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Prebuilt vs. Handmade(12 posts)

Prebuilt vs. Handmadegmagee
Jun 22, 2001 2:27 PM
I dont understand why handmade wheels are supposed to be better quality than prebuilt wheels.

Can someone educate me on this?

I would think a manufacture that does this all the time would be better than the $ 8.00 an hour ( or less) LBS mechanic.

How do you make a prebuilt if not built by hand?
I would not think they are made with a cookie cutter.
What is difference in the assembly procces?

Obviously I am not talking about a specialist ( Wheelsmith or the like) .

Why have someone like Colorado Cyclist, (or any other mail order place) or LBS build a wheel as opposed to just buying a prebuilt from the manufactuer?

Please teach me the differance.
re: Prebuilt vs. HandmadeHank
Jun 22, 2001 2:49 PM
Assuming you can find a good wheelbuilder, you can get a wheel that weighs less, with just as good or better components for about half the price of some of these pre-built wheels. The "quality" should be as good if not better in the case of a really great builder. I'm not bashing the pre-built wheels (okay, I am a litle bit - they're expensive and if you have problems with them it can be a hassle to get the right parts, etc.) but I think people shouldn't think they're really getting some sort of advantage just because they're speding more money. Yes they look cool and yes the pros ride them. If that's worth the extra money to you, by all means, go for it.
Jun 22, 2001 2:53 PM
I should know this info myself, but to reiterate gmagee's post: does there exist a wheel-building machine or automation system? I've always thought wheels were by nature "hand-built", whether it be at the factory (ex. Mavic) or by an independent (ex. LBS starting with hub/rim/spokes/etc.) My naivete embarasses me, but the above post made me wonder. Help us to see the reality, oh wise posters.
Jun 22, 2001 3:07 PM
don't know what they're doing these days for the pre-builts. Maybe machine laced and hand tensioned or something. I'm sure someone else knows...
Enduring qualityMass Biker
Jun 22, 2001 3:00 PM
Prebuilt wheels (i.e. factory built with proprietary parts) are great. They look nifty, are usually quite light/aero, and are usually the cutting edge. However, if something goes wrong, you often have to send them back to the factory, or hope your LBS has the funky spoke/wrench/nipple/doohickey required to fix them. Handmade wheels (i.e. put together by an experienced wheelbuilder out of readily available parts) can give prebuilt wheels a run for the money in terms of weight, aerodynamics, looks (if you pick the right components), money, and ease of serviceability. If something goes wrong, most cyclists are halfway handy with a spoke wrench. And if something terrible goes wrong, walk it over to your friendly LBS and ask the fellow who built the wheel to fix it. My biggest problem with prebuilt wheels is that you are paying through the nose for the flavor of the month, complete with exorbitant marketing overhead etc. etc. And half the time, the performance gain is marginal for the dollar spent. Ask me, and I'll say that choosing a handbuilt wheel gives you more control of how you want your wheel to ride, and what components constitute the wheel. It also allows you to direct the bulk of your funds into parts that will keep on trucking for years (and years and years). Besides, one day, years from now, when that wheel eats a pothole and the rim croaks (and no rim is immune from this, trust me), you can cut out the spokes and lace up another rim to the buttery smooth, forward-compatible hub that you so wisely chose on day one of this adventure.

Mass "Handbuilt Wheels Are Just Fine By Me" Biker
re: Prebuilt vs. HandmadeTJeanloz
Jun 22, 2001 3:12 PM
Handbuilt wheels are not, by definition, better. It obviously depends on who is building the wheels. Generally bike shops have their best mechanic do most of the wheel builds. Most "pre-built" wheels are built by hand at the factory that markets them. The advantage to a handbuilt wheel over a pre-built, in my opinion, is that the builder knows something about the buyer. There are different decisions that need to be made in the selection of components and method of building that can be more informed decisions if the end user is in on the build.

For some people, light double-butted spokes are alright, others will destroy them. Brass nipples are the way to go if you are going to use the wheels only for training; alloy if they're for mixed use. Spoke patterns, rim choice, spoke tension, the list goes on and on. With a pre-built, all of these decisions are made for you. A local hand builder can advise you based on his experience with (hopefully) many customers over the years. The difference is that pre-built wheels are built to satisfy the needs of the largest number of riders; custom built wheels are built to meet YOUR needs.

Yes, there is a machine that can build wheels, but mostly only wheels of Huffy quality. It never ceased to amaze me that a junky kid's bike wheel could be made in China and arrive in Colorado for $1.50. Incredible. In other wheel building news, I was surprised to see Colorado Cyclist claim that they had built 300,000 wheels in the last 25 years. I call B.S.- that's 33 wheels a day EVERY day of the the year for 25 years, market value of which would be AT LEAST $50,000,000; I find that highly unlikely.
here's why...k mand
Jun 22, 2001 5:38 PM
I've been off my road bike for 2 weeks becuase my LBS had to send my rear wheel back to Spinergy to fix a blown free-hub body. When I pick up the rig tommorrow I will have them build me a Mavic set with Campy Record and sell the SR-3s, great wheels when they work.

You or LBS can easily true a wheel, fix broken spokes, and hubs so you can spend more time on the road.
LBS built wheelsgmagee
Jun 22, 2001 11:41 PM
I had a rear wheel with a suntour hub and a rim that needed to be replaced. No choice exept to have the reputable LBS build a new wheel around my old hub with a new Mavic rim.

6 months later the rim is cracked around the spoke holes.
2 weeks off the bike so that mavic could warrenty the rim and another $25.00 rebuild fee.

6 months later the rim is cracked around the spoke holes.
Another 2 weeks off the bike, another $25.00 rebuild fee.

6 months later the rim is cracked around the spoke holes.
Another 2 weeks off the bike. Bike shop gives me an anodised Mavic rim guaranteed not to crack this time around. Oh yes and another $25.00 rebuild fee.

6 months later the rim is cracked around the spoke holes.

Went to another bike shop and bought a new bike. The only logical solution I thought.

Please tell me how to find a GOOD wheel builder.
Yes I could have taken my cracked wheel to other shops but I could not have gotten mavic to warrenty the wheel at some other shop, once you are committed you are committed.
LBS built wheelsJofa
Jun 23, 2001 9:23 AM
These weren't by any chance Mavic MA40 rims were they? They were famous for cracking up around the spoke holes... whereas the functionally identical, cheaper and- crucially- not anodized MA2 rims were fine. It's the anodizing that encourages rim failure around the eyelets. The brittle anodized surface cracks microscopically (in a crazed pattern) when the rims are formed into hoops; these cracks propogate into the aluminium and cause fatigue failure. Sadly Mavic don't (to my knowledge) make a non-anodized rim anymore, because the fashion police have decided that polished aluminium rims are unacceptable... so we must all live with rims that are inclined to fail as you describe.
Come to think of it, does anybody have any recommendations for a good simple polished box-section rim, like the old Mavic MA2? I don't know of any, but I'll need some when my Open Pro's inevitably fail.
LBS built wheelsHank
Jun 23, 2001 1:37 PM
regarding gmagee's post - if you want to be able to ride every day, you should have two bikes or at least two sets of wheels. Regarding MA40s, I personally have never had a a problem with them - lots of miles on several sets -but know the problem exists (have seen it) and that MA2s are probably a better (and cheaper) bet. For new rims there's a new MA3 - non anodized. Otherwise, you could try Sun or Fir or the Torelli rims that Rivendell stocks.
re: Prebuilt vs. HandmadeSteve Bailey
Jun 22, 2001 7:04 PM
The pre-builts you seem to be refering to are machine laced and tensioned. I saw an article 10 years back in Bicycling describing the process. Many production bikes come with machine built wheels.

The single biggest problem is that the machine can't stress the wheel after the inital true-up and a stressed and re-tensioned wheel is far superior to a non-stressed wheel (see Some mail-order's are machine built, then stressed by hand and re-trued by hand. Jobst Brandt has stated that this is actually a prefered method due to the consistency of the initial build. LBS builders may or may not do as good a job as a machine in the initial build up, thus for a human, it's still an art form.

re: Prebuilt vs. HandmadeKPRTX
Jun 23, 2001 12:25 AM
The difference between a hand built and factor built depends on the wheel. I know of some companies (Island) that have wheel machines that make just sucky wheels, and others (QBP, I believe) that make some pretty good wheels. The biggest problem that I see in machine built wheels is spoke tention variation. A good wheel is going to be built somewhere in between 80-120 ft/lbs. a spoke. The pressure varies depending on the spoke gauge (i.e. 14, 15, 14/15, 14/15/17, etc) But all in all, you will be somewhere in that range. I've got some wheels in with pressure ranges from 25-105 on different spokes (calibrated). This basically will give you a good looking wheel, but not a good working wheel, its going to be really easy to knock out of true and will possible make some nasty creakin' noises(caused by the crosses rubbing). Anyway thats my 2 cents.