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I'm thinking of building up a cheap set of tubular wheels. Getting the parts isn't a problem, but I'm relatively uneducated when it comes to spoke lacing and what makes a good CX wheel. I'll be having a pro do the actual building, but should I buy a 28 hole rim, or a 32, 24 or a 20?

For reference, I'm about 80kg, and while I'd like a nice light set of wheels, I'm not going to fuss over a few grams here and there.

(I'm going to use the 25mm wide kinlin rims and other parts available at bikehubstore.com; the weight and price aren't a huge concern. With what's available, it would actually be hard to make them too heavy or expensive.)

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You've got a few pounds on me, but not much.  I'd probably go 24f/28r as a nice race-able build.  32 would be even more robust.  It really depends on how hard you are on equipment and what your local courses are like.  Are they mostly smooth?  Lots of dips and ditches?  

I guess I should have mentioned, despite being lighter than the OP, I am running 32 3x on pretty much every CX wheelset in the quiver.  So to Justin's point, going higher spoke count has very few drawbacks, especially if you prescribe to the school of thought that rotating mass is the biggest "feel" factor in a wheel.  Same rim and tires, different spoke count isn't going to significantly impact your rotating mass numbers. 

I am expecting a set of Sapim Race spokes to arrive tomorrow.  They will be laced 32 3x to a set of Ultegra hubs and Velocity Major Tom rims.  My other current wheelsets are Velocity A23 clinchers.  One set 24/28, the other 32/32.  All will be wearing CX tires this season.

Hardly any downside to erring on the side of higher spoke count in CX. Weight penalty is marginal, as is aerodynamics. I don't think I'd build a rim with 20 or 24 spokes for CX. I would probably go with 32 with 3x lacing, and I'm a fair bit lighter than you (69kg), and have no qualms about beating the crap out of them. Rim and hub choice (and spoke choice) are all important considerations as well though.  Also use brass nipples, not aluminum.

This is all great stuff; thanks guys. I checked my other wheels, and my Eastons are 24fr/28bk and my Boyds are 20fr/24bk. I think I'll split the difference and go 24fr/28bk. I haven't had any trouble with keeping these wheels in true, and I'm hoping the wider rim adds some strength to the setup.
I did a similar thing a few months ago and went 32/32 3-cross. I'm 74kg.

I highly recommend learning to lace wheels. It's not that hard and it's a great feeling to know you built your own wheels.

I had a local shop true and tension them for extra confidence.

Here are my beauties.  Laced this weekend.  Took me 1.5 hrs tops.  They need to be brought up to tension, which will probably take me another few hours.  First true build for me (I've laced before, but never tensioned). 

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