a good set of wheels

Many bicycles, old or new, have original factory-equipment wheels that are mediocre at best. Fancy names on your parts are of little benefit if your wheels are constantly going out of true, breaking spokes, or flexing too much under load. On the other hand, a nice, well-built wheel set tends to give the bicycle a high-quality feel and inspires confidence.

Building bicycle wheels is a craft. The fundamental process can be taught in a few hours - it isn't magic or an "art" - but it takes hundreds of wheelbuilds, perhaps, before the process is internalized. It starts to feel like instinct, but I use technological tools, like spoke-tension meters, to keep myself honest. The result of this combination of experience and technology is a dependable set of wheels that will last, with minimal maintenance and adjustment, until your brake pads wear through the rims after tens of thousands of hard miles.

Aside from the obvious quality advantages of good handbuilt wheels, another reason to order a custom wheelset is to match the appropriate rim and hub to your needs. Often, we have needs for something just a little weird, and we can't buy it off the shelf. Need a generator wheel with 40 spokes? Want to try a 650B fixed-gear? How about putting nice new rims on your 1972 10-speed bike with 120 mm hub spacing? You simply can't order the appropriate wheels from QBP or anywhere else. They have to be made-to-order.


Materials:

I use a wide variety of hubs and rims that I feel are sufficiently high-quality. I tend to shy away from hubs and rims that have a proprietary design that limits inter-compatibility or future serviceability. I use Wheelsmith stainless spokes, primarily because Wheelsmith spokes are available to me through my usual sources in bulk quantities at reasonable prices, and because Wheelsmith spokes have always impressed me with their quality and consistency. I usually recommend 14g spokes (2.0 mm thickness), but when it's desirable to save a little weight I will use 14/15g double-butted (thinner 1.8 mm center section) spokes, which cost a little more. Wheelsmith spokes and nipples are available in shiny silver or black. Black costs more.

I use a variety of rims and hubs, but have a few favorites that I use again and again. Scroll down to the wheel packages sections for details of some of my favorite combinations.

Wheel Packages

If you are ordering a set of wheels from me, the rim/hub/spoke combinations are many, and I can work with you to make sure you get the correct wheels for your needs and budget. Please call or email to discuss options for your specific situation. If it's weird, I've probably done it, so no need to worry if you don't see a suitable option in the list below - please call. Over time, I have developed some go-to wheel packages for most applications. Here are a few (all prices are close estimates, which may not be accurate to the penny):

Economical 700C and 26" wheels:
For upgrading older steel road bikes from 5/6/7sp freewheel hubs to 8/9sp cassette hubs (may require re-spacing the frame from 120 or 126 mm to 130 mm) or for upgrading cheesy factory wheels on more modern bikes that can clear a tire that is 28 mm or wider.
Hubs: Shimano Tiagra
Rims: Salsa Delgado Cross 700C
Spokes: Wheelsmith 14g silver

Rear wheel price: $170
Front wheel price: $150
Wheel set price: $280


For touring bikes, mountain bikes, cross bikes, hybrids, and other 700C bikes that have a 135 mm rear end.
Hubs: Shimano Deore
700C Rims: Alex DM18 (silver) or Alex Adventurer (black) 700C
26" rims: Alex Adventurer or Sun Rhyno Lite
Spokes: Wheelsmith 14g silver

Rear wheel price: $170
Front wheel price: $150
Wheel set price: $280


Fancier 700C  and 26" wheels:


For upgrading older steel road bikes from 5/6/7sp freewheel hubs to 8/9sp cassette hubs (may require re-spacing the frame from 120 or 126 mm to 130 mm) or for replacing cheesy factory wheels on more modern 8/9sp bikes where light weight is a priority.
Hubs: Shimano Tiagra
700C Rims: Velocity Aerohead or Mavic Open Pro (add $10/wheel) 700C
Spokes: Wheelsmith 14/15g

Rear wheel price: $210
Front wheel price: $190
Wheel set price: $380


For upgrading older steel road bikes from 5/6/7sp freewheel hubs to 9/10sp cassette hubs (may require re-spacing the frame from 120 or 126 mm to 130 mm) or for replacing cheesy factory wheels on more modern 9/10sp bikes where light weight is a priority.
Hubs: Shimano Ultegra 6700
Rims: Velocity Aerohead 700C or Mavic Open Pro 700C (add $10/wheel for Mavic)
Spokes: Wheelsmith 14/15g

Rear wheel price: $290
Front wheel price: $250
Wheel set price: $510


For touring bikes, cross bikes, hybrids, and other 700C bikes that have a 135 mm rear end.
Hubs: Shimano Deore or LX or XT, depending on availability; price below is for XT
700C Rims: Velocity Dyad 700C
26" Rims: Velocity Aeroheat 26" Spokes: Wheelsmith 14/15g

Rear wheel price: $230
Front wheel price: $200
Wheel set price: $410


Wheels with Phil Wood freewheel hubs:
Phil Wood freewheel hubs are available in 120, 126, 130, and 135 mm spacings, so you can match your bike without having to re-space your frame.

road/lightweight:
Hubs: Phil Wood road freewheel
Rims: Velocity Aerohead 700C
Spokes: Wheelsmith 14/15g

Rear wheel price: $300
Front wheel price: $280
Wheel set price: $560

touring/commuting:
Hubs: Phil Wood touring freewheel
Rims: Velocity Dyad 700C
Spokes: Wheelsmith 14/15g

Rear wheel price: $300
Front wheel price: $280
Wheel set price: $560

Wheels with White Industries cassette hubs:
For premium quality cassette hubs, I like White Industries hubs. For road bikes, WI makes the T11. For mountain bikes and touring bikes, you probably need the MI5 (non-disc) or MI6 (disc brake).
road/lightweight:
Hubs: White Industries T11 road cassette
Rims: Velocity Aerohead 700C
Spokes: Wheelsmith 14/15g

Rear wheel price: $440
Front wheel price: $270
Wheel set price: $690

touring/commuting:
Hubs: White Industries MI5 or MI6 steel freehub:
Rims: Velocity Dyad 700C or Aeroheat 26"
Spokes: Wheelsmith 14/15g

Rear wheel price: $410
Front wheel price: $270
Wheel set price: $660
(Ti freehub option, add $30)

super-heavy touring and tandem, 40h or 48h:
Hubs: White Industries MI5 or MI6 steel freehub.
Rims: Velocity Dyad 700C or Aeroheat 26"
Spokes: Wheelsmith 14/15g

Rear wheel price: $430
Front wheel price: $300
Wheel set price: $710
(Ti freehub option, add $30)