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Individual MTB Wheel Construction

Have you ever thought about building your own MTB wheelset? We’ll give you ten reasons to build your own custom wheelset.

The market for system wheelsets or prefabricated wheels for MTB is huge and covers a wide range of options. We at bc offer our own Loamer wheels – now in the brand-new second generation MK 2. From renowned manufacturers such as DT Swiss, Mavic or Shimano there are wheelsets to suit (almost) every taste. These days, a rich selection is now also available for E-mountain bikes. With that said, we’re going to give you ten reasons why a custom wheel can still be just right for you and your bike.

1. You want to build a unique “concept” bike

Here at bc, we love projects of all kinds. Custom bikes regularly grace our social channels on Instagram and Facebook. For example, do you also want to have a personalised colour concept from top to bottom? Then you'll love Hope hubs, which are available in a wide range of anodised colours, which also perfectly match the control sets from the same brand. Or are you planning a bike exclusively with "Made in Europe” components? Then you ought to consider Tune hubs, Sapim spokes and Syntace rims. There are almost no limits to your imagination and love of detail, especially with wheels.

2. You want to adapt your bike to your riding style or terrain

Highly-experienced or particularly ambitious mountain bikers develop special requirements for their gear over time, which off-the-shelf products cannot always fulfill. In this case, "customisation" is the answer. Let’s take a look at three examples: a) do you want to use your XC full-suspension bike in competition and on your hometown trails? A pure-bred lightweight wheelset is then just as out of the question as stable enduro wheels. One possible custom solution: combine a lightweight 28-hole carbon rim with wide jaw width with two different types of spokes for the perfect down-country wheelset. It’s light on the non-drive side where the shallow spoke angle provides plenty of support, and more stable on the drive side. b) Do you adhere to the motto "precision in the front, hang loose in the back"? Then you should consider a custom wheelset with two different rims. Stiff in the front, controlled flex in the rear like the Zipp 3ZERO MOTO.
c) Do you enjoy technical uphill riding or do you love hairpin turns downhill? Combine lightweight rims with a hub with the lowest possible release angles. This way you have perfect traction and minimal free travel during important pedal kicks.

3. The wheel you’re looking for doesn’t exist

We are very proud of our wide selection, but there are some products just don't exist yet on the market. Bikepacking wheelsets are a good example. Does that sounds like marketing buzz? Well, it’s actually not. Crossover is a huge topic in the world of biking. Many people use their bikes for everyday life, sports and travel, all the more so since modern bikepacking bags combine multi-day tours with technically-demanding biking. So what does this have to do with wheels? It's simple: a hub dynamo out front as a power source, a rear hub as robust as possible and asymmetric rims that allow you to carry a maximum of two spoke lengths as spares. The result is the perfect adventure wheelset, which is guaranteed to be anything but off-the-rack, and which will perform perfectly on your daily commute.

4. You appreciate simplified technology and spare parts

Not every innovation works for every user. System wheelsets, for example, often use proprietary solutions or parts to create or combine specific characteristics. This can be a technical advantage, but it also has its disadvantages. When it comes to spare parts, such as straight pull spokes--which eliminate the potential weakness brought on by spoke bends--make quick repairs on the trail difficult and, unlike J-shaped spokes, are not available everywhere. Another example that polarizes mountain bikers is center lock technology, which connects the brake disc and hub using a multi-tooth mount rather than six bolts each. However, many modern system wheelsets come exclusively with center lock mounts for weight reasons and because of its foolproof mounting capability. On the other hand, this limits your choices in terms of brake discs and also makes repairs on the trail and emergency replacements more difficult. If finding spare parts and performing repairs easily are more important to you than counting grams or having the latest technology, then a custom wheelset with simple but effective parts promises long-term satisfaction.

5. You break everything

Did your line decision come at the sacrifice of a few spokes? Did your sudden drop to flat ground kill your rim? Your bike’s standard-issue wheelset probably can’t survive all that. If you tend to be rough on your stuff, it’s a good idea to build your own “bulletproof” wheelset! A strong rim like the DT Swiss HX 531, 36 sturdy and triple-butted large diameter round spokes such as DT Swiss Alpine III, and a hub with a robust disc freehub like the DT Swiss 350 Classic is a combination that could keep you happy for years to come. And, if you ever overdo it again on the trail, you’ll be comfortable with the knowledge that your wheel can be easily repaired. By the way: this also applies to E-bikers!

6. You're on a budget

If you've mastered the art of wheel building and compromise in equal measure, you can often save money with a custom wheel. Under the carbon category in particular, many manufacturers combine only the best that their product range has to offer. This leads to outstandingly lightweight-yet-stiff and stable wheelsets – and often to prices exceeding well above the 2,000 euro mark. If you build your custom wheel around a lightweight carbon rim such as the Newmen Advanced SL A.30 Disc, but rely on comparatively inexpensive hubs like the tried-and-true Shimano XT series and solid spokes such as Sapim's Race (incl. nipples), you can get an exclusive carbon wheel for as little as 1,000 euros and still enjoy most of the benefits of a high-tech material. Because a 100 gram lighter rim changes the moment of inertia much more than equal weight-savings at the hub – at the centre of rotational movement. If you really want to save on money, go for a simpler alloy rim and create a solid custom wheelset at around 300 euros – just know not to expect high-tech functionality at this price. How can we offer our bc original Loamer wheels at such a low price and achieve a sensational total weight of 1,740 grams (29-inch set) with a robust ratchet freehub? Well, that’s our secret!

7. You ride “mullet”

Riding “mullet” is a revelation to some mountain bikers. At the front wheel, you’ve got superior roll-over and excellent cornering traction with a 29”, and at the rear you’ve got stiffer and more agile handling with a 27.5”. Unfortunately, not many factory system wheelsets are currently available with this configuration – or have the option of buying the front and rear wheels separately. We may sound like a broken record at this point, but still: the bc original Loamer Mullet comes immediately to mind. Another alternative: invest in a custom build. That way you can ride "front big, back small," and also use different rims whenever you want, thus taking advantage of the potential from different wheel sizes. How about 29 x 2.5 inches on a 30” rim in the front, 27.5 x 2.8 inches on a 35” rim in the rear? "Full speed ahead!"

8. Your riding style can’t be put in a box

Mountain biking is a great sport for all people. However, manufacturers usually design their products for "average people" for good reasons. Meaning: not for mediocre riders, but for people whose body measurements are close to a targeted average. While this method of production may seem sensible, for some bikers, the lack of variety leaves them puzzled. While particularly lightweight bikers (and female bikers) often do not need the stability reserves of standard products at all, very strong, heavy or large people just as often push them to their limits. Again, a custom wheel is a great option. While lighter people might mix components from both road and MTB categories, powerhouses and heavyweights are more likely to go for more bulletproof options: heavy-duty rims, high spoke count, and hubs with few engagement points and massive pawls.

9. You’re a tinkerer

For some people, working with their hands is an exercise in relaxation. Maybe almost meditative. Others want to understand the technology they use in the literal sense – either to be able to perform maintenance themselves, or simply out of deep-rooted interest. For both groups, building wheels by hand is just the thing to do. It almost doesn't matter if the wheel is improved or made cheaper. It's about the process of building itself. Besides, we can promise that once you start, you'll soon find yourself building wheels for friends. We talk about the basics and give you more background in our guide, "The basics of custom wheel building". 

10. Only the best is good enough for you

Planning a bike that makes the specs of a Specialized S-Works look old-fashioned? Do you live in an architectural masterpiece, where every piece of furniture is hand-picked? Is your bike is an expression of your personality? Then you know what you have to do. How about Zipp rims on Sapim CX-Ray and Chris King Iso? No? Would you rather a Dresden Beast rim on DT Swiss Revolution spokes and 180 Boost hubs? The sky is the limit!

Digression:

Inserting spokes into a carbon rim? Always use a tension meter!

Carbon is a fantastic rim material: light, stable and, thanks to individual fibre layouts, with very specific properties that no other material can match. When building a wheel with a carbon rim yourself, however, you should exercise caution and be sure to use a tension meter. This way you avoid damage and, in extreme cases, breakage due to excessive spoke tension and achieve exactly the properties you want.

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