Over the years I have aquired several sets of wheels for my bikes. Whenever I get a new bike it has the standard wheels on it, and I must admit that the cheap bikes I have had- always had cheap wheels fitted. Then I got my Kona Explosif about 11 years ago and that had quality wheels. XT hubs with Mavic rims and double butted spokes. They were handbuilt aswell and this was on a highish grade of Standard type bike. Those wheels on the Kona ruined me as far as wheels are concerned- from now on every wheel had to be handbuilt. I use one particular builder and for those in the UK it is Merlin cycles. Top grade handbuilt wheels at a sensible price. Then again - my wheels do go through a lot of punishment with the offroad riding that I do. In the last 10 years I have bought 4 pairs of XT hubs to Mavic rims, and this is the standard of wheel that I use. The Kona proved that it is a good standard for a wheel and that is what I have stuck with. Only point is that I wear out the rims with the "V" brakes so whenever I start to get a bend in the rims with the tyres inflated- I do not re-rim- I buy new wheels. Then I bought a special offer pair of Hope Lightweight Hubs on mavic rims. These hubs have replacable bearings (Not ball and cone like most hubs) and are no longer made so I do re-rim these hubs about every 2 years. Superb hubs that are lightweight and worth rebuilding. Then another pair of wheels 1994 XTR hubs on mavic rims again and these are replacable bearings again. These are special occasion wheels and have the slicks fitted so do not get used often and are still the original rims.
Then I bought a pair of Mavic crossride wheels. Not the best Mavic wheels around but still better than the average. That was in 2000 and was probably the worst set of wheels I have- or used to be. I did a wet ride in 2001 with them and the freehub started playing up by missing the pawls aoccasionally, and then they finally siezed up about a month after the ride. Still used the front as a spare but the rear wheel went up in the roof of the garage. About a month ago I took the wheel down and before ditching it, took it to my LBS to see if they could rebuild it. New set of pawls and new bearings and $50 later and I have another set of superb wheels. These wheels are yet another pair of top grade wheels in my collection.
Then Again I have the Tandem. Wheels on this are a problem. They have to be tough to take the pounding we give them offroad, and the all up weight of 400lbs. They have to be strong and I contacted Merlin's to sort out the wheels for these. If I thought the Solo wheels were a bit on the pricey side- these were going to be expensive at around $550 a pair. Went with merlins recommendation and Hope Bigun Hubs with the full downhill spec Mavic rim and Straight gauge quality spokes. They worked so well, that I got another pair with the same hubs and spokes built by my LBS but with a better quality rim- Nothing wrong with the Old rims, but this was year later and a better rim had come out.
There. I have got it out. I have a wheel fetish. I keep buying them, keep spending a fortune on re rimming them, or getting re-trued after a hard downhill or respoked after a seasons riding, But it is worth it. One of my friends also uses Merlin wheels and has come up to my standard of XT hubs and Mavic rims- He weighs around 250 lbs and until he got onto the handbuilt wheels he used to buy a new pair of wheels every year or so. His latest Merlin wheels have lasted 2 years and they even build a special wheel for him with 36 extra strong spokes and a tougher rim, but he is now convinced as I am that Handbuilt wheels are the way to go. The price he pays for his good quality handbuilt rims is less than the machine built standard lower quality wheel set from a standard bike shop.
Handbuilt wheels will seem a bit on the pricey side for some of our recreational members but I can tell you, they are worth it. A machine built wheel is not a well built wheel. By getting handbuilt wheels you are getting the years of experience of an expert, and also taking advantage of his buying power so finish up with a sensible price on an excellent pair of wheels. Then there is the investment- Handbuilt wheels do last longer. Then top of all my reasons for buying them- They work better.
Sorry about my spouting on, but What do others think about their wheels and the quality of them?