If you're in the market for a new set of wheels you may have heard a relatively new term bantered about. That term is "wheel systems". What on earth is a "wheel system" and why should you even care? If you are after an excellent set of wheels then read on. Wheel Systems is a phrase coined by the companies who invented this concept. You might see it in their literature or on the website of companies like Mavic, Campagnolo, DT Swiss and Shimano as they all have developed their own wheel systems. There are of course other companies with a similar approach.
The concept is essentially a simple one. The companies mentioned have decided it would be far more profitable to sell you a complete set of wheels than individual components that make up that wheel. For instance there was a time when the only wheel component that Campagnolo made were hubs. At that time Campagnolo was content with selling you their wonderful hubs and letting you choose rims and spokes from other different companies who specialised in making those items. During this era Mavic pretty much specialised in making only rims. This way of selling individual wheel components went on for many decades until someone thought it would be infinitely more profitable to sell you not only the hubs or rims but all the other items required for a complete wheel set. This was the birth of the "wheel system". As their marketing departments went into overdrive new designs came out annually to help increase their market share. These new designs brought in extensive use of proprietary parts. This made it impossible for the consumer to use replacement parts from any other company except the one that designed and sold that particular model of wheel. So simply put, if you bought a Mavic wheel it was necessary that the replacement parts had to be supplied by Mavic as nothing else would fit properly. Now, this whole scenario might have been workable if one had ready access to the necessary replacement parts that every wheel eventually needs in it's lifetime. But often that is not the case. These companies seem to have little regard for making available their proprietary replacement parts to the buyer even as little as a season or two later. The end result is often the wheels are not repairable at all and they end up in landfill. Not what you'd expect after purchasing a pricey set of wheels from an internationally famous company.
There is also one last fact that is often overlooked. That's the build quality that normally is associated with these wheel systems. Most of these large aforementioned companies have their own wheel factories where these wheels are built then boxed up and shipped out around the world. The typical "factory build" is rarely something to boast about. In fact, the amount of time that is taken to finish a wheel is astonishingly small! Some factories claim their wheel builders are turning out 6 wheels an hour. Now lets compare how much time I normally spend on a wheel. The average wheel that I build often takes over two hours. If you do the math this means on average I am spending 12 times as much time as a factory built wheel. They simply cannot be the same end product. By comparison a factory built wheel must cut so many corners to end up in a box in 12 minutes that it's not even funny! I think you get the picture.
So, is there an alternative to buying the hype and problems attached to all these new wheel systems from the big players. Thankfully there is! This is where your local custom wheel builder comes sharply into focus to save the day. Let me explain.
These days there are many small boutique companies making world class bicycle components. This is especially true in the world of wheels. Lots of fantastic hub & rim manufacturers turning out simply amazing quality stuff that anybody would be super stoked to ride. In fact, there has never been more choice than there is now. Names like Chris King, Onyx, White Industry, Project 321, Industry Nine, Phil Wood, Rohloff, Hadley, Extralite, Syntace, Hope, Royce, Gokiso, and those are just the hub companies! Tons of excellent rim options as well. There is absolutely no need to buy into this wheel system nonsense that completely lets you down when you happen to need a replacement rim or even something as simple as a few spokes and nipples to get you back on the road. The alternative is to avail yourself of the services of a custom wheel builder. He'll offer you far more real world options than any cookie cutter wheel system could hope to ever provide. A professional wheel builder will design a set of wheels for you that will target your specific needs. Literally tailor made for your precise wants and desires. Choosing the right hubs, from an array of lovely colours and the exact spoke count that matches your weight and cycling style. Choosing the rims that will make most sense for your needs as well as mating up perfectly with your favourite tire. Deciding on a spoke type and a lacing pattern that also will serve your specific cycling habits. You have absolutely none of these choices when buying a companies wheel system. None. Does that really make any sense? Of course not! With the help of an experienced wheel builder you'll be miles ahead with a custom designed set of wheels that accurately match your own actual real world needs. Also, those wheels have the potential to look quite striking in comparison to the run of the mill factory wheel set.
Cognoscenti Cycles uses absolutely no proprietary parts in any of our wheel designs. All our spokes and nipples are industry standard dimensions and won't disappear anytime soon, because they have been in common use for decades. We have partnered with the very best rim and hub manufacturers to provide a huge number of options, all that have readily available non proprietary parts. Exactly the way it should be. So, steer clear of all these wheel systems and save yourself some major disappointments when searching for something as simple as a replacement spoke that's no longer available that renders your wheel a useless paper weight.
Enjoy the experience of putting together a killer custom wheel design that's all your own. It's the only way to fly.