6.12.2014

One more reason for custom-built wheels: stop reinventing the wheel

There's a lot of good reasons to buy custom-built bicycle wheels, and the below video by Art's Cyclery I stumbled across this week pretty much nailed the biggest reasons:



Art's points out three main reasons to go custom: ability to tune and balance the wheel's characteristics through component selection; the ability to build a stronger, higher spoke count wheel; and value, citing that custom wheels often are less expensive than their prebuilt counterparts.

Beyond the reasons listed, there is one key reason not addressed: serviceability.

As a society, we've gotten okay with the idea of planned obsolescence and disposable products. At least I know I have. I don't bother to upgrade or repair my computer anymore. I use it for a few years, and when I break the screen or a hard drive fails, I figure I'm about due for a new laptop anyway. Finding parts for a 5-year-old MacBook isn't easy, after all.

The same applies to bike components. Manufacturers often offer replacement parts for 5 years, or sometimes even less. Some components are not user serviceable, and others just aren't serviceable, period.

For the elite rider and the professional athlete who are being given the latest product for free or at a deeply discounted rate, this is never an issue. Those wheels don't need to last 5-plus years, whereas the average recreational rider and amateur racer is going keep that set of wheels at least a few years, if not longer.

So what happens when a handlebar goes into a wheel and breaks one of those proprietary aluminum spokes at a local non-sanctioned 'cross race? You may be able to order a replacement spoke, which will likely take a week or two to arrive. Or, the spoke may not be available at all, depending how long the manufacturer chooses to support their components.

Now, it's unrealistic to think that a manufacturer can support every product they've ever made for all eternity. But, going with a custom wheel build with traditional, non-proprietary spokes, and standard brass or alloy nipples, you stand a fighting chance of that wheel being serviceable 5, 10 or even 20 years down the road.

After all, you know what they say about reinventing the wheel.   

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