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Custom Wheel Builders

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 

There've been, as usual, a number of questions about appropriate wheels for a given rider or type of riding, and as usual a lot of us have responded that custom wheel builders are great source of wheels, providing wheels that are quite often cheaper than, as light or lighter than, and arguably better built than many boutique wheels.  What haven't had in a long time, though, is a thread that lists such wheel builders.

 

I'll start:

 

Fair Wheel Bikes (Tucson, AZ):  http://fairwheelbikes.com/

Ron Ruff @ White Mountain Wheels (Alto, New Mexico):  http://www.whitemountainwheels.com/

Vecchios (Boulder, CO):  http://www.vecchios.com/

Ergott Wheels (Islip, NY):  http://www.ergottwheels.com/

Dave Thomas @ SpeedDream (Dave's Wheels, Fountain Hills, AZ):  http://www.speeddream.com/

Peter White (Hillsborough, NH):  http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/Wheels.asp

Wheelbuilder (El Monte, CA):  http://www.wheelbuilder.com/

Tristan Thomas (Wellington, NZ):  http://wheelworks.co.nz/

post #2 of 35

Great post!

 

I've seen these one's too:

 

Zen Cyclery: http://www.zencyclery.com/

PSIMET: http://www.psimet.com/

 

 

post #3 of 35

My favorite is listed (wheelbuilder.com).

 

Two others that I have used in the past.

 

Excel Sports: http://www.excelsports.com/wheel.asp

Joe Young: http://youngwheels.com/

 

post #4 of 35

Certainly wheelbuilders who've earned a top reputation for quality merit our business.  But I had a set of wheels rebuilt years ago by an LBS with excellent results.  In fact, there are a couple of shops in town who have great reps with local riders and racers for their durable handbuilt wheels. 

 

My question is, are wheels the big names turn out are really any better than what many experienced LBS mechanics can build?  Is there some process or secrets they know that the experienced LBS builder wouldn't?  Perhaps they get their reputation by providing great design recommendations for the riders needs, or just providing superior customer service.   

post #5 of 35
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dhk2 View Post

Certainly wheelbuilders who've earned a top reputation for quality merit our business.  But I had a set of wheels rebuilt years ago by an LBS with excellent results.  In fact, there are a couple of shops in town who have great reps with local riders and racers for their durable handbuilt wheels. 

 

My question is, are wheels the big names turn out are really any better than what many experienced LBS mechanics can build?  Is there some process or secrets they know that the experienced LBS builder wouldn't?  Perhaps they get their reputation by providing great design recommendations for the riders needs, or just providing superior customer service.   


Certainly, many LBS build fine wheels.  One I mentioned, Fair Wheel Bikes, is my LBS.

 

As for how big name wheel builders get their big name, I think it's the result building many wheels (moreso than the average LBS), having a bunch of wheel build options, and then building good or great wheels.  They certainly do nothing extra special that any good wheel builder can't do.  I think the interweb tubes are likely one of the big reasons for these builders having big names.  After all, now people can spread their wheel builder love in forums, blogs, and elsewhere.

 

I choose a wheel builder based on what components I want in the wheel and who has 'em. Builders that consistently work with components from a given company can sometimes get those parts and then build with them at a cheaper cost. 

 

post #6 of 35

I'm riding a sweet set of PSImet's now and love them... Ordered a second set before xmas with the same spoke count, but much lighter... 

 

Rob builds a quality wheel at a great price... 

 

http://www.psimet.com/

 

post #7 of 35

Anyone in the SF Bay ARea should give Tahn Rehmer a call at WIllow Glen Bikes. He's an expert in all types of high-end wheels. I have had 2 sets built so far, 1 lightweight road, 1 heavy duty touring.  Beautiful work and components that I didn't know exist until I met him.  No hard sale either.  He actually sent me on my way to think about it for a while. Good thing, since he had filled my head with more information than I ever thought I would need to know about wheels.  One of those guys who's more interested in the work than the sale.  

 

A few photos:

http://willowglenbicycles.com/about/custom-handbuilt-wheels-at-wgb-pg224.htm

post #8 of 35

The most important aspect of bicycling for most people is getting a broken wheel repaired. So any wheel needs to have easily available spokes, good nipples, and easily maintained hubs.

 

There are enough machine built wheels with those qualities that custom wheel builders should only be used for "special" situations.

post #9 of 35

To be honest it's good to know a custom wheel builder nearby to repair the factory-built wheels, which often arrive with twisted spokes and/or a not-so-true alignment.  If some novice does the adjustments, it can make it worse. 

post #10 of 35
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cloudhead View Post

To be honest it's good to know a custom wheel builder nearby to repair the factory-built wheels, which often arrive with twisted spokes and/or a not-so-true alignment.  If some novice does the adjustments, it can make it worse. 


The benefits of a custom wheel builder are several:

  1. They provide service that very few producers of boutique wheels do.
  2. They produce wheels that have much more consistent  wheel tension than wheel building machines typically offer.
  3. They can produce something build for your needs and budget, something boutique wheel makers don't.
  4. They can produce wheels that have the parts you want, without the compromises that boutique wheel makers often make.
  5. They can produce wheels at a price comparable to or less than the cost of boutique wheels, without having to make compromises to the build to meet a price point.

 

The idea that "There are enough machine built wheels with those qualities that custom wheel builders should only be used for "special" situations...." is just stupid on it's face and can only be true if you're willing to retard or suspend critical thought.

post #11 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by alienator View Post


The benefits of a custom wheel builder are several:

  1. They provide service that very few producers of boutique wheels do.
  2. They produce wheels that have much more consistent  wheel tension than wheel building machines typically offer.
  3. They can produce something build for your needs and budget, something boutique wheel makers don't.
  4. They can produce wheels that have the parts you want, without the compromises that boutique wheel makers often make.
  5. They can produce wheels at a price comparable to or less than the cost of boutique wheels, without having to make compromises to the build to meet a price point.

 

The idea that "There are enough machine built wheels with those qualities that custom wheel builders should only be used for "special" situations...." is just stupid on it's face and can only be true if you're willing to retard or suspend critical thought.


Your use of the phrase "boutique wheels" seems to be the root of your misunderstanding. The local racers seem to ride on the standard machine built wheels that came with their bicycles. They seem to do so both in training and racing. They have no issues with them.

 

I don't see many people with boutique wheels. My son-in-law has boutique wheels on his bicycle, but he has weight issues and more money then sense.

 

As for the parts you might want. I used to "require" a certain rim and certain spokes, but now I am wiser. Lower end stuff - Shimano 105 hubs (or similar), Mavic OP rims (or similar), and any spokes, are sufficient for the guys who do a lot of hard riding around here..

 

---

 

I seem to be one of the few riders who has a large number of spare wheels in their vehicle (4 on my 2 bicycles and 3 spares). I also seem to be one of the few riders who has a wide assortment of cassettes on hand.

 

---

 

I see you have not changed your attitude for the new year.

 

post #12 of 35


 

Quote:

 

I don't see many people with boutique wheels. My son-in-law has boutique wheels on his bicycle, but he has weight issues and more money then sense.

 

As for the parts you might want. I used to "require" a certain rim and certain spokes, but now I am wiser. Lower end stuff - Shimano 105 hubs (or similar), Mavic OP rims (or similar), and any spokes, are sufficient for the guys who do a lot of hard riding around here..

 

---

 

I seem to be one of the few riders who has a large number of spare wheels in their vehicle (4 on my 2 bicycles and 3 spares). I also seem to be one of the few riders who has a wide assortment of cassettes on hand.

 

 

 

Since I am larger than normal and ride customs, I'm going to take offense.  My weight issue is from being 6'7" and I do make good money.   

 

So how are you saving money (or sense) if you have to have to carry a large amount of spare wheels?  

 

Pre-built wheels have gone down the same rabbit hole as so many racing frames: More focus on marketing and profit than on what actually is good for the rider.  I didn't always have this attitude--but my latest pair of pre-built Mavics are such crap, that I just can't agree.  My Aksiums are only a few months old and are already showing wear, and their performance is incredibly low.  They also forced me to pay an extra $60 over last years price by including some useless tires that are simply sitting and rotting in my garage.  

 

I guess I have no sense either.  But no one can tell my wheels are custom.  They're completely unlabeled.  I didn't have them built to show off--I had them built for those so-called 'special situations', like riding long periods of time without having to worry about them.  

 

I did have one wheel built with a dynamo hub. Actually my wheel builder's nickname is "Doctor Dynamo" because of his knowledge of them.  I guess thats a 'special situation', but the fact that the average modern cyclist hasn't even heard of a dynamo hub makes me wonder.  I write this because I know so many long-distance cyclists who scour the internets looking for solar panels and back-up batteries to power their lights and devices when the dynamo hub has been around for decades.  Im not talking racing cyclists--I'm talking AIDS Lifecycle, long-distance charity types.  It makes me wonder which direction the industry is going, and if it is a good direction.  

 

It's reasons like the mentioned dynamo hub, or other 'special situations' that people aren't aware of, that make at least speaking to a custom wheelbuilder worth it.  

 

However, I also learned of White Industries hubs threaded to Velocity A23 rims that make for an amazing ride. Nothing out of the ordinary, just perfect.  And a wheel that isn't available pre-built, and I'll take them over 105s any day, which I have already ridden. I used to have 105s on Mavic CXPs. The speed increase from the Whites in coasting downhill is ~8mph on the same bike. Sure I spent an extra $400 on the set than my Aksiums.  But so what.  The hubs are serviceable with replacement parts and will last far longer than 3 or 4 sets of Aksium or 105-based wheels.  Cheapness and value are 2 different things. Fact is tho, Mavic has hardened their aluminum to a point that I don't think they make a good rim anymore.  No wonder everyone's gone Velocity for aluminum.  

 

For carbon, it's out of my range.  But I think one is truly crazy if they don't speak to a custom wheel builder before spending that much money on such a sketchy material with so many different configurations. 

 

Besides, a good wheel builder is also aware of the good pre-built wheels and won't upsell a customer if one exists that works.  The majority of those who purchase customs from my wheel builder are experienced riders who have had enough with whatever they have been riding.  Or, those special situations, when one requires a wheel that won't break, such as on a commuter, a touring bike, a bike that has to ride on real pavement, etc.  These buyers are more concerned with completing their journey on their bicycle than spending time at the shop getting their wheels repaired.  They are people who ride a huge amount of miles--enough that they are able to witness their pre-made wheels breaking down in a matter of months than decades.  I suppose they could all be considered special situations, but then there are thousands of special situations here in the Bay Area.  Not all of them are rich, nor are they fat.  They just like good wheels.  

post #13 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by cloudhead View Post
(His comments are in bold paragraphs that I address individually.)

 

Since I am larger than normal and ride customs, I'm going to take offense.  My weight issue is from being 6'7" and I do make good money.

 

Feel free to take offense. Feel free to ride hand built wheels. I am sure there are machine built wheels that will suit your riding. But I am not going to ask you to look for them and I am not going to look for them.  

 

 

So how are you saving money (or sense) if you have to have to carry a large amount of spare wheels?


I carry a large number of wheels because: 1) I often loan them out. 2) I have different cassettes on each so I can change wheels rather than cassettes. 3) From time to time I notice that the tire on my bicycle is not up to the ride and I would rather change the wheel than the tire. 4) Two of the wheels came on the bicycle I purchased a couple years ago. I had no intention of using the wheels but the bike was cheaper with the wheels and the tires I use are hard to mount on those rims.

 

 

I did have one wheel built with a dynamo hub. Actually my wheel builder's nickname is "Doctor Dynamo" because of his knowledge of them.  I guess thats a 'special situation', but the fact that the average modern cyclist hasn't even heard of a dynamo hub makes me wonder.  I write this because I know so many long-distance cyclists who scour the internets looking for solar panels and back-up batteries to power their lights and devices when the dynamo hub has been around for decades.  Im not talking racing cyclists--I'm talking AIDS Lifecycle, long-distance charity types.

 

When I used to ride at night in the 80's, I used a head lamp modified to mount on my handlebars, and a 4D battery holder that Radio Shack sold. Now I would use something different, but neither solar nor human power. But to each his own.
 

 

The speed increase from the Whites in coasting downhill is ~8mph on the same bike.

 

Until this comment I thought you had reasoned opinions. Now you are selling snake oil. 

 

 

The hubs are serviceable with replacement parts and will last far longer than 3 or 4 sets of Aksium or 105-based wheels.

 

I have 15K on my 105 hubs. I have never lubed them or adjusted them. I don't see a value in paying a premium for "serviceable" hubs. Even when I was young and doing much higher mileage I seldom even lubed my hubs. (I did have a Phil Wood bottom bracket. I went through a lot of sealed bearings on that.)

 

 

They are people who ride a huge amount of miles--enough that they are able to witness their pre-made wheels breaking down in a matter of months than decades.

 

I have no objection to people who find their wheels breaking down in a matter of months buying different wheels. When I was young, I used to trash a rim every month or so. But I rode a lot over 5000 miles in some months. I was not easy on my equipment. Looking at the prebuilt wheels I have now - Mavic OP rims, they would have served me well back them.

 

There are differences among prebuilt wheels. The issue is not about if there are prebuilt wheels that you can trash vs. custom made wheels you cannot trash. The issue is are there prebuilt wheels that will serve the purpose. There are.

 

post #14 of 35

I had asked the original poster to generate this post, to serve as a reference list for the myriad of custom wheel builders available. The intent was not to debate the pros/cons of custom vs. higher volume manufactured wheels. Rather, I wanted a listing of websites, as it can be tough to keep track of all the different websites.

 

In all fairness, we could just as easily have a "list of manufactured wheels" post.

 

Scott

post #15 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by CyclinYooper View Post

I had asked the original poster to generate this post, to serve as a reference list for the myriad of custom wheel builders available. The intent was not to debate the pros/cons of custom vs. higher volume manufactured wheels. Rather, I wanted a listing of websites, as it can be tough to keep track of all the different websites.

 

In all fairness, we could just as easily have a "list of manufactured wheels" post.

 

Scott


Perhaps you should have started the thread and simply asked for names of custom wheel builders. On the other hand you could have done an internet search and found builders.

 

If you read the original poster's comments, you will note that he makes claims for custom wheels. Perhaps you could ask him to prove those claims.

 

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I cannot imagine why a person needs a list of the myriad of custom wheel builders. One builder should be enough. Most bicycle shops, local or internet, will custom build.

 

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It was not my intent to divert the thread only to point out the claims for custom wheels were not valid.

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