So I admit it. I am a weight weenie. There, that's the start of the 12 step process for this affliction. I'll also admit that I am cheap about stuff. Amusingly so, I will spend money at the drop of a hat sometimes, but other times, I'll agonize for weeks with hours of research on spending relatively small amounts of $.
Anyway, normally being a weight weenie and being cheap don't go hand in hand. There is a special place in my heart for Budget Weight weenie parts. Those rare jewels that are light, but don't cost an arm and a leg.
Here is a tutorial on how to build up a 1518g ( not including skewers or rim strips) XC wheelset for around $110 (not including shipping costs)
This assumes you know how to build a wheel. I use the instructions from the bicycle wheel. I also used a Park Tension meter to make sure I did it right. This particular wheel had mixed lacing on the rear, something I will never do again. Took 4 times lacing to get it right. If you do mixed lacing, just PLEASE do this: Do one side completely, then the other side.
In the world of XC lightweight hubs, you see several vendors come up a lot. Chris King, Hugi, Tune, etc.. All nice hubs that also carry a hefty pricetag. You get lots of flash with these hubs, but hey, anyone can pay credit we are talking about VALUE here people.
GT/Hadley rear hub:
-This is the epitome of value. This hub was OEMed by GT from Hadley. Hadley makes some of the sweetest hubs ever, and are pretty popular now for their disc hubs. This hub is built very very well, with incredible engagement and nice loud clicks ala the Hugi.
HOWEVER, and a big HOWEVER, it gets a real bad rap because many of them were shipped from the factory with thick grease in the pawls. This caused the pawls to stick and eventually self destruct. The easy fix is to take it apart, degrease the thick crap and put in some light lube. This is so easy it isn't funny. Two 5mm allen wrenches and you can take off the freebody.
This hub is easily found on ebay and elsewhere. I paid all of $19 for a new one, and it weight 284 grams. It has been measured down to 274 grams by others.
Other budget options include the Sworks wheelsets that were actually made by Hugi and have mavic 317 rims.
Ringle SOB hub. Got it ebay new for $22. Mike at Odds and Endos
sells it as well
-The mavic x517 is a standard among XC light wheels, but it isn't made anymore and usually isn't the cheapest when you can find it. I used a blast from the past for the front wheel:
Araya RM-395 Team, $10 bucks at ebay shops, 405 grams. It has a concave profile so braking isn't the best.
For the rear wheel I used a sun CR-17a from ebay shops $15 and I think it was 405 grams or something like that. It doesn't have the best weld interface, but we're on a budget here.
You can scrounge here and find some decent ones for a huge savings, but I opted to spend full price and got Wheelsmith XL14s for the front, and XL14/DB15 (drive side) for the rear from Odds and Endos.
Front was laced radially, and rear was laced 2x non drive, 3x drive. All with alloy nipples
Rear Wheel total weight:863 grams
Front wheel total weight: 655grams
And my wheel building setup: A 1 armed PURE cycleworks stand combined with a cheapo Harbor Fright dial indicator and mag stand.
And there you have it: Almost 1500 grams for almost $100. So far they are riding great. Haven't folded them yet, but I haven't ridden on them very long. They are HELLLL of light. Especially since I'm running Stans No tubes (I'll be doing a full review of the no tubes sometime)
So you can be one of the masses and get your Chris Kings, or you can waste hours and hours scrounging for similar parts to the above, and build your own and spend some more countless hours maintaining them when you should have probably spent the $ once and had some one professionally build you up some Chris Kings.. blah blah blah.. Just kidding. The bottom line is that this wheelset when properly tensioned and maintained will perform just as well as anything costing 3-4x.