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Old 07-21-10, 06:24 PM   #1
Venturarace
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Are custom built wheels overhyped?

I am currently having my Soma ES frame built up, and my LBS wants to do custom built
wheels. They claim they are much better that stock wheels and are stronger, ride much
better and will stay truer for a long time.

Is this just a selling tactics for my sales? Are Mavic factory wheels really that inferior to
hand built custom wheels?

I am 170lbs.
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Old 07-21-10, 07:25 PM   #2
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I agree with your LBS.
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Old 07-21-10, 07:25 PM   #3
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All i know is that my custom built wheels, although built out of good solid rims and spokes with a good spoke count to begin with, are as true 3,000 miles later as they were when i got them.
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Old 07-21-10, 07:36 PM   #4
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Custom built wheels are the best!
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Old 07-21-10, 08:16 PM   #5
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They're worth every penny and more.

I have custom hand-built wheels on two of my four bikes. They're the ones I don't have to worry about.
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Old 07-21-10, 08:34 PM   #6
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Over hyped - machine built wheels which have had the tension brought up to spec and made even will last as long as custom. However you will not find a machine built wheel with a particular selection of rim, hubs and butted spokes - so if you want a special selection of components for their particular features you will have to go custom built.
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Old 07-21-10, 08:54 PM   #7
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Depends on the wheel the bike came with. Some are decent. That said there are plenty that are not. If the stock rims have spoke eyelets, decent hub and spokes I'd run them. No name spokes and no eyelets then the LBS is going to build you a better wheel.....
Now I am confused here Where are the stock Mavics coming from? I thought Soma sold bare frames.
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Old 07-21-10, 08:57 PM   #8
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I custom build my own wheels. The first one I built was a spoke replacement for a replacement wheel whose spokes collapsed after 6 months. My build is still going strong 4 years later.

Of course, that doesn't mean all custom/self-built wheels are all that strong. Depends on the parts too. Last year I built a wheelset with very lightweight spokes (DT Revolutions..) I ended up replacing the drive side of the rear wheel with heavier spokes (Dt champions.)

And, to be perfectly honest, I'm still riding on the original, factory-built wheels on my Bianchi Volpe after some 12000 + miles.
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Old 07-21-10, 08:58 PM   #9
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Custom built wheels are NOT THE BEST. Hand built with your own hands are. Then you can tweak them whenever they need it (hopefully they don't, but that's part of the learning process).
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Old 07-21-10, 10:17 PM   #10
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not overhyped
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Old 07-21-10, 10:32 PM   #11
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Worth it if done well with quality components. Also worth it if you tend to be hard on your bikes.
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Old 07-22-10, 06:21 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zacster View Post
Custom built wheels are NOT THE BEST. Hand built with your own hands are.
I think it's great if you are good at building your own, but they are only good if you know what you're doing and have even a fraction of the experience that some of the well known custom wheel builders have.
I've done it, the wheels were ok for the time i had them, but it's a pita and I probably wouldn't do it again if I didn't have to.

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Originally Posted by zacster View Post
Then you can tweak them whenever they need it (hopefully they don't, but that's part of the learning process).
But that's kinda the point. A good custom built wheel won't need tweaking, and even if it does years later you can still tweak it just as easily as if you had built them yourself. This isn't really a selling point to building your own.

Just sayin, I know just because it's a "custom built" wheel, that doesn't guarantee you squat... but building it yourself isn't necessarily any better.
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Old 07-22-10, 06:26 AM   #13
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Way overhyped.

Look around you; 99.9% of bikes are rolling on factory stock wheels. How many failures do you see? and look how many old wheels there are around, having spent years getting slammed on sidewalks.

For the .1% of riders who have particular desires or are particularly discerning or particularly demanding, then yeah, custom guilts can make sense. Maybe they want a particular rim, a certain color combo, or the lightest wheel...these are reasons for a custom build.

Durability is not.

That said, if the bike is not spec'd to meet your expectations, e.g. it's a superlight race that you want to ride daily on ****ty roads while loaded with panniers, you may want to consider a beefier wheel build, but be aware that there are plenty of off-the-shelf, pre-built wheelsets perfectly suited to that purpose which are likely going to be cheaper than the LBS custom builds.

Stock vs Custom, factory vs handbuilt....it's not the same world today that it was twenty years ago, and the old paradigms--and their contingent trade-offs--don't accurately sum up the situation today, IMO.

For example, are a $280 set of USA handbuilt Velocity Aeroheads better than an $800 set of factory Mavic Ksyrium Elites? Are they lighter? More aero? More durable?

Despite being handbuilt customs, the answer across the board is No.
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Old 07-22-10, 07:38 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by tsl View Post
They're worth every penny and more.

I have custom hand-built wheels on two of my four bikes. They're the ones I don't have to worry about.
Did you use someone in Rochester? Just curious about good local wheel builders.

I have ~5000 miles on the stock machine built wheels on my 2008 Windsor Tourist. They have never needed truing. I did break one spoke last year on the rear wheel, and I replaced it with a spare I had. I'm around 215 pounds and always carry some kind of load in my panniers. The spoke broke on a fully-loaded weekend camping trip.

I decided to replace the wheels this year primarily because of the joytech hubs. I overhauled the hubs a couple of thousand miles ago and had to replace the cones. It seems like now the rear hub is starting to have problems again. I have yet to take it apart and look at the cones and races. Since the hubs are cheap generic ones, I just decided to replace the wheels with ones with a little higher quality hubs.

I'm awaiting delivery of hand built wheels from Universal Cycles. Got an inexpensive set with Tiagra 36H hubs, Velocity Dyad rims, and double butted spokes. If money were no object, I would have gotten Phil Wood or White Industries hubs so I'd never have to service them.
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Old 07-22-10, 09:14 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
For example, are a $280 set of USA handbuilt Velocity Aeroheads better than an $800 set of factory Mavic Ksyrium Elites? Are they lighter? More aero? More durable?

Despite being handbuilt customs, the answer across the board is No.
You're also making an apples-to-oranges-to-bananas comparison of qualities.

The lightest wheels will not necessarily be the most aerodynamic. Deep section carbon wheels are heavier than ultralight climbing hoops, but have a far improved aerodynamic capacity. Durability is a product of many factors: Was the wheel built properly to begin with? Are the materials well suited for the rider? Is the design well suited for the intended purpose? Putting a pair of Ksyrium Elites under a 275 pound commuter who rides a combination of chip seal and washboard hardpack roads 15 miles each way is going to lead one to the misconceived notion that the Ksyrium Elite isn't a durable wheelset.
Maybe, depending on the purpose, the $280 handbuilt pair of Velocities actually is a better choice.
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Old 07-22-10, 09:29 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CliftonGK1 View Post
You're also making an apples-to-oranges-to-bananas comparison of qualities.

The lightest wheels will not necessarily be the most aerodynamic. Deep section carbon wheels are heavier than ultralight climbing hoops, but have a far improved aerodynamic capacity. Durability is a product of many factors: Was the wheel built properly to begin with? Are the materials well suited for the rider? Is the design well suited for the intended purpose? Putting a pair of Ksyrium Elites under a 275 pound commuter who rides a combination of chip seal and washboard hardpack roads 15 miles each way is going to lead one to the misconceived notion that the Ksyrium Elite isn't a durable wheelset.
Maybe, depending on the purpose, the $280 handbuilt pair of Velocities actually is a better choice.
Precisely my point. Go back and read the OP: his/her LBS stated that custom builds are stronger, stay truer, and ride better, which is obviously untrue at best, and a crass attempt to capture more of his purchasing dollars at worst.
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Old 07-22-10, 09:47 AM   #17
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The quality comes from being hand built by someone who takes pride in their work. Not machine built, or sweat-shop assembled. The same spoke/hub/rim combination will last longer and require less maintenance if it has consistent and adequate spoke tension and starts out properly trued.

That said, the vast majority of machine built wheels are good enough, and you probably won't notice the difference until you've been riding them for several years. A lot depends on the price difference. I learned to build my own wheels, more for the fun than anything, but also because it's cheaper. Paying someone else to hand build a wheel may or may not be an efficient use of money, depending on what you put your bike through.

Last edited by neil; 07-22-10 at 09:51 AM.
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Old 07-22-10, 09:55 AM   #18
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One of the LBSs in my town has a great policy on all new bikes. Within the first year, the first and second time a spoke on your wheel breaks due to wheel quality, they replace 'em for free. If it happens a third time, they'll rebuild the wheel for free. If anything, this seems to be a measure of confidence in the stock wheels they sell.
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Old 07-22-10, 10:21 AM   #19
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This depends entirely on you.

What's your wheel budget?

If you want cheap, Mavic Askium.

At your weight, you don't really have to go custom.
But they do have some advantages. If you get one
of the more exotic wheels and bust spoke, you will
be less likely to ride it home. A nearby bike shop may not have the
tools or the parts to repair it.

Btw, I used to be Mavic, Mavic, Mavic. I use Velocity rims now.

But... the Askium is a fine wheel. I imagine there
are other good budget wheels as well.
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Old 07-22-10, 10:44 AM   #20
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Which LBS is that, Marmot?
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Old 07-22-10, 11:01 AM   #21
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I guess it depends on how and where you ride and what you consider acceptable... the only time I want / need to touch my wheels with a spoke wrench is when I have to take them apart because I have worn out the rim.

This is how I build wheels for myself and customers... I also tune machine built and factory wheel sets for people.

Machine built wheels can be good too... but I would not take them off the peg and ride them with an expectation that they would hold up.

Just serviced a set of factory wheels with 1300km on them with no pre-service that were suffering from tension issues and were out by as much as 45/1000 on the front... the rear tensions were way off.

These were on a $1000.00 bike.

Besides all this I am now building frames and every bike that rolls out of our shop has hand built wheels and we aim for a build tolerance of 1/1000... they also come on hand built hubs that are guaranteed forever.

So are custom wheels worth it ?

I would say yes.

Amortize the cost of these over the life of your bike and factor in the peace of mind you will have when you know your wheels can handle anything you subject them to and the extra cost becomes a saving.
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Old 07-22-10, 11:27 AM   #22
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I have had the range of experiences, it comes down to getting a good build. A good handbuild is better than any machine build. But I don't think any machine build can be as bad as a truly bad handbuild. I believe I have experienced the full range of that spectrum.

ps-> and the labor cost (above the price of parts) of a good handbuild is probably the very best deal available in bike parts.

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Old 07-22-10, 11:30 AM   #23
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Just serviced a set of factory wheels with 1300km on them with no pre-service that were suffering from tension issues and were out by as much as 45/1000 on the front... the rear tensions were way off.

These were on a $1000.00 bike.

Besides all this I am now building frames and every bike that rolls out of our shop has hand built wheels and we aim for a build tolerance of 1/1000... they also come on hand built hubs that are guaranteed forever.
I.e. good hand-built wheels are better than most mid to high end machine built wheels.
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Old 07-22-10, 03:04 PM   #24
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They're worth every penny and more.
+1

But I would add - go for a high spoke count hub/rim. Most wheels are built for people who want to go fast and will never put on as many miles as a commuter will - the priority for my commute bicycle is reliability and comfort over speed, which means more spokes. May cost a little more, but every time I think that I am being extravagant with what I spend on my bike, I take a peek in the folder that my wife keeps for the maintenance receipts for her car. Last time I looked in there I saw a quote for a new muffler/catalytic converter at $2K, made me feel far less guilty about spending $150 on a new pannier . For the record, my commute bike has hand built wheels, 36 spokes each, Phil Wood hub in the back, and Schmidt dynohub in front.
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Old 07-22-10, 05:07 PM   #25
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I don't build race wheels very often unless they are for vintage bikes... commuters, tourers, and mountain bikers are my client base and any of the wheels I build for commuters could be taken on tour... the demands of commuting are often the same as they are for tourers.

As I will soon be building tandems and expedition grade frames the wheels under them need to hold up to some pretty extreme use.
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