An Exclusive interview with Jim Pfeil at Knight Composites

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1. Tell us about your background in carbon wheels?

I lived in North County San Diego for 30 years. Started out riding with Celo Pacific and later with Taylor Made. Did all the local rides, including Swami’s…moved to Bend, Oregon in 2006.

I was the VP of Operations for Cobra Golf and ran the carbon fiber golf shaft factory, but I was a cyclist, not a golfer. I was reading Bicycle Retailer one day and saw that Kestrel couldn’t deliver their new carbon forks, so I started Reynolds Composites in 1998. A side note, early on I got a call from Jim Felt, looking for bike forks for an athlete he was sponsoring. In walks a 23 year pony tailed bike racer, named Chris Horner. Chris and I have remained friends and he is one of my partners in Knight.

I sold most of Reynolds in 2003 to a company based in Salt Lake City called MacLean Quality Composites. At the same time they did an asset purchase of Lew Wheels. It took a year to redesign the wheels, but the original Reynolds wheels were the redesigned Lew Wheels. I left Reynolds in 2005 and moved to Bend. Reynolds forced out most of their engineer, including Jason Schiers. Jason started EDGE Composites. Edge, because of Trade Mark issues then became ENVE. Most of the Reynolds engineers moved to ENVE and I joined them in 2008. I left ENVE in 2013 to start Knight. I felt that enough had changed in the design, development and manufacturing of Composites that we could make a better wheel.

2. Why the name Knight?

My business partner, Beverly Lucas’s father got her into cycling at a young age. He died when she was 16. It’s her maiden name. So, it’s in honor of her dad.

3. Swami’s is excited to partner with Knight. Why does Knight want to partner with Swami’s?

When I started Reynolds I didn’t have much to spend on Marketing. I knew we made a good product, I just had to get riders on it. I started “pro” dealing forks to local riders and teams. I feel the same way about Knight. We make a great wheel, and if I can get the local influencers on the wheels we will grow the company. Besides, I have a history in NC San Diego and with the Swami’s team.

4. What can Swami’s members expect from Knight?

We pride ourselves on delivering a quality product, that out performs the others. And providing great customer service. We also listen to feedback from riders.

5. What distinguishes Knight wheels to Zipp, Enve, Reynolds and others in the premium wheel niche?

Design/Development
Our wheels are designed by Kevin Quan, who is also an owner. Kevin was the lead engineer for Cervelo, he designed the P3 and the Soloist. He designs using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), which allows him to simulate air flow around a shape. He has spent 14 years perfecting his down tube shape. With his goal to pass clean air to his down tube, he designs around the “trailing edge” of the wheel. The “leading edge” airflow is impacted by the tire. There is an added benefit in his design, because the lift occurs behind the fork so there is less “wind steerer” effect. The result is a faster wheel that handles well in the cross winds.

On the mountain side, the rim bed depth and width is designed to optimize tire interface and the laminate design is tuned for the discipline. In addition they are designed to be laterally stiff and vertically complaint.

Manufacturing
Our rims are manufactured using Expanded Polystyrene (EPS). Most rims are built using traditional bladder moulding. Traditional bladder moulding can cause fiber wash as the bladder inflates and voids in the corners. We use an EPS preform to lay the carbon up. The carbon is wrapped around the preform and placed in the tool. The advantage is that every fiber is exactly where it was designed to be placed. After curing, the preform is removed. The advantage is no fiber movement and no voids. The process produces a part this is 15% stronger than traditional bladder moulding.

Features
Our brake tracks are twice as thick (3mm) and there is an outer ply of nano fiber to dissipate heat when braking. In addition, our spoke holes are drilled at an angle to optimize the bracing angle with the hub flange. We use Toray T700 fiber, the same fiber Boeing uses.

6.What is coming down the pike in the wheel market? What are you working on?

We have a full line of road, tri, cross, mountain, and gravel. We are always innovating and working on new products, and listening to our riders to make our wheels better.

 

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Founded in 1989, Swami’s Cycling Club is one of the premier and most recognized clubs in southern California. We are composed of more than 300 male and female cyclists in the San Diego region who participate in the entire spectrum of cycling activities from the adrenalin-pumping action of racing to mountain bike and fitness rides.

  1. Cliff Clermont

    Jim is a great guy and I’m stoked that Swami’s and Knight are getting together.