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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a lower level recreational rider and not particularly knowlegable regarding bike components, so please excuse what may be an ignorant neophyte question.

Background: As I was researching replacement wheelsets for the stockers that came on my bike, it seemed to me that the overwhelming emphasis, both from riders and reviewers, was on rims. From my perspective, hubs seem to be the more important element, yet this component seems to be a of very secondary concern to most.

The reviews and user comments on many respected mid-price wheels seem to largely focus on the rims, with very little, if any, comment about the hubs. This may be justified from the perspective of performance, but hubs also affect performance, albeit to a lesser degree. of more importance (at least to me), is durability, an area that hubs affect much more than rims. Yet few riders even mention hubs or the important hub components (e. g., bearings, pawls), and even reviewers have little to say about them.

My reasoning about hubs is simple, if I plunk down $700 for a wheelset, I want two things: I want the wheels to perform well and I want them to last. Lots of rims can provide me (a recreational rider) with adequate performance. The durability of rims is not all that worrisome: They can be replaced a relatively modest cost if you can re-use the hubs. So it seems to me that my hard-earned money is much better spent on getting a wheelset with outstanding hubs. Rims that provide average performance will be more than acceptable for me - and the vast majority of riders like me (i. e., mediocre). Most reviewers, and users for that matter, seem have swapped that concept around.

Look forward to hearing what those more knowledgeable than I have to say on the subject.
 

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A wheelist
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There isn't a lot of emphasis on hubs (current hubs) as we've found that most hubs are "good enough".

There are about three types of hubs available to us and they are -

Asian sourced (Taiwan, mainland China) and almost all (or totally all) have replaceable cartridge bearings. They get sold with many retailers names on them.
Asian sourced Shimano. They have loose ball/adjustable cone bearing systems. Ranging from inexpensive to mega-$ Dura-Ace.
High end hubs - King, White Industries, Industry Nine, DT-Swiss 240, Hope, Phil Wood etc etc.

- and they all do a great job. I have hubs, and have had hubs, from all three levels and almost all makes and I can never tell which set I'm rolling down the road on (unless I freewheel with the King).

They range from (all approx prices) $140 for a pair of Bitex from BHS.com to <<$700>> Chris King.

So really, it's a matter of picking the price-point and quality that you want to buy into. Much like deciding whether Casio, Tag Heuer or Rolex is the watch for you.
 

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...........snipped...........

My reasoning about hubs is simple, if I plunk down $700 for a wheelset, I want two things: I want the wheels to perform well and I want them to last. Lots of rims can provide me (a recreational rider) with adequate performance. The durability of rims is not all that worrisome: They can be replaced a relatively modest cost if you can re-use the hubs. So it seems to me that my hard-earned money is much better spent on getting a wheelset with outstanding hubs. Rims that provide average performance will be more than acceptable for me - and the vast majority of riders like me (i. e., mediocre). Most reviewers, and users for that matter, seem have swapped that concept around.
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If durability of the wheel set is in focus then the durability of ALL the components that make the wheel should be looked up. This entails hubs, rims and spokes.
There are quite few reviews on hubs and rims. Some of the better are here Alloy Rim Roundup - Fairwheel Bikes Blog and here Hub Review - Fairwheel Bikes Blog. As the articles indicate, there is no such thing as one hub or one rim best for everything. The high end stuff are designed to address specific features mostly focused on extreme performance at levels not usually encountered by the "lower level recreational rider". Some do a better job selectively meeting some of these goals than others.

For the "lower level recreational rider" type you described, adequate performance and excellent durability could be had at a price point substantially lower than the $700 price point you indicated. Ultegra grade hubs laced on 480-540 grams aluminum rims with double butted round spokes typically cost in the $350 - $500 range and when properly put together and maintained would last over 20,000 miles without major issues. The higher cost of the high-end hubs typically addresses hub improvements on weight, engagement, flange offset and other similarly improved features that may not offer enough in-use dividends for the lower level recreational rider to fully justify their premium.
 

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You're logic makes sense but when is the last time a recreational rider wore out a less than high end hub? (not counting bearings that are really cheap)

Just get 'normal' hub (normal meaning doesn't require special spokes or lacing) that takes standard bearings that can be easily replaced and odds of a recreational riding ever wearing it out are pretty slim.
 

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For the "lower level recreational rider" type you described, adequate performance and excellent durability could be had at a price point substantially lower than the $700 price point you indicated. Ultegra grade hubs laced on 480-540 grams aluminum rims with double butted round spokes typically cost in the $350 - $500 range and when properly put together and maintained would last over 20,000 miles without major issues. The higher cost of the high-end hubs typically addresses hub improvements on weight, engagement, flange offset and other similarly improved features that may not offer enough in-use dividends for the lower level recreational rider to fully justify their premium.
This. What Mike T. said too. DCGriz and Mike T. are both expert wheel builders with decades of experience, so listen to their advice.

I will just add this. The reason you may be seeing more of a focus on rims is that the rim is generally the weak link of a wheel. If hub bearings wear out, you can usually replace them. If a spoke breaks, you can replace it. If a rim cracks, it is a JUNK RIM and you must replace it which means a total wheel rebuild! Not that it isn't impossible for hub flanges to crack, but rather unusual. It appears that the most common game ending wheel failure you hear about are spoke hole cracks. There are particular rims that have a reputation for this. That is why the focus on durable rims.

As far as choosing hubs, it is more a matter of what you like. Do you like a buzzy, noisy freewheel sound (DT Swiss) or do you like quiet coasting (Shimano)? As already said, most hubs are good quality. Shimano Ultegra 6800s are IMO your best bang for the buck and very good quality. They also now have the "digital preload" feature that was previously only available with Dura-Ace.
 

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This. What Mike T. said too. DCGriz and Mike T. are both expert wheel builders with decades of experience, so listen to their advice.
Decades of experience? Not me; Mike is the old guy :D
 

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Decades of experience? Not me; Mike is the old guy :D
Well DC, you still have plenty of experience that I take your advice seriously. You and Mike motivated me to build wheels which only a year ago, I never dreamed I'd try.

And I think most of us are relatively "old guys". :D
 

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really glad it worked out well for you.
 

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Rims and tires have evolved more than hubs in last few years. Some rims are better than others and some work better than others given a riders intended use. These new rim variations have lead to many questions and debates such as:

How wide should a rim be for a given tire width..
How tall should a rim be for aerodynamic characteristics
How hard/easy is it to mount tires on a particular rim
How well does a particular rim setup tubeless
How durable is the spoke bed for spoke tension
How resistant to dents is a rim when hitting potholes
Is carbon better than aluminum
How good is the breaking surface for braking
How long does the braking surface last
Tubular, tubes, tubeless
And many, many more...
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Thanks to all for the info, advice and suggestions.

The only thing that's been said that I would take slight issue with is the price point for a quality wheelset. This is in no small part because I neglected to mention of couple of pertinent elements: I'm looking at wider rims and I need a Clydesdale build.

There may well be good quality wheelsets with in the $350 range out there with wide (> 23mm) rims, higher spoke counts and decent hubs but I haven't been able to find them. The one set close to that price level that I did find was actually what got me onto the hub issue: There were many user reviews that mentioned problems with this particular rear hub. In any event, it looks to me that $500 is about the minimum price level and going to a Tag Heuer level hub (using Mike T's hierarchy of hubs) easily boosts things to the $700 level.

Again, thanks to all.
 

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Thanks to all for the info, advice and suggestions.

The only thing that's been said that I would take slight issue with is the price point for a quality wheelset. This is in no small part because I neglected to mention of couple of pertinent elements: I'm looking at wider rims and I need a Clydesdale build.

There may well be good quality wheelsets with in the $350 range out there with wide (> 23mm) rims, higher spoke counts and decent hubs but I haven't been able to find them. The one set close to that price level that I did find was actually what got me onto the hub issue: There were many user reviews that mentioned problems with this particular rear hub. In any event, it looks to me that $500 is about the minimum price level and going to a Tag Heuer level hub (using Mike T's hierarchy of hubs) easily boosts things to the $700 level.

Again, thanks to all.
Check the Bicycle Wheel Warehouse and wait for their specials. $350-$400 will buy you their regularly priced $500 wheels

If you decide to attempt to build the set yourself:
Archetype rims : $120
Ultegra hubs : $130
14/15 ga spokes/nipples :$70
Stans tape : $10
Total cost : $330
Experience : Priceless
 

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Well DC, you still have plenty of experience that I take your advice seriously. You and Mike motivated me to build wheels which only a year ago, I never dreamed I'd try.

And I think most of us are relatively "old guys". :D
+1 I become a minor wheel building addict. It has gotten to the point where I kind of badger cycling friends about whether it is time for them to have new wheels, because, ahem, I'd be happy to build up a set for them...

Yes, I know, weird.
 

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Check the Bicycle Wheel Warehouse and wait for their specials. $350-$400 will buy you their regularly priced $500 wheels

If you decide to attempt to build the set yourself:
Archetype rims : $120
Ultegra hubs : $130
14/15 ga spokes/nipples :$70
Stans tape : $10
Total cost : $330
Experience : Priceless
This.

DCGriz is a clyde and this is what he builds. It should work for you unless you are over 250lbs., in which case, I would probably recommend something you can build 36 spokes on. Otherwise, 32 spokes is fine.

One note on the H+ Son Archetypes. They are good quality robust rims. However, if you get black, they do not have machined sidewalls. This is nothing except an aesthetic issue as for the first 500 miles or until the brakes wear the black off, they won't look that nice. That's all. If you get silver, it's a non-issue. If you use disc brakes, it's a non-issue.

Another great rim is the HED C2 Belgium, though that will add at least $80 to your total cost.
 

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......The durability of rims is not all that worrisome: They can be replaced a relatively modest cost if you can re-use the hubs. ...
Don't forget the spokes. They can add up too. Maybe you'll reuse them and maybe not, especially if they've started to fail. Or maybe they're not the right length for the ERD of the new rim. Then there's labor if you're paying someone to do it, $75 at one of the LBSs around here.
 
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