I hope you find this information helpful. There are obviously other hubs and many additional combinations. However considering these builds should allow you to ponder over key options. Hand built wheels should be able to offer you: value for money, performance that suits your riding style and conditions and an item that can be fully serviced for many years. Each of these builds can be tweaked to amend their characteristics and aesthetic. The build suggestions below are in approximate ascending order of price and are listed under key categories – at present, only road riding, track, aero, touring, heavy riders and MTB:
We now have a specific rim brake road wheelset section where you can buy sets directly through the site. You can visit this here.
When it comes to buying a set of ‘track’ wheels, there are two key routes that people go down. Formula and ‘other’.
The Formula route involves using the Formula hubs which are excellent value and last fairly well. They have steel axles, come with track nuts and a lockring. You can have them in fixed fixed of fixed free and in black or silver. They are 100mm at the front and 120mm at the back.
These are generally built up with either Sapim Race spokes for a silver spoked build or Sapim D-light spokes for a black spoked build.
Prices start at £167/pair but a more common budget is something like £300 for which you get a quality rim for example the Archetype with a black spoke and black alloy nipple. You could also have a range of Velocity rims or something deep profile such as the SL42.
In terms of the ‘other’ route. This means a more exotic hub choice and that is generally either Phil Wood or Royce and the prices for which are broadly the same. Prices generally start at around £540 but you may well get a lot of different flavour options including the option for single sided fixed, high and low flange options and colour options – especially with Phil Wood hubs.
Aero wheelsets are increasingly fashionable, mainly because it is becoming increasingly recognised that at a competitive level, it is where the greatest advantage will be gained. That is not to say that the greatest benefit for every rider will be to move towards more aerodynamic components, however it should be a consideration for every rider looking to ride at speed.
Aerodynamic components are generally heavier. The profiles are more exotic and generally require more material which adds weight. It can, often, at the same time add stiffness though and as long as the profiles are structurally sound, material can be kept thin to save weight so the penalty need not be massive. Weight limits in professional cycling is another major reason for getting more aerodynamic components.
Unlike my other sets described here, I am going to work in descending price order, so that an understanding of the dark art of aerodynamics is explored earlier on with compromises creeping in from there.
When it comes to choosing something aerodynamic, it is not necessarily just about choosing something that offers the lowest level of aerodynamic drag. It is also about its aerodynamic stability. You should be cautious about manufacturers that claim their wheels are the most aerodynamic on the market or say, ‘more aero than Zipp’, because while they may offer less drag going head on into wind, that is not to say they will offer the best aero advantage during racing. Moreover you may get blown around a lot, equally they may be heavy or fragile or other concerning attributes.
Pitch and Yaw are concepts worth familiarising yourself with. On any given day, there will be wind, independent of the drag you will encounter from actually cycling into air. That wind is unlikely to be coming straight at you and straight into you. It is likely to be either descending or ascending and to a certain extent at an angle to you. This means that you can get blown around with certain profiles and it could cause air to be turbulent around your profile edges which could in turn add drag. So a really good profile will not only offer minimal drag in a straight line, but can cope with air at a variety of pitch and yaw angles. Similarly, more advanced aerodynamic shapes are more efficient and therefore you can, for example, have a similar aerodynamic advantage with a smaller profile. That reduces the chances of you getting blown around and will also save weight.
The Zipp Firecrest and ENVE SES system rims that I sell are among the most advanced aerodynamically. Both have carefully optimised aerodynamic profiles, minimal weight, both are made in the USA and both have advanced technologies for dealing with heat build up. Zipp have gone down the route of high temperature tolerant resins to a greater extent whereas ENVE have pursued management of heat to a greater extent. When building, ENVE rims feel tougher and they come with a 5 year warranty. Zipp have dimpled rims which is designed to suck in air, that air then creates an air cushion upon which other air can pass over more easily. I am not going to comment on who makes ‘better’ rims or whose are more aerodynamic. However there is wind tunnel data which helps to shed light on this sort of hotly contested issue. By getting a set of Zipp wheels through me, you have the opportunity to have a spoke and hub upgrade over a stock set. ENVE as standard tolerate various permutations on their sets and are naturally more customisable.
If you are looking at buying a set of these wheels, you are not going to get a set for less than around £2200. So, with that in mind, I would like to offer some more economical alternatives:
Sticking with carbon fibre for the time being, I also offer some ‘DCR’ carbon rims which are in a wide U profile. The profile itself is not wind tunnel tested but it is a good deal cheaper than the high end counterparts just discussed. Wide U profiles are generally considered to be about 30% more aerodynamic than standard V profile rims as well as coming with the benefits of stability. Plus, you get to reduce the weight by having a shallower rim as discussed before.
Sets with the wide U profile start at fairly economical price points. However, for the time being we will stick with relatively high end sets:
£981 buys you these rims with Tune Mig70/Mag170 hubs and Sapim CX-Ray spokes in black with black alloy nipples (about 1400g in 38mm deep). For an extra £80, you can also have a Kevlar laminate upgrade, which means that the top layer of the rim has fibres of Kevlar woven into it, this improves the rim’s resistance to impact damage and also adds a unique aesthetic to the carbon weave.
Going with an aero set means you really ought to be sticking with the CX-Ray spoke. The Tune hubs are a sensible addition because they help to keep the build nice and light, stiff, strong and durable. However, as a more economical option you can have a set with NovaTec hubs or with DCR hub – £700 and £660 respectively. The wheels come with brake pads, however for the best braking performance I recommend Swissstop Black Prince brake pads. I don’t generally recommend this set for prolonged braking – i.e. alpine conditions and also do not recommend them for riders over about 85kg. The set is perfectly capable of handling heavier riders, but braking remains a concern on all but the best quality carbon rims, so if you are a heavier rider and want to ride this set, I recommend sticking to flat conditions. The rims themselves have a basalt layer, high TG resin, titanium bead re-enforcement and extra sidewall buttressing to guard against rim failure, making this among the absolute safest of all the ‘economical’ carbon rims on the market.
Most people who contact me for aero wheels, are not looking to spend ‘carbon’ money. Aluminium is less well suited to aerodynamic wheels than carbon, it is less strong and harder to get it to conform to exotic shapes, especially if you want to keep the weight down on the set.
When it comes to touring, generally people want to have a tough set of wheels, but mostly I try to offer either an exceptionally strong set of wheels or a set of what I consider to be more like Grand Tour/Audax wheels. While I do offer some everyday touring wheelsets, it is generally more appropriate to get a set like this from a builder of more ‘everyday’ wheels. I.e. wheelsets that are worth sub £170/pair. For this set of wheels, the specialist tooling and tolerances that I always build to are not required.
If you are looking to go down the grand touring route, key components to consider at the NovaTec A171/F172 and the Royce hubs as well as White Industries and Chris King.
You can consider these sets as suitable for weights of upwards of 100kg including rider and luggage however they are not necessarily intended for this on a permanent basis. They are provided in ascending strength order:
NovaTec hubs – Race spokes, alloy nipples, DT Swiss RR465 rims – £310. This set is fairly light and will spin up well. They are not really designed for tyres in excess of 28c. The hubs themselves have mixed responses in terms of durability. Some reports are very good, others slightly weaker. However, the hubs themselves are appropriate for all year round use, bearings and other parts are cheap and easy to replace and a full stock is carried here for that purpose. Maximum intended weight is approximately 100kg. The Archetype and TB14 rims are also popular for this sort of set and will reduce the price by approximately £20.
As above with Royce hubs – £532. The Royce hubs make a large difference to durability with reports of them doing in excess of 200,000 miles on their original bearings. The hubs need occasional lubrication but beyond that very little is required in terms of maintenance. Royce hubs make an excellent grand tour option. Royce hubs can also be in a 130 or 135mm spaced incarnation and the front can be either ultra light or mid flange for either added performance or added durability.
As above with the DT TK540. The prices for this remain unchanged and this is a popular option. The TK540 is an unusual breed of rim in that it is a performance focused rim that is also focused around strength. It is very well made with a welded joint and for the intended purpose it is surprisingly light. It builds up nice and stiff and makes for a smooth and comfortable ride. It is well suited to wider tyres so from 28c upwards generally although you could ‘get away’ with less if necessary. For this a weight limit of more like 120kg is appropriate.
As above with Phil Wood hubs and strong spokes. £616. The Phil Wood hubs are very strong. It is hard to say whether Phil Wood or Royce offer better strength/durability as the return rate on both to date is zer0. However, the drillings on the Phil hubs are larger which allow them to accept a larger spoke. That, then, means you can build a stronger wheel with them. They also have a larger number of pawls which in itself should improve their loading capacity.
As above with Velocity Chukker rims. £596. When it comes to making a rim stronger there are generally a number of ways of doing it. Improve wall thickness, opt for a stronger alloy, make the profile deeper, make the profile wider. What Velocity have done with the Chukker is throw all of those techniques into the melting pot and the result is probably the strongest rim on the market. The actual weight limit on this sort of set is very difficult to estimate, but assuming the maximum spoke count of 48 per wheel is used and Strong spokes are used throughout, it is probably somewhere between 400 and 500kg.
A quick aside: I am not here to judge you on your weight, irrespective of what it is. Assessing the weight of any rider is essential in providing the right wheels for their intended purpose. Moreover, riders can be heavy for a big range of reasons and may not in any reasonable sense be considered ‘overweight’, they are simply too heavy for conventional ‘stock’ wheels. Finally, even if a rider would benefit from losing weight, cycling is an excellent way to do this and I find success stories on this topic very uplifting. There is no need to apologise for your weight, whatever it may be, it is simply a case of finding components with appropriate rims, spokes, bearings and axles to cope with the increased strain, both from the static and dynamic load but also from what can be considerably increase power output.
It is worth considering the above touring options, in particular the last option for very heavy riders. However, the touring sets will generally be intended for wider tyres and often larger spacing at the back. Often with disc brakes as well but not necessarily.
In this particular section, I would like to flesh out a few key options with regard to what I consider to be tough road rims. I am not going to go into detail about spokes and hubs as this information is available above and elsewhere but what I intend to provide is information on some strong but narrow rims for running with narrow tyres:
Velocity Fusion – this is an interesting rim because its strength does not seem to have compromised it too much when it comes to weight. That said, it is probably the least strong, strong rim. I would say riders of up to 120kg will be appropriate on this rim. Prices start at £270/set.
Velocity Deep V – this is essentially the bigger brother of the Fusion. It is deeper, to add strength. It is used on tandems on a regular basis but is still probably not ideal for riders over 160kg.
H Plus Son SL42 – this is a rim I feel more comfortable with for heavier riders. It has a welded joint and it is made from G609 alloy which is stronger than 6061. It is closely linked to 6069 alloy. A rider weight limit has not been discussed but they are certainly strong. I would say up to 160kg is probably appropriate on the right build however it is likely that this rim will be more stable than the deep V.
DCR Carbon/alloy 60mm deep. This rim is not currently available but it is available in the pipeline. Essentially it has done the same thing as the other rims, get deeper to get stronger. It is, very tough indeed but again 160kg is probably the upper limit of its capacity. It is a good rim choice for a heavier rider with a bigger budget looking for the best available performance possible.
If you are in excess of 160kg, it is generally advisable to use a different sort of bicycle. You need to think about all sorts of components when it comes to strength. A 135mm axle at the rear is advisable as is a wider tyre. 26″ wheels are naturally stronger and stiffer than 700c.
All wheelsets can be 650b or 29er. All can be run tubeless and all have an internal of at least 21mm. They can all be used in XC and AM conditions. Most can be adapted to Enduro conditions. They can all be in various interfaces – qr/through axle/bolt on with various freehub bodies.
Weights are for 28:28 where possible, otherwise 32:32 drilling. All weights are estimated and based on 650b and QR.
DT Swiss 533d/dcr disc hubs/race spokes – £250 – 1890g
DT Swiss m442/dcr/race – £290 – 1740g
Notubes arch ex/dcr/race – £336 – 1705g
Ryde trace 25 (Enduro)/dcr/race – £350 – 1735g
Ryde/dcr/d-light and alloy nipples – £400 – 1634g
DCR carbon (25mm internal, hookless)/dcr/d-light/alloy – £620 – 1545g
DCR carbon/dcr/cx-ray – £680 – 1520g
DCR carbon/Tune King – Kong/cx-ray – £1027 – 1410g
DCR carbon/Tune Prince – Princess/cx-ray – £1241 – 1365g
MCFK carbon/Tune Prince – Princess/cx-ray – £2191 – 1135g
The 533d is a really tough rim and a good introductory option. The weight makes it appear a poorer build than it is because it is a lot tougher than the m442. It is capable of standing up to a lot more abuse. The m442 is still a good rim and still a real AM profile, available a very appealing price point. The Arch is a real benchmark rim and has been a favourite for years now. You know what you are getting with NoTubes and that is a rim that is tough and a tubeless setup that works really well. The Ryde rims actually come in 3 flavours. The 25 is the Enduro version and is good and tough making for a nice stiff build. It is off centre too which is nice for getting higher overall spoke tensions. Adding D-light spokes means you can get black spokes and it also means a lighter and more durable spoke. Going over to carbon gets the rim yet wider still and also allows for even higher spoke tensions. Moving over to Tune hubs means stronger axles, flanges and better bearings. They are stiffer and more durable as well as being lighter. Moving to the Prince/Princess means you get a carbon wrapped flange which allows for even higher spoke tensions. Moving to the MCFK rimswill actually reduce the tension tolerance a bit but the rim is offset again which means higher tensions overall. You shave off a lot of weight with this rim and as you can see the headline figure speaks for itself.
If you are interesting in high end carbon, it is also worth looking at the ENVE hookless MTB range. More details to follow on that shortly.