Tag Archives: wheel building

Some recommendations for MTB wheel builds…

Just thought I’d put some thoughts down on wheel builds for XC/trail/all mountain. Hopefully this’ll be useful if you either build your own or you want a set built for you but you’re not sure what to go for.

Being upfront about things, Chasing Trails offers a no-compromise MTB wheel building service, so feel free to get in touch from the contact page on the main site if you’re interested.

Anyway, to components:

Hubs

I reckon from a few angles you can’t go wrong with Hope Pro 2 Evo hubs. Quality is great & has been for ages. The original Pro 2’s had occasional issues but it was all sorted pretty quick. If you like to keep the weight down they’re one of the lightest that can be relied on. They come in shiny colours, although for myself I tend to go for black… The noise the freehub makes does annoy some, but I like it, you can hear that it’s working! The EVO versions which have been out for a while now are also fairly easily convertible to the different axle standards, so if you relplace a frame or fork you don’t need to replace the hub. And Hope genuinely have after-sales service that you’d struggle to beat anywhere.

The design is well thought out – they start with a forging that’s the aproximate shape & CNC machine it so you end up with a strong but precise shell. The bearings are stainless cartridge units. So far I’ve never needed to replace a Hope bearing on my own bikes. Maybe good luck, but it’s worth mentioning. I never jetwash the bike though. Dalby & Peak District grit seems to have no effect on them.

Rims

I used nothing but Mavic for years. They always seemed plenty strong for the weight/price. I still like them, but in the last couple of years I’ve been using Stans NoTubes. They come in at similar-ish weights as the Mavic equivalents with a few lighter/stupidly light models as well. The advantages over Mavic is that they’re wider for a given weight, meaning if you like larger tyres (and why wouldn’t you..) you’ll get away with bigger tyres & better profiles with the Stans. Most rims can be bodged into running tubeless, but the Stans can be set up for UST as well as running many standard tyres tubeless with just the correct valve & rim tape.

I’ve had a pair of white ZTR Flows on the Five for about a year & they’ve not needed re-truing so far. Having said that, most half decent rims built well won’t need truing too often, but these have done repeated 4-5 foot drops to flat-ish.

Personally I’d avoid the models with a rider weight limit unless they’re specifically for racing, but the Crest comes in at 340g with no set limit if you want lightweight XC rims.

The ‘catch’ is price. I think they’re worth it, but they do come in at £70 – £80 each RRP.

Spokes

Not much to say except use something decent, so in my opinion that means Sapim or DT. Sapim have the edge IMO without costing any more & if you must have alloy nipples theirs are definitely the best. I use brass for myself.Sapim CX-Ray spokes in black

If you’re going for a decent set of wheels but you want to keep the cost down, the double butted Sapim Race are the ones to go for. On the other hand, if you want to keep the weight as low as possible, the CX-Rays are the ultimate. They’re plenty strong enough for XC/all mountain but will shed a few more grams. They’re also a bladed design so are more aerodynamic, psycologically at least…

Hope that gives you a bit of a start if you’re looking for a wheel upgrade or replacement & feel free to get in touch if you want a top quality build or you want to learn.

2 really useful wheel building tools

Better tools for wheel builds

This post is a review of useful tools rather than a wheel building tutorial!

Cyclus 720158 Spoke Nipple Driver

You can build wheels without a nipple driver but it’s a lot more fiddly & will take longer. Most nipple drivers look like a screwdriver with a bent shaft. That kind is a hand tool & usually costs about the same as, or sometimes less than, the Cyclus one being reviewed, which is about £25. Anyway, I like this particular tool for a few reasons. It’s a bit quicker (& less tiring!) to use than a hand tool & the quality seems good. More importantly though, if the spoke lengths you’re using aren’t exactly precise (chances are they won’t be), the pin is adjustable for depth so you can still get the tensions fairly accurate.

Once you get the feel of using the tool you’ll often find that the wheel starts fairly true just from the initial tensioning before you do the final finishing off with the spoke wrench.

So far I’ve built about 4 or 5 pairs of wheels with this particular tool as well as being used on a couple of wheel building courses. There’s been no damage or wear so far despite the fact that nipple drivers work by essentially slipping out of the slot in the nipple when the pin hits the end of the spoke.

So, if you know how to build wheels & you know what a nipple driver does, this one is a good one. That’s about it!

Cyclus (720037) / Sapim Nipple Grip

This one is sold under the Cyclus name as well as Sapim & possibly others. It’s less ‘essential’ than the other on, but it does speed things up & all but prevents the annoyance of a spoke nipple dropping inside the wheel rim. The wire loop just grips the nipple so you can thread it onto the spoke nice & easily. Where it gets more vital is if you’re building wheels with deep section rims. It might seem a bit pricey for what it is at £15 or £16, but I’m guessing they don’t sell in huge numbers.

Having used one for a good while now I’d not want to be without it. Apart from a bit of extra speed, anything that helps keep a bit of a routine & order to wheel building is a good thing. The wire loops are held in with a grub screw & spares are available, but mine hasn’t needed any yet & doesn’t show any signs of getting tired.

Spoke keys or wrenches

No need for a full review of these, but if you’re after a spoke wrench for workshop type use you really want one that grips the spoke nipples with as much support as possible. Good ones include the Sapim which is my choice. It grips all 4 sides with a diamond arrangement; Park do some good ones but spend the couple of quid more to get the ‘4 sided’ type. The cheaper ones just have a ‘u’ profile which has more risk of rounding off the nipples; The one by Newton, also sold as Wrench Force is a multi-size design which grips on 4 sides the same as the Park. I also use this, but these days I tend to leave it in my Camelback as the multi-size design means I won’t get caught out if someone on a skills course or guided ride needs a wheel sorting.