Project Phil Part 2: Wheels

Onto the next important part, the wheels.  The wheels are probably one of the most important parts of a bike, they form a crucial part of the drivetrain and gearing, they provide traction with the surface, provide lighting, provide braking and support the weight of the rider.  Being asked to do so many things makes component and build choices very important, such as numbers of spokes, rim choice, hub choice and spoke tension for example.

Firstly my objective was to be able to fit reasonably wide tyres, this would necessitate a slightly wider rim.  This follows the current trend in road racing where wider rims in theory provide better support for the tyre which reduces squirmyness, reduces rolling resistance, reduces chances of pinch flatting and provides a better aerodynamic profile.   I considered going for a tubeless specific rim, I umm'd and ahhh'd for a long time about it, looking at all the different brands; at one point I was seriously considering importing some generic 50mm deep carbon rims from a Chinese supplier.  I decided to give tubeless a miss, as much as I am generally a tech-forward kinda guy, the tyre choice is appallingly small and the amount of bother to mount them made them seem less appealing.  Ultimately I chose these components:

H Plus Son Archetype in 32H Black anodised ended up being my choice.  These fit the bill perfectly as they are 23mm wide externally, look fantastic and having read many reviews they are considered a top quality rim which builds very straight.  They also come in many hole drillings and are reasonably light at a claimed 480g.  I weighed them at 480g and 472g respectively which is very close.  The quality of the finish on them is fantastic, the black anodising feels very durable.  The sidewalls are machined then anodised, which visually looks great on a disc braked bike as you don't get the shiny band of brake track between the black of the tyre and the black of the rim.

The front hub I chose was a Shimano XT DH-T785L which is a dynamo hub with centrelock fitting for a disc rotor.  This is one of the higher end models of their dynamo hubs and features an alloy axle for weight saving.  The claimed weight is 483g, I weighed it at 513g.  The internals are similar to their other high end dynamo hubs so they are mean to be very low drag when the lights are off.

The rear hub I chose was a Novatec 712SB, Novatec is not a well known brand however they are one of the largest makers of hubs, a lot of brands such as Ambrosio have their brand put on Novatecs and resold as their own.  There weren't too many choices for rear hubs, very few hubs are out there that are both Campagnolo 11 speed compatible with disc mount in 135mm spacing.  White Industries makes the CX11, DT Swiss makes one and Novatec is the last one.  The White Industries hub is beautiful and I'm sure it will last a very long time, however the Novatec was half the price and about 50g lighter.  Also spares availability was excellent for the Novatec, they seem to be a modular design so end caps, axles and freehubs can all be swapped out as needed.

I've built about 5 or 6 wheelsets now, all of them seemed to have stood the test of time so far.  I don't consider myself an expert, however having built this many wheelsets I feel reasonably comfortable doing it again.  I would prefer to have better tools like a spoke tensiometer and a proper truing stand, however finances say otherwise.  The spokes I used were DT Swiss Competition double butted spokes.  These are reasonably light and very strong.  In the past I used straight gauge spokes, the noticeable thing with double butted spokes is that they have a tendency to "wind up" more when truing them, which means when you are turning the nipple the whole spoke twists a bit before the nipple actually turns.

The front wheel was laced 32 spoke 3-cross which is pretty standard.  Being that it is a disc hub the dish is asymmetric so you get slightly higher tension on the disc side.  The front wheel comes in at a weight of 1224g which isn't bad considering it's a dynamo hub wheel.

The rear wheel comes in a bit lighter, at a respectable 986g for a 32 spoke 3-cross wheel.  The Novatec 712SB features a slightly larger flange on the non-drive side for some reason (perhaps to achieve the same spoke length on each side?) regardless, the wheel built up nicely.  Both wheels built up very straight and true with reasonably even tension; from what I could surmise from plucking the spokes and listening to the tones.

However, as usually happens with a lot of custom builds there is the occasional problem.  For me this was with the cassette and hub compatibility.  The Novatec 712SB-11 is sold as Campagnolo 10/11 Speed compatible, mounting the stock Chorus 11-25t cassette with the factory lockring does not work.  I was not a happy camper, to say the least.  The cassette lockring when tightened down would lock the whole cassette to the wheel for some reason, having investigated it I discovered it was two things.

Firstly, the lockring was not fully compressing the cassette, it was actually hitting a flange on the driveside endcap.  This locks the cassette/freehub body to the endcap and thus the axle which causes them to fix together.  I filed off the flange completely so the endcap now could fit right inside the lockring, this allowed the lockring to be fully threaded all the way inside the freehub body.

Secondly, the cassette was hitting the spokes when tightened down, this had me stumped as putting a 1.5mm spacer pushed the top cog too far out to be able to fix into the freehub spline.  I googled a bit and found that Mavic freehubs for Campagnolo typically used a 0.55mm spacer to fit 11-speed cassettes.  I ordered two just in case, I tried with one spacer and hey presto it worked perfectly with the cassette fully tightened down.  As you can see below the Campagnolo 11-speed large sprocket has a very slight dish to it, this causes it to hit the spokes.  Again, I'm not particularly happy with Novatec as it should have been machined properly so I didn't have to use a spacer, or the spacer could have been provided.

That completes the wheel build chapter, this was the only part of the bike where I had any major compatibility or build problems.  I'll shortly be writing a letter to the retailer of the Novatec hubs, I should definitely not have to file down parts of the hub and figure out that I need to use a spacer just to use an off the shelf factory part.  The Campagnolo Zonda wheels that I previously used worked straight off the bat without any spacers. That's all for now...

Continue onto Part 3: Drivetrain and brakes...


  1. You were able to figure it out in the end at least. Would be a boring build if nothing went wrong ;)

  2. Hehe, yes I was a but worried that the hub would not fit an 11-speed cassette in any way and I would have to either buy a new hub and rebuild the wheel or swap everything over to 10 speed :P

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  4. Very nice build here. I'm thinking to make something similar and, seeing that your wheels have been great, I wonder what spoke calculator have you used, cause I found that each spoke calculator that I check gives a different result, and I do not know what I can trust.

    1. I used the Damon Rinard calculator which I have always used and it's always been quite accurate as long as my measurements were correct. One of the most important measurements in my experience is the rim diameter, which needs to be measured properly. I usually measure it by using the method highlighted in Sheldon Brown's guide

      best of luck!

  5. Hi, I am doing a very similar build. Can I ask where you ordered the Novatec hub from? Would you still recommend this hub given the fit issues you had? I am looking at building it up with shimano 105 11 speed.

    1. Hi There,
      I ordered it from, they seem to be the only online retailer that sells all the hubs as well as a whole bunch of spares. The hubs themselves are quite nice quality and I think they are well made, however I was a little disappointed with the fit of the axle ends and the Campagnolo freehub. However I have recently swapped to an 11 speed Shimano freehub and this has fit without any issues.