Wheel Building 101
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  1. #1
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    Wheel Building 101

    Let me start by saying I am frugal and tend to appreciate things more when I do it myself, which has proven to be both a detriment and a benefit.

    Soooo, if a guy wanted to begin learning how to build a wheel set, where do you start? Reading the posts, it sounds like there are a lot of people doing this, but maybe everyone here has a shop of their own and have been doing this a lifetime. Hard to tell.

    I imagine there are substantial tools and "jigs" required before every purchasing any components for the actual wheel. Can you suggest any guides to wheel building? I ask you guys because I don't tend to trust much of the information on the internet (although I suppose this is one of those places technically, but your smart people). What level of technical aptitude is required to build a wheel set?

    Thank you for your feedback.

  2. #2
    A wheelist
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    Ha, you haven't been paying attention. Read the stickie up top, which will lead you to my site (link in Sig anyway) and other resources. Then download Roger Musson's wheelbuilding e-book. When you have read those, go to RoadBikeRider.com where I write an occasional column on Wheelbuilding. I'll look up the dates of my columns & post.

    When you have gone through all that, come back with questions. Hundreds (thousands?) of people have built their first wheels with motivation from my site.
    .

  3. #3
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    Thank you Mike. I was actually just reading from your link you provide from a comment on a different thread. I look forward to being educated enough to at least ask relevant questions.

    Scale of 1-10 for building your own wheels, how tough is it? Where 1 is pumping up your tire and 10 is building a bike from a frame set?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by mybutthurts View Post
    Scale of 1-10 for building your own wheels, how tough is it? Where 1 is pumping up your tire and 10 is building a bike from a frame set?
    Good question but one that really doesn't have an answer. Don't look upon it like this Mybutt; just know that unless you're a complete mechani-clutz, can't pay attention or can't follow instructions written for Newbies, then you can do it. What's the worst that can happen if you don't follow the steps? You start over again? That's called "experience" and you won't repeat the same eff-up.

    You have the finest one-stop resource for wheelbuilding on the planet right here on this forum. Many of us will answer your questions and no questions are too stoopid to ask. Ok, if you ask a question that's covered in all that reading material then this would come close. We're all available via PM and e-mail (I know I am, Roger Musson is plus Brandon at BHS.com )

    And if we don't know the answer, we know who might. Git goin'. We can't do it for you and you have a lot of reading in front of you but you'll never do it any younger.
    .

  5. #5
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    My past columns at RoadBikeRider.com -

    Issue 648, 12/04/2014
    Issue 650, 12/18/2014
    Issue 653, 01/22/2015
    Issue 657, 02/19/2015
    .

  6. #6
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    If you know the difference between left and right, can count into double digits, and can use a ruler/calipers you can build a set of wheels using the resources Mike outlined. Heck, Roger's e-book has plans for building the tools and stands you might need as well (as does Mike's stuff). I built my truing stand with maybe $20 worth of purchased materials and some scrap plywood from the garage.

    It will take patience and time, but you will come out the other side with a set of wheels, or as Mike said, unscrew everything and take another crack at it. Your ability to build a wheel is only limited by your time and patience.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by mybutthurts View Post
    What level of technical aptitude is required to build a wheel set?
    .
    Basic skills and comprehension. Musson's guide is easy to follow. You can change the oil in your car, you will fly through it.

    The process shoud take about 2-3 hrs for your first wheel. Easier if you are uninterrupted and remain comfortable so take care of that butt so it doesnt hurt!

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    I'll add this about being frugal: you are not going to save money building your own wheels. Its very easy to find pre-builts for anywhere from $90 - $1700+ per set.

    I have spent $75 using used hubs and getting discount for being employed at a bike store, up to just shy of $400 for my last set.
    Click here to edit signature.

  9. #9
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    You can build a wheel with nothing but the parts and a spoke wrench. The truing stand, building stand, tensiometers, dish gauge, etc just make it easier to do and more likely to be successful.

    I'd rank building a wheel about as hard as building a bike. But it's different, and that's just my ranking. Changing the oil in a car is easier but the consequences for a mistake is greater- if you screw it up you'll damage the engine. While if you make a bad wheel, it'll just go out of true quickly or break a spoke.

    If you can true wheels and make them better, building wheels is only a small step farther.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by mybutthurts View Post
    Scale of 1-10 for building your own wheels, how tough is it? Where 1 is pumping up your tire and 10 is building a bike from a frame set?
    Speaking as someone who has been riding for >40 years and do most of my own mechanical work, but who has only built 3 or 4 sets of wheels, I'd say it's somewhere in the upper middle range of difficulty. Really only takes attention and patience. Final truing and tensioning takes a certain calmness.

    As others said, you won't necessarily save a lot of money. But you will learn a lot, and you'll save more money in the long run because you will understand far better how wheels work, and you won't ever have to pay someone to true or maintain your wheels.

    And I found it really satisfying. Almost magical, in a way. You start with this chunk of a hub, a bare hoop and a bundle of wires. And in a few hours you have this beautiful structure, astonishingly strong for its light weight, and graceful to look at. And then you'll ride thousands of miles on this thing you assembled yourself.

    It's cool. Go for it.
    "None of us knows for sure what's out there; that's why we keep looking. Keep your faith; travel hopefully. The universe will surprise you, constantly." The 13th Doctor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jfaas View Post
    I'll add this about being frugal: you are not going to save money building your own wheels. Its very easy to find pre-builts for anywhere from $90 - $1700+ per set.
    Probably so... My last set also cost me 400 in parts, and I got off easy with NOS XTR hubs for 165.00. But I yielded a Pacenti SL25 XTR CenterLock wheelset with all new parts comparable to what I see for 800+. I will have to suffer along with XTR instead of King Hubs for my savings I guess.

    Quote Originally Posted by ericm979 View Post
    You can build a wheel with nothing but the parts and a spoke wrench.
    I did not get a Park Stand until wheel 20 probably. I just set up a bike frame and fork in my bike stand for the task. taped rulers across the stays with centering markups et al.

    My first build from 1999, Aerohead Rims, Revolutions with 14/15 drive side on 6500 hubs [all alloy nips] made with no specialized tools is on a bike in my garage as I type this and even did single track duty for 3 seasons. I have to admit I broke a front Revolution spoke since build in year 11-12 of use. Still not figured how that happened.. Probably won't ever either...

    I do think a good amount of mechanical aptitude and experience working with hands making pretty much anything requiring decision making on sizing/fitting etc helps in spades for the newbee.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCavilia View Post
    And I found it really satisfying. Almost magical, in a way. You start with this chunk of a hub, a bare hoop and a bundle of wires. And in a few hours you have this beautiful structure, astonishingly strong for its light weight, and graceful to look at. And then you'll ride thousands of miles on this thing you assembled yourself.

    It's cool. Go for it.
    Satisfying to the 10th power for sure. And for me it was the final severing of umbilicus from not wrenching 'all' my own needs in total.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfaas View Post
    I'll add this about being frugal: you are not going to save money building your own wheels. Its very easy to find pre-builts for anywhere from $90 - $1700+ per set.

    I have spent $75 using used hubs and getting discount for being employed at a bike store, up to just shy of $400 for my last set.
    I will say that in situations where you have some of the parts, you can save significantly by building. If you trash a rim and still have a good hub, buying a rim and rebuilding yourself can save a third or more (depending on the rim cost) of the parts-and-labor at a shop. I've done some fixed-gear conversions from old bikes with wrecked rims but decent hubs. Building wheels myself saved a lot.
    "None of us knows for sure what's out there; that's why we keep looking. Keep your faith; travel hopefully. The universe will surprise you, constantly." The 13th Doctor.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCavilia View Post
    Speaking as someone who has been riding for >40 years and do most of my own mechanical work, but who has only built 3 or 4 sets of wheels, I'd say it's somewhere in the upper middle range of difficulty. Really only takes attention and patience. Final truing and tensioning takes a certain calmness.
    +1 on the patience factor. Patience while you are working and patience to know when to stop for a while and not be in a hurry. Yes, it may take 3-4 hours per wheel but plan on a couple of days elapsed time. There will be some moments when you just need to walk away for a while.

    The folks here at this forum a really great. They put up with me asking tons of silly questions and helped me work thru some problems. I ended up with a solid set of wheels - my first. I learned a lot and I am really grateful. It's a great group! With them behind you, you will succeed.

  15. #15
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    You guys have inspired me and given me the confidence that I can do this. Now it's time to do some reading, research, and reading some more. Thank you for the feedback. I am super excited to dive into this!!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by mybutthurts View Post
    You guys have inspired me and given me the confidence that I can do this. Now it's time to do some reading, research, and reading some more. Thank you for the feedback. I am super excited to dive into this!!
    You'll be so glad you did. The first ride on home-built wheels is one of the best things you can do with your clothes on
    .

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    The first ride on home-built wheels is one of the best things you can do with your clothes on
    What! I was supposed to do that with clothes on ??

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by robt57 View Post
    What! I was supposed to do that with clothes on ??
    Sigh. I guess I gotta go add another paragraph to my site.
    .

  19. #19
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    Sheldon Brown's site will show you how to lace it.
    Mike T's site will help you finish it. (Follow Mike's steps TO THE LETTER, do not skip anything he describes)

    Your going to have to buy a 'dishing tool'. But again I'm sure someone has some plans on how to build your own.

    You will soon be building wheels you have absolutely no use for. It is way fun and much simpler than you think.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by metoou2 View Post
    You will soon be building wheels you have absolutely no use for. It is way fun and much simpler than you think.
    Yeah, I am starting to have them accumulate since my last bout started...

  21. #21
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    OP here's some info that somehow never gets published, shared, esplained etc. The old crusty wheel building types sometimes forget that newbs have no idea regarding this one issue. I discovered it after attempting to 're-align' my stand about a dozen times only to discover there was nothing wrong with the stand.

    If you end up buying one of these, (and they are nice to own) Park Tool Co. TS-2.2 : Professional Wheel Truing Stand : Wheel Truing Stands and Accessories you have to understand that this stand will not "auto-center" itself.

    Will try and explain; you place the wheel in the stand, crank the black knob 'gently' on the right side and the (2) forks close on the hub flanges. However, they will NOT center your hub exactly, dead on between the (2) forks. Take the wheel out, then place it back in the stand and gently turn that knob again, and again, the wheel will not be exactly dead on between the (2) forks. It will be close. But having that hub centered between the (2) forks doesn't matter in the least.

    You tension your spokes and closer to the end of the process you begin to check the 'dish' of the wheel. The dishing tool is going to determine if you have correctly centered your hub in relation to the center of the rim. The stand is not there to do that for you.

    There are some expensive truing stands that will "auto center" but this one isn't one of those. It is still very adequate and very pro level. I bought one and am glad I did. Remember, you won't be simply building wheels with a stand, you will be truing existing wheels and repairing broken spokes and the like. You can make back your money quick by doing your own work vs. paying a guy in a shop.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by metoou2 View Post
    (Follow Mike's steps TO THE LETTER, do not skip anything he describes)
    Especially the part of how to send beer to him.

    Your going to have to buy a 'dishing tool'. But again I'm sure someone has some plans on how to build your own.
    You must have missed the part about me using inside calipers? Roger shows how to make a cardboard one in his e-book plus I think he's working on another version.

    You will soon be building wheels you have absolutely no use for.
    I'm guilty of that.
    .

  23. #23
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    Yeah, I already owned a dishing tool and I must have glossed over that part.....................see I already disregarded my own friggin advice! This Forum is full of hypocrisy and goodness knows I'm the ring leader.

    OP, avert your eyes.
    Your honor I would like that last part stricken from the record.
    Last edited by metoou2; 02-28-2015 at 10:52 PM.

  24. #24
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    Mike, you were utilizing inside calipers when you used to build wheels using a front fork, right?
    In that situation I could see where you could easily check dish with inside calipers.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by metoou2 View Post
    Mike, you were utilizing inside calipers when you used to build wheels using a front fork, right?
    In that situation I could see where you could easily check dish with inside calipers.
    Inside calipers are ok when using a MTB frame & fork for truing wheels - not so much on a road bike due to low clearance. But then eyeballing-it works very well with road bike frame/fork.

    I use the inside calipers when using my Roger Musson wheel stand - either check both sides or flip the wheel and check just one side.
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