Sunday, November 15, 2009

Handbuilt vs Prefabricated Wheelsets

I worked 8 years in the bicycle industry and watched the Prefabricated Wheelset trend start and become a huge sector of the industry. As someone who worked as a warranty manager, I hated them and continue to hate them. Most Prefabricated Wheelsets use proprietary (not standardized) hubs, rims, spokes, and nipples. Repair service beyond the bearings in the hubs often required that the entire wheel be sent to the company (at the owners expense, even for warranty). Some were turned around quickly, some took as much as 6-8 weeks to get returned. Imagine being without your bike for that long! Handbuilt wheels using standard J-bend spokes (DT or Wheelsmith are my recommendations), 28, 32,or 36 hole rims and hubs can be built just as light, strong, and at the same or less price. Bending or breaking a spoke simply results in a quick trip to an LBS to get fixed. Rims are standard and so a damaged rim can be replaced fairly easy. You get your choice of hubs and rims for a truly custom setup.


  1. Word. I have been tempted once by a mavic wheelset. Yes, it was lighter. But I can't hang not being able to ride for even a week due to component failure. Another issue that should be mentioned is the unit price of replacement spokes should one bend or break.

  2. Yea, I had a (actually two) Mavic wheelsets back in the early 00's. They were my first tubeless setups. I had several issues with the rear hubs on both sets. The freehub actually rotates on a plastic bushing! I went through a couple of these. And the cartridge bearings never sat in the hub tight so there was always some play when the hub was otherwise adjusted correctly. I loved the rims (24 hole version of the X 3.1) but yes, getting new FH bodies took a couple weeks each time.


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