Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Columbus, OH
Bikes: '08 Surly Cross-Check, 2011 Redline Conquest Pro, 2012 Spesh FSR Comp EVO, 2015 Trek Domane 6.2 disc
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There's different kinds of cheap. I have 3 pairs of cheap wheels:
Pair 1 - IRO house-built customs. House brand rims and hubs on Sapim spokes. $150 for the pair.
I beat them like they insulted my Mom. I've raced a season of cyclocross on them. They've needed minor truing here and there. They needed an initial tension increase, but they were round, true, and tension balanced.
Pair 2 - IRO house brand hoops and hubs, DT Champion 2.0 spokes, personally handbuilt. $98 plus my time. Commuter and long distance wheels. They don't get the harsh torture that the race wheels get, but they see more frequent use and I use them as my roller-wheels in the winter (easy abuse, but still consistent miles on them).
Pair 3 - SUN CR18 rims, DT Champion spokes 2.0 and 1.8, IRO house brand rear hub, SON28 front (so these aren't "cheap" all-around) but the hoops are only $25 each and the spokes are $0.45/ea
Randonneuring and commuting wheelset. Sees plenty of rutted chipseal, gravel, hardpack dirt roads, grass paths here and there, and I throw CX tires on them to commute through the snow. They're heavy, but they're nigh indestructable.
Cheap components like sub-$30 rims and hubs don't mean that the craftsmanship of the part is bad. There are good, inexpensive components out there.
The place you can't be uncertain is the worksmanship of the build. You could buy a HED Belgium rim, lace it to a DT 240 hub with Sapim CX-Ray spokes, and wrap it in a pricey UST tire full of Stan's and have the whole $300+ shootin' match fall apart after 5 miles if the build quality was crap.
"I feel like my world was classier before I found cyclocross."
- Mandi M.