I'm a 150lb rider (before gear) on a Giant Talon hardtail with the stock SXC2 wheelset equipped with the 15mm QR front axle, shod with 2.3 Specialized Purgatory front and 2.3 Specialized Renegade rear tires, tubeless.
The wheels have held up quite well in the 2 years I've had the bike since new. Despite my crashes, no taco'd rims and no truing needed. My riding is normally smooth, flowy singletrack with no serious climbs or descents, but I'm travelling more often to find more challenging rooty, rocky XC/AM/light free-ride trails and looking to change to a different frameset like a Canfield Yelli Screamy.
For $500, my LBS can set me up with Sun Ringle Black Flag Pros. They seem to be a solid XC-style wheelset with lots of flexibility WRT axle configurations.
I feel if I stretch my budget a bit, my local wheelbuilder could assemble a stiff, durable wheelset while dropping some rotational weight. With my stats and intentions in mind, any comments or suggestions from you guys with more experience?
My thoughts on...
For the price, White Industries MI6 seems to be a great choice. Standard tools will work, seem to be fast rolling, relatively easy to find, durable, but low POE. Lower price gives me more money for rims.
Hadley would be my second choice- HIGH POE, fast rolling BUT significantly pricier, harder to find, require special tools.
Hope's are noisier than I'd prefer and seem to have durability issues, or I'd have listed them.
Rims- Pacenti TL28 or Stans Flow EX (~$90 per), Light Bicycles wider carbon rims ($160 per). Rims are where rotational weight counts the most, so it makes sense to go for the light weight attributes here as opposed to hubs. Correct me if I'm wrong.
Spokes: 32H should do the trick. DT Swiss or Sapim?
Nipples: brass or alloy?
Hope this isn't a wall of text.
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