hand built vs. machine laced/hand finished wheels- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    hand built vs. machine laced/hand finished wheels

    what is the difference? Looking at some XTR/717 wheels from Performance that are machine laced. Universal cycles sells the XTR/717s also at a good price. THX

  2. #2
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    Machine vs. Hand built

    This is a much debated topic. Personally I prefer hand built wheels, especially if they are built by someone that really knows what they are doing. I am an aggressive rider and tend to trash machine built wheels. I have ruined machine built wheels but the ones that I have had hand built are still running strong after several years of use. There are some great wheel builders out there.

    In terms of the differences, they are pretty much just like it sounds. Machine built are assembled by machines in mass quantity, hand-built are assembled by humans in lower quantity. Now that we have that obviousness out of the way, here is the basic issues:

    Every wheel and rim is slightly different, just on the basis of engineering tolerances. Machines do not accomodate for these differences. They just build each wheel the same and thus there will be some error in the build. When a wheel is built by a person, that person can accomodate for errors and whatnot, getting you a more precise build. In addition, a person can build a wheel to your riding style, more aggressive, less aggressive, etc. Wheels that are built by machines are all exactly the same.

    That said, wheel building is an art, kind of like pottery. You can buy pots from your local Target and they will work and look fine but will probably not be as high a quality as the pots you can buy from an artist. The difference is time, effort and customization. If you want a quality, custom pot and you don't mind paying for it, an artist is the way to go. If you don't care as much about super high quality and customization and you don't have a lot of money to spend, the mass produced Target pot may be fine for you. Its just like any cottage industry.

    Hope this helps a bit. Keep in mind that nearly all rim and wheel companies sell machine built wheels at reasonable prices and most are fine for the average user, however, I would bet there is not single professional MTBer that is not on custom, hand built wheels. Just something to consider...

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmy
    what is the difference? Looking at some XTR/717 wheels from Performance that are machine laced. Universal cycles sells the XTR/717s also at a good price. THX
    The main thing I have noticed is that machine built wheels dont form their spokes. Which means they go out of true faster since the elasticity of the metal will spring back to its original shape - which is not perfectly round. The spokes need to be bent at the places they change direction - hub flanges and spoke intersections. Your thumb will bend them at both places but for intersections I like a round object like a dowel or screw driver barrel withouth the bit in.

    Basically machine made wheels will need to be trued sooner and more often. Which ususally indicates problems. You can always loosen them up and work the spokes into shape so they will stay true. Then check and even out the tension and you can end up with the same quality as a handmade set.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmy
    what is the difference? Looking at some XTR/717 wheels from Performance that are machine laced. Universal cycles sells the XTR/717s also at a good price. THX
    Handlaced wheels are built with more even spoke tension all around. This leads to a stronger wheel. I would go into further detail, but the other two users seem to have covered it.

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