The Mountain Bike Life
The one place on the bike that is most important for weight reduction is the wheelset. This is also the single most expensive upgrade you can purchase short of a new fork. Lightweight wheelsets range from $400-2000 and can be made from some pretty exotic materials. About the only way to get the cost down a little bit is to order all the parts yourself and lace them up in your basement. This is not for the faint of heart and I will take you through the process of getting all the parts to do it. Next week I will walk through putting them together. I am no expert wheel builder, but I have done enough sets to have a few tips for assembly.
The new wheel and hub.

First thing you need to decide on is a budget. Seriously the sky is the limit here so pick a number and stick to it. I tried to stay as close to $400 as possible and I think I may have even came in a nick under that number. Once you decide how much you are going to empty your wallet you need to pick a target weight and use for you wheelset. What I mean by “use” is are these going to be trail wheels, road only, wall candy or downhill? You can put together some pretty light wheels that will break the first log you go over. Conversely it is possible to build some indestructible wheels, but they may weigh a metric ton. On a downhill bike durability is what matters so, this may actually be your goal. Either way pick your parameters and stick to it.

For my 650b I wanted a wheelset under 1500 grams and around $400 with and be able to trail ride them. Right off the bat this makes some decisions for me. My budget doesn’t allow for carbon, so just stop looking at them no matter how cool they look. I probably can’t get name brand Hope, Chris King, DT Swiss or XTR hubs, but I need something lightweight. Since I plan to ride trails I will need a wider rim and some durability. Here is where I need to spend the majority of my budget. Finally I settled on Stans hoops for a good price and decent weight. I have to say I am very happy with that selection.

As for the hubs I will admit I cheaped out a little bit, but there is some logic to my madness. carries a brand called Rotaz. Never heard of it? Yeah neither have I. However you probably have ridden on their hubs before. Rotaz is just a name slapped on an OEM part. As near as I can figure Stans and a couple of other wheelset makers use these hubs with there name on them. The great part is the price is right and the weight is close to Hope or DT Swiss hubs. So I figured I would give them a try. Why not right?

My spoke calculations and tools for assembly

Last piece to this puzzle you will need are the spokes and nipples. To get the right length this site makes calculating it easy. The trick is getting the correct dimension from your prospective new rims and hubs. Usually the sites selling rims and hubs list all the needed numbers to plug into this calculator. If not usually google can find them for you. In my next post I will discuss the types of lacing patterns and how to put it all together. Just like hubs you can spend a small fortune here on spokes. Spoke range from lightweight fragile to heavy and indestructible. The problem with the ultra light spokes is they can be easily damaged when lacing the wheels if you are a novice……like me. I picked and middle range spoke that is durable, but not too heavy.

Rear loosely put together, but not tensioned

Once I got all my parts I tossed them on the scale and I was actually quite pleased. Total weight for the complete set of wheels with skewers was 1500 grams flat. For a nick under $400 that isn’t too shabby. Now I just have to finish puting it all together.

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