Somewhere in the heart of Taichung there is a well appointed office that also happens to have a pool table. Not exactly standard fare for Taiwanese offices, it all makes sense once you see the e*thirteen logo on the window. Yes, this is the Taichung HQ for the hive and subsequently e*thirteen. Actually, it’s really more of the global headquarters for the brand with more people here than in their locations in California or Germany.
Started by Dave Weagle in 2001, e*thriteen was an early pioneer in the chainguide world. In a parallel world, the hive was making their own waves with Chub hubs and Fifteen.G cranks among other things. At the time the hive was being run by Joel Peters, Chris Costello, and two others. As Joel tells it, in 2009 Weagle came to Joel with an offer to sell the e*thirteen brand to the hive in an effort to concentrate on bikes rather than components. In addition to running the hive, Joel was also setting up carbon production lines at the time so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to grow e*thirteen into a complete mountain bike component company.
Officially announced in early 2010, Fifteen.G cranks were reworked into e*thirteen models and the wheels were set in motion. Now with 12 employees in Taiwan, 6 in the U.S. and 2 in Germany, Joel says the hive’s philosophy has always been to keep things simple. Working with just 4 suppliers they’ve kept their processes tight and have been working with the same hub supplier now for seven years. Now with their own cassettes, wheels, cranks, chainguides, and soon even tires, e*thirteen by the hive is working towards making good on that complete mountain bike component line…
Step into the lobby of the hive and you instantly feel at home. From the pool table to the full kitchen stocked with plenty of coffee and beer options, it’s a great place to hang out and talk bikes – or not.
Of course being the bike dork that I am, I was drawn to the two bikes leaning up against the wall more than the Taiwan beers or pool table. It turns out it was for good reason as both bikes had some stage of tire prototypes. The fact that e*thirteen has been working on their own tire isn’t a big secret, but this is the first time we’ve had a chance to see them in person – and the ability to see different stages of development.
Much like their cassette project, Joel likened the tire project to the fact that if they could do it, why not? Once e*thirteen started exploring wider rim options they weren’t happy with the the way most of the tires fit the rim. They also wanted to create a unique look with hot patches that match up with the graphics on the wheels – not an easy thing to accomplish apparently.
So they opened a mold for a tire and admittedly made a few mistakes. The tire was good, but it wasn’t great. Joel mentioned this as a point of differentiation between them and competitors – the hive will build parts and tooling, but if it doesn’t work out perfectly, they have no problem with scrapping it. In addition to the amount of time involved, this is also incredibly costly which is why it’s apparently not always the way it works at other operations.
After a month of cutting down the tires shown above on the Tracer and making changes to come up with the perfect tread, new molds were made and what is to be the production tire was formed.
When it came to their own tire, Joel says the main goal was to create a tire with the most grip. Period. Part of that was developing a tread pattern that would work with wider rims which they claim to have accomplished by using cornering knobs that drop down pretty far on the tire’s sidewall. There is also additional siping on the cornering knobs to control how the knobs flex and break free when really cornering. The tires are also super soft with a softer front compound than rear. While they use a low durometer rubber, this particular pair had been through the entire Andes Pacifico 5 day enduro as well as additional riding around Taiwan. They were starting to show some wear, but were in impressive shape considering. We’ll get the full reveal likely at Sea Otter, so stay tuned.
The Evil was also wearing some prototype shoes with new carbon rims. Currently their carbon rims top out at 27mm wide internally, but this bike is said to have prototype 31mm internal rims. We weren’t given much more information, other than they are exploring wider options which we’ll probably see in the near future.
It’s not a bike office with a few shop dogs, right? Joel’s pups keep a close eye on the place and guard the stairs up to the offices.
Upstairs it’s pretty much what you would expect from the headquarters for the hive/e*thirteen. Boxes of parts, new products, prototypes, and enough computers to keep the operation a float. There is also a pretty slick meeting room with a great view of Hotel One where e*thirteen can meet with clients and sponsored athletes like Aaron Gwin to discuss the upcoming season and various product development.
From the looks of things, e*thirteen by the hive will have a lot to talk about in the coming months!