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I'm very tempted to buy myself a set of 7801 SLs or Ksyrium ES. However, I am willing to be convinced that I can get more wheel for the money. I hear on this forum that handbuild wheels will be faster and more aero than a factory wheel. I'm sure that they can be lighter than the factory wheels, but the aero part... I'd like to see some evidence on that. Same goes for the raw speed of the wheel. The little bit of subjective evidence I have goes the other way. I've been riding the road for 15 years and have only had three wheelsets. A pair of tubular Cosmic Pros (about 10 years), a pair of Open4CDs on DA hubs w 14 gauge straight spokes, and a pair of Bontrager Race Lites. The two factory wheels have always felt faster to me, and they've all been plenty strong (they're all plenty heavy too of course).
 

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Wrong basis

epic said:
I'm very tempted to buy myself a set of 7801 SLs or Ksyrium ES. However, I am willing to be convinced that I can get more wheel for the money. I hear on this forum that handbuild wheels will be faster and more aero than a factory wheel. I'm sure that they can be lighter than the factory wheels, but the aero part... I'd like to see some evidence on that. Same goes for the raw speed of the wheel. The little bit of subjective evidence I have goes the other way. I've been riding the road for 15 years and have only had three wheelsets. A pair of tubular Cosmic Pros (about 10 years), a pair of Open4CDs on DA hubs w 14 gauge straight spokes, and a pair of Bontrager Race Lites. The two factory wheels have always felt faster to me, and they've all been plenty strong (they're all plenty heavy too of course).
Bottom line, people attribute a lot more magic to wheels than they actually have. A wheel is more aero if it has fewer spokes, a deeps section rim, profiled spokes, or some combination of the three. Nothing about hand builts that makes them more aero without those features. Good hubs are good hubs, so a Campy, MAVIC, Shimano etc. hub will serve you well. The main feature of hand built wheels is that they are a lot cheaper for equal performance to the Ks you're looking at. Not better, just a lot cheaper. Felt faster? Get yourself a stopwatch and start riding time trials with different wheels. Report back when you've done several TTs with each wheel.
 

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Kerry Irons said:
Get yourself a stopwatch and start riding time trials with different wheels. Report back when you've done several TTs with each wheel.
I'm hoping maybe someone already has. Perhaps with an SRM and riding with the same intensity every time.
 

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I don't remember reading any claims that handbuilts were faster or more aero. You've asked a question that can't really be answered. The aero qualities of a wheel are a result of the parts and design. As for being fast, all wheels go the same speed, until someone or something puts them in motion. The fastest wheel is going to be the one powered by the fastest rider.
 

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epic said:
Open4CDs on DA hubs w 14 gauge straight spokes
Well... no wonder you thought those were slow! I also think it is a bad idea to use heavy spokes with a light (not very stiff) rim.

The hand built wheels will be aero if aero rims and spokes are used... get a 30mm rim and use good butted oval spokes and you'll have wheels as aero (or more so) than any aluminum-rimmed factory wheels on the market these days.

The benefits of handbuilts are the lower cost, easily available spokes and rims... and the ability to tailor the construction to match your needs.
 

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The advantage wheel builders have is in the individual selection of the components. If I use Zipp rims, I can't make a wheel more aero than Zipp does. I can make wheels that are more aero than most other wheels out there using their rims. I can select rim, hubs and spokes that bring the weight in under stock wheels. The cost is competitive too. My empirical evidence is a scale and a price tag. My wind tunnel testing is on the Zipp site. I have to rely on their testing because I do not have the R&D budget for wind tunnel testing. However, if I use the same rim and spoke count, there should be no reason custom wheel built wheels with their rims should come out with different numbers.

-Eric
 

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epic said:
2nd post on this thread - http://forums.roadbikereview.com/showthread.php?t=58498 - they're lighter, more aero, stronger, and cheaper! If I can have all of that... I'd be an idiot to buy 7801s wouldn't I?
This is what it actually says:

"There are plenty of reviews here on all the wheels you mentioned. What you won't find are reviews on custom built wheels from hubs, spokes, and rims because there are too many variations... but that would be your best bet. If you get a good builder, you can have lighter, more aero, more durable, easier to repair... and cheaper... all at once."

OK... I was being just a tad extreme... but notice I said that you "can" do better in all these aspects... and obviously that depends on where you are starting from. I didn't say that all custom wheels were *always* better than pre-builts in every way... and 7801s were not part of the discussion...

But since you asked, I think 7801s would be pretty easy to beat in every way... Use a deep Niobium rim with 24/28 Cx-rays and White Ind or DT hubs. Aero is certainly better, and they should be stronger, the parts aren't proprietary (and expensive), they'll weigh less... now ask Ligero or Ergott what they'd cost and see if I'm right.
 

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Factory vs. "hand built" wheels is analogous Factory vs. custom frame

I don't think you'll find that any custom wheel builder will claim that their wheels will necessarily be lighter or more aerodynamic than off-the-rack wheels, just like you won't find any custom frame builers will claim that their frames will be lighter or more aerodynamic than off-the-rack frames. But what both custom wheel and custom frame builders can do is create a wheel or frame that is better tailored for the individual user. All wheels (or frames) by necessity have to balance many variables, such as weight, aerodynamics, strength, stiffness, cost, repairability, compatibility, etc. With a custom wheel, you can specify the balance of all these variables, that are best suited to you.

A second aspect is that many off-the-rack wheels use proprietary parts and designs. Frequently, these proprietary features are just gimmicks and marketting hype (paired spokes and double threaded spokes fit into this category). These proprietary parts make often make wheel repairs more expensive and more time consuming - most bike shops do not stock proprietary parts, and must order them from the manufacturer. Proprietary parts may also become obsolete - when the manufacturer adopts a new gimmick design a year or two from now, they may no longer make parts for their old wheels. In contrast, custom wheel builders usually use standard design parts (hubs, rim, spokes, nipples) and therefore more easily repaired. Even if an exact replacement for a specific part of a custom wheel becomes unavailable, because of the use of standard components, another standard part may be easily substituted.
 

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just swapped my

dura ace/open pros 32 3x with revolutions for a set of new ksyrium es's. in hand the k's
feel lighter, on the bike the hand builts are a little more compliant. on a climb the k's feel
slightly snappier but once settled into a tempo you would be hard pressed to tell
the diff. the k's look SWEET though, if you have the money to spend they are bling,
on performance though blind test i really wouldn't be able to tell much of a difference.
they WILL not make you faster.
 

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I just destroyed an OP rim racing Sunday. Before noon on Monday, the wheel is re-built by my LBS and ready to go. Cost is about $100 Cdn.

If I had been using my Eurus wheel and needed a new rim and spokes (I replace all spokes after a catastrophic potato-chipping) it would be over $400. Add two weeks to find the rim and spoke kits.

Empirical Evidence.
 
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