I am fairly particular about my wheels and find that they only last me about a year to 18 months before I have to replace them. I suppose this is about 2 to 3,000 miles but I had better expand a bit. I ride a mountain bike and use rim brakes. I am particular about the quality of my wheels and use an XT hub- 32 double butted spokes onto a light weight Mavic 517 rim. They make into a good set of wheels and I always use a particular wheelbuilder and these wheels work out to around £ 100 per pair. Occasionally buy a bit better on special offers, but the XT,32 spoke and mavic rim is my norm. I may have to retrue the wheels occasionally, and reset the hub bearings but a good set of wheels are worth it. My problem is that I wear out the rims by braking effect, and it is cheaper to buy a new set of rims at discounted wheelbuilder prices. I then have a set of wheels to get my mates out of trouble with my old ones.
Then along came the Tandem-- This thing requires some super duper wheels and the set that came with the beast only lasted about 6 months before the rims started to get thin. Knew I was going to go disc brake eventually so I contacted my wheelbuilder and and he built up a "Strong" Tandem wheel set for me. I went with Hope Big un Hubs- 36 straight gauge spokes and the Full downhill Mavic rim that was suitable for Rim brakes. The hubs would take disc brakes eventually, so were suitable for that upgrade. A year later I had the disc brakes so went for another wheel set- only difference being the rims were disc only and I trusted my LBS to build them. Cost for second set was £350 and due to the price increase and the upgraded rim- was comparable to the 1st set I bought at £300
2 years later and I put the new set of wheels in for a rebuild. Now a rebuild will be a strip down of the hubs and freebody and retrue and tension the spokes. I left it all in my LBS's hands and just left it to them to rebuild whatever is necessary. I picked them up this morning and They handed them over the counter to look at while they dealt with another customer. I got worried- There was a new freebody on the rear wheel and this is expensive. They gave me the bill and I looked at it- and could not believe my eyes. 3 new bearings- two new spokes and 2 hours labour. Total bill £50. Hold on- you've forgotten the new Freebody. No we haven't- It had 2 broken teeth on the pawl rachet so we phoned Hope and they have replaced it FOC. They put it in the post and we got it the next day. They want the old one back but we did warn them it was on a tandem wheel so they may not want to cover the warranty due to exceptional use but they said it still should not have failed.
The wheels themselves were apparantly not in bad condition. The front wheel was only just a bit out of true and that was after a nasty blowout at 35mph that did mark the rim. The rear wheel was well out of true, and the bearings were badly corroded, but that is down to me washing the bike too often. The teeth that were broken was probably down to some of our horrendous gear changes that we occasionally have- but Hope said that it would be warranty so I am happy. 2 teeth broken would not be a problem as there are 3 pawls to connect on the teeth so if we did hit a missing tooth- there would still be two more to make contact.
I now have to think about a spare set of wheels for the road bike- Yes I know I have only just got the thing but the wheels on it are not up to the quality that I would like. A lighter better set of wheels will improve the bike and the original set can go as spares. So time to get all the catalogues out and find the "Quality" hub that I want and the rim to do the sort of riding that I will be doing. To be quite honest- I think i will leave it in the hands of my LBS- leave them the credit card and just say "fetch". I know they will treat me right and quality of the wheels that Max- the mechanic- is building, means that I will have a set of wheels to be proud of.