We’re sure you’ve heard before that hand built wheels are “better” than machine built wheels. But what does this even mean, and why should you care? Wheels may be the most important component on your bicycle, making a huge impact on ride quality. Wheels with better hubs are going to roll smoother, creating less friction and drag, stronger wheels will hold their true longer, and lighter wheels will spin up to speed faster, making your ride more enjoyable over all. Thus, it is worth considering your options. Here are 5 reasons that might make you consider a hand built wheelset.


In theory, a rim is perfectly round, and hubs are perfectly machined, matching their measurements exactly. In practice, this is not the case. Most, if not all rims, are going to be less than perfectly round, and hubs will be less than perfectly machined. A machine cannot necessarily recognize these inconsistencies. An experienced wheel builder knows how to properly balance spoke tension across the wheel to provide not only a perfectly true wheel, but one with consistent tension, leading to a longer lasting, more durable wheel.


If you’ve ever ridden on a wheel right out of the box, you’ve surely heard a frightening array of pops and pings. Those noises are the spokes “settling” or de-tensioning. There is naturally a small amount of “wind up” in the spokes during the building process, meaning that the spokes actually twist, rather than turn in the nipple. When the spokes unwind, the tension in the wheel changes, bringing the wheel out of true. If the first time you ride a bike is the first time the wheel has been de-tensioned, it will be out of true from the get go. A reputable wheel builder will stress the spokes as he/she builds the wheel, meaning that the there will be no unwinding when you start riding, keeping your wheel true from the get go! (Note: We at BicycleSPACE check the true, tension, and stress the spokes of all machine built wheels, as well as grease and adjust the hubs.)


Many machine built wheels come with nothing on the spoke threads. This presents a few problems. For one, there is nothing to prevent rust or corrosion on the threads, which can cause the nipples to become seized to the spokes, making it very difficult or even impossible to true the wheel. The second issue is that there is nothing to keep the spoke from unwinding while riding, causing your wheel to lose tension and become more prone to failure. All hand built wheels at BicycleSPACE use either high quality, waterproof grease or specifically designed spoke thread to prevent both of these issues from occurring.


With a handbuilt wheel, you can get any combination of rim/hub your heart desires. Say you want a certain dynamo hub, laced to your favorite rim for your commuter. It is highly likely that this combination is not available pre-built, so your only option is a handbuilt wheel. (Check out our post of why you should consider using a dynamo on your commuter.) There are a lot of rims that are available only as a rim, and vice versa for hubs. If you consider the option of a handbuilt wheel, there are no limits to the wheels you can create. And then it is one of a kind!


The sum total of all these advantages is going to result in a custom wheel that will be both stronger and last longer than machine built wheels. You will end up with exactly the wheel you want, with properly balanced spoke tension, and threads that are prepped to prevent unwinding and binding. While many machine built wheels are excellent, in terms of convenience, price, and quality, a wheel hand built by a reputable builder is going to far surpass a machine built wheel in nearly every aspect.

Here are a few of our favorite, tried and true wheels for various disciplines.

Commuting- It’s hard to beat the affordable, yet extremely durable combination of an LX or XT hub laced to Velocity Dyads. The mountain biking hubs are burly, and are more than up to the task of commuting in all weather. The Dyads are a wide, double walled rim, meaning you can toss on some large rubber for comfort, and not worry about your wheels going out of true.

Mountain Biking- For rims, it is hard to beat the value and technology contained in Stan’s rims, either the Arch or Crest. Their tubeless technology is some of the best out there, and the rims are tough and stand up to the abuse and rigors of mountain biking. For hubs, Hope’s are incredible, light and smooth, as are I9 hubs.