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How bad are machine built wheels?(11 posts)

How bad are machine built wheels?MXL02
Apr 16, 2003 8:42 AM
I am replacing the wheels on my commuter and my LBS wants to build me up a set of XT hubs with Sun Rynolite rims for about $200. I can get the same set from Nashbar or Pricepoint for about 1/2! I called Pricepoint and they claimed that their wheels were hand built, although I have my doubts. Even if they are not, how bad can they be? Is it worth paying double for hand built wheels?
depends on the machine or the handDougSloan
Apr 16, 2003 8:49 AM
I've had handbuilts that were absolute crap, and machine built that lasted well over 10k miles (and still going) without a truing. Depends on who built them.

I'm at this point in my thinking. Unless I know the reputation of the hand-builder, I'll take machine built.

re: How bad are machine built wheels?KEN2
Apr 16, 2003 9:24 AM
The main problems with machine-built wheels tend to be: they're not stress-relieved, and the spoke tension is too low.

I recommend locating a wheel in your own stable, or a friend's, that you know is solid and as nearly as possible the same length spokes. Pluck several of the spokes and compare the musical pitch to the new wheel. For a given spoke length and diameter, pitch is an indication of tension. You can tighten the new spokes evenly all around if the pitch is too low. After each ride for the first few times, recheck trueness and tension since riding has the effect of stress-relieving the wheel.

Rear wheels are trickier, though, since dish means that the two sides must have different tensions.
re: How bad are machine built wheels?russw19
Apr 16, 2003 12:05 PM
There are pros and cons to each in theory.

Hand-built means someone payed personal attention to your wheels. That could also mean they personally took a mental nap while building your wheels. Machines don't have that problem.

In theory a machine built wheel is actually stronger because the machine can press the spoke head into the hub flange with enough force to seat it properly, which is about impossible to do by hand. That's why you need to stress relieve a hand built wheel. However that doesn't always happen with machine built wheels and although it sounds good in theory, it's not always what happens in real world practicality.

Also in theory, a machine built wheel will be more equally balanced than you can get by hand. The tension should be even all the way through. But again, this is in theory, and not really what happens. A good wheelbuilder with an accurate spoke tensionometer will do a much better job of getting this right.

There are pros and cons to each, but the gap gets closer every day. I build my own wheels so I know who to yell at if things go wrong, but I have bought a few wheels in the past that were machine built and they were fine. I guess that means I am not quite skilled enough to out build the machine's quality.... but how many of us really are?

If they are 1/2 the price, get the machine built wheels and take them in to have them looked at for proper tension to your shop. Also, before you buy, ask your shop to look around for a good deal on a set of machine built wheels. Tell them it's only for your commuter and you would rather save the money on the hand build's labor costs. They should be able to understand that, and if they are a good shop, they will look for a good deal for you.

Just my advice,
A machine-built wheel story:Alexx
Apr 16, 2003 12:51 PM
A friend bought a set of cheap machine-built wheels, 36 spoke. He put them on the bike, and they ran straight and true, but he kept hearing a noise. He checked the spoke tensions, and found that 1 spoke on the rear was attached, but completely slack! Pulling the tape off didn't show anything. It seems that the machine was missing one of the 36 drivers, and was merely building the wheels true on the remaining 35 spokes! Try doing that with a hand-built wheel!
re: How bad are machine built wheels?dave woof
Apr 16, 2003 3:51 PM
I'd love to see a pic of a machine that builds wheels.. anyone have links?


Dave -nmDaveLobster
Apr 17, 2003 5:17 AM
Why not both machine and hand?LC
Apr 19, 2003 9:43 AM
Machine built and hand trued should give the best result. The machine does a good job of centering the hub and seating the spokes so I would rather have them at least put it together that way. The final little 1/4 turns that bring the wheel to proper even tension is more of an art form that is best left to hand. I do admit that it takes quite a bit of experience to get it just right, but you have to start somewhere. To me it is just another part of cycling that should be learned by any serious rider, you know like most of use that ride alot, but are not good enough to have a machanic follow you around europe. If you know what your doing then you buy the machine built and recheck it yourself on your own truing stand. Another way to do it is buy machine built and take it to a machanic that you trust... and I should point out that it ain't that 20 y.o. kid picking his nose in the shop ;)
I understand that it's just the opposite...TFerguson
Apr 19, 2003 2:23 PM
Those who have visited the factory floor tell me that they are laced by hand and tensioned by machine.
Apr 21, 2003 6:12 AM
There are machines that do lacing and others that do tensioning/truing. Different factories do things different ways.
do machines stress relieve? nmDougSloan
Apr 21, 2003 8:33 AM