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Newbie build report: Road tubeless wheelset

grahambdgrahambd Posts: 3
edited March 2016 in Commuting general
First time posting, but I have spent a good deal of time over the last few months searching through sites like this about the ins and outs of wheel building. I got most of what I needed out of it, but boy is it an strongly (and often divergent) opinionated crowd. So here is me giving back a little to the next someone who knows as little as I did.

Start with the payoff:

Rims: DT-Swiss R460 32H rear, 24H front
Hubs: Shimano Ultegra 6800 rear, BHS SLF85w front
Spokes: 16/16 Laser/Race on rear, 24 laser on front
Valves: 34 mm aluminum no name brand
Tape: Scotch film strapping tape 24mm
Tires: Hutchinson Intensive on rear, Hutchinson Fusion 3 25 mm on front
Spoke tension (without tires) B5 on front, middle F# and A on rear.
Fitted width: Front 25 mm exactly (at 80 psi). Rear 23.8 mm (at 80 psi)

Cost: $430
Weight: Rear 1004g, Front 687g (no tape, no skewer, no tire, no sealant, no valves)

How do I like them? Love them. Can't compare them to anything since I didn't have road tires before. Maybe some factory store built wheels would be as good or better. Don't know, don't care. They are true. So far I've done 140 miles and they are still true. I'm a little annoyed that the "25mm" intensives are both lighter and thinner than my Fusion 3 tires. Intention was the opposite.

The rest of this post is the story:

My experience:
Minimal bike time before about four months ago. I might have made 50 miles a year...on a busy year. New job, new location, too much traffic, I'm now commuting 13 miles each way to work.

I picked up a 1x10 Mamiya Alumicross three years ago. The previous owner had her set up as a gravel bike with some pretty nice components. Dura Ace derailleur, 105 rear cassette, 105 rear hub, Retroshift shiter, canti brake on rear and min-V on front, DX front hub (original), Wobbler GTX front rim, no name O/C rear rim, Chris King headset. 32 mm Kenda Happy medium tires front and back.

Why new wheels:
I wanted them. Commuting on worn out old 32 mm knobblies? So faster, slicker tires seemed reasonable. Tubeless seemed like something to try (I have not had a flat yet in 1000 miles on tubes so certainly not necessary). The rims were a little gouged (not enough to be a problem). The rear hub had started grinding 400 miles ago so I had stripped and cleaned it, but found myself second guessing it. I started breaking rear spokes (2 DS and 2 NDS) and at $40 at my LBS each time it was getting out of hand. But really I just wanted to.

Wisdom from the web:
The following is what I convinced myself of over three months of building up the guts to invest money in this. This does not mean that it is right.
1) Wide rims are better, faster, more comfortable, stiffer: So 23 mm
2) Wider tires are faster (caveat, caveat, caveat): so 25 mm
2) O/C rims are better, but some furious debate about whether or not meaningfully so.
3) Tubeless is either a no-brainer and only no-sayers aren't on the train yet. Or OK on a good day and complete PITA otherwise.
4) Worrying about wheel aerodynamics is not important for my 20 mph commute.
5) Ref the above. Wheel aerodynamics can look better. Looks matter.
6) Spoke choice is a rabbit hole of lies and deception. Pro builders all have their own "tried and true" and "bulletproof" choices. Their advice differs. My take aways are: Build well and you can get away with most things for long enough: Spoke patterns and pattern mixing is fun and games but may be inconsequential for most of us: Most advice is anecdotal, the only good advice will be your own once you get it right or screw it up.
7) Hub prices are a study in capitalism (I'm not immune).
8) My wife calls me a weight weenie since she caught me on the site by that name. Weight should have no bearing on this decision for my purposes. It shouldn't...but it does.

Options I didn't go with:
1) Buying Ultegra spec road wheels: Cheapest option for the perceived quality I wanted. I almost did this. Straight pull spokes seemed annoying. But really I wanted to build wheels more than I wanted new wheels.

2) Bdop or BHS kits: Almost went with a super light BDop build kit for $300. Seemed like an obvious choice for what I wanted. But then I thought that the freewheel noise of the Novatec hubs would bother me. I couldn't decide if they would be well sealed for rain. I didn't want an aluminum freebody. Mostly having all the choices made for me was limiting.

3) Other handmade options: Expensive, or no fun. Pick one.

Why I bought what I bought:
DT-Swiss R460 (ModernBike) - I would have gone with OC rims if I could find them cheap enough and cool enough looking (looks matter). Thank God the RR440 didn't come in a wide profile or else I might have spent too much money for no good reason. 32 hole rear for robustness. 24 hole front because ModernBike didn't have a second 32h rim in stock. Also the front takes less abuse so I can get some weight weenie points here.

Rear hub:
Shimano Ultegra 6800 rear hub - I decided that I absolutely had to have shimano hubs with the newer style bearing adjustment. Will I ever use this? Maybe not. Worth it for me? Probably not. But robust and modern and $100 for front and rear off ebay.

Front hub:
BHS SLF85w 24H - Since I only got the one 32h rim, I had to spend a little more and get a separate front hub. This one was light, affordable and I reasoned that the wide flange would give me a little margin to use higher tension radial lacing.

This was the hardest part. Making the right choice, and then finding a way to get the quantities I needed without buying whole boxes. BHS saved the day.
Front: 24 black Sapim laser. Radial lacing.
Rear: 16/16 black Laser/Race 3x/3x. I was (and am) still nervous that laser was a little aggressive for my needs. But then I couldn't find another way to get balanced spoke strains without it. Chose to live and learn. In all cases I chose undersized spokes. So 291.3 mm became 290 mm, etc

Black and brass 12 mm (BHS)

Hutchinson Fusion 3 25 mm on front , Hutchinson Intensive rear (from BikeWagon)

Rim tape:
Amazon comments are your friend. Lots of people using scotch tape instead of Stan's.

Red aluminum 34 mm valves from amazon (should have gotten longer, but I liked the red)

Hutchinson's brand. This after believing that Stan's and others will eat away my rim and void warranties.

1) I had a access to truing stand, but it looking like it had been hit by a car. I used my bike forks.
2) I also had access to a dishing tool, but this seemed like too much hassle. Instead I taped a ruler across my forks and marked off center and the rim width.
3) A $4 multi spoke wrench from Amazon.
4) A tuning app on my phone
5) I'm not sure "not having children" or other responsibilities is a tool. But this would have been a whole lot harder if I had some outside responsibilities to cater to. My wife was o.k. with being ignored for a weekend.

Front Wheel build: 24H - Radial - Heads in
1) Grease all spoke holes
2) Grease all threads (nothing fancy here)
3) Lace up all spokes loosely
4) Tighten all nipples up until the threads just disappear into the nipple. Since everything was new and true - the wheel is pretty new and true at this point.
5) Clamp the rim into the fork. One ruler taped firm with markings for center and one for either end of a centered rim. A second pen taped on one side only. This so it could measure vertical trueness.
6) Turn every nipple a full 2 turns (for me). And more until the spokes start to firm up.
7) Then do some math and some guess work and pick a frequency that corresponds to correct tension. For me that was a B5. This is the limit for the rims, but I read that adding tires will bring it down some.
8) Fire up a guitar tuning app and a tower of books to get the mic sitting right in front of the middle of the spokes.
9) Get blisters on your city-slicker thumbs as you strum away at your spokes. Valve hole to valve hole.
10) Take wheel off fork and stress release by pushing down on the rim against the hub. Listen to it ping. Then tune again.
11) Next time, with a little more know how and some confidence this part might be much quicker. But I took several hours dialing it in.
12) I really didn't have much truing to worry about once the frequencies were dead on. What I did need to do was accomplished by moving a pen in from one side until it rubbed. Then adjusting that spoke one way, and the adjacent two spokes half as much the other way.
13) Done and feeling confident

Rear Wheel build: 32H - 3x
1) For the pattern I followed an excellent how-to on youtube.
2) Then same process as above, but with more confidence and speed.
3) So I screwed it up and eventually made myself start again more slowly.
4) This time my math on the tune was trickier. I decided that G#/A4 was about right for the drive side. Getting the dish right resulted in F# on the NDS.
5) Rear wheel was harder and slower. Stress relieving more frequent. Truing more tricky. Vertical centering more annoying. But finally got there with pretty even frequency all around.

Taping the rim was as tricky as I feared. Videos show people just doing it. Maybe with Stan's you can just do it. I just needed one extra hand to apply tension to the tape, push out air bubbles and turn the wheel. But I got it done. Two layers. Then I ran around the inner lip with a box cutter to cut off excess tape where it rode up the sides. The tape was 3 mm too wide for the internal width of my rim. I hesitated on this, but then just did it.

Seating the tires was super easy with a floor pump and with application of soapy water to the bead. Too easy. So easy, I assumed that I had it wrong. The part that did throw me was that the tire would not stay seated when I let the air out. Most tubeless instructions implied the tire would stay seated. I panicked. Tried over and over. Tried to post on this forum for advice, but the FBI background investigation that needs to take place before admitting new members took too long. Eventually I asked my LBS and they said not to worry. Enough for me.

30 ml of sealant in each unseated tire. I used a syringe through the valve hole. A little messy pumping it up again. Wobble wobble, spin and it sealed up. Because the rim is pinned, it leaked air at the seam until I got the sealant in there.

Holding pressure? Not sure. I pump it up to 86 psi (had to pick a number). Overnight it's down to 75 psi., but it seems to stay there even after two days commute. But I can't get it to stay at 86 psi. This might be my floor pump playing tricks on me.

If you want to do this, and you can afford to do this. Do it. It's not that hard if you are obsessed and careful enough. I'm sure that there is a level of consistency that a Pro Wheel builder adds to the equation - and maybe with lighter/flimsier parts this is important. Don't be put off as I nearly was. I don't know how many miles I have to do to prove my approach. I've done 140 miles and my wheels are true and I'm happy.


  • The RookieThe Rookie Posts: 27,811
    Good write up, I assume the currency is USD?

    I've built my own wheels (MTB and tubeless) an would recommend Roger Mussons Wheelpro book as being a very good investment.

    As for a sealant corroding the wheel - pure Boloney.....
    Currently riding a Whyte T130C, X0 drivetrain, Magura Trail brakes converted to mixed wheel size (homebuilt wheels) with 140mm Fox 34 Rhythm and RP23 suspension. 12.2Kg.
  • grahambdgrahambd Posts: 3
    Thanks, and yes USD. Looking back, I would be hard pressed to get cheaper (with new parts). All the little bits add up. It would fun to play mix and match with used - but not first time out.

    I saw a few suggestions for Roger Musson's book and told myself that I would get it when I got into trouble. It probably would have taken a lot of the second guessing myself out of the equation.

    Sealant. You only hear about the ones that go wrong, right? I'm inclined to believe you, but with me doing everything new (to me) I figured playing by the manufactures warnings in this one case was worth it. I am much more interested in trying out a home made mixture. Maybe when this round dries up.
  • The RookieThe Rookie Posts: 27,811
    The book is great value (as its not expensive) little things on tips like how to make the logo on the hub face a logo on the rim for that little bit of extra professional is in the look are nice as well.

    I built my own up a bit like you by sourcing what I wanted from where I wanted, I ended up with a 26" wheelset at 1435g for £180/USD290. As I had Stans rims, Stans tape and fluid as a starter made sense, now I buy a UK stores own branded fluid and it works just fine.

    That's for sure, for example I've used almunium nipples despite all the scare stories, again following the wheelpro book they were well lubrucated on assembly, at 18 months old they have created no issues at all.
    Currently riding a Whyte T130C, X0 drivetrain, Magura Trail brakes converted to mixed wheel size (homebuilt wheels) with 140mm Fox 34 Rhythm and RP23 suspension. 12.2Kg.
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