This = true. Almost. The why is rather complicated and multifaceted though, so I'll explain as best I can. First though, lets go through the few key elements that make up a good, high quality wheel build. Those primary elements that any good builder will incorporate are: tension, balance, retention. Tension is just how "tight" a spoke is; balance is not just how evenly the spokes are tensioned, but how they're tensioned as well; retention is utilization of various preventative measures to keep the nipples from loosening off over time, causing loss of tension and thus balance. These three elements are above all else what makes a wheel solid, or as we say in the industry: true. With that out of the way let's look at a machine built wheel. This has the potential to be a rather technically impressive thing, but factors like improper calibration, a damaged tool, quality issues with materials, operator error, or just dumb luck tend to throw this potential out the window, onto the street - shivering, cold, alone. Should none of these factors come into play however, one must still keep in mind that nearly every machine built wheel is still missing any sort of well practised or applied retention element - there just isn't anything in place that a professional wheel builder would classify as a nipple retention mechanism. Even having said all this though, giving the manufacturers as much credit as possible, one cannot ignore the mechanics perspective: nearly every machine built wheel I encounter on a daily basis (20-30 in a day) has balance issues that are far deeper than can be ironed out in a ten minute session on the wheel truing stand. Which is the crux of the issue: supplier, manufacturer, assembler, shipper, builder, salesman - they're all pressed for time, they're all expected, required to sell as much as possible. Not a single person during this chain from raw material to the customers hand has the time, can afford to give a wheel the time it needs to be the impressive high-tension device it should be. The supplier has a certain quantity to ship out in a day, only allocating a certain percentage to any sort of quality checking (even then there is a certain window of allowable defectiveness within a batch). The manufacturer does smaller numbers spread across more people, more machines, but a single individual is still required to produce 20-100 wheels in a day with only the most obvious of defects being caught. Assemblers get it easy, only ever having to slap wheels into frames which then just get put into boxes - if a wheel even gets spun at this stage it's only briefly. For shipping... don't even get me started on shipping. Most of the time I'm amazed the pallet hasn't arrived on fire, caked in bat corpses. Though varied in role and pay by shop, the builder rarely puts much effort into ironing out issues with tension or balance - either through lack of skill or lack of time - particularly given that these people are expected to unbox, unpackage, assemble, tune, finish, enter into the computer, and record eight to thirty full bicycles in one, eight-hour shift. Finally we have the salesman, the last chain before a bicycle is handed to a customer, which is unfortunate as these people typically have limited mechanical knowledge but vast talking skill, masking any real issues with the bicycle - no matter how glaring. Where in this chain do you see an issue? Where do you see more effort could have been made? The answer: all of everything. These are the corners that the industry cuts to get more out more quickly more cheaply, and much the same could be said for most any part of the bicycle, but rarely does a customer see it unfold quite as starkly as can be seen with a poorly built wheel. So a machine built wheel is rushed, rarely checked for quality, and handled by underpaid hacks who just want to go home and drink beer, how is this different to a hand built wheel? In all honesty: it isn't. A bad builder, an inexperienced builder, a rushed builder will all produce bad builds with the exact same issues as outlined above, albeit with a much higher price. It takes quite a lot of skill, time and appropriate tools to do a wheel correctly, but rarely are these things found together. As an example lets take the following common situation: Joe is a well trained mechanic, has attended UBI, taken all the courses available, personally owns a spoke tensiometer, and just started at the shop he works at - a modestly sized, high-end focused store with a limited accessories isle. The wheel gets handed to him, measured up, spokes checked and prepared with one of the premier retention compounds on the market, then built up using one of the techniques he's been taught. Tension is applied exclusively using a tool. What goes wrong with this situation? Reliance upon a tool for tension, though admirable, will always result in a tension pattern which does not take into account the minor little variances in how a hoop is formed - soft spots, deformed spots. This will also cause issues with checking for dish, as quite often this type of person will only focus on tension, getting everything even, rather than making sure the wheel is actually centred on the hub. More often than not I also see this person having issues with lateral true issues which they physically cannot remedy, so they're ignored. This is effectively the same as a machine built wheel, just two times the price. The next situation sees us with Jimmy, an overachiever but most certainly a self-made man, learned everything he knows on site, on his own, works at a shop - smaller in size, more focused on niche riding styles but still tries to compete with the "big boys" - and has been there since he was a grom and absolutely follows everything the other people at the shop do mechanically. The wheel is handed to him, measured up using an ancient wall chart, spokes are grabbed from a pile of roughly the right length, and the wheel is built and tensioned purely by feel alone until it's "Good Enough!" as they like to exclaim. What are the pitfalls? The entirely enclosed ecosystem of mechanics will only ever be a breeding ground for bad ideas and dangerous practises - there just simply isn't a sounding board or large enough group to account for individual confirmation bias. What one will typically see in this situation is the omitting of key procedures - retention mechanisms for example - or practises which directly damage the wheel requiring compensation in tension before it even goes out the door - certain "de-tensioning" or "anti-windup" procedures will deform the hoop so badly that, to an experienced hand, the wheel feels like it's been folded in half at some point in it's life. Though not as bad as the first example insofar as the initial "trueness" of the wheel, the omissions or pre-stressing can be bad news bears. Again, this is effectively the same as a machine built wheel. There are many other types of builders out there, and nearly a limitless number of combinations of procedures, but the above two stereotypes I've personally found to be the most common encountered within a bike shop which I list here only as a way to say that sweeping generalisations of "Hand Built is Better" are ill-founded. And yes, I do realise just how defeatist it is to use stereotypes to defeat a sweeping generalisation, but it gets my point across. So what should you take away from this? Trust your wheel builder, give them time, inspect their work thoroughly, ask questions if you feel uncomfortable with what they're doing or how experienced they are, and be highly suspicious of any hand built wheel that looses tension, deforms, unbalances, or doesn't sit straight within a short amount of time. A good wheel builder is very difficult to find, they don't come cheap, and are rather typically quite old. One thing I personally enjoy doing to new people I work with is finding a wheel they've built and guessing how many wheels they've done, what their style is, what technique they used, then asking them and seeing how close I was. Rarely am I wrong on any of this, which is simply because quality will show so easily through a wheel. Though I must say I do get a bit of a kick out of people who claim to have built "lots!" of wheels excitedly, but when pressed can only admit to a dozen or two at most. These wheels are typically terrifying. TL;DR - find a wheel builder that is at least 60, or just buy a machine built wheel and be done with it. P.S. I do have some funny stories to share about wheels and building them, but I feel this is already so long that nobody is going to read much any of it. To all one of you that'll read this: let me know if you want some fun stories on this subject and I'll happily jot some down in this thread for ya.