the high end. But we certainly feel like we can compete with companies like ENVE and Zipp on the rim side, and DT Swiss on the hub side."
Indeed, improving hubs is where Kappius Components got its start. The genesis came in 2009, when Rus Kappius (Brady's father and company co-owner) was out on the trail with some buddies. One of those buddies suffered a catastrophic hub failure and had to walk out. Kappius decided there had to be a better way, and when he got back home he started sketching ideas.
This assortment of KH-1 and KH-1.5 hub jigs are used for bonding the carbon fiber centers to the alloy flanges ensuring flange alignment to the axle and spoke hole offset alignment.
The elder Kappius felt the cycling industry was building hubs with inferior technology. So he concocted what he believed to be the optimal hub design, checked to see if it would violate any patents, and then started building prototypes in his garage in south Denver. That led to the KH-1, Kappius' first generation hub. It worked well, but required significant buy-in to the Kappius system, because you actually had to machine away portions of your cassette in order for it to interface with the KH-1 hub.
The obvious next step was a more user-friendly offering, which led to development of the KH-1.5 and KH-2. These hubs took the benefits of the KH-1, but allowed for a standard cogset interface via a simple slip-fit system But the real selling point in all cases is performance. Utilizing 240 points of engagement, Kappius hubs aim to drastically reduce the lag time between pedal stroke and forward momentum.
A set of Kappius hubs come shipped in one of these slick containers, but engagement is what really stands out.
"On your mountain bike think of a super techy climb with a rock garden or water bars, a slow grind in your easiest gear," explained the younger Kappius, who besides serving as company president and sharing engineering duties with his father, is a top domestic pro 'cross and mountain bike racer. "That easy gear is where engagement is magnified the most. You are coming into a rock garden and have to coast for a second because otherwise you'll hit your cranks. If you have a high engaging hub you'll get back on the power and get the bike moving again without missing a portion of your pedal stroke, and thus not losing momentum. It's similar in cyclocross. You'll engage faster out of corners and get back on the gas."
These features don't resonate as much on the road, so Kappius says the company focus for now is on the cyclocross and mountain bike market.
"We fell like the hub is a neglected piece that people don't think about," added Kappius. "But there is a lot that goes on in there, so we are trying to tell our story of how hubs can increase your ride experience via the engagement. If you have the 240 points we offer versus the usual 18 from another brand, you will feel it when you ride. But you really need to ride one to see the difference."
Continue to page 2 for more of the Kappius HQ tour and full photo gallery »
The rim line-up includes a 700c clincher, 700c tubular, 29er and 27.5. All are disc brake only and all but the tubular are tubeless compatible.
Currently all Kappius hubs are assembled in house. Alloy parts are machined overseas, while the carbon comes from this side of the Pacific, and in some cases is fabricated at company HQ. Either way, the hubs are bonded in house; same goes for the installation of bearings, which is done using a custom jig. And it's all done using just-in-time assembly, so orders are filled as soon as they're received.
The hub product line include the three aforementioned offerings, plus a full alloy fat bike model. They also cater to a wide variety of freehub bodies in just about any spacing configuration including the new Boost 148. "From an engineering perspective it makes sense," said Kappius of the burgeoning standard. "We know you can feel the difference going from a quick release to a thru-axle, but I still think we can do better. I think Boost 148 is that improvement."
Here is Kappius talking about the company's 29er wheel at last year's Sea Otter Classic.
Just across from the hub assembly area is a rack of Kappius carbon rims. They currently offer four models, 700c clincher, 700c tubular, 29er and 27.5. All but the tubular are tubeless compatible.
"The 'cross rims are pretty wide at 25mm external, 19mm internal, and all are disk specific with no brake track, which is why we do much more cyclocross than road," said Kappius. "They easily seat tubeless, which is something we spent a lot of time on. We looked at overall diameter and less channel depth, and we still use bead hooks. I'm not sold on the hookless design that we're seeing from some of the other manufactures. I think it's more an ease of manufacturing thing than a real consumer benefit."
For customers who opt to order wheelsets, Kappius does all wheel building in house. Despite that, they've managed to keep prices in check. "We are less expensive than a lot of people," claimed Kappius. "Our mountain rim compared to the ENVE M50 is lighter, less expensive and wider. We just need to get people to give us a try and I think they'll see we have a truly competitive product."
For more information visit www.kappiuscomponents.com and check out the extensive photo gallery below.