Plays in traffic
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Rochester, NY
Bikes: 1996 Litespeed Classic, 2006 Trek Portland, 2013 Ribble Winter/Audax
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I agree with the others. There is a point of diminishing returns.
I also agree that handbuilts are the better value, generally. And with handbuilt wheels, your money goes to pay the craftsman, not the international marketing campaign or yellow cars that follow the racers around.
There are also differing opinions on what constitutes "expensive". I know a guy who won't spend more than $50 on a wheel, and I know another guy who thinks a grand each is pretty darned cheap. It's for this reason I include the prices I paid below.
I have handbuilt wheels on two of my three bikes. The first set cost just over $400 shipped to me. The set weighs 1,609 grams with rim tape (but not skewers). This is pretty light for the money. They're also 32-spokes, so they're plenty strong too. They're made from fairly common parts--nothing exotic. You can have strength in a reasonably light wheel. I have several seasons and several thousand miles on these wheels, which have never required anything more than washing.
My commuting bike has disc brakes and I went with a dynano hub in front--less common components--so the wheels came in at about $800 including brake rotors. I can only compare the weight of the rear wheels, because the dynamo hub itself was over a pound. The factory 24-spoke rear wheel weighed 1,125 grams with rim tape and brake rotor. It needed to be trued roughly once a month, and was completely rebuilt twice in the three years I rode it. What crap, at $300 a set.
The 32-spoke handbuilt rear wheel weighs 1,095 grams with rim tape and brake rotor. I got 33% more spokes--and the corresponding strength--for a quarter-pound less weight. I expect years of reliable daily service from these wheels too, which includes riding every day through Upstate NY winters.
Last edited by tsl; 05-02-10 at 06:29 PM.