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Wheel Roundup

Here are the points you need to consider before choosing a wheelset. The article covers ready built and custom wheels.

Manufacturer pre-built specials or shop built standard?
Are you: Rich? Light? A cross country racer?
A bit careful when others are doing big jumps and caning it down rocky trails?
Someone trying to build the lightest bike possible?
then you should be looking at pre-built specials.
Some of the ones to consider are:

Mavic Crossroc UST Disk

Mavic Cross Max (front 650g rear 850g pair 1500g) and Cross Max UST disk (front 770g rear 1000g pair 1770g) We quote the weights because manufacturers weights are often pretty optimistic to say the least. When you're thinking of paying three times the price of standard wheels to shed weight, it's nice to know if they really are that much lighter! Notice that the disk wheels are 270g or about half a pound heavier. Something for the weight conscious to consider when they're told disk brakes aren't much heavier than rim brakes! However they are still pretty light compared to most standard wheels.
Somewhat cheaper are the Mavic Crossride (front 740g rear 1030g pair 1770g) (and soon perhaps crossride UST?) Notice that the lower priced crossrides are as light as the Crossmax disk wheels.
Shimano WH-M575 (front 1010g rear 1230g pair 2240g) The Shimano wheels are not especially light. They are very stiff and strong however as much of the extra weight is in the deep section rim. This would make them a good choice for heavier riders.
The rest of us are much better served with cheaper and sometimes stronger, if a little heavier shop built hoops. Some of the above weights are from the very useful Weight Weenies site, where riders expose the truth about component weights.
Ceramic coated rims or machined?
If you're going to use rim brakes with high end wheels, you should seriously consider those with ceramic coated rims. At those prices you don't want to wear through the rim in a few months. This year there is a ceramic coated version of the Mavic Crossride. If you do get ceramic rims, use abrasive pads like those by WTB for the first few sets of blocks. They will wear away really fast, but in doing so will smooth the somewhat abrasive surface of the rims. Thereafter you can use ordinary pads without excessive wear e.g. the excellent value BBB.

Shimano WH-M575

Loose balls (cup and cone) or Cartridge bearings?
The point here is which you find least unappealing, the messy, fiddly servicing and adjustment of cup and cone hubs, or the more expensive 'hit it seriously hard with a hammer' cartridge bearing. We've certainly had cartridge hubs the bearings simply couldn't be knocked out of (Truvativ) but you may well have more luck with better known brands e.g. Hope) and once the cups of traditional hubs are damaged they're a write off (and that can happen pretty fast in the winter, especially if you like deep water or jet washes...) We've had good luck with Hope hubs which are pretty well sealed against the British weather, if not the dreaded jet. If you have cup and cone, watch the rear drive side in particular, take the wheel out and spin the axle by hand, if it's not perfectly smooth, service it.

Disk or non-disk?
Well this isn't so hard to answer. Disk specific rims look good and don't wear out like rim brake versions. But they're no good if you don't have disk brake mounts. Remember to consider getting a disk compatible hub if you're planning to upgrade to disks in the foreseeable future.

Mavic Crossride Ceramic

Tubeless or non-tubeless?
At the moment this is easy too. Tubeless rims are not yet available separately, but should be in the near future. Rumour has it Mavic are going to begin selling a rim and spoke system similar to those used on their Cross Roc system. Price yet to be announced. At the moment expensive manufacturer ready built wheels are the only way to go if you want tubeless specific. E.g. Mavic UST (Universal System for Tubeless) Does that make those wheels worth all the extra cash? Not unless you're rich it doesn't. For more tubeless information (including how to make existing wheels tubeless) see Tubeless Tyres.
Super light or super strong?
Unless you're a committed jump fan or heavy freerider Mavic X517's with double butted spokes will be light and strong enough for you. The super light category is discussed above in Pre-built Specials. We ride fast on big rocks all the time, and a well built and reasonably tensioned (see wheel truing) Mavic X517 is well up to the job. If you know you abuse wheels try the 519FR, some of you may have to wreck one of these before moving up to the 521DH.

Mavic Cross Max UST Disk

Nipples alloy or brass?
We like brass, because they don't seize and can therefore be trued more often and for longer. Careful riders with well built wheels can certainly get away with alloy for a fairly useful weight saving.
Spokes butted or plain?
Double or triple butted are best, they are more 'elastic' and so don't go out of tension so easily, which can make your wheels last longer. For those who don't care about weight or are on a tight budget, what the heck, get plain gauge.

Mavic Rim Roundup
Mavic 517XC cross country racing rim, also suitable for hardcore trail riding.
Mavic 317XC Disk brake version of the above, with no braking surface at the same weight.
Mavic 519FR stronger and heavier than the 517XC, for the heavier rider and all but the heavy jumpers.
Mavic 521DH standard downhill rim for serious abuse.
Mavic 321DH disk brake version of above.

For basic wheel truing advice (all that most riders will need) see: Truing your wheels
If you have a bent rim (or might bend one on the trail) see: Straightening a bent rim
If you really want to build your own wheels see this off site link: Wheel Building this is the best online guide we know of, good luck! 

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