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How hard/easy is it to build your own wheelset?(14 posts)

How hard/easy is it to build your own wheelset?jzinckgra
Mar 10, 2003 3:52 PM
Hey guys. I've been considering building my own set of wheels for quite awhile now. I currently have 2 sets: AC350 (~1350g) and CaneCreek Chronos (~1700g). Both of these sets has treated me well so far, but in the quest for building up a Klein QP frame that I have laying around, I was considering the wheel build as well. How hard is it to build a set? Basically, I can true a wheel with a spoke wrench and some other minor repairs or fixes, but not too sure how hard it would be to build the set. What tools would I need? In my limited searching thus far I have found I'd need a spoke wrench (duh!), nipple driver and maybe a tensionmeter, truing stand and dish. Which of these tools are absolutley required? Are there some good books out there on wheelbuilding? I noticed performance has one called the "art of wheelbuilding", I think. I'm not looking for an ultra lite wheelset, since the ac350's already fit the bill, but was thinking of something in between the two sets. I was looking at the Velocity Aerohead rims or maybe some Mavic OP's with some decent hubs, but no firm decisions yet. How much money would I really save (versus frustration) doing this myself? Sorry for the q's, but I appreciate your help. Thanks.
Easy, but no betsKerry
Mar 10, 2003 4:59 PM
I built my first wheels with nothing but a spoke wrench, and have built dozens the same way since. I built a set of wheels in a South Dakota campground and road them over 5K fully loaded touring miles with no truing required (one broken spoke when I hit a rock). So you don't "need" a truing stand, a dishing gauge, or least of all a tensiometer. Given the market realities today, you'll not save money building your own wheels - look at Colorado Cyclist or Excel built wheels cost vs. parts only cost. The standard reference is Brandt's "The Bicycle Wheel." Building a wheel is a straightforward process for the mechanically inclined, and you'll certainly be proud if you do a good job. That's the incentive.
One more thingTrent in WA
Mar 10, 2003 11:41 PM
There are a couple more incentives to building your own wheels:

1) Properly done, they're as reliable as wheels can be, and
2) It can save you money if you're building up wheels that aren't a permutation of standard racing-wheel components (such as, I suspect, Kerry's touring wheels).

Some deals cannot be beaten - Example:PeterRider
Mar 11, 2003 10:25 AM
it can also save you money if you're rebuilding a wheel from a used hub or used rim.

But still, deals like Open Pro/Dura ace at Performance for 250$, to which you subtract 20% from the current Performance coupons... I don't think you can beat that. Even looking carefully for good deals on components on ebay I couldn't beat that price.

One tip...Nater
Mar 11, 2003 6:29 AM
that I found was very useful...don't tension the spokes too much while you're lacing the wheel. It will make the truing/tensioning job much easier at the finish. Spoke prep is nice to use as well...
re:Minimum tools.dzrider
Mar 11, 2003 8:50 AM
Spoke wrench. You already have one.

Screwdriver. I use one to start the nipples. You probably have one of these as well.

Truing stand - not a necessity, but very convenient. Mine is bottom of the line and it's useful for truing as well as building.

Dishing tool. I turn the wheel around.

Tensionometer. Never used or owned one. I pluck the spokes and guage the tension by the pitch (former music student).

It's a worthwhile task that will leave you feeling more connected to your bike. I find the work peaceful and satisfying.
re: How hard/easy is it to build your own wheelset?pmf1
Mar 11, 2003 9:39 AM
Well, you definitely need a spoke wrench. And a truing stand is very useful. If you ride alot, a truing stand is worth having for use when your wheels go out of true. You can pay a lot or a little and usually get what you pay for. Like a work stand, its something that lasts forever, so buying something decent isn't a bad idea.

I have used spoke prep when building wheels. Others say linseed oil works well. You dip the threads in it and the stuff keeps the spokes from locking up or coming loose.

I used a screw driver on the slotted backs of the nipples rather than a nipple driver. A nipple driver is a tool of convenience. They don't cost much. If you want to buy one, go for it.

I have never used a tensiometer. I may get flamed for this, but these seem like over-kill for a guy who wants to build a set or two of wheels. These things run around $100. If you buy the right size spokes and evenly and slowely tension them, you should be able to acheive a true, round wheel of proper tension. If its a 32 hole 3-cross, the spokes don't need to be as tight as they are on low spoke count aero wheels like your ACs.

Get some good directions on how to lace a 3-cross. The Jobst Brandt Bicycle wheel book has a good discription. Generally though, I find that book reads like some engineering student's MS thesis. The only part I've ever used are the 4 pages on wheel building. Zinn's book covers it well too and has other useful general maintainence things.

You won't be able to do this any cheaper, or any better than a place like Excel or Colorado Cyclist. In fact, the wheel you build will probably cost more and be worse built. Still, building a wheel, if only once, is a fun, rewarding thing to do. Next time you break a spoke, you'll know what to do. You'll also know how to true a wheel better. I'd say do it. Do the front wheel first because it is simpler to build. Good luck.
re: How hard/easy is it to build your own wheelset?daniell
Mar 11, 2003 9:59 AM
I have been building my own wheels for years. I now need a new set of mountain bike wheels. The problem is, it is cheaper to buy a set already built.
Thanks guysjzinckgra
Mar 11, 2003 10:45 AM
Thanks guyspmf1
Mar 11, 2003 11:58 AM
The offerings by Colorado Cyclist and Excel really are excellent wheels. I know CC recently had specials on pre-built Mavic Open Pro 32 hole rims and various Shimano Campy hubs. The DA/OP was around $250. You can't do it that cheap yourself. And you certianly can't do it as well as they do.

On the other hand, building wheels is one of the real nerd experiences every bike pervert should have. Everyone should have a set of regular 32 spoke wire wheels too.
re: How hard/easy is it to build your own wheelset?torquecal
Mar 11, 2003 8:54 PM
I've just started building my own wheels (nine so far) and I think I've found a whole new hobby! It really is rewarding work.

I do use a tensiometer and found it helpful - but that could be because I'm mostly tone deaf.

I've got the second rate Park truing stand and dish tool and I'm already wishing for the top of the line truing stand - reason; the one I've got (TS-7) has the lateral and roundness guide both connected to the left post. So, unless the wheel is already dished I've got to flip the wheel over to help ensure I'm not just always tightening and loosening the same spokes over and over.

Instructions are another matter. Sheldon Brown's website and Park Tools websites got me started but Jobst's book and Barnett's manual have been really really helpful! Jobst's book for the theory and Barnetts for the practical step by step approach. I also bought Gerd Schraner's book, and while it was a fun read, I found it less helpfull. If you don't want to to buy the Barnett's manual I'd at least download the pdf's of the two wheel chapters. I think (or something like that) has an older edition of the barnett manual online.

Good luck! I've found a whole new dimension to cycling :-)
Geez, 9 setspmf1
Mar 12, 2003 5:47 AM
Hope you have lots of bikes or friends.

I agree about the truing stand. I bought the Park consumer version years ago. I wish I had spent the extra money on the top of the line version.
No - just 9 wheelstorquecal
Mar 12, 2003 3:55 PM
What can I say, I got addicted to building them
Visit MTBREl Kabong
Mar 12, 2003 10:51 AM
Go to's wheelbuilding board, and page Mike T. for a copy of his FAQ. Mike is something of a Luddite, but he has tons of good advice. Between that and, you'll be all set.

Some minor advice from me:

- you don't need a truing stand, but the Minoura works very well and can be had for < $50. It makes the job easier and more fun -- worth it for me!
- tensioning by tone (pluck and listen) works very well to get even spoke tension. The new Park TM1 tensiometer works very well to make sure the tension is good overall, but I still use the tone method to match the tension -- it's a lot faster.
- you probably can't do better on price than a pre-built set from a web retailer; you can do a build as good as the best of them if you're willing to put in the time.
- stress relieve, stress relieve, stress relieve. If you get advice from someone that the wheel needs to be ridden for a while and then have a final truing, that person doesn't know how to stress relieve properly.

Good luck!

El K.