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Couple of wheel building questions(23 posts)

Couple of wheel building questionsoutofthesaddle
Jan 24, 2003 11:20 AM
I am considering aquiring a set of wheels - Open Pros on Dura Ace hubs. These will be training wheels and possibly race wheels when the course is really bad. I weigh 150 and am typically pretty easy on wheels. Is it worth the time to try to do this myself as my first attempt at wheel building? What can I expect as a ballpark figure for all necessary parts - hubs, rims, spokes and nipples? I have a quote of $240 (no tax & maybe $10 shipping) to buy a set already built up. That seems like a pretty good price. Am I crazy to be thinking of doing this myself?

Any input would be greatly appreciated.
Not crazy at allbrider
Jan 24, 2003 11:31 AM
I don't have the numbers at hand to answer your question on cost, but it seems like it would be in the ballpark. Another thing to add to the mix -- the cost of a truing stand if you don't already have one. And Jobst Brandt's book. The experience gained from even building up a rather vanilla set of wheels will go a long way toward mechanical confidence on the bike.

I built all the wheels I ride (with the obvious exception of the Specialized TriSpokes), and haven't had any problems with them. Occasional broken alloy nipple (which is pretty common). No truing problems. The trick is to get the lacing right first, then be patient with the tensioning.

The other advantage to doing your own is that you don't have to pay boutique proces for wheels that are nothing more than fancy lacing patterns.
Not crazy at allcroll-duraace
Jan 24, 2003 11:37 AM
If you do sway to the side of not crazy....just make sure that a. you purchase the right length spokes (DT 's website has a free spoke length calc.) b. draw the tension up slowely and evenly and c. build them tight !!!!

good luck !!
re: Couple of wheel building questionscroll-duraace
Jan 24, 2003 11:32 AM
your enthusiasm of wanting to build your own wheels is great, however going into it blind, and this being your first wheel...i would have to say certainly NO !!! I would find an old junk wheel, take the tension off of it slowly (so as not to spring the rim and ruin it) unlace it and start over, and over, and over, AND OVER !!! it takes years to be able to build a wheel that is durable, safe and true.

oh yeah and also ....e-mail me for a quote lower than the one you have rec'd for the same set....BUT hand laced and trued...BRAND NEW @
Well, I disagree a bitbrider
Jan 24, 2003 11:37 AM
I see no problems with going at it your first time out building a wheel. What you might do is have an experienced builder (maybe there's one at you LBS) look at it before you do your final tensions, and again after you've got it finished. They should be able to see any problems before you find out (too late) on the road. If you follow Jobst Brandt's directions, there's no reason you can't build a good wheel the first time (I did, and every one after that).
Well, I disagree a bitcroll-duraace
Jan 24, 2003 12:04 PM
Well i won't argue with you on the outstanding job you might have done on your wheels, but it is a FACT, that properly (professionally) built wheels take a lifetime to master. What a person has to understand when attempting this proceedure is that it is VERY possible for a wheel to collapse, crumble, and fail catastrophically if not done exactly right. Racing, training, and high mileage wheels SHOULD be left for the professionals.

Again, i will repeat's great that a person wants to learn to build them, its best to learn on second hand equipment and work your way into the art. Otherwise you will be taking an enherit risk.

Jobst Brandt's book is an excellent training tool, and would also recommend it.

And one other thing, assuming the person behind the counter at your LBS is an adaquate professional worthy of judging the craftsmanship of a wheelbuild is one more risk that you have to weigh.

A properly built wheel can last a lifetime. Brider how old did you say your wheels were ?
I think you're overstating the difficulties.the other Tim
Jan 24, 2003 12:47 PM
I built my first set of wheels at age 16 (years before Brandt's first edition). I used them for 10 years before discarding them for more modern stuff, and they may well be in service today. A lot of people with less technical aptitude than I make sound wheels.

If it takes a lifetime to master building proper wheels, then only retired people could do it.

Collapse, crumble? Well, I suppose anything is possible. Poorly built wheels are usually difficult to keep true, or they have spokes break uncatastrophically.

Wheel building is rewarding to many people with mechanical interests. If someone reads Brandt's book (or Zinn's for that matter) carefully, is patient, and uses the right tools, they can make a great wheel - first time, every time. It's not rocket science (I've done some of that, too).

It certainly is good advice to have an experienced wheel builder examine your work.
not rocket science ??croll-duraace
Jan 24, 2003 2:33 PM
First let me say that by saying : "It takes a lifetime to master" i meant it is a constant learning degree, of which you better your skills as time goes.

by saying " A lot of people with less technical aptitude than I make sound wheels. " most people are NOT rocket scientists.

Also... I AM NOT TRYING TO PERSUADE HIM FROM BUILDING... just trying to convince him to learn on basic (cheap) materials before building a dura-ace / open pro set. If this does not make sense to a rocket scientist then i certainly question your position.

I have raced in the elite classes (cat. 2) of road racing in north america for the past 14 yrs,worked in a bicycle shop as a mechanic for 15, and let me express my concern of watching a wheel FAIL , because they do, not often ..but they certainly do.

TIM....i am only stating that maybe he should learn on lesser material...understand ???????????
Yes, I understand.the other Tim
Jan 24, 2003 3:49 PM
But I still disagree. I wouldn't find any pleasure in building a wheel that wasn't going to be used. I know, from experience and observation, that a reasonably capable person can build a perfect, crumble-free wheel the first time. If I were going to build my first wheel today, I would choose DA/OP. And with tools that weren't at my disposal in the 70's (Brandt, tensiometer, truing stand!), it would be perfect (in my very humble opinion).

Sure, there are people who will never be able to even true a slightly perturbed wheel, and some who will screw-up their first wheel build. Those people should know themselves well enough to follow your advice (which needs no defense).

I just think most people with a little mechanical aptitude can get it right the first time,
i if
they follow Brandt's or Zinn's instructions carefully. Heck, I've seen people build very sound wheels with nothing more than
i my
instructions. I respect your opinion though, and I'm sure every prospective wheel builder does.
Newest one is 4 years.brider
Jan 24, 2003 1:24 PM
It's a SS commuter wheel that doesn't get a lot of mileage.

Most of my others are at least 7 years old (and range up to about 12 years from there).

I'm starting to see some wear indications on the rims (just plain age -- lots of wet rides in the northwest), so I'll have to rebuild a few in the not-too-distant future. I've done some radial-lacing, but mostly 3-cross, using brass and alloy nipples, straight 14 g to 15/16 butted spokes.

First set was for MTB. Have done a total of about 15 wheels ranging from training to track, and none have had any problems with collapsing, crumbling, etc.
Well, I disagree a bitaltidude
Jan 26, 2003 6:40 AM
Totally bogus statements. First off, most wheels being built today are machine tensioned, not tensioned by hand and you'd be amazed at the wide tolerances many of these machine builds have as far as spoke tension goes and the vast, vast, vast majority of these wheels do not suddenly catastrophically fail from spoke tensions or the build itself not being ideal. In most cases failures are almost always noncatastrophic in nature and may involve popping a single spoke or the wheel coming out of true which any even mildly experienced rider can feel long before any catastrophic failure. Yes, there are still some very good hand buildrs out there, but building a very reliable, solid wheel is not hard at all, and as another poster properly stated, it will take you more time than a pro when you first start out, but you'll probably end up building a wheel which is even better balanced and has more even spoke tension than many of the guys using machines who are simply cranking out wheels as fast as they can. Stop the scare tactics about catastrophic failures and it taking years of experience to learn how to build a set of wheels that are reliable, all a bunch of crap. I can teach a 15 year old kid how to build a good solid wheel in 1 build session, yes 1 session and the wheel he builds with care will not suddenly go out and by some magic force of nature catastrophically fail.
I completely disagree...HillRepeater
Jan 24, 2003 12:48 PM
Wheelbuilding is not some black art that only a few special people can do. It's a relatively easy task that most anyone with a bit of patience and the ability to count can perform. Don't let someone that's trying to sell you something discourage you from attempting it.

You can substitute time for experience. It may take you 3 to 4 times longer than an experiened wheelbuilder to build a durable, true and well-tensioned wheel - but you most certainly can do it - it just takes time. As you gain experience, you'll need less time to accomplish the same quality job. And if you'll pick up the new Park tensionometer out for around $50, you're likely to build a -better- set of wheels than some of the 'experienced' guys who go by feel alone.

That said, you probably won't save any money building your own wheels. It's sometimes hard to buy the parts for what complete, built sets sell for. What you do gain is the joy of riding something -you- put together and the ability to build -exactly- what you want. Well worth the time investment, imo.
I completely disagree...croll-duraace
Jan 24, 2003 2:40 PM
Hillrepeater...looks as though i have to defend myself once again.

PLEASE READ SLOWLY !!!! I THINK IT IS BEST TO LEARN ON LESSER MATERIALS.... i think its great when people take the initiative to learn how to work on thier bicycles themselves, i am simply suggesting.
I completely disagree with you......Len J
Jan 25, 2003 5:55 AM
Building your first set up with an Open pro rim actually makes the build easier for a beginner, since they are built to such tight tolerances.

You are way overstating the difficulty & danger in a first time build. A 32 spoke, OP W D/A, even built with too low tension (As long as it's reasonable tension) , will not collapse.

Why are you overstating this?

Yup, I think so too.Spoke Wrench
Jan 25, 2003 6:33 AM
I've probably taught 10 or 15 guys how to build wheels.

It seems to me that the only thing you learn from disassembling and reassembling an old wheel is how to lace the spokes and there are even differences of opinion in that. You may just be practicing how to lace a crummy wheel. Doing it over and over again is like studying the first page of your computer owners manual where it tells you how to turn it on.

The real crux of wheelbuilding is tensioning the spokes. Good quality new components act much differently than tired out low end stuff. Using crappy components only leads to frustration. It's MUCH easier to build a wheel using the good stuff.

I think that anybody with average or better mechanical ability can build a wheel as good as any they can buy provided they take a few simple precautions:

1. Start with decent quality new parts. Make sure your spokes are the correct length.
2. Don't rush. Never proceed to the next step if you're not positive everything is correct.
3. Tighten the spokes in small, equal increments all of the way around the wheel. The most common mistake new wheelbuilders make is to try to do too much at a time and get 3/4 of the way around the wheel and find they can't tighten the ramaining spokes the same amount.
Yup, I think so too.croll-duraace
Jan 25, 2003 11:38 AM

instead of a., b., c.. use 1 ,2, 3


If he can make a cheap wheel end up radially, laterally, true and centered....than he certainly can on more expensive equipment.

Yup, I think so too.altidude
Jan 26, 2003 6:48 AM
I totally agree with you too. I can teach a 15 year old kid how to build a solid, dependable wheel in exactly 1 build session. He will not be able to build a wheel as fast as a pro when he starts out, but with even a bit of patience and little mechanical skill he can surely build a solid , dependable wheel. This notion that it takes decades or even years how to learn to build solid wheels is ludicrous, because it doesn't. And the idea that a wheel built without perfect tensioning or a super perfect build is somehow gonna catastrophically fail out of the blue is even more ludicrous. Lots of scare tactics and little to no truth IMO. The machine built wheels made by many today have fairly wide tension tolerances and these wheels do not magically fail catastrophically out of the blue or all these people like Cc and excelsports etc would be in civil court and out of business. An OP rim with the eyelets and mavic tolerances is about as simple a rim to learn on as you can.
re: Couple of wheel building questionsoutofthesaddle
Jan 24, 2003 1:06 PM
Thanks for all the good advice. I've been thinking about doing this for a while - so I've already purchased Brandt's book and an inexpensive truing stand. I'll need to a bit more research on total cost of parts. Thanks again everyone.
nice price, but this ain't the only wheels you'll ever want nmsprockets2
Jan 24, 2003 2:55 PM
very truecroll-duraace
Jan 24, 2003 3:00 PM
Gonna come to croll-duraace's defense herebrider
Jan 24, 2003 3:03 PM
I agree that it wouldn't be a bad idea to PRACTICE before going straight to the high-end product. When I built my wheels, I had been otherwise wrenching my own rides for years. This was just the final step for me in bike mastery (not that Im claiming to be any sort of master, I just enjoy tinkering with it all).

I don't think it's REQUIRED to do what he said, but if you have the stuff lying around, it WOULDN'T HURT. Especially if you have any doubts as to your own ability. And whether you practice on some other stuff first or not, have a knowledgeable mech take a look at it BEFORE you ride it.

Okay, can we all just go ride now?
Two cents from a relative newbyWhoisJohnGalt
Jan 24, 2003 4:13 PM
Hey outofthesaddle,

I agree and disagree with some of the above posts. Here's my experience...

I like to do my own maintenance, mostly for fun and the mild form of therapy I get from working with tools, etc. A few months back I took a few old wheels apart and re-laced and re-trued them to see if I could do it. No problem. I learned a lot about the lacing patterns, 3 cross, 2 cross, radial, etc. I realized these were beater wheels, but the fundamentals are the same.

I also know that what I could build "probably" wouldn't compare with a knowledgeable, competent wheel builder's product. But, I was pretty confident that I could build a safe, sturdy wheel. And I have! Mavic CXP-33, 14g spokes in a 3 cross pattern. Shimano 105 front and rear. Pretty heavy duty. Supplies were from Tandem Bike House (ask for Dan-big help) in California. I also borrowed Jobst's book from the library, have Zinn's book, and also used the information on wheelbuilding found on the Harris Cyclery (Sheldon Brown)website.

I've ridden the wheels about 100 miles. So far so good. Yea, I could have bought a built wheel with the same components for $20-40 less than I paid for the parts, but this is my entertainment, my hobby.

I say practice first on some old wheels, go slow, be patient
and have fun! Go slowly on a checkout ride at first. Inspect your work....Good Luck!
it's a great skill to havejw25
Jan 28, 2003 1:10 PM
Without getting into the pissing wars above, I think you should definitely learn to build wheels. There's just nothing like transforming a pile of spokes, a hubset and some rims into rideable wheels. The first ride, at least the first few times, is filled with wonder and anxiety, because now you understand how little the whole wheel weighs, and the forces it withstands.
Okay, end of the touchy-feely stuff. Open Pros to Dura Ace, using 14/15 DB's and alloy nipples, is pretty much the standard race setup. It's also a fairly easy place to start, as Mavic rims build up easily, and the box-section rims are easier to lace then deep-V styles. DA hubs aren't superlight, but they're light and strong and not too pricey, and will last with maintenance.
I'm assuming you've done some wheel truing in the past, though. If not, you might not be ready to put a set together from the ground up. Truing gets you used to spoke tensions, and relieving twist in the spokes, both vital in the build stage.
$240 is pretty good for DA/OP's. I bet that's straight-gauge spokes and brass nipples, though. That's fine to start, but 14/15's are lighter and more durable, and alloy nipples build up just fine as long as they're lubed. It's up to you - straight-gauge spokes are easier to build up, as they resist twisting better, but they make for a stiffer wheel, too.
I won't go into a full guide to lacing here, as others have done a much better job. I like Jobst Brandt's THE BICYCLE WHEEL myself, but look around until you find something you like.
Building your own wheels won't save you any money, and might cost more in the short run to get just what you want, but you can get just what you want, and know that it was built up right. Like I said, there's nothing like the first ride on your first set of wheels. I've built 8 pairs for myself and others, and rebuilt a few more, so the magic's fading, but I still enjoy rolling out on a wheelset I made.