On my website there is a page known as the Custom Order. I call it my “Getting to know you” page. A prospective client can use this page to communicate their criteria for the perfect wheel set. I build a picture of them by learning the following; their age, their weight, how much they want to spend, the bike the wheels need to fit on, the roads they ride and their expectations for the wheelset. It lets them tell me the problems they’ve had with wheels in the past -- if I cannot meet my customer in person, this is a pretty good substitute. Not long ago I communicated with a younger rider in this way; I suggested a couple builds that would get him where he wanted to go; the right price, in the ballpark on weight and components that I knew FROM EXPERIENCE would get the job done. I heard nothing for two months, so I sent a polite email asking if he needed anything else from me. To his credit he responded and told me that he’d had a local shop build his wheels with the parts I’d suggested, saving around eighty bucks on labor. He proceeded to tell me the wheels were a disappointment, coming out of true with disappointing regularity; how could I have suggested such a mediocre build? He implied that I wasn’t very good at what I did.
I didn’t react negatively to this young man; instead, two paintings came to mind. The artist James Whistler painted his mother when they were living in London in the 1870’s, hence the title “Whistler’s Mother”.
The second picture that popped into my head is the improved version by Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean;
I think we can all agree, it’s close to being the same picture. The same picture frame, the same canvas, the same paint, mostly; darn near identical -- with the exception of the head. But there’s no doubt that Bean’s “Whistler” is funnier.
But I digress; how does this relate to wheels? Like this.
If I’d been quicker thinking I would have told this young man that the hands of the builder make the difference; two wheel sets can have the same rim, hub, spokes and spoke pattern, but it’s the experience, knowledge and skill of the wheel builder that makes the difference between a good or bad set. There’s no substitute for wisdom that’s been gained (literally) firsthand. Whether it’s me, or another seasoned wheel builder in your own neck of the woods, have faith in us. The extra few bucks are money well spent!