Anyone regretted upgrading their wheels?

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  • Anyone regretted upgrading their wheels?
  • I have the opportunity to upgrade the wheels on my GT Sensor, which currently has no name hubs and WTB i29 rims. The wheels work but I can feel a bit of flex but then I am 118kg.

    I have about £400 to spend and am looking at Halo Vapour 35s or Vortexes, Nukeproof Horizons, or Industry9 101 hubs with i29 rims. Would this be a worthwhile upgrade? Is it going to make the bike feel and ride better?

    Has anyone upgraded their wheels and thought they’d wasted their money?

    Premier Icon baldiebenty
    Subscriber

    I got a Halo Vortex rear, love the hub really nice whizz sound and it was delivered quick. However I found the rims quite soft (although I did only need it because I broke my WTB i29 casing a gap, so maybe I’m just a serial wheel abuser now) and the heavily asymmetric design meant that I dented one enough on the “narrow” side that once the tyre pressure dropped below a certain level the tyre wouldn’t stay on the bead and would just pop off and deflate fully while sat in the garage. That was despite having a Rimpact insert in.

    Also, when trying to service the hub I could NOT remove the freewheel, despite removing the end caps it would not shift. In the end I had to get a shop to do it, I reckon they fitted on old cassette and drifted it off using that and a big hammer.

    I’ve now had the rim replaced with a DT Swiss E532 which I haven’t broken/bent yet but it’s only been on one ride.

    Despite that I don’t regret the purchase as such, just my lack of jumping/landing/line choice ability.

    sillysilly
    Member

    Crossmax XL’s and DT240/Ex471 have been well worth the upgrade secondhand.

    With £200-500 sets I’ve ridden or bought I’ve never noticed a massive difference, to the point where I would have been happy paying retail, outside of the rear hub where I had a bad oem.

    WTB rims are pretty good imo.

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Subscriber

    Depends if you actually get an ‘upgrade’ relative to your needs?

    Hubs are neither hear nor there really, in use Novatec, Shimano, Hope, i9, DT are all the same, they just make a different noise while coasting. You will always find someone who is convinced a DT star ratchet is the only option and will extol this with such fevour that you question whether the pawls in almost every other hub in the world actually do engage at all. Or that Shimano are heavy (the new ones are actually lighter than Hope), or that Hope crack (they did at one point), or i9 are good looking (kinda undeniable, but they are expensive).

    Rims are strong or light. More or less ignore the price. If you use 100g less material, it’ll be weaker, use 100g more it’ll be stronger. Make it bigger and it’ll be stiffer, make it bigger for the same weight it’ll be weaker. All the acronyms in the world won’t solve that.

    If you want stiffer wheels it’s going to need bigger cross sections and more material, therefore weight more. Weighing more isn’t usually a trait people look for in upgraded wheels.

    I am 118kg.

    I’d upgrade that first! It’s a virtuous cycle, you weigh less you go faster, you can get away with lighter wheels, you go faster again, etc.

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Subscriber

    Edit: I’d point out that I’ve never spent more than about £250 on wheels, shop around, learn to build them yourself and pick up bargains. £180 of rims and spoke onto some old hubs is obviously a similar ‘upgrade’ to £400+ wheels. But at less than half the price.

    Premier Icon BadlyWiredDog
    Subscriber

    Has anyone upgraded their wheels and thought they’d wasted their money?

    No, but I think you need to be clear about what you’re expecting from your upgrade and to choose accordingly. ‘Feel and ride’ are quite subjective, do you want stronger? More durable? More reliable? Easier to service? Less flexy under load?

    The biggest single wheel upgrade difference I found was going from Hope Pro 2 hubs and Flow rims to Light Bicycle carbon rims on DT Swiss hubs. Not so much the weight saving, though there was some, more the lateral stiffness which made the bike feel unexpectedly more precise and the 240S star ratchet system which I’d take over the Hope gubbins every time.

    I’m sure you can buy stronger wheels that’ll feel less flexy, but without spending lots of dosh, you probably won’t be able to go lighter at the same time. Which is pretty much what TINAS has already said but in slightly different words 🙂

    Will you notice better wheels? Yes, almost certainly if you’ve chosen them to do what you want them to. All imho etc.

    damascus
    Member

    If I was spending £400 I wouldn’t be looking at those wheels.

    What are you after? 650b or 29er? Whats the maximum size tyre your frame will take? No point looking at wider rims if your bike will only run 2.3s.

    What do your current wheels weigh? Are they heavy? You need to know what weight you will be saving or your new wheels could be heavier!

    Can you pick up a 2nd hand set? If your bike is non boost there are some really good bargains out there.

    If buying new I’d probably consider some hunt wheels as well

    Are you planning on keeping your frame and fork for a while? If not, I wouldn’t bother buying new wheels unless they were cheap as standards change and they might not fit a new bike.

    Premier Icon Pierre
    Subscriber

    I’d recommend talking to a wheel builder – they’ll ask you what your budget is and what you want to do with them, and they should know what bits to recommend and how to assemble them well. They’ll be able to talk through whether you’re prioritising light weight, or stiffness, or bombproof-ness, or durability, or aesthetics, or…

    It’s usually a compromise – to quote Keith Bontrager, “strong, light, cheap – pick two”. But a good wheel builder should be able to talk you through the options and guide you where to compromise. A new pair of wheels can make a huge difference to how a bike handles, they’re often the most noticeable upgrade for the money.

    Second hand hubs are a good shout, most good hubs outlive the rims they’re built on and if they’ve got sealed bearings they should be relatively easy to service and refresh.

    This may attract unwanted attention, but I wouldn’t consider Hunt if I wanted wheels; they’re very good at _marketing_. I’d talk to a wheel builder.

    Premier Icon chakaping
    Subscriber

    At your weight I’d look at some custom built wheels using DT Swiss EX511 rims, the 32h versions.

    I think these can be had on Hope hubs for less than £500.

    I’d recommend talking to a wheel builder

    I’d recommend researching and finding out what you need before talking to a wheelbuilder. By all means listen to their advice, but some can be a bit stuck in their ways and not exactly at the cutting edge of MTB tech.

    Premier Icon joebristol
    Subscriber

    The DT Swiss ex511 rim suggestion is a good one for strength. Or if you want even more strength (but at a weight penalty) DT make the FR range which are even stronger.

    With hubs you can’t usually go wrong with Hope or DT Swiss — the 350 is comparable to the Pro 4.

    Spoke wise just some double butted ones – but nothing too light. DT / Sapim / ACI would all do the job.

    It’s not actually that hard to build your own wheels if you take your time – but ideally you’d get a trueing stand and a spoke tension meter is a nice to have.

    Premier Icon oikeith
    Subscriber

    OP my riding buddy picked up the halo vortex wheels, I can confirm the rims contain cheese and are soft, the rear rim didnt last more than 6months…

    Where are you located? the LBS near me has a 2nd hand pair of DT swiss 240s on EX471s for £400, wheelsets barely used and the wheel builder in there is top notch.

    The biggest single wheel upgrade difference I found was going from Hope Pro 2 hubs and Flow rims to Light Bicycle carbon rims on DT Swiss hubs. Not so much the weight saving, though there was some, more the lateral stiffness which made the bike feel unexpectedly more precise and the 240S star ratchet system which I’d take over the Hope gubbins every time.

    Glad to read this, I picked up a 29er and found the rear wheel too flexy, went from 28 spoke straight pull hub/rim combo to 32 j bend of pro 4 and stans flow hoping to find some more stiffness but it hasnt really helped. Picked up some carbon wheels which are DT Swiss 240 on roval rims over xmas but have had buyers remorse so was thinking of moving them on, I’ll scrap that idea and get them fitted pronto!

    daveylad
    Member

    Yep. 1600 or 1800, can’t remember, on santa Cruz reserves. Way to harsh for me, preferred the alloys.

    Premier Icon Kryton57
    Subscriber

    Kind of.  I bought a pair of 2018 Crossmax Elite at £189 in a CRC sale, which were I bought a pair of lighter than my OEM Syncros aka DT1900 wheels. I immediately thought I could have saved another 150g if I’d waited for feedback on the then-new Hunts.

    Having said that the Mavics have been perfect, and the Synchros/DT’s are a very reliable winter wheel, that sit with winter race tyres on.

    I’d love some light DT’s one day, but can’t justify the price now I have the Mavics.

    milfordvet
    Member

    On the freewheel (Shimano/XD) choice: I bought some new wheels to get a 10 sprocket, when shifting to 1 x 11 spd (32 oval – 10/42 from previous 10 spd 3 x 10 26/ 650b.

    I though I wanted the range going to 1x. On a 29er & Thunderburts, down the biggest straight gravel downhill in the New Forest I know of, I’m in 32 oval x 10 for about 5 seconds total before tucking in a 2 hr ride…

    Not sure going XD was worth it really over a Shimano freewheel, though if I remember the cassette was a bit lighter. Obviously I could swap on a smaller chainring for more range instead I suppose. I could certainly manage with 32-11 if not road riding.

    Your fitness/ riding will differ, but carefully look down and see what gears your actually using at your steepest points up and down and write it down so you can see what you actually need or don’t need.

    Premier Icon julians
    Subscriber

    The biggest single wheel upgrade difference I found was going from Hope Pro 2 hubs and Flow rims to Light Bicycle carbon rims on DT Swiss hubs

    Funny, I did exactly the same, but regretted it, because the light bike carbon rims were not as tough as the flows. The carbon rims were lighter and stiffer than the flows, but ultimately weaker, so back to flows I went.

    Premier Icon confused58
    Subscriber

    How about Hunt Enduro wide?

    Premier Icon jameso
    Subscriber

    ..no name hubs and WTB i29 rims. The wheels work but I can feel a bit of flex but then I am 118kg.

    I have about £400 to spend and am looking at Halo Vapour 35s or Vortexes, Nukeproof Horizons, or Industry9 101 hubs with i29 rims. Would this be a worthwhile upgrade?

    WTB rims are good ime. Personally I’d go for a handbuilt set from someone reputable who knows your weight rather than a pre-made wheelset. No-one I know of makes pre-built wheels with 118kg riders in mind, they’ll all be underbuilt to some extent unless you’re using DH wheels for XC. Wheel performance is about rim and build type/quality and the hubs are mostly just a durability concern.

    Premier Icon tomhoward
    Subscriber

    Obviously I could swap on a smaller chainring for more range

    You couldn’t… you’d get easier gears, but the range would be the same.

    yep went for DTswiss m1700 spline alu 30mm internals, which i liked, although i felt some flex at times, went to sixth element race 28mm internals, massively improved my ride, steering is now point and shoot

    Premier Icon BadlyWiredDog
    Subscriber

    The biggest single wheel upgrade difference I found was going from Hope Pro 2 hubs and Flow rims to Light Bicycle carbon rims on DT Swiss hubs

    Funny, I did exactly the same, but regretted it, because the light bike carbon rims were not as tough as the flows. The carbon rims were lighter and stiffer than the flows, but ultimately weaker, so back to flows I went.

    I’ve been okay with the LB rims – touch wood etc – but I’m not a particularly aggressive rider and I have 650b+ hardtail with big tyres and Procore for battering through rocky stuff. I’ve also been really careful with tyre pressures and specced the hookless version of the rims, mostly because they were reputed to be stronger. Who knows 🙂

    Premier Icon BadlyWiredDog
    Subscriber

    ps: I guess the answer is something like the Santa Cruz Reserve carbon wheels, but £1600 for a wheelset or £600 for a rim is a tad expensive. I’ll buy a set along with a Porsche 911 if I win the Lottery.

    Upgrading to hubs that have proper cartridge bearings rather than stupid cup and cone bearings is well worth the money. As are bolt through axles. Rim-wise so long as they are wide enough I’ve never really had cause to complain.

    jkomo
    Member

    I would wait until you’ve broken your current wheels.
    Unless your old wheels are really heavy I can’t really see what you will gain. Saying that I’m a tight wad.

    Premier Icon chakaping
    Subscriber

    WTB rims are good ime.

    Just to be a bit pedantic, the ST level ones are not very good IME. Especially for a big heavy rider.

    Had an Assym rim that was better though and freinds speak well of the KOM ones.

    cyclelife
    Member

    I normally get through 2 rear rims a year, so bought some Reserves.
    So far far saved me £400 in rear wheel rebuilds, so another 6 years and I’ve paid for them.

    Thanks to everyone who has responded. I really appreciate it. I didn’t expect to get this much feedback. It has been very helpful.

    @thisisnotaspoon – good question about what an ‘upgrade’ actually is.

    Other than being shiny and new, my only real experience of the difference a good set of wheels can make is on a road bike. When my father passed away I inherited his Trek Domane complete with some very nice Mavic wheels – I can’t remember exactly which model, but they were alloy rim and non-aero, but still around the £1k mark to buy. Those wheels were absolutely amazing when descending. I have never felt so confident going downhill on a road bike.

    However, I later found out that I was over the recommended weight limit for those wheels and couldn’t live with the nightmare vision of them collapsing under me at 50mph (exaggerated for dramatic effect), so I gave them to my sister and bought wheels that were suited to my weight (Tune TSR 27s). The Tunes were decent wheels but they didn’t have that magic feeling of the Mavics.

    If I had to guess what the difference was between the two sets of wheels, I think the Mavics were stiffer but I suspect that there is a lot more to it than that. (Although this sounds similar to the experience of @BadlyWiredDog). So I guess what I hope new wheels will give me is more of a direct feel on the trail and more tautness through corners.

    “I am 118kg.
    I’d upgrade that first!”
    LOL! I am on the case with that but am also working on building strength and muscle, so I can’t see me getting below 100kg in all honesty, if that … but you do make a good point. I do know that I’m never going to be in the market for a light weight set of wheels and can’t see my buying anything with less than 32 spokes.

    @BadlyWiredDog – That’s very interesting. Do you have any thoughts about what part of that combo increased the lateral stiffness? Flange height? Spoke type?

    @joebristol and @thisisnotaspoon – I do build my own wheels – I’ve just completed some for my gravel bike – my 10th and 11th builds – all done following the Roger Musson prescription. The reason I was looking at complete wheelsets is that I have the option of buying some using the Halfords C2W scheme, so saving a bit of money on the full price. I think I’m now convinced that off the peg is not the way to go.

    @thisisnotaspoon & @Pierre – I like the idea of using second hand hubs. Especially as I can buy rims through the C2W scheme, although not hubs (so still saving some money). There are some DT Swiss HX-531s that I can get that are rated up to 150kg so they may be a good place to start, but I’ll need to look into that in a bit more detail as there are others I can choose. I also like the fact that with building my own wheels I also get to choose which hubs and spokes to use.

    @damascus 29er and 2.35 at the rear and 2.6 up front. Hunt wheels are not an option using the Halfords C2W scheme unfortunately.

    @Pierre & @chakaping – My nearest wheel builder is Big Al at Wheel Craft. I’ve had him make me a wheelset in the past which was totally bomb-proof but also felt a bit lifeless. He also wouldn’t build those wheels with black spokes or Stan’s rims 😉 I’m certain the quality of the wheels he builds are way ahead of what I can do, but I’m not sure I’d get what I wanted.

    @oikeith & @baldiebenty – Thanks for the feedback on the vortex wheels. I’m really glad I posted here before pulling the trigger – I could easily have gone down that route.

    @oikeith – I’d love to hear how you get on with those new wheels.

    @jameso – Thanks. I really value that feedback. It does looks like I’m going down the hand built route now rather than buying off the peg, although the builder will be me, so definitely not someone reputable :-D. What you say makes a lot of sense, and echoes the comment made by @thisisnotaspoon about hubs. I’ll need to do some more research into building wheels for someone of my weight.

    @chapking – my current rims are the ST ones, which may explain the problem.

    Newmen Evolution wheels, just bought a second set, love them

    Rockhopper
    Member

    Upgrading the wheels on my road bike made a huge difference. Upgrading them on the mountain bike was much less noticeable.

    Premier Icon BadlyWiredDog
    Subscriber

    @BadlyWiredDog – That’s very interesting. Do you have any thoughts about what part of that combo increased the lateral stiffness? Flange height? Spoke type?

    It’s mostly the carbon rims, the spokes are nothing special although the deeper section of the rims also means the spokes are shorter, which probably also helps. The issue with more affordable carbon rims is that an impact which would just dent an aluminium equivalent can break a carbon rim, which is a bit of an issue, though I don’t know how robust the latest Light Bicycle stuff is – they reckon it’s tougher and there are a few reviews out there which seem to bear that out plus an extended long term review of their heavy duty rim which is pretty posisitve:

    https://www.vitalmtb.com/product/guide/Rims,47/Light-Bicycle/Heavy-Duty-Carbon,19704#product-reviews/2847/expand

    Plenty of folk on here have trashed expensive carbon wheels, sometimes repeatedly, I guess rim inserts might help there. Mine are okay, but I’m not particularly heavy or aggressive plus I’ve been very careful not to go too low on tyre pressure.

    Premier Icon chakaping
    Subscriber

    my current rims are the ST ones, which may explain the problem.

    My pal and I both got cheap wheelsets built with them, none of the rear rims stayed round for very long – and I’m not the heaviest or smashiest rider.

    At the same time I had the DT EX471 rims (like EX511 but narrower) and could not dent, flat spot or get them to go out of true – even when playing tunes on them down the rocky descents of Torridon.

    Premier Icon twonks
    Subscriber

    I’m a similar weight and went with EX511 rims on Pro 4 hubs built and tensioned for my weight by Moonglu.

    Have been on 3 bikes and now on my FS where they have been straight and true since day 1.

    Bit more expensive but worth it imho.

    Also have some Ibis 942 wheels that felt great on the 5 miles they’ve been ridden, although they don’t have a bike to go on so will be sold soon.

    Upgrading to hubs that have proper cartridge bearings rather than stupid cup and cone bearings is well worth the money

    ‘Proper’ cartridge bearings are just a sop to people who can’t/won’t look after cup and cone bearings, which are a proven better system when it comes to the job of, you know, actually rolling along.

    Tragic thing is, Shimano have developed a system (digital click) which mskes it super easy to adjust and maintain cup and cone, but they don’t seem to market it, and don’t use it on many MTB hubs…

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