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MTB Wheels - Buy vs Build

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
So... I taco'd my front wheel last night. It has a good but not super special Hope hub. (It's just a front, after all.) This is on my RIP 9. Do I have it rebuilt, and maybe have the rear - which has a really nice Hadley - done too, since I have been wanting to go wider with the rim anyway? Or just buy a complete front wheel and call it good? Specific recommendations for either welcome. I guess one consideration is that I can't wait a month to get back on dirt.
post #2 of 7
I've been running an Easton Haven rear for 3 seasons with no problems. Yeah, customs are sexier, but the price, weight, and durabilty of the Haven have been impressive.
post #3 of 7

Better yet, learn to do it yourself! I've built a number of wheels and while a bit dodgy at first, I got to be decent enough at it and mine stood up as well as any purchased wheels. I also go to try different things like radial, 2x, snowflake etc spoke patterns for fun.

 

In the end, however, there is still a reason that 28 or 32 3x spoke pattern is still by dominates wheel building by far ;)

post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeroGravity View Post
 

Better yet, learn to do it yourself! I've built a number of wheels and while a bit dodgy at first, I got to be decent enough at it and mine stood up as well as any purchased wheels. I also go to try different things like radial, 2x, snowflake etc spoke patterns for fun.

 

In the end, however, there is still a reason that 28 or 32 3x spoke pattern is still by dominates wheel building by far ;)

 

Yeah. I've thought about this. It's kind of like tuning your own skis, which I have invested a lot of time and money in. (And not so much in other ways, because with only two bikes and not really all that much riding, I'm not building wheels every week or two the way I am tuning skis.) There is a lot of up-front cost in terms of equipment - a proper truing stand, for example, that will hold a through-axle wheel, which my old halfway measure stand designed for QR will not -, time, and materials. You probably gotta figure you're going to f-up a couple times and go through a couple of rims and a bunch of spokes. Not sure I'm ready to go there. I think I want to just pay and ride for now. But thanks for the thought. It's a good one.

post #5 of 7

Do you have access to a good builder nearby?  I'd just rebuild the front with whatever you want and do the rear later.  No down time provided you have access to the parts and a good builder.  Alternatively you could buy a built set and use this set as a spare set.  Depends on your price strategy.  If you're going to "upgrade" make sure you get straight-pull hubs.  If you have specific questions about spokes, lacing patterns etc I can answer some questions on that.  I've built hundreds of wheels. 

 

I have more time to add stuff now.  Straight-pull versus regular elbow spokes..straight-pull eliminates the weakness of the bend.  However, you lose things like ease of maintenance/finding parts.  All the spokes are different and it's very hard to keep stock of all of them.  You're stuck with whatever pattern the hub is designed for as well..not as big a deal.  I like straight-pull, you may never break a spoke, but regular elbow spokes built well are probably just as good, especially when you consider the trouble you can have getting repairs done in a pinch with straight-pull spokes.

 

As for pattern, people will ask for radial (not for disc!), 1x, 2x, 3x..yes, there is some aero benefit for lower cross numbers but realistically, stick to a 3x wheel as ZeroGravity says.  2x minimum.  I've built wheels with 3x drive and 1x non-drive..it's kinda neat, but not needed really.  3x is strong and popular which makes getting spokes easier.  Not fancy but gets the job done well.  Spoke gauge, 2.0/1.8 or 1.8/1.5 are generally fine.  Often spokes break for reasons not related to gauge..more build failures.

 

Most rims are good these days.  I usually use Mavic..or DT Swiss.  I personally think people have to have rocks in their head to use carbon rims..unless you got mad dough.  In which case, go for it!  :D

 

Proper wheel builds require appropriate spoke hole chamfer, proper elbow bend to line up with the rim hole, proper stress relieving during building, tension of course, nipple lube, dish etc.  If you want good wheels that last many miles, it might be better to leave it to a pro.  Can you get it built and ride on it?  Yeah probably, but experience does count to some degree.  I've built wheels just using the bike frame itself and there's nothing wrong with this approach..it helps when you know what you're doing though. 

 

I view wheels as more or less tools to get a job done.  For most people, that involves a tightish budget and durability.  I've built some crazy light and aero wheels..but it costs money and it may not be what you need.  Get good hubs with a proper bearing seal, build properly with good spokes and you're good go to.  More on hubs..the front hub is basically a last-forever item.  They rarely fail.  They have very little stress on them so you can splurge on a good one and know it will last a long time or go cheap and know that it likely won't let you down even though it's cheap.  The rear hub is far more important.  Shimano cassette hubs revolutionized the rear hub and they're all pretty good now.  So you can view it as a getting a good hub and hoping it lasts a long time or look on it as disposable and basically replace it every few years.  If you have a serviceable rear hub make sure you pull it apart at LEAST once a year..maybe more if you're hard on your gear or do many miles.


Edited by Scott43 - 7/10/15 at 6:37pm
post #6 of 7

I've had both but like built wheels better.  One issue with factory wheels can be the use of proprietary spokes and parts. For example, Mavic and Shimano often use their own spokes, which has caused problems for me when in need and away from my home area.  Not everyone has specific proprietary spoke or a "hub nut" on hand, 

 

With "built" wheels using Chris King, Hope, DT Swiss or other hubs, you can build wheels that use standard spokes that are generally easy to find.  You can also get wheels exactly as you like them.  Lately, I'm using carbon Chinese 27.5 rims (Light Bicycle) with a Hope hub.  The wheels with the build was a bit over $1K for a set built by my LBS.  Absolutely no issues with the carbon hoops after almost two years of intense and mostly trail use in the Banff/Canmore  area.  The rims are light yet stiffer than the DT Swiss wheels that came with my Rocky Mountain Altitude, and the positive difference was noticeable right way.  I've had less problems with carbon than aluminum wheels.

 

Another advantage of custom wheels is that if you taco one, it is likely that you can rebuild an identical wheel using your original hub.  This is not always possible with factory built wheels. 

 

If you want a good builder, contact Dave's Wheels ( http://www.speeddream.com/order-custom-bicycle-wheels.html ).  He has been building wheels for many many years and will do custom wheels at reasonable prices.  My first pair of custom wheels were built by Dave (Stans rims with Chris King hubs) for my Blur.  I was also very happy with the same wheels but with DT Swiss hubs on my Mojo.   He will take into account your weight and reported riding style when selecting parts for building the wheels.  Dave's Wheels has had a very long term outstanding rating on MTB Review and consistently builds quality wheels.

 

As an aside, I also have Enve 3.4 hoops (front 34 deep and 26 wide - back 45 deep 24 wide) with DT Swiss 240 hubs on my road bike.  Best upgrade that I've ever done.  These wheels were a joy in the Alps and here in the Rockies.


Edited by canadianskier - 7/21/15 at 10:59pm
post #7 of 7

Very interesting to see the advantages of a built wheel set, however for me I am not at that level to fully appreciate and take advantages of what they have to offer at this point or in the foreseeable future. As with skiing, level and desired future level along with intent play a big role in deciding what is required.

 

Well put in the responses, learned something on this one.  Thanks.

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