Buyers guide to our handbuilt wheels

Here’s our easy-to-follow guide of how to put together your perfect wheel from Merlin Cycles.

Why buy a handbuilt wheel instead of an off-the-peg one? Factory built wheels are all well and good but they still don’t quite match the quality of a well-made handbuilt wheel.

Another unique aspect of handbuilt wheels is that you can spec your wheel to exact requirements. You can mix and match manufacturers to achieve the wheels that you want.

Lightweight hubs with bombproof rims? No problem. Skinny rims with fit-and-forget robust hubs and spokes? You got it.

Handbuilt wheels offer craftmanship and choice.

Choosing your hub

You need to know your wheel size, your disc rotor mount and your axle type.

Wheel size will either be 26″, 27.5″ or 29″.

Your disc rotor mount will either be 6-bolt or Centrelock.

Your front wheel axle will either be QR, 15mm or 20mm.

Your rear wheel axle will either be 135mm QR, 135mm x 10mm, 135mm x 12mm, 142mm x 10mm, 142mm x 12mm or 150mm x 12mm.

Choose from these hubs

Shimano Deore – Great value, no nonsense.

Shimano SLX – Lighter option for enthusiasts.

Shimano Zee – Bombproof hubs for heavy duty riding.

Shimano XT – A reliable choice for home servicing.

Hope Pro 2 Evo – The popular choice. UK made. Colour options. Knock-in knock-out bearings for real world riders.

Chris King – Ultimate pimpery. Quick pickup. Loud buzz. Should last a lifetime.

Choosing your rim

Usage = What sort of riding do you want to do? We have rims for all sorts of biking, from XC through to Downhill.

Internal width = The width of the gap that your tyre sits in. If you want to run bigger tyres (2.3″ or more) then they’ll perform much better if paired with a suitable width rim. Running fat tyres on narrow rims causes the tyre to deform and fold-over rather than support you and dig in for traction.

Tubeless = If you want to run wheels tubeless (ie. without inner tubes) then it’s a good idea to choose rims that are tubeless-ready from the get-go.

Mavic

TN319  – Usage: Cross country – Internal width: 19mm – Weight: 538g – Recommended tyre: 1.5 – 2.3

TN719 – Usage: Cross country – Internal width: 19mm – Weight: 510g – Recommended tyre: 1.5 – 2.3

XC717 – Usage: Cross country – Internal width: 17mm – Weight: 395g – Recommended tyre: 1.0 – 2.10

XM317 – Usage: Cross country – Internal width: 17mm – Weight: 440g – Recommended tyre: 1.5 – 2.3

XM319 – Usage: Trail – Internal width: 19mm – Weight: 490g – Recommended tyre: 1.5 – 2.3

XM719 – Usage: Trail – Internal width: 19mm – Weight: 460g – Recommended tyre: 1.5 – 2.3

XM819 UST – Usage: Trail – Internal width: 19mm – Weight: 405g – Recommended tyre: 1.5 – 2.3 – Tubeless

EN321 – Usage: Enduro – Internal width: 21mm – Weight: 570g – Recommended tyre: 2.1 – 2.5

EN521 – Usage: Enduro – Internal width: 21mm – Weight: 540g – Recommended tyre: 2.1 – 2.5

EN821 UST – Usage: Enduro – Internal width: 21mm – Weight: 460g – Recommended tyre: 2.1 – 2.5 – Tubeless

EX325 – Usage: Extreme – Internal width: 25mm – Weight: 715g – Recommended tyre: 2.3 – 3.0

EX721 – Usage: Extreme – Internal width: 21mm – Weight: 590g – Recommended tyre: 2.1 – 2.5

EX823 UST – Usage: Extreme – Internal width: 23mm – Weight: 655g – Recommended tyre: 2.3 – 2.5 – Tubeless

DT Swiss

XR 400 – Usage: Cross country – Internal width: 19mm – Weight: 400g – Recommended tyre: 1.5 – 2.3

EX 500 – Usage: Enduro – Internal width: 21mm – Weight: 500g – Recommended tyre: 2.1 – 2.5

ZTR (Stans No Tubes)

Alpine – Usage: Cross country – Internal width: 20mm – Weight: 330g – Recommended tyre: 1.5 – 2.3 – Tubeless

Crest – Usage: Trail – Internal width: 21mm – Weight: 340g – Recommended tyre: 2.1 – 2.5 – Tubeless

Arch EX – Usage: Trail/Enduro – Internal width: 21mm – Weight: 400g – Recommended tyre: 2.1 – 2.5 – Tubeless

Flow EX – Enduro/Extreme – Internal width: 25.5mm – Weight: 490g – Recommended tyre: 2.3 – 3.0 – Tubeless

Choosing your spokes

ACI S/S DB – Our standard spoke offers excellent strength and reliability (silver or black)

DT Plain Gauge – Heavier but super strong spokes for downhill and heavy duty riders

DT Competition – Higher grade stainless steel double butted spoke suitable for XC, Trail or Enduro (silver or black)

DT Revolution – Lightweight spoke for XC and Trail. Not recommended for Enduro or Extreme use (silver or black)

Frequently asked questions

Q: Do I get skewers?

A: Yes with Shimano hubs. No with Hope and Chris King hubs. Skewers can be purchased separately if you require them.

Q: Do I need to buy rim tape?

A: Yes for all rims apart from Stan’s. Rim tape can be purchased separately.

Which handbuilt wheels should you buy?

Cross country racers – A pair of Chris King hubs laced up to a set of ZTR Alpine rims using DT Revolution spokes will make for a light and fast wheelset with instant pedalling response.

Trail riders – Hope Pro 2 Evo hubs + Mavic XM719 rims + ACI S/S DB spokes = sorted. You can always convert your wheels to tubeless at a later date with a conversion kit.

Enduro racers – Hope Pro 2 Evo hubs are still the ones to go for. With rims it’s a close call between two popular options: either the Mavic EN821 UST or the ZTR Flow EX. DT Competition spokes are the clear favourite here.

Click here to build your dream wheels

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