If it involves pedalling then I'm probably into it…
Pro spec road wheels for half the price
October 2, 2013Posted by on
Whilst I didn’t actually need another set of road wheels, I’ve always fancied some that were at least a little bit aero. Obviously I’d love some deep section carbon rimmed models, but I can’t really justify the cost. And so my quest to balance weight, performance and cost began. If you’re new to wheel building then you might want to read the previous post encouraging you to give it a go.
Warning: if you’re not in the least bit interested in bicycle wheels, then you may find this post a little bit dull.
I wanted some wheels that were under 1500g without skewers, a rim depth great enough to hopefully provide some aero advantage and a total cost of under £300. I knew that deeper aluminium rims would weigh more, but that could be offset by running fewer spokes due to the increased rim strength. I’m struggling to stay at 80kg so was reluctant to go for the popular 20/24 spoke count. Having been forced to carry my bike home after snapping spokes on my 16/20 Shimano RS80’s before I wanted a wheel that would still function with a spoke out. I settled on 24/28 as a safe compromise and started buying components. One benefit to building your own wheels is that you can spread the cost by buying components whenever you have the money.
Having previously discovered and road tested the 288g BT12 hubs from an Ebay seller for £75 for a previous build, I was more than willing to go with them again. I did have a panic with my first pair after 1100 miles when the rear hub developed an alarming cracking sound that sounded like my carbon frame was about to snap. Having finally worked out how to get into them (take the skewer out and stick an allen key in each end – so obvious I didn’t notice!) I gave them a quick clean and a regrease and they’re like new again.
The rim of choice?
After much research, I stumbled across the TSR 27 from a company called Tune, featuring a rim depth of 27mm, (only) available in 24/28 holes and £33 pounds online from Germany. The site claimed they were “about 430g” which sounded amazing, so I was slightly gutted when they weighed out at 455g each. Still, they’re deeper, lighter and cheaper than Mavic’s popular CXP33 and I liked the understated lack of logo’s. Tune themselves sell a wheelset with these rims on for over £500 and it gets specced on bikes costing £4500, so I was surprised to pick them up so cheap. Also under consideration was the IRD cadence Aero, but the only UK distributer I could find ran out of stock when I had the money…
Bit of a no-brainer, but for lightweight and aero I don’t know of anything better than the Sapim CX-Ray. I also really like building with them, as despite being a two handed job, it’s impossible to get in a mess with spoke wind-up. These spokes are brilliant but unfortunately the most expensive components of the wheel build, especially in black. The best place I’ve found is here. I opted for matching black aluminium nipples for an all black sleek looking wheelset (it seems that looks matter to me and my wheels…)
I’d only ever built with the double eye-letted Mavic Open Pro’s before, so I initially fell for the trap of half lacing the wheel then dropping a nipple in the rim and having to unlace it all to get it out. I ended up using an old spoke to poke the nipple through the rim without losing it (are any non-wheelbuilders still reading at this point?) I thought that less spokes might make the build harder, but I had them trued, tensioned and stressed fairly easily. I’d also decided to try VeloPlugs instead of my usual Velox tape (saving a few more grams…) though I also ran a layer of standard insulation tape over them to prevent the chance of losing any plugs in a roadside repair. I like to easily see some coloured rim tape before pumping a tyre up to 110psi so I know I haven’t pinched the tube.
I like these wheels – they look great and weigh 1471g without skewers (+44g with my Planet X favourites) and came in under my £300 budget. By comparision, Shimano Dura Ace wheels cost over twice as much, aren’t as aero/deep but do weigh 90g less. Obviously the Dura Ace wheelset has more kudos and is ridden by pro riders, but for the money and extra 90g I’ll go with my self built efforts. If a spoke snaps I can still ride home (no following team car for me) and a new spoke costs £2 instead of £10 with a lengthy wait from Madison. I wisely ordered an extra spoke for each length just in case. Also, when I wear the rim down I can buy a new one for £33, whereas it is not even financially viable to re-rim a high end Shimano wheel, you’d have bought a very expensive wheel with a limited life span.
So how do they ride? Great! I’m not sure how much faster they feel over my Open Pro wheels, but (in my head) they feel quick. They feel nice and stiff with no noticeable brake rub when going hard out of the saddle and I’d recommend them to anyone looking to build some good wheels on a budget.
The only problem I now have is finding a decent reason to build my next set of wheels…