Mountain bike wheels, handmade or machine-made?
Bicycle wheels aren't just those circular things that spin to move a bike forward. They hold the tires and gear mechanisms that support the weight of the cyclist; they absorb the bumps of the trail; they can withstand pedaling and braking forces in rotation; they allow the cyclist to coast and coast as well as climb steep slopes; they make it possible to turn the bike (using the handlebars) and the "bike" (two wheels) bears their name. Most cyclists ignore their wheels until they develop a problem, usually as a result of damage or negligence on the part of the owner. It is only when the wheel deforms after an accident and collapses, never to turn again, that the owner realizes its complexities. Finding a replacement wheel can be mind-boggling in terms of choice and especially cost; they are not cheap, at least not if a cyclist wants them to last.
Cost of mountain bike wheels
Cheap wheels are almost always machine-made. These are common on bikes that cost less than $200, but the components will have a short lifespan as they usually have cheap non-stainless steel spokes that rust easily and break, often on the track if corrosion goes unnoticed. The problem with trying to replace a cheap wheel is that even a new factory-made one will cost more than $50. Handmade wheels are the standard offered by most specialty cycling retailers as they stock hubs, rims and spokes and make new wheels to order. The higher the quality of the components, the higher the cost of the wheel and prices range from $100 to over $1300 per pair.
Bicycle wheel building
If a cyclist needs or wants a new wheel, they can buy one or build one. Building a wheel takes time, and while satisfying, the cyclist is unlikely to save money because the cost of components is rarely less than the price of a store-bought handmade wheel. A quick look at the different components of a mountain bike wheel reveals the complexity of wheel construction.
Parts for building a mountain bike wheel
Rims, hubs and spokes are the three key components of a bicycle wheel: Rims. These are normally made of aluminum or steel, but expensive rims are made of carbon fiber. Mountain bike sizes are normally 26 inches, although the modern trend is now the inches, which is a bike with 29-inch wheels. Some rims have flat braking surfaces, designed for rim brakes, while others are designed for disc brakes without a braking surface. With rim brakes, alloy wheels offer a better braking surface than steel. More and more mountain bike rims are designed to receive chamberless tires that do not need an inner tube. Wheel hubs . The hub contains the wheel axle, bearings and fasteners for the spokes; if it is compatible with the disc, it will also have the disc brake attachment mechanism. Cheaper wheels have a screw-on mechanism to fix gears while better quality ones have bolting or freewheeling mechanisms. Wheel axles can be quick-release or manually operated devices that do not require any tools; cheaper wheels are always bolted. Wheel bearings can be cartridge bearings, requiring no maintenance, or loose ball bearings that offer more adjustment and can be maintained for a longer service life. Wheel spokes . These are available in a variety of lengths, shapes, and sizes depending on the choice of hub, rim, and spoke pattern. Materials vary, but stainless steel is preferable because it does not rust. Modern trends offer wheels with fewer spokes, but this has more to do with cost reduction than function. Technological improvements have made it possible to make wheels stronger with fewer spokes, but not on cheap wheels. It is therefore better to opt for 32 spokes on a mountain bike, because if you ride hard, 32 spokes will be stronger.
Buy a new bike wheel
Individual bike wheels are expensive to replace as bike retailers often only offer handmade, custom wheels rather than stocking large volumes of cheaper factory-made wheels. Depending on the cost of the bike, it may be better to upgrade to a new bike rather than replacing a cheap damaged wheel with an expensive one. fXf