Way back in 2009, Alex Webster started building wheels under the brand Hermes Sport. They used off the shelf components but gained a following for being well built and race ready. And light. Sometimes really, really light.
From the outset, he wanted to grow the brand into its own line using its own components. As things go with small businesses in a difficult economy, the dream sometimes falls behind available resources. A couple years ago, he put the Hermes Sport brand on hiatus and focused on building non-branded wheels with off the shelf parts for others.
But, all that while he was developing his own hubs as a foundation for the relaunch of the brand. His goal was to build the company anew upon his own parts, designing the wheels as a system rather than just a collection of off the shelf parts.
And thus is born a new line of Hermes Sport VK carbon and alloy wheels. The foundation is a streamlined, premium new hub and custom rims…
The hub shells are machined in Florida. The freehub body and magnets come from Soul-Kozak in Europe (it’s the same magnetic ring drive ratchet system that Absolute Black is using). The spokes are are from Mach One in France. The carbon rims come from Asia and are made by a very, very reputable supplier that provides rims for a number of major brands, and the alloy rims are custom made by Velocity in Florida. Both are customized for Hermes with a unique drilling angle. All of that’s shipped to Hermes’ facility in San Diego, where they’re hand built.
Beyond the magnetic pawls and custom shell, there’s quite a bit that makes them special. A preload adjuster ring is independent of the clamping force. Remove it and the axle will slide out, and it’s a big axle. Alex says it’s the biggest he’s aware of – the front is 17mm throughout, and the rear is 20mm in diameter through most of the shell then tapering down to 17mm in the freehub body.
The floating axle design was done to allow them to use Enduro’s new angular contact sealed cartridge bearings. Introduced a few years back for bottom brackets, Enduro’s AC bearings were promising to have hub versions eventually. Now they do, and they’re sweet. Those bearings are pushed as wide as they can, just outside the radial spoke holes, maximizing support for the axle and hub. A ceramic bearing upgrade is available.
The freehub is machined from super hard 4140 steel, which Alex says won’t be gouged by cassettes, keeping them easy to slide on and off. It drives the hub by way of two toothed rings, pushed together with strong magnets. This reduces the number of moving parts inside the hub while ensuring fast, secure engagement.
The front wheel is radially laced with 20 spokes, to keep it light. The wide bracing angle and custom rim drillings help keep it stiff. At the rear, he gave them “triplet” lacing with eight radially laced spokes on the non-drive side and 16 three-cross next to the cassette.
The carbon VK51 wheelset retails for $1995. Rims are 24.5mm wide (~18mm internal) and 50mm deep. Rim weight is 465g. The brake track uses a special resin mix developed by the supplier, which should be restated is a major carbon rim manufacturer that cannot be named, but Hermes reaps the benefits.
The VK11 alloy wheelset comes in at $995. Rims are 23mm wide (17mm internal) and 25mm deep.
Weights are 1,450g per set for either version. The alloy rim is actually a little lighter, but the extra spoke length makes up the difference.
Disc brake versions are coming soon, and those will be thru axle. The front will get 24 spokes, but the rear will be the same.