If you’re going to want to go bikepacking or adventuring, you’re going to have some very specific needs when it comes to your wheels — and building a custom set of wheels to meet those needs is the best way to meet them. Dynamo hubs, 650b (27.5″ – henceforth simply ‘650b’) diameter, disc brakes versus rim brakes, thru axles of various diameters and offsets and boost spacing — there are a slew of options. We at Handy Bikes are all big fans of big tires – that is, using the widest tire that fits on a given bike’s current wheelset – and building a custom set of wheels can make that happen through use of wider rims. Custom wheels also allow for uncommon configurations, such as older frames that don’t have thru-axle capability in the rear, but may have a new fork that is thru-axle — one isn’t always going to be able to find a set of wheels off the shelf that matches the specs needed for the situation at hand. This is especially true if a dynamo hub is being used, particularly in conjunction with 650b wheels. For whatever reason, there aren’t a lot of off-the-shelf options, and that’s where we can help.
I’m currently building up a set of 650b HED Belgium Eroica tubeless-ready rims with a Shimano Metrea DH-UR700-3D Dynamo front hub (450 grams!). I haven’t decided on the rear hub yet, but both wheels are 32h, meaning 32 spokes. The greater the number of spokes, the stronger and more resilient the wheel. When it comes to bikepacking in particular, one wants to have a wheel that will support a fully loaded bicycle plus rider, and still be able to take the bumps and bruises of off-road riding. I therefore recommend no fewer than 32 spokes for front or rear, and sometimes 36 spokes for the rear wheel if we know the conditions will be particularly harsh.
When selecting the rims to use for my wheel build, I opted for 650b even though the frame and fork I’m using were originally intended for 700c, which is a larger diameter wheel most commonly found on road and hybrid bikes. The tradeoff of using smaller diameter wheels is that I’ll be able to use the wider tires – planning to use 27.5 x 2.1″ width which is roughly equivalent to 700x50c.
Once I get the set built up I’ll post info about the dynamo hub including the Sinewave Cycles USB power converter I’ll be using with it – we stock all Sinewave Cycles products so give us a shout if you want to check them out. Free installation if you purchase through us directly!