There are a few websites offering DIY style wheel kits, they supply the rims, hubs spokes etc. for you to build yourself. Recently, BDop Cycling has begun to offer a DIY kit designed to offer a light alloy clincher wheel at an affordable price.
Like the cables that I reviewed earlier, the packaging for these wheels was also very plain - a simple cardboard box.
You may notice a dent in the upper right hand corner of the packaging. I was a little concerned about this when I was opening the box. However, BDop pack the kit very securely, with plenty of bubble wrap for protection. I was pleased to find that the sorry state of the exterior cardboard was not reflected in the internal contents.
Inside the cardboard middle section were the hubs, spokes and extras included with this kit. BDop do supply a spoke key with this build, which was handy in lacing the wheels, but I found it absolutely useless for tensioning and truing. Call me fussy, but I found the supplied spoke key uncomfortable to grip. I'd recommend the Park Tool SW-20 or SW-0, I personally used a Pillar spoke wrench, also available from BDop. It features good ergonomics, and I've never rounded off a nipple with it.
You will also need to supply your own truing stand and dishing tool. These tools can be improvised, but having the actual tools is a lot easier (Tacx T3175 & T4585 are two reasonably priced but quality tools). I find a spoke tension meter also helps to ensure even tension, but they can be quite pricey (I quite like the Park TM-1, it's NOT accurate, but it's very precise - which is more important for even tension).
Tools aside, I found building this kit was quite pleasant, lacing was made much easier by the internal spoke wrench (it grips the nipple well enough so you can insert it directly into the rim) and I didn't have any weird hops at the rim joint. It personally took me around 4 hours to complete the build, expect less if you're more experienced, and more if it's your first time.
Onto the components, nothing jumped out as particularly heavy, or light (for the intended purpose of the kit). The most notable thing I found was that the front QR skewer had the logo printed upside down (if you like to mount the QR skewer pointing towards the rear wheel). The front QR weighs 50g, and the rear weighs 55g. They're heavy but do a decent job of clamping the wheel.
The hubset weighed 303g, with the front weighing 60g and the rear weighing 243g. The rear isn't particularly light, but the front is (referencing the BHS hubs). Both had smooth bearings out of the box, and a good finish. The rear hub has decent NDS spoke tension - about 45% of the DS spoke tension.
The rear hub features the ABG (anti bite guard) design. Essentially, it's a metal strip to prevent the cassette from biting into the freehub. From my past experiences with this model hub it works really well. I've had 10 000 km in another wheel using this freehub and the there's no noticeable notching. I've had alloy freehubs which notched after only a few thousand km.
BDop pointed out that recently a batch of SL rear hubs were mis-labelled by Novatec, which is why the rear hub in this review didn't have the SL logo. I asked BDop what the differences between the SL hub and the standard hubs were, in short, the SL hubs have more material machined off, leading to a lighter weight. Since the two hubs look so similar (the SL hub is *slightly* narrower) it's understandable how this mistake occurred.
Moving onto the rims, my two rims averaged 422.5g, so they're reasonably light considering the width. They're lighter (but also narrower) than Kinlin's XR-22T - 440g. However, they are heavier than Stan's ZTR Alpha 340 rim which have similar dimensions. I would say the weight is about par.
Just a word of caution, these rims scratch quite easily, I managed to scratch them with a spoke while lacing. This isn't really a criticism (I've had similar experiences with Kinlin rims) but more a word of warning.
Since the spokes (Sapim CX-Ray) and nipples (Pillar alloy) are fairly well known I won't write too much about them. All up, the front wheel weighs 581g and the rear weighs 791g (1372g total), without rim tape.
The rim strips supplied by BDop weigh 18g per wheel, they do the job, but if you want a pure weightweenie build, veloplugs are much lighter (amendment: I tried Red veloplugs but the fit wasn't perfect). The included valvinator stickers were negligible in mass.
Scientifically, light wheels may not make you significantly faster, but they can make your bike more responsive and fun (subjectively). There are those out there who swear by aero gains, but I personally am a sucker for light wheels. I found these wheels rode like a light wheel should, they spun up easily and were very reactive to power surges. Stiffness wasn't a let down either. I'm 58kg and I didn't find stiffness lacking, and nor did my much heavier 76kg friend. I certainly couldn't pick the difference in stiffness between the Ksyrium Elite wheels I had in for review earlier, but my heavier friend could - commenting that while stiffness wasn't lacking, the Ksyriums did have an edge. He goes on to mention, given the weight the stiffness is fine. Given the above, I'd say BDop were spot on when they suggest that these wheels were "designed specifically for featherweight climbers".
Towards the end of the testing month, I began to conclude that this kit would be great for a budget minded weightweenie who likes to tinker with their bikes. While some sites recommend that your first wheelbuild should be a sturdy wheel with lots of spokes (easier to bring into true), I can't see why someone building wheels for the first time would struggle with this kit. The rear lacing pattern can be a challenge, but that's a problem with any crossed wheel. If you sit down and look at a few diagrams/wheels you'll be able to work it out. Perhaps the biggest advantage (and drawback) is that you don't need to calculate spoke lengths. This is a skill I would recommend learning sometime, but it's nice to know that the supplied spoke lengths are correct.
If you're someone who likes brand name or boutique products this kit probably wouldn't appeal to you (seriously, why are you still reading this review?). However, like the cables, if getting excellent performance for the price is important to you then these wheels are a good choice. They're an excellent set of light alloy clinchers for a lighter rider (regardless of price). I must add, that you can get much lighter carbon wheels, especially if you go tubular. Having said that, carbon and/or tubular wheels may not be a good option for everyone, and so I would still be inclined to recommend this build kit.
Post Scriptum: After this review BDOP have updated this kit to feature straight pull spokes and hubs, rather than conventional J-bend hubs/spokes. I expect this choice of hubs to better compliment this kit, as the larger flange spacings suggest stiffer wheels. I was impressed with the initial configuration, and this new configuration appears better on paper. Should you break a spoke, sourcing a replacement spoke from BDOP shouldn't be an issue.
We would like to thank BDop for supplying the DIY wheel kit for this review. You can read more about it here