Some rims and hubs are kept in stock but with such a variety out there, they are often ordered specifically for a set. A range of different types of spokes are kept in stock that these parts are then laced with although sometimes they have to be ordered as well. Please use the contact facility if you want a quote on a particular wheelset. You can also send parts to be laced together.
Below is a slightly modified Introduction from Bicycle Wheelbuilding: The Manual which is available to purchase here http://www.dcrwheels.co.uk/ebook-2/
As a result the Introduction heavily references the book. Some of the chapters referenced are partly available to view on this site although they have been extended and improved for the book.
Hub selection principally involves three key factors: function, price and aesthetic. Is weight a factor? What about strength? Gear suitability? Brake suitability? Selection of colour and profiles of parts can also be aesthetic considerations. Normally when it comes to balancing weight, strength and price you can roughly pick two, so you can have a strong light part, but it will be expensive or it can be strong and cheap but it will be heavy or light and cheap but it will be weak. Making strong wheels is addressed in chapter 16 of Bicycle Wheelbuilding – The Manual (BWTM), which is available to purchase here. Making light wheels is addressed in chapter 17 (BWTM).
Rear hubs come with four types of gearing options. Single speed (fixed or freewheel), screw on freewheel with gears, freehub and cassette or internal gears. The most common is freehub and cassette, most common of that is an 8 speed freehub which can also take 9 and normally 10 speed cassettes as well. However, there is a growing popularity for internal gears. Traditionally these would have been Sturmey Archer and these are still available today in a range of models. However manufacturers like Sram and Shimano now make their own versions. Many of these still come with traditional drum or back pedal brakes although modern versions are available with up to 14 gears and disc brake compatibility. Gears are addressed in chapter 9 (BWTM). High end internally geared hubs are addressed in chapter 11 (BWTM).
The most important aspect of hub selection whether the hub is compatibility with the sort of bicycle you are working with. There a number of different interfaces so they need to match up. With mountain bike (MTB) hubs you can have quick release or thru axles on the front. Thru axles come in two sizes 15mm and 20mm. There is variation in rear end spacing and interface as well. Generally wider rear spacing and bigger front axles are used to make the wheel stronger and as such are used on more aggressive off road applications. These methods are discussed in chapter 16 (BWTM).
Road spacing is typically 130mm, older versions were 126mm and touring is generally 135mm along with standard MTB hubs. Fixed gear and single speed road wheels are normally 120mm spacing and require horizontal or forward facing frame ends to adjust chain tension. Fixed gear and single speed road hubs normally come with nutted axles rather than quick release skewers to prevent the wheel from slipping. Bicycles with vertical dropouts are better for quick release versions as horizontal frame ends are more prone to wheel slip. Forward facing frames ends can be comfortably run with either. Steel frames can be pulled or pushed by about 5mm without any problems. So you can put a 135mm hub in a 130mm spaced steel frame without concern. However you should avoid running 135mm hubs in 126mm frames. Equally, avoid running 120mm hubs in 130mm frames. If you go beyond the 5mm recommendation steel frames need to be professionally re-spaced. Aluminium and carbon fibre frames cannot be respaced. There are different interfaces for fitting different gear types. See chapter 9 (BWTM) for details on this.
There are two types of disc brake mounting used on hubs. 6 bolt international standard and center lock. It is possible to get center lock adapters to run 6 bolt disc rotors. Drum and back pedal brakes normally require fittings on the frame for their installation.
Most people when choosing a hub want to avoid failure as a high priority. When it comes to saving weight in a wheel the hub is the least important element because of its low rotational weight which is worth considering when shaving off a few grams. Normally when hubs fail it is because of bearing wear or an axle snapping. Bearing wear is likely to be particularly pronounced if these are improperly serviced and is accelerated by impacts and heavy weight. Bearings will probably be the first component to fail if disc brakes are used or if rim brakes are used on high mileage riding with minimal braking – for example in flat, rural terrain. There is more information on high end hubs and their features in chapter 8 (BWTM). Dynamo hubs which generate electricity are discussed in chapter 10 (BWTM) and bearings in chapter 12 (BWTM).
Interesting manufacturers of hubs
Shimano offer good value road and MTB hubs and are an excellent starting point. They offer fairly generic products at benchmark prices. Novatec make some versatile economical road hubs in a wide variety of hole counts and are lighter than shimano. Hope offer some more exotic hubs, boasting improved alloys, freehub body engagement, versatility, colour availability, hole counts and so forth. Their hubs are focused more around the MTB market than road where their versatility is a great advantage. They are able to run with quick release, 15mm and 20mm thru axles without changing the hub. Royce is a nice boutique choice for a quality road or touring hub. They do make a disc hub as well, but it is only available in quick release. Their hubs are available in different axle lengths, hole counts and freehub versions. There are also different shell sizes to match different functions. The titanium axles come with a lifetime warranty making them a popular choice for high mileage riders. Chris King offers some of the strongest and lightest hubs on the market, all coming with a 5 year warranty. There are variations in hole count, colour, freehub body and axle length. Road specific hubs are available. DT offer a range of high end hubs at high end prices. The 190s hub is exceptionally light, comes with ceramic bearings and the front hub can be laced radially (rim brake only). The 240s is the more economically priced version but is based on the design of the 190s hub. There are a huge range of other hubs with many other features at various price points and specialities. High end hubs are discussed in chapter 9 (BWTM).
Careful spoke selection can be an easy way to boost strength and/or save weight in a wheelset. Good spokes are unlikely to fail unless the build quality is low. There are comparatively few spoke manufacturers out there making selection easier. Spoke selection based on spoke type is addressed in chapter 5 (BWTM). Spoke manufacturers are addressed in chapter 7 (BWTM). Sils alloy and other nipples are discussed in chapter 6 (BWTM).
Rims come in different diameters depths and widths.
Other variables are:
- hole number/count (this needs to match your hub)
- profile of the rim
- material it is made from
- type of tyre: clincher or tubular
My most commonly used rim manufacturers are Alex, Ambrosio, DT, Exal, Kinlin, Mavic, Rigida and Sun Ringle. Rigida rims are an economical solution; they are strong but normally quite heavy. Mavic offer some well priced, good quality rims although they are a lower tension rim than most other manufacturers which can make them inappropriate. DT rims are good quality options for road and MTB applications. Ambrosio offer an excellent selection of elegant and good quality tubular and clincher rims for the performance road market. The Ambrosio Excellight is a light weight, double walled, double eyeleted rim, ideally suited to fast road use. The Excellence is a heavier version of the same rim with a slightly different profile, ideally suited to applications where endurance is more important. The FCS28 is an aero rim. This rim tapers to a fine point because the nipple is supported internally within the rim. The Ambrosio Chrono is an exceptionally light and classic looking tubular rim and the Nemesis is a heavier and tougher tubular rim. Tubular and clincher rims are discussed in chapter 16 (BWTM).
When it comes to 700c touring rims, the market is a little limited. Rims normally jump between 13-15mm internal for road racing applications, to 19mm internals for 29er, trekking or cyclocross applications. Touring rims are ideally 17mm internal. This means you can run down to a 25c tyre comfortably or up to 37c. It is possible to push these boundaries further, but it makes sense to select a rim that holds the range you require comfortably. If you are looking for a 17mm internal rim, there are three obvious options to choose from. The Alesa Endeavour was a favourite among touring cyclists but Alesa has now gone bankrupt. Part of their equipment was purchased by Rigida (where the Exal brand was also established). Rigida and Exal hold a lot of the touring market now. The Exal LX17 is an attractive box section, double walled, double eyeleted rim weighing 565g. Rigida offer the Snyper which is a double walled, single eyeleted version weighing 500g. Ambrosio also offer a double walled single eyeleted version called ‘The Frog’. Eyelets are discussed in chapter 14 (BWTM).
For vintage applications, wooden rims can still be sourced from Ghisallo. These are an interesting selection; they can compete well on weight and look brilliant; they are rarely used now. Wooden rims are discussed in chapter 21 (BWTM). Performance road and now performance MTB wheels are increasingly using Carbon Fibre rims. DT Swiss manufactures some excellent carbon fibre MTB rims and Zipp are particularly popular in the road market. Aluminium and Carbon fibre rims are discussed in chapter 20 (BWTM).