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I want to learn to build wheels

chris_basschris_bass Posts: 4,913
edited May 2012 in Workshop
I'm thinking of trying to build my own wheels, but have a few questions

firstly, how difficult is it? i'm not too bad at general maintenance and repairs but wouldnt call myself an expert or anything.
is it worth trying out on a cheap set of rims, hubs, spokes etc to practise on to get the hang of it?
are there any good online guides anyone knows of?
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  • dork_knightdork_knight Posts: 405
    I've recently been thinking the same, I've not had the time to delve too deep into this so I would be interested in peoples views on the same.

    I have however recently purchased the following after searching many threads here at BikeRadar:
    http://www.wheelpro.co.uk/wheelbuilding/book.php

    Seems to have a lot of info and a worthwhile purchase IMO.
    The path of my life is strewn with cowpats from the devil's own satanic herd.
  • estampidaestampida Posts: 1,008
    The basics are easy to learn, but to be good takes some time (18 yrs and counting)

    The main thing that takes time is the feel of tension on a wheel and spoke key, and this vary's depending are the hubs machined or forged...... how heavily butted the spokes are ...... and so on

    Yeah I would start on a scrap set as breaking bits or scratching a fancy hub could be soul destroying, or strip an old wheel down ( as the parts are the right size )

    best guides are on youtube watch a load and take note, and a pinch of salt as some of these youtube guys like to talk too much

    but as a guide

    0) wheel part prep
    1) lace wheel (spokes facing in)(drive side first) - which way they face depends on the type of wheel
    1.1) Lace wheel (spoke face out)
    2) pre-tension & getting dish there (if needed)
    3) pre-tension and check dish
    4) final truing and clean & polish (if disk brake, dont put mr sheen on a braking surface)

    I have built quite a few in a hurry in a bike frame, but you really need a jig to get the dish just right
  • chris_basschris_bass Posts: 4,913
    thanks for the replies!

    that book lloks decent and for £9 probably worth a punt!

    thanks for the advice too, i was thinking a jig would be the way to go (who doesnt enjoy a merry dance?!?) but i guess whilst i'm getting the basics down i might give it a go in the frame to start with just incase i dont have the patients!
    www.conjunctivitis.com - a site for sore eyes
  • rolf_frolf_f Posts: 16,015
    estampida wrote:
    The basics are easy to learn, but to be good takes some time (18 yrs and counting)

    Harder than being a Doctor* then?! :wink:

    For most things, being good is about being able to do something well, quickly. As long as I am prepared to take a long time over something, I find I can usually learn to do a good job of it. Yet to try this on wheels though. I'll be starting by swapping a pair of rims.

    * and here seemingly is one! :lol:
    Chris Bass wrote:
    ......i might give it a go in the frame to start with just incase i dont have the patients!

    Chris - just because you've cleared the waiting room doesn't mean you can play with bike stuff!
    Faster than a tent.......
  • chris_basschris_bass Posts: 4,913
    Rolf F wrote:
    Chris - just because you've cleared the waiting room doesn't mean you can play with bike stuff!
    [/quote]

    yeah it does - trust me, i'm a doctor!!*

    might have a search on ebay for some very cheap used wheels to have a play around with, unfortunately i dont have any old ones!




    * just to be clear, to avoid any medical questions in the future, i'm not really a doctor!
    www.conjunctivitis.com - a site for sore eyes
  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 26,443
    You can build a wheel today by watching a couple of videos, if you want and it might even serve you well for a while. If you are not too demanding, your first wheelset will probably do the job just fine.

    If you want to build a set of wheels you can rely upon, you need to invest in some rather expensive tools. Over the years I have accumulated something in the region of a thousand pounds worth of tools... you don't need to spend that much, but you need some basic equipment.

    I suggest you have a go without tools, only using the forks as your caliper and see how your wheel performs. A tension gauge would make sure your spokes don't suffer premature fatigue and your wheel stays true for thousands of miles rather than hundreds, but they are expensive and if you don't plan to get addicted, they are not worth the hassle. Most importantly take your time and destress as you tension, often
  • JamesBJamesB Posts: 1,184
    years since I built my own now, but if I recall building a good true wheel is easier with a decent quality rim, ie avoid real cheapies, as the rim is likely to be initially truer.
    As ugo says take your time and take tension out of spokes to avoid `winding them up`; apaprently some wheelbuilders walk (carefully) on the rims to destress, alternatively put wheel on floor and carefully push down on rim to relief built up spoke stresses :)
  • balthazarbalthazar Posts: 1,565
    JamesB wrote:
    apaprently some wheelbuilders walk (carefully) on the rims to destress, alternatively put wheel on floor and carefully push down on rim to relief built up spoke stresses :)

    These are both old misdirected practices which have been laid to rest- let's not revive them! Relieving spoke twist and stress-relieving are different procedures with different intentions. All is explained clearly and decisively In "The Bicycle Wheel", by Jobst Brandt, along with clear instruction for wheel building.

    I suggest that book, by which I learned to build wheels and moreover navigate the minefield of mythology that murks this subject. The Musson book is derivative, but good instruction also. Take your time and your first two wheels will be as good as anybody's, with little specialist equipment.
  • estampidaestampida Posts: 1,008
    My missus is a doctor does that help? (and remember they will be specialists in 1 corner of medicine, sort of like wheel building)

    A quick check on-line and the most complicated wheel stuff regarding snowflakes is all online, as wheelbuilding is more common than you think, the rest is nostalgia...........
  • chris_basschris_bass Posts: 4,913
    thanks for all the replies, really useful stuff.

    I think i might get those two books, watch a few youtube videos, do a bit of reading, then try rebuilding some old wheels at first. if that goes well move on to building a cheapish (good point about over cheap rims not being as true out of the box) set and seeing how those go then who knows, maybe build wheels for wiggins and cavendish in a few years!! we can dream!
    www.conjunctivitis.com - a site for sore eyes
  • huuregeilhuuregeil Posts: 780
    On the rim thing, cheap is not necessarily bad. It's about rim quality and the one thing that cheaper rims have going for them is weight, which makes for an easier build. Something like an Open Sport, Ambrosio Excursion, Rigida Chrina is ideal for a first build and the rims can be had cheaply.

    Spoke tension - learn to pluck and hear the difference! A tension meter is absolutely not required to build reliable wheels. My first set of wheels has upwards of 5000miles with zero issues (no retruing, no broken spokes) and these were built in an upturned frame with a spoke-key as the only tool used. Though, if you get keen, and particularly if you start building more exotic wheels, a tension meter is a must and the Park one is not expensive.

    Best thing is to dive in with the assistance of Brandt/Musson and the internet, it's not that hard. Have fun!
  • gwillisgwillis Posts: 998
    Go for it ... It's very addictive mind you. I posted a similar request on here a while back and thanks to loads of friendly advice build my first pair of mavic up a while back. My first set needed a bit of truing after their first outing but since then I've build up another 2 sets which were much easier. I was lucky enough to have a long term loan of a wheel jig and did buy a park tension meter as I was scared of over tensioning .

    I'm now able to help out mates with retruing and although still learning I'm managing to build up reliable training wheels

    The plan longterm is build up something a bit more special but take your time and enjoy. The wheel builders on here are very helpful and I'm sure will point you in the right direction
  • prb007prb007 Posts: 703
    http://sheldonbrown.com/wheelbuild.html

    visit the above site - has served me well for 15+ years of tinkering.
    Still, I get daunted at the prospect of building wheels from scratch, hence...
    viewtopic.php?f=40004&t=12851359
    the faff of sourcing spokes of the right length, the time it takes to get it right, etc
    all put me off, these days, tbh.
    It is satisfying when you get it done, mind:)
    If Wales was flattened out, it'd be bigger than England!
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  • JamesBJamesB Posts: 1,184
    These are both old misdirected practices which have been laid to rest- let's not revive them

    as i said it is a while back since I built my own so glad to get the updated wisdom in case ever try again, even if it is just a straight fwd rim swop to save teh labour costs :)
  • chris_basschris_bass Posts: 4,913
    I think my plan now is to get some new factory built wheels to put on my bike and then dismantal and re-build the wheels i curreently have. they arent particualrily good/expensive/light so a good set to mess around with I reckon!
    www.conjunctivitis.com - a site for sore eyes
  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 26,443
    Chris Bass wrote:
    I think my plan now is to get some new factory built wheels to put on my bike and then dismantal and re-build the wheels i curreently have. they arent particualrily good/expensive/light so a good set to mess around with I reckon!

    False...
    the cheaper the components, the more difficult to get a decent wheel. Get a Novatec hub from Sdeals at 17 pounds, an OPEN PRO rim at 40 pounds from CRC or other and, once you measured everything (or ask me for the measurements) get some ACI DB spokes from cyclebasket at ca. 10 pounds. You can build a front wheel for less than 70 pounds. Practicing on old stuff is only a waste of time, as the nipples will be seized, the spokes will be fatigued... don't bother. Start by building a brand new front wheel with decent materials.
  • rolf_frolf_f Posts: 16,015
    Practicing on old stuff is only a waste of time, as the nipples will be seized, the spokes will be fatigued... don't bother. Start by building a brand new front wheel with decent materials.

    You don't know this. The old wheel might be in fine condition - obviously this depends on miles and conditions of use. I think rebuilding the old wheel is potentially a good suggestion (depending on condition) - If the worst comes to the worst, you just get the LBS to sort the mess out for ten or 20 quid. Much cheaper than £70.

    And you can get a useful rim for less than £20. eg the Rigida Chrina as already mentioned. A sound touring rim with lots of spokes to hopefully make the process a bit easier.
    Faster than a tent.......
  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 26,443
    Rolf F wrote:
    Practicing on old stuff is only a waste of time, as the nipples will be seized, the spokes will be fatigued... don't bother. Start by building a brand new front wheel with decent materials.

    You don't know this. The old wheel might be in fine condition - obviously this depends on miles and conditions of use. I think rebuilding the old wheel is potentially a good suggestion (depending on condition) - If the worst comes to the worst, you just get the LBS to sort the mess out for ten or 20 quid. Much cheaper than £70.

    And you can get a useful rim for less than £20. eg the Rigida Chrina as already mentioned. A sound touring rim with lots of spokes to hopefully make the process a bit easier.

    False economy... it won't turn out a good wheel, the OP will be put off... scrimping the penny doesn't really work. I am telling this by experience, I've tried to rebuild old crappy wheels using the original spokes and the result was awful.
    Invest 70 pounds, leave the Rigida Chrina where they are, as once you've build them up, you will want to upgrade them straightaway. Get an Open PRO: it's the best value for money rim around (at least since the disappearance of the Ambrosio Evolution). The first front wheel will be perfectly fine... make it a good one, worth riding, rather than a heavy cheap one.
    Trust me, I'm a doctor!
  • rowlersrowlers Posts: 1,614
    I fancy a go at this myself, I'm fairly up to speed with MTB rims/spoke/hubs but I've no idea about road stuff!
    They'd need to be an upgrade on my current Khamsin wheels, mavic open pro, db spokes, but which hub?
  • huuregeilhuuregeil Posts: 780
    Chris Bass wrote:
    I think my plan now is to get some new factory built wheels to put on my bike and then dismantal and re-build the wheels i curreently have. they arent particualrily good/expensive/light so a good set to mess around with I reckon!

    False...
    the cheaper the components, the more difficult to get a decent wheel. Get a Novatec hub from Sdeals at 17 pounds, an OPEN PRO rim at 40 pounds from CRC or other and, once you measured everything (or ask me for the measurements) get some ACI DB spokes from cyclebasket at ca. 10 pounds. You can build a front wheel for less than 70 pounds. Practicing on old stuff is only a waste of time, as the nipples will be seized, the spokes will be fatigued... don't bother. Start by building a brand new front wheel with decent materials.

    Sorry, I disagree with this on multiple counts:

    - A chrina (£18 rim) builds quite a fair bit easier than an open pro (£40).
    - I'll sell my open pros before I sell my chrinas - they're wicked training wheels because they take a lot of abuse and are cheap to re-rim. Everyone needs a good set of training wheels, and chrinas are better training rims than open pros.
    - If an evolution is better value than an open pro, then an excursion is even better value (same extrusion, only not machined so cheaper) and, guess what, an excursion is virtually the same rim as a chrina (I have owned both!).
    - Nothing wrong with rebuilding an old rim - if it's of decent quality and hasn't taken any big hits, it will rebuild just fine. It's the easiest/cheapest way to learn to build wheels.
  • rolf_frolf_f Posts: 16,015
    Rolf F wrote:
    Practicing on old stuff is only a waste of time, as the nipples will be seized, the spokes will be fatigued... don't bother. Start by building a brand new front wheel with decent materials.

    You don't know this. The old wheel might be in fine condition - obviously this depends on miles and conditions of use. I think rebuilding the old wheel is potentially a good suggestion (depending on condition) - If the worst comes to the worst, you just get the LBS to sort the mess out for ten or 20 quid. Much cheaper than £70.

    And you can get a useful rim for less than £20. eg the Rigida Chrina as already mentioned. A sound touring rim with lots of spokes to hopefully make the process a bit easier.

    False economy... it won't turn out a good wheel, the OP will be put off... scrimping the penny doesn't really work. I am telling this by experience, I've tried to rebuild old crappy wheels using the original spokes and the result was awful.
    Invest 70 pounds, leave the Rigida Chrina where they are, as once you've build them up, you will want to upgrade them straightaway. Get an Open PRO: it's the best value for money rim around (at least since the disappearance of the Ambrosio Evolution). The first front wheel will be perfectly fine... make it a good one, worth riding, rather than a heavy cheap one.
    Trust me, I'm a doctor!

    Sorry, I can't trust you and I knew Doctors from University so I don't respect them by their titles alone!! There seems to be plenty of evidence on the net from people who, with experience, have rebuilt their wheels with the original spokes and got good results. Obviously I've not tried it myself yet but if it all goes horribly wrong I'll promise to own up - but I'll probably put that down to me than the process itself.

    And I'm afraid the Chrinas are excellent - I covered thousands of miles on them without wanting to upgrade them despite also owning a pair of Campag Neutrons. They are obviously heavier but, do you know how much difference it makes on a half hour commute taking a heavy old Dawes with Chrina rimmed wheels or a nice Carbon bike? Probably about 90 seconds all else being equal.
    Faster than a tent.......
  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 26,443
    I never said the China are bad... they are heavy and most people want light wheels. The first thing I am asked when I build a set is how much will they weigh... some are obsessed by the gram. If you are not, then excursion, Chrina, whatever... but you'll be surprised by how many will then be disappointed by a set of "heavy" wheels.
    I think the right compromise was the Evolution, a reasonably light rim, robust, reasonably priced, builds well, last long... shame for some reason they've been out of stock for the past couple of years.
    Open PRO is an excellent rim that will never need an upgrade, as it is the top of the range already... for 20 quid more... we are talking 20 quid... what do you buy in the bicycle world these days for 20 quid?
    I have done some jobs with Open Sport and similar rims... they are fine... but just fine, not good or excellent and the difference in price is small... waste of time.
    If you go through teh hassle of learning to build a wheel, you might as well get one that is better and lighter than something you can buy for 50 quid on Wiggle, otherwise what's the point?
  • huuregeilhuuregeil Posts: 780
    If you go through teh hassle of learning to build a wheel, you might as well get one that is better and lighter than something you can buy for 50 quid on Wiggle, otherwise what's the point?

    Because it's not "better", just different. And if learning to build wheels is your aim, then it's worse. (The two I've built were also a PITA to get even spoke tension around the weld). Actually, I think the Open Pro is the rim that offers the worse set of trade-offs of the two, because it's neither particularly robust, nor super light (considering also the spoke count you need to get a solid build), nor super-cheap. As I said, my open pros are, among the wheels I own, the first I'd consider selling.

    The evolution and the excursion are the same extrusion - the evolution is lighter only because it's been machined - if you want to lose metal off the brake track, ride your bike for a few thousand miles!
  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 26,443
    huuregeil wrote:
    If you go through teh hassle of learning to build a wheel, you might as well get one that is better and lighter than something you can buy for 50 quid on Wiggle, otherwise what's the point?

    Because it's not "better", just different. And if learning to build wheels is your aim, then it's worse. (The two I've built were also a PITA to get even spoke tension around the weld). Actually, I think the Open Pro is the rim that offers the worse set of trade-offs of the two, because it's neither particularly robust, nor super light (considering also the spoke count you need to get a solid build), nor super-cheap. As I said, my open pros are, among the wheels I own, the first I'd consider selling.

    The evolution and the excursion are the same extrusion - the evolution is lighter only because it's been machined - if you want to lose metal off the brake track, ride your bike for a few thousand miles!

    It depends how you want to see it... Open PRO has probably been the best selling rim for the past whatever years... there are very few reported issues for the non CD ones... the Rigida range appeals to a touring public, that looks for rims to load 20 Kg of luggage on... most riders don't do that... they just want something that accelerates fast and heavy rims don't do that. Light riders to RVV with Open PRO 28 and they do just fine. The excursion are getting hard to find too... the all Ambrosio range is getting a bit niche... I had to make endless calls to get hold of a set of Nemesis (but then I got them... :D )
  • rowlersrowlers Posts: 1,614
    I can see both your points, if I were to build a wheel, it would be to learn the skill and to build a set that I wouldn't want to upgrade in the near future, hence I prob side with ugo... but if just wanted to learn the skill then I can understand both huuregeil & rolfs arguments.
    Personally I'd not waste my own time building a wheelset that I didn't really want to use
  • cyclecliniccycleclinic Posts: 6,865
    I ride on chrina rims. i did the wheels myself. I do not feel the need to upgrade to an open pro. Main advantage of the open pro it will save 160g for a pair of wheels but I will loose more than that as water through sweat and through my breath so I am not going to worry about the weight to much on a 22lb bike. also they built a straighter and rounder wheel with even spoke tension than some open pro's I have tired. I am not knocking the openpro. it is a good rim and built with them but they are not always needed for every rider and bike.

    I probably should not do this but if the OP is really determined to learn to built wheels I don't mind showing the OP how. I built commercially all he need do is pay for the parts used and give up his time. It's pretty simple when you know how.
    http://www.thecycleclinic.co.uk -wheel building and other stuff.
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