Most riders – us included – ride through winter on affordable wheelsets from established manufacturers with few problems – so why opt for handbuilt hoops?
“A handbuilt wheel is an investment, but it will see you through winter after winter, if you’re prepared to replace the parts,” says Andy Phillips, mechanic and wheel builder at Ride, an independent bike shop in Poole, Dorset.
Phillips says while companies like Mavic and Fulcrum make good, cheap wheels with serviceable hubs, the expense of replacing a worn rim can make it more cost-effective to replace the entire wheel, if the hub is also worn.
Off-the-shelf winter wheelsets are generally considered to be those at the bottom end of the market, heavier and, as a result, thought to be more durable than more expensive models, but Ben Sharp says a winter wheelset which leaves the Strada Handbuilt Wheels workshop differs in that it has been built specifically for winter riding.
“A lot of people want a winter training wheel but what they actually buy is a cheap wheel,” says Sharp. “A lot of our customers have gone down the route of buying a factory wheel already and they’ve been disappointed because it’s useless after one winter, particularly if they’re a heavier rider.
“The main advantage of a handbuilt wheel is that the customer is getting the product they need, rather than the product they necessarily want, and it’ll last much longer.”
So what’s the secret to a good handbuilt winter wheelset? “It’s all about serviceability, reliability and longevity,” says Andrew Massey, mechanic and wheel builder at Look Mum No Hands – three themes that run through our conversations with all three wheel builders.
Let’s take a closer look at the individual components of a handbuilt winter wheelset.