Why Custom Built Bicycle Wheels?
Anything "custom" sounds automatically expensive, but custom bicycle wheels are often the perfect solution to the needs of an individual rider. The wheel builder can balance issues of cost, weight, strength, durability, aerodynamic characteristics, rider weight, riding style, etc. and provide a cost-effective set of wheels that will outperform any stock wheels available. There is a wide variety of components, i.e., hubs, rims, and spokes, that can be put together in almost endless combinations in custom wheels.
In the end, the outcome will depend on the skill of the wheel builder. Prospective purchasers of custom wheels should do their homework in selecting a wheel builder based on a demonstrated track record of excellent results and not just pick the lowest bidder.
Hand-built, custom wheels are price-competitive and weight-competitive with stock wheels. The carefully applied skills of the wheel builder guarantee an excellently performing product.
Properly built custom wheels will be stronger than what is available in the market in the form of stock wheels. Wheels with a low spoke count and only moderate tension on the spokes are usually adequate for a fit rider of up to, say, 180 pounds. Heavier riders need wheels with more spokes, and, most importantly, these spokes must be highly tensioned to provide the support the rider needs. Commuters, even fit commuters, will do better on highly-tensioned wheels with at least 32 spokes due to the daily pounding on the wheels. Stock wheels will not do the job nearly as well as wheels built by a knowledgeable professional.
Other than the strength of the finished wheel and the craftsmanship offered by the wheel builder, another obvious advantage of custom wheels is the enormous variability of the parts that can be put together in almost limitless combinations. For example, Velocity makes many rims in many different shapes and cross sections for every type of riding, and all of them come in the following colors: black, silver, electric red, electric blue, lemon yellow, purple, bright gold, tangerine orange, lime green titanium grey, pink, celeste, wood grain, white, and chocolate brown. Chris King makes very high-end hubs in the following colors: black, pewter, blue, green, gold, silver, red, and mango. And, those are only two of many different manufacturers (Shimano, Campagnolo, Hope, DT Swiss, Mavic, Surly, etc.) whose products can be used in a custom, hand-built wheel.
We primarily use two types of spokes: round double-butted spokes (14G/15G/14G) made by DT Swiss and bladed aerodynamic CX-ray spokes by Sapim that are exceptionally light and fantastically strong at the same time. Both the DT Swiss and Sapim spokes are made from high-quality 18/8 stainless steel. Stainless steel is by far the best material for most wheels because of its enduring brilliance and high tensile strength.
Want your college colors reflected in your wheels? Favorite colors? Just some really cool and unique colors? You can have it made from high-quality parts from leading manufacturers, built professionally and tensioned highly, accurately, and consistently.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. I am a heavy rider, and the spokes on my existing wheels occasionally break. Are there wheels that will be strong enough to support my 230 pounds?
A. Yes, but not machine-made stock wheels. You need 36-spoke wheels made from strong components and lots of spoke tension. Hand-built wheels are the best way to go, and they won't cost you a fortune.
Q. What types of wheels can be built?
A. Any type: racing, touring, recreational, track, tandem, mountain, downhill, road, etc. See my Testimonials page to see some examples.
Q. What about exotic spoke patterns?
A. Stick with traditional crossing patterns and achieve your uniqueness from the endless choices of components and colors.
Q. I would love to learn how to make wheels. Can I build my new wheels myself? Will I get the results I want?
A. Yes to both. I teach a wheel building school at the Spokes Etc Belle North Quaker Lane store in Alexandria, VA, and you can build your own wheels under my direct supervision. You'll get great custom wheels that you can take real pride in having built yourself.
Q. How much does it cost for wheels?
A. The cost is the price of the components plus the labor to build the wheels. The labor rate is $75 per wheel. The tuition in the wheel building school is normally $299, and you can have fun by building them yourself.
Q. Do I need to buy or bring any equipment to participate in the classes?
A. No, we provide all the tools necessary. You may, however, want to purchase some tools for your future use such as a truing stand, tensiometer, and spoke wrenches.
Q. What would I learn in the wheel building school?
A. Lacing of the spokes into a wheel, tensioning, stress relieving, dishing, and both lateral and radial truing.
Q. How can I get more information about hand-built, custom wheels from Spokes?