Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Journey of the Boardwalk: Part 34 - Custom Chris King/Novatec/LitePro Wheelset

After assembling all the parts for the new wheels, the wheelbuilding can now begin! I had already received the Chris King R45 11 speed rear hub, the Novatec 74mm front hub and also the 20" LitePro rims. However, I am unable to build the wheel myself due to a lack of skill. Thus I brought the parts to the bike shop for the professionals to build the wheel.

I went to Gee Hin Chan as they are very experienced in wheelbuilding. The uncle there has been building wheels for many many years and is vastly experienced. Also, they have their own spoke cutting and threading machine, so they can cut the spokes to the correct length even if they don't have the required length in stock.

The wheelbuilding was surprisingly fast, as I sent in the wheels on Friday at noon, and the wheels were already ready the next day at 2pm! I was probably very lucky that the shop was not too busy during that period. I heard that the uncle built one of the wheels on Friday, and completed the other on Saturday.

This will be a long blog post, as I will be comparing it to the current Wheelsport wheelset. Along the way, I also discovered some interesting aspects about the Wheelsport wheelset. My final verdict on the quality of the Wheelsport wheelset will be given at the end of this post!

First look at the custom Chris King R45 + Novatec + LitePro wheelset!

Custom wheelset with black spokes
Wheelsport wheelset. I must admit that the Wheelsport wheels look better with the spoke pattern and the decals!

 The front wheel with the Novatec front hub and 20 hole LitePro rim

Close up view of the Novatec front hub 

Chris King R45 rear hub with 24 hole LitePro rim

Close up view of the Chris King R45 rear hub

View of the rear wheel. The dishing of the rear wheel can be seen clearly here!

Before installing the cassette and tires onto the new wheel, I have to first remove the current Wheelsport wheels from the frame. While doing that, I also did some maintenance for the Dahon Boardwalk.

Wheels and crankset off! Took the chance to clean the frame, crankset, chain and cassette.

Rarely seen part of the bike; inside of the rear drop out.

Replaced the Aerozine Ceramic BB! Found an exact replacement at Scootz at a fair price. Old BB on the left, with faded gold colour.

Old BB on the left, new BB on the right. Old BB actually feels smoother than the new BB, probably due to less grease inside, and also because it has been run in nicely. Will probably transfer it onto another bike, while the Dahon Boardwalk gets the new BB!

New gold coloured BB installed! Good to go again...

Sorry for the sidetrack, let us now go back to the wheelset. This time, I weighed all the wheels again, with the same weighing scale for an accurate weight comparison.

New Novatec front wheel without rim tape, 476 grams.

New Chris King R45 rear wheel, without rim tape. 639 grams. This gives a total wheelset weight of  1115 grams.

Since the Wheelsport wheels already have rim tape on it, I decided to first put on rim tape on the new wheelset for a fair weight comparison. I use cloth rim tape to prevent punctures caused by the tube squeezing through the holes in the rim.

Zefal cloth rim tape. Much better quality than the common plastic/rubber type.

Fresh double layer of rim tape on the new wheelset!
Novatec front wheel with double layer of cloth rim tape. 494 grams.

Chris King R45 rear wheel with double layer of cloth rim tape. 658 grams.
This gives a total wheelset weight (inclusive of rim tape) of 1152 grams.

Wheelsport front wheel with double layer of cloth rim tape. At 452 grams, it is acually quite a bit lighter than the Novatec front wheel!

Wheelsport rear wheel with double layer of cloth rim tape. At 692 grams, it is heavier than the Chris King R45 rear wheel.

In summary, the wheel weights (inclusive of rim tape):

Novatec front wheel with LitePro rim: 494 grams
Chris King rear wheel with LitePro rim: 658 grams
Total weight of new custom wheelset: 1152 grams

Wheelsport front wheel: 452 grams
Wheelsport rear wheel: 692 grams
Total weight of Wheelsport wheelset: 1144 grams

It is found that the Wheelsport wheels are actually lighter than the new custom wheelset! This is despite the taller rim of the Wheelsport wheels and the heavier rear hub. The heavier weight of the Wheelsport rear hub is offset by the lighter Wheelsport front hub.

While comparing the wheels, I also noticed some other differences and similarities between these wheels.

1) Appearance
Let the pictures do the talking!

Front wheel comparison

Rear wheel comparison

Rim profile comparison. LitePro rim (25mm) on the left, Wheelsport rim (30mm) on the right.

2) Type of spokes used
The Wheelsport wheelset uses double butted spokes, that have a diameter of 2.0mm at the ends and 1.8mm in the middle. This gives strength at the ends where it is needed without extra weight in the middle.
The spokes used in the new custom wheelset is of straight gauge 2.0mm throughout, which means greater strength but of course slightly heavier weight.

3) Material of freehub body
In the previous post on the Chris King R45 rear hub, I indicated that I was not too impressed by the use of an aluminium freehub body, as it may be more prone to damage by the steel sprockets. However, I noticed that the Wheelsport rear hub actually also has an aluminium freehub body! And there isn't too much damage on it after 2 years, so I guess an aluminium freehub body is fine for my usage.

Very slight notching on the aluminium freehub body of the Wheelsport wheelset. Nothing serious though.

4) Type of sealed bearings for the front hub
While taking apart the front hubs, I noticed that the size of the sealed bearings used are different. After checking out the type of bearings used and measuring the size, I Googled for the bearing info. I wanted to compare the load ratings for these different sized bearings. For more info on bearing loads, check out this link.

Wheelsport Front Hub:

R4-2RS Sealed Bearing by NBK

Outer diameter of about 15.85mm

This bearing has a Dynamic Load Rating (Cr) of 333, and a Static Load Rating (Cor) of 131.

Novatec A551SB Front Hub:

669LB Sealed Bearing by TPI

Outer bearing diameter is larger, at about 19.95mm.

The Novatec front hub uses sealed bearings that have a Dynamic Load Rating of 550, and Static Load Rating of 236.

I am not an expert on bearings, but it should be safe to say that based on the load ratings of the bearings, the Novatec hub uses bearings that have a much higher load capacity than the Wheelsport front hub. This means that if subject to the same bumpy roads, the Novatec front hub should fare better over a period of time. Please correct me if I am wrong.

My final verdict on the Wheelsport wheels:
If you have a pair of Wheelsport wheels, hold on to it! It is a really good pair of wheels that roll really well, it is lightweight, and best of all, it looks good! Just ensure proper freehub maintenance and it should last you for many many miles. You will be hard-pressed to find a better set of 20" wheels at such a price.

Finally, after comparing these wheelsets, I can finally fix on the cassette and tires, and install the wheels onto the bike!

Use both the 1.85mm and 1mm spacer, when installing a Shimano 10 speed road cassette onto an 11 speed freehub.

Both spacers resting at the back of the cassette.

New rear wheel!

Clean wheels, cassette and chain. New Kojak tire for the rear wheel too.

New front wheel

More reflective spoke clips!

Seems to be better than the 3M spoke clips I got a while ago

Reflective spokes!

Reflective front wheel

Reflective rear wheel

Spinning rear wheel with reflective spoke clips!

Sorry for the ultra-long blog post, but there are just so many things and info to share! Hope it has been useful and informative to those who are planning to get Wheelsport wheels or are already using Wheelsport wheels.

I am pretty happy with the Chris King hub so far, it gets louder the more I ride! But I will only be able to review the hub properly after more riding.

Final picture with new wheels!

Update: 28 March 2015
After almost 1.5 years on the Chris King custom wheelset, here are my feelings on this wheelset.

1) Rims are still true, this is a result of solid wheel building by the experienced wheel builder at the former Gee Hin Chan bike shop.
2) Rolling resistance is noticeably more than the Wheelsport wheelset. This refers to freewheeling when spinning the wheels in the workstand. The Chris King hub does not rotate as long as the Wheelsport hubs.
3) Buzzing sound from the Chris King hub gets louder the more I use it.
4) I have had to tighten the bearing pre-load on the Chris King hub about 3 times, as I noticed some slight wobbling of the rear wheel on the axle.
5) No other problems detected during this period, which is good.

Overall, the Chris King R45 rear hub is a solid rear hub, but it is not the smoothest hub available. There are many hubs out there which can out-roll the Chris King, and are also cheaper. Being a custom rear wheel, it also means that it is very difficult to actually sell off the wheelset if I want to.


  1. Hi,

    With regards to your rear Chris Hub, what is the OLD? Is 130mm standard for Dahon bikes?

  2. The OLD for my Chris King hub is the standard for road bikes, 130mm. It is used for most Dahon bikes, except for internal hub geared models which mostly uses 135mm. Single speed or 3 speed Dahon bikes have a narrower rear OLD.

  3. Thanks for the reply..

    I'm just wondering since the choices for front hub for Dahon bikes are limited. Does the Phil Wood 74mm Front Hub for Brompton suitable for Dahon bikes?


    1. You can use the Phil Wood 74mm front hub on Dahon bikes, but it is not using a QR axle. Only nutted axle.

  4. How much did you pay for your Chris King R45 and where to buy that?

    Did you buy the Lite Pro wheels from GHC too?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    Dennis (from the other post)

    1. The Chris King hub was bought online, there are only a few sources so you can check the price easily.

      The LitePro rims are from Taobao.

  5. Do you know if NOVATEC F172SB rear hub can install on Kinetix Comp rim? with 172mm spokes?

    1. You need to check if they have the same number of spoke holes. As for the spoke length, I have no idea. Best to leave it to the bike shop to lace up the wheel for you.

  6. Hi, how much does the wheel building cost?

    1. Assuming you supply the rims and hubs, you will then need to pay for the spokes and labour. Spokes are around 1 to 2 dollars each, while the spoke nipples are usually free. Workmanship can vary quite a bit, with a minimum of 20 dollars per wheel.

  7. good day i am looking at tyrell ive which say the rear is 120mm, how does it affect the hubs and cassette when i want to change the stock one.

    1. This makes it almost impossible to find a good replacement, as almost all road hubs have 130mm rear OLD.

  8. Hi!
    I want to upgrade my Dahon Vitesse C7 and tried to find a Wheelsport wheelset - but they are impossible to buy here in europe.
    What do you think about the new Litepro wheelsets? I was thinking about buying a 'Litepro K-fun' or the 'Litepro aero S42' set. Are the rims/ hubs any good?

    1. Litepro wheels are fine too. But the aero ones may be quite heavy.

  9. Thanks for the quick reply!
    I know the aeros are ~1400g but I need tougher wheels (lots of cobblestones and curbs) and they are the only ones with a inner width > 16mm (they are 406x20) to fit wider tires (e.g. big apples).
    Btw, I love your blog. Very detailed and the only good source for info on Dahon/Tern upgrades and tuning. Thanks!


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