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Boutique wheels question...(15 posts)

Boutique wheels question...KEN2
Oct 17, 2001 3:21 PM
Thinking about upgrading my wheels... I have stock Mavic CXP 10 wheels, 32 hole laced to RX 100 hubs. I'm 195 lbs, ride a mix of hills and flats, solo average speed is about 16-17, group rides @ around 20-21 mph. I don't think I want anything totally aero because of the weight penalty. Can't afford Ksyriums...thinking about Mavic Cosmos which are available in black (black and yellow matches my frame) for $217 at totalcycling.com. The rim looks similar to Open Pros which I have on my 'cross/commuter bike and love. Opinions?
(Sorry for cross-post--no one seems to be answering over in components)
re: Boutique wheels question...Kerry Irons
Oct 17, 2001 3:54 PM
Two (and a half) problems I see with "boutique" wheels (I own Electrons - they are my only wheels). First, many of them push the envelope on reliability in an effort to be different or light. First (and a half), because of the first issue, they often change frequently during their product life cycle and it becomes nearly impossible to get parts or repairs.

The real complaint I have about them is that they are grossly overpriced. A company comes out with a wheel that is nearly the same as can be built with stock components, and they add $300 to the price of a comparable wheel. For example, MAVIC Helium clinchers were red, Open Pro, low spoke count rims/hubs that you can't buy, but are not substantially different than a 32 (or 28) wheel you could have built or build for $350 less. Campy doesn't sell 24 spoke hubs and rims, otherwise, you could build Nucleons and Electrons yourself at a far lower cost. No one would every consider paying someone $300 to build a set of wheels or $350 for a set of rims, but that effectively is what you pay when you buy something like this. On top of this, you can't get replacement parts (spokes, rims, hubs) except through the manufacturer's rebuild operation or at outrageous prices. Last I heard, 48 spokes for my Electrons would cost me $80+!

So, in order to get these chi-chi wheels, we end up paying through the nose and don't get much or any performance advantage. And please don't tell me about the quality of "factory built" wheels. Even ignoring the problems people have had with the factory wheels, you can't convince me that the boys in the factory are any better than a good bike shop or an experienced builder. If a good wheel can be built by a factory technician, given the same parts, I can build one too, perhaps a better one. And then, if I break a spoke, I can replace it. If I dent or crack a rim, I can replace it. I'm not dependent on UPS and a 3 week vacation from riding to get a spoke replaced. IMO, you'd be much better off buying or building wheels with stock parts.
Amen Kerry...Ahimsa
Oct 17, 2001 6:13 PM
I agree completely. I guess I just think that the word "boutique" attached to bicycle parts is inherently bad. I think of sponsored racer gear when I hear that word. Real world stuff is more durable and is easy to live with regarding repair/replacement.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being able to talk to the actual builder of your wheels. (Or better yet building them yourself as I am learning to do)

Factory schmactory.

I like Open Pros laced w/ Wheelsmith or DT spokes 32 to Ultegra hubs, and just had Salsa Delgado cross rims built on 105's for my daily.

Durable "build 'em and forget 'em" wheels are where it is at if you ask me. More time to ride and build up the legs, eh?

A. (I will say that my neighbor and sometime riding partner loves his Rolf Vectors, and I agree that they do seem trouble free, but he doesn't ride as much as I do)
Ditto...DINOSAUR
Oct 18, 2001 9:06 AM
I've learned the hard way, due to no fault but my own. I guess you could describe Rolf Vector Comps as "boutique" wheels. After three seasons of use and serving me well, the rear rim cracked. I can't find a replacement rear rim in the color red, I'll have to go with a blue rim and I'm lucky to have located that. I can't afford a new wheelset now. Trek no longer stocks their bikes with Rolf wheels, and I can't find a website to order a new Rolf front rim, even if it would be a newer model. These boutique wheels change from year to year and is a big factor when replacement is required for a part. Stick with wheels that have been around for awhile and forget about the weight factor. You might save money now but you will pay later.

Having wheels built by a wheelbuilder is a good idea. You can talk to him and he will build a wheel designed for your type of riding, roads, and body weight. Actually they are not that expensive. Don't fall into the marketing gimmick. Buy good solid stuff that has has been proven over the years. You will be happy you did and save money in the longrun....
sour grapes?deke
Oct 18, 2001 5:13 AM
I think this is a case of sour grapes. Electrons, at least the new design, are VERY strong wheels and relatively light. If lots of people are having problems with them, how come we haven't heard of them?

What you fail to mention though is that you have the very first version of Electrons (grey rim from 1998?) that was fraught with problems. Campy "climb-dynamic" wheels were re-designed the year following their introduction and only the Proton, which was discontinued and then brought back as a much cheaper version in 2001, has had more than one re-design (the newest verion is not worth getting, IMO). So the "change frequently" argument doesn't hold with Campy.

You also harp on parts availability. Yes relatively expensive, but they ARE readily available (you also never mention that mini-kits- all that you will ever need- can be had much cheaper at Branford) and a good LBS CAN repair them fairly quickly. Or you can do it yourself if you have the nutdriver- a $5 tool. No, it doesn't take 3 weeks to repair like you claim. And again, I've not heard of people having problems with these wheels anyway.

Now price is a personal matter... and I will not discount that point. I got a deal on my sets and couldn't be happier. Frankly, I am just tired of seeing you slag a good product with weak arguments every chance you get.
NOT sour grapes!Kerry Irons
Oct 18, 2001 5:03 PM
Sour grapes is bad mouthing something that you can't have anyway. The problems I've had with my wheels are not part of the issue, except that they point out why boutique wheels are overpriced and hard to maintain. I'm used to hubs that last far longer than rims, as any good hub should. The only way you can get one of these wheels rebuilt is at the factory or service center - you cannot buy rims or they are very hard to find/outrageously expensive. Likewise the spokes. I like a situation where I can have spare spokes and a rim in the basement - if I have a problem (including a cracked rim), I can build a new wheel in an evening and be back on the road without a pause.

Tell me about a factory wheel that offers that. In fact, you're typically looking at a few days shipping in each direction and a week in the factory shop. Throw in the weekends, and you're pushing three weeks every time, and that's if everything goes well. Tell me about a factory wheel that is in any real way better than a well-chosen and well built wheel with stock components.

I've got nearly 35K miles on my Electrons, with the rear rim replaced at 12K miles due to cracking at the spoke holes. Nearly all rims fail eventually, in my experience - that's not a problem, just a fact. When a rim fails again, I'll be faced with a very high cost factory replacement (out of warranty). No 4-spoke mini kit will solve that situation - it is NOT "all I will ever need'" I'll need a new rim and all new spokes, just like any time I rebuild a wheel. My alternative will be to throw away a perfectly good Record hub.

I'm not complaining about the quality of the Electron wheels. I'm complaining about the concept of a wheel where you can't get replacement parts, where you pay a lot more than the parts or the build would justify, and where you can't fully service it yourself. Just not a good balance, IMO.
Save your moneymr_spin
Oct 17, 2001 4:00 PM
I doubt you will find the Cosmos are much of an upgrade. Try to find someone or maybe a shop that has some and try them out before you buy.

Me, I'd wait, save up some money and have some Open Pros built. That would only cost you another $100-150. Even then, unless you went for some better hubs, it would be a negligible upgrade.

Or save even more and buy those Ksyriums from England for $450.
Open prosgrandemamou
Oct 17, 2001 5:49 PM
with double butted spokes alloy nipples and record/dura ace hubs. Mine are built up with record hubs and I weighed them along with a buddies Krysiums. Mine were 1 ounce heavier. We weighed them with tires michelin axial pros his had latex tubes and light weight rim strips mine had regular tubes and velox cotten rim strips. This alone probably accounted for my "heavier wheels". Imagine his suprise!! and mine were 500 bucks cheaper.
The best solution...Scott B.
Oct 17, 2001 6:10 PM
Last year I had a friend who wanted new wheels so rather than purchase pre-built wheels I offered to build him a set. Did I know how? Nope! Have the wheels held up? Rock solid. Take this oppurtunity to learn something useful, wheelbuilding. You could get a minoura truing stand for about $50 and a spoke wrench for $5. After building your own you will sit and wonder why shops charge so much to build em' for you.
Scott B
The best solution...Curtis
Oct 18, 2001 5:28 AM
I am REALLY looking forward to building my first set of wheels this winter. I am building up a raod bike for my best half and I will lace a set of hoops to the Sora hubs that I found for her. Great thing about it is I have all winter to get it right.
actually...>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Oct 18, 2001 6:16 AM
you have ONE RIDE to get it right.. if the wheels blow up on the first ride, you are in big trouble, mister!
Factory wheel naysayers!cyclequip
Oct 18, 2001 1:43 AM
There is something to be said for getting handbuilt wheels over 'boutique' wheels (as the detractor-owners call them). The saving is in money. The downside is in finding a good wheelbuilder. Irrespective of the comments in this thread, I've spent literally years hunting down SERIOUSLY COMPETENT wheelbuilders. I worked for years building Porsche cars for a living, and have been wheelbuilding for 6 years. I'm pretty good with my hands, but I still learn new wheel things each week, and can only look back at my earlier efforts and pray none of the wheels I mis-built hurt anyone. (No catastrophic failures YET).
Cycling is about the small things as much as the legs. The sealed bearings on the Cosmos are great - easy to adjust too, as are the straight-pull spokes (far less prone to failure) and so is the competent Mavic build-QC. Yes, handbuilts are better, but only if built by a master using the proper tooling. Otherwise have fun with your sport. Maybe that new driver don't hit the ball any further, but DAMN, it makes a fine sound!
re: Boutique wheels question...LI Biker
Oct 18, 2001 5:02 AM
Pick up a pair of, now discontinued, Heliums. They are light and strong. I am 6' 3" and 205 lbs. Have them for about 5,000 miles on a Trek 5200. The roads on Long Island are fair to good. I have not even trued them for over 3,000 miles. I had lots of problems with heavier, more "spoked" wheels prior to the Heliums.
Where on LI?mmaggi
Oct 18, 2001 7:34 AM
I ride on the North Shore in Nassau County.
PerspectiveBipedZed
Oct 18, 2001 6:26 AM
First things first - wheels alone will not make you faster. Period. A well built 32H 3X wheelset will be slightly heavier than factory wheels, but will cost much less.

That being said, a $1200 Jamis with Shimano Ultegra will offer pretty much the same performance as a Litespeed Vortex with Record, but cost at least 4 times less. Replacement parts for Ultegra are much more readily available from virtually any bike store over the more esoteric Record components. Yet many of us ride much more bike than we need. Why? Vanity and style. Factory or "boutique" wheels are all about style - they are a way to differentiate and trick out your bike beyond the very standard 3X wheels.

A few months ago I decided I'd had enough with factory wheelsets. Sure they were lighter but primarily they served a cosmetic function. I would no longer be a fancy pants with overly expensive wheels. I would build up my own set of Open Pro/Record 3X wheels and feel smug blasting past all those posers on fancy wheels with my classic, practical handbuilts. Did that. Now, a few months later, I can't wait to get my hands on a set of those cool Campy Eurus wheels.

As an aside, as far as replacement parts go, after 15000 miles on the road with factory wheels, I have yet to break a spoke or have any other catastrophic wheel failure.

Bottom line: Factory wheels will not make you faster, and they are overpriced for the performance, but so is pretty much everything in cycling. Get them because they are cool and make you want to ride.