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  1. #1
    Senior Member cranky's Avatar
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    Advice on first wheel build

    I've been riding around on a dented rim and have decided that I want to finally learn how to build wheels out of interest and to take my wrenching to the next level. I have read Sheldon's guide and picked up a copy of The Bicycle Wheel and begun to read that.

    The question is, will my first wheel actually be usable(36 spoke)? Or will it take a lot of practice? If so, how do I approach that, for example, do I buy thrift store bikes and build/rebuild until I get it right? Or buy some new but cheap rims?

    Lastly, any recommendations on the tools(truing stand and dishstick) and where I should buy them?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Non Tribuo Anus Rodentum and off to the next adventure (RIP) Stacey's Avatar
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    If you take your time and follow Sheldon's instructions you should have your self a wheel that is fully rideable for many miles. First time around I'd go with a thrift shop front wheel. No offset to contend with. Then take it to the LBS for a check over.

  3. #3
    * vpiuva's Avatar
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    Many on here use <$50 truing stands like the Minoura I have and like them (Nashbar and other shops). No dishing tool required, and you will be able to ride your first build. Beer, if you like it, can be a handy assistant.

  4. #4
    Very Senior Member MikeR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cranky
    I've been riding around on a dented rim and have decided that I want to finally learn how to build wheels out of interest and to take my wrenching to the next level. I have read Sheldon's guide and picked up a copy of The Bicycle Wheel and begun to read that.

    The question is, will my first wheel actually be usable(36 spoke)? Or will it take a lot of practice? If so, how do I approach that, for example, do I buy thrift store bikes and build/rebuild until I get it right? Or buy some new but cheap rims?

    Lastly, any recommendations on the tools(truing stand and dishstick) and where I should buy them?

    Thanks!
    Cranky, I'm almost in the same position as you, and I too would also be interested in any advice people can give.

    The only thing that I'm ahead of you on is I just bought a truing stand from Nashbar. Hey, vpiuva , I think that it's a Minoura. Rests on the table and, they say, you don’t need a dishing tool. The instructions that come with the truing stand are terrible. Obviously written by someone who does not know English. But I was able to figure them out.

    I haven’t built a wheel yet but I used the truing stand to true three of my wheels. Worked great. I can now adjust the wheel for being out-of-round, which I never could adjust with the wheel on the bike. It’s also way easier to see the minor changes and where it is out of true.

    Now I need to decide on what rim and hub to buy for my first build. I plan to jump right in with a good wheel that I intend to use. I figure that I can always re-build it if something is not right.

    Lets keep this thread going as we progress through the wheel building learning curve and see how we do.
    It's better to cycle through life than to drive by it.

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    You should get a tensionometer. It is also useful for regular truing.

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  6. #6
    Senior Member cranky's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice everyone, I'm happy with what I am hearing, that I can ride the first rim and wouldnt be crazy for doing so.

    MikeR, what a great idea. Chances are that I'll pick up the Minoura too. You are also ahead of me in that I've never even trued a wheel before. Are you reading the Bicycle Wheel or just Sheldon's. Or anything else?

    I ordered a lot of supplies last night from Harris(Sheldon's site), I know they're not the cheapest but I like to support them for all he's done for us. Bought a rim, spokes, spoke tool, and freewheel remover. Stacey brought up a good point, my intention was to build a rear wheel, and that's not as easy. I'll have to think about that some more. If I go with a thrift store front wheel, do I need to buy spokes, or are you recommending I simply take it apart and put it back together? I forgot to order spoke nipples, are those reusable? Are spokes reuseable for that matter? The wheel I'm planning to rebuild has 3200 miles on it, so I assumed I'd need new ones.

    geo8rge, thanks for your input on the tensionometer. I guess I wanted to keep the start-up costs down because I wasn't sure I was likely to succeed. I have a good ear(musician) so was initially planning on just plucking it for sounds. You guys are giving me a lot more confidence however, so I will reconsider.

  7. #7
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    Just jump in with the new wheel and take your time. Taking apart old wheels is a pain and I really don't think you learn that much, it's not black magic. Couple of pointers, use anti-seize/motor oil/spoke prep/some type of lube for the nipple threads, it makes things much easier. I use anti-seize and never have a problem with wind-up or spokes coming loose. Second, when you start to put spokes in the wheel just start the nipples with 3 or 4 threads until you get them all in the wheel, then start to tighten them up slowly and evenly. I always use the threads as a guide, I get them all started and then I go around and screw them all on until the threads dissapear, this is a good guide if your spokes are long enough. Third, don't try to true the wheel perfectly until you start to get some decent tension on the wheel, if you do this you end up with uneven spoke tension and it takes a lot of time, if you have brought the spokes up evenly your wheel should be pretty close to true anyway. Lastly, stress relieve the wheel often, it only takes a couple of seconds and it will prevent you from trying to true out a wobble that isn't really a wobble but a wheel which is bound up. If you true out a wobble without stress relieving first you end up having to pull it back the other way, which just adds more tension to that area of the wheel. Also make sure you put plenty of tension on the wheels, if you judge agaist pre-built wheels you will almost always come up short because pre-built wheels are almost always undertensioned, which is why they need trued two or three times before they are right.

  8. #8
    Jet Jockey Banzai's Avatar
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    I built my first wheelset using Mr. Brown's instructions (God bless that man) and a Minoura trueing stand. No tensionmeter...I simply grabbed the spokes and pulled, and also went by sound. (I heard that technique from a prominent wrench on an NPR soundclip).

    Be patient. Work slowly and methodically, and follow the instructions very carefully. Don't try to jump ahead or shortcut...you don't have the experience for that. What do I mean by shortcuts? Like what the above poster said about attempting to accurately true before appropriate tension has been applied, etc. Work around the rim in small increments, one spoke at a time, and take breaks when you need to.

    Above all else, let us know how it goes!
    Good night...and good luck

  9. #9
    Very Senior Member MikeR's Avatar
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    First a little background about me. The reason I want to learn wheel building is that I’m a clydesdale – which is very hard on wheels. I’ve been truing my own for a while in a effort to increase the life of the wheel. I’ve had the LBS custom build one wheel for my Bianchi SanRemo, that lasted 4,000 miles. They are now building another wheel – hopefully it will be the last they build for me because I intend to build my own in the future.

    I want to start with a front wheel build for my Trek 720. The wheel that my LBS has now is a Sun Rhyno Lite rim with the original hub. I told the LBS to give me the old rim after the new build. I think that the rim might have some life left in it, so if it looks like it’s in good enough condition I think that I’ll use it with a new hub and spokes. If that goes well then I want to build a really bomb proof rear wheel for the Trek. Right now I’m thinking of something like a tandem wheel – 40 spoke 4 cross. Anyone advice or opinions on this would e greatly appreciated.

    I haven’t gotten a tensionmeter yet. There seems to be various opinions on weather that is needed or not. Don’t know what to do there. If I get one it will be a Park – I really like their tools

    Cranky, I have read Sheldon’s wheel building article and I have an E-book called “Wheel Building” by Roger Musson. I got it from RoadBikeRider.com. I’m not familiar with “The Bicycle Wheel” but I am going to search for it. Do you know where to get it and who the author is?
    It's better to cycle through life than to drive by it.

  10. #10
    Very Senior Member MikeR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cranky
    I Bought a rim, spokes, spoke tool, and freewheel remover.
    How did you know what size spokes to get?
    I haven't tried to figure spoke length yet. I'm still trying to decide on a hub for my first front wheel build.
    Last edited by MikeR; 06-25-07 at 07:44 AM.
    It's better to cycle through life than to drive by it.

  11. #11
    Very Senior Member MikeR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by silent1
    . . .Couple of pointers,

    . . . .when you start to put spokes in the wheel just start the nipples with 3 or 4 threads until you get them all in the wheel, then start to tighten them up slowly and evenly.

    . . .stress relieve the wheel often,

    . . .Also make sure you put plenty of tension on the wheels
    Lots of specifics in your post - thanks - that's what I need.

    What nipple tool do you use - screwdriver or something more elaborate?

    How do you stress relieve you spokes - squeezing them?

    Do you use a tensionmeter ?
    It's better to cycle through life than to drive by it.

  12. #12
    Recreational Commuter
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeR
    How did you know what size spokes to get?
    I haven't tried to figure spoke length yet. I'm still trying to decide on a hub for my first frount wheel build.
    Once you have decided on a rim and hub, get a copy of Spocalc.xls (if you have Excel or Open Office available), or use one of the handy online spoke length calculators (DT Swiss has a good one).

    You need to know your hub and rim first, though. The dimensions of each will determine the resulting length(s) required.

    Kotts
    Riding the Ohio MS Central Ohio Challenge tour, July 12th.

  13. #13
    Very Senior Member MikeR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kotts
    Once you have decided on a rim and hub, get a copy of Spocalc.xls (if you have Excel or Open Office available), or use one of the handy online spoke length calculators (DT Swiss has a good one).

    You need to know your hub and rim first, though. The dimensions of each will determine the resulting length(s) required.

    Kotts
    Thanks - I just downloaded Spocalc - nice!
    It's better to cycle through life than to drive by it.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeR
    I’m not familiar with “The Bicycle Wheel” but I am going to search for it. Do you know where to get it and who the author is?
    Jobst Brandt is the author. It's my favorite wheel reference book.

    If you've been truing wheels then you've already learned the part of wheel building that requires the most skill. Lacing spokes is the easiest part.

    Al

  15. #15
    Senior Member tkncwa's Avatar
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    One of the best tools I have for building wheels is one that I made. All it is, is a spoke that was cut down to 4", leaving the threads, and putting a rubber sleeve on the other end. All you do is push it through the spoke holes in the rim, thread a nipple on, then pull through. No more nipples dropped inside the rim.

    yay!

  16. #16
    Senior Member cranky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeR
    How did you know what size spokes to get?
    I haven't tried to figure spoke length yet. I'm still trying to decide on a hub for my first front wheel build.
    When I put my order in with Harris Cyclery(from Sheldon's site), you can specify to let them determine the spoke length for you. You tell them the make/model of your hub and rim, the number of spokes and lacing pattern. I figured they could do a much better job at it than I could. I did find the Excel spreadsheet and it works really well, but only if you know EXACTLY what you have. I found it a bit daunting to determine the rim model on my existing rim.

    I finished reading the Bicycle Wheel last night, as Al said, it is by Jobst Brandt. The reviews on Amazon said that this is "the definitive" book on wheel building and my LBS said the same thing. It is not a large book, but it is largely academic, with more equations and scientific data than you'll probably need. You might benefit from it since you are on a quest to build the strongest possible wheel.

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    In addition to the Sheldon Brown article and texts others have referred to, check out Peter White Cycles websits. Peter is one of the foremost names in wheelbuilding in the US, and he has helpful articles and a forum he hosts that are excellent resources.

    I'm also a big rider and got into wheelbuilding for that reason -- but, and this was a huge revelation -- I got a set of wheels built for me by Peter White that I have now ridden about 2000 miles and have never even needed truing. Get a strong enough rim (your Rhynolite, or Velocity Dyad, or the Mavic touring rim PWhite discusses on his site) and go with a higher spoke count like 36-40 and you should never have problems. PWhite guarantees his wheels for life.

    To de-tension wheel while building, take it off the stand -- rest it on edge on the floor on something that will cusion the rim, and put some downward force on it -- not a ton, just enough to compress the rim a bit and allow the spokes to unwind.

  18. #18
    Very Senior Member MikeR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tkncwa
    One of the best tools I have for building wheels is one that I made. All it is, is a spoke that was cut down to 4", leaving the threads, and putting a rubber sleeve on the other end. All you do is push it through the spoke holes in the rim, thread a nipple on, then pull through. No more nipples dropped inside the rim.

    yay!
    That's a neat idea!
    It's better to cycle through life than to drive by it.

  19. #19
    Very Senior Member MikeR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cranky
    When I put my order in with Harris Cyclery(from Sheldon's site), you can specify to let them determine the spoke length for you. You tell them the make/model of your hub and rim, the number of spokes and lacing pattern. I figured they could do a much better job at it than I could. I did find the Excel spreadsheet and it works really well, but only if you know EXACTLY what you have. I found it a bit daunting to determine the rim model on my existing rim.

    I finished reading the Bicycle Wheel last night, as Al said, it is by Jobst Brandt. The reviews on Amazon said that this is "the definitive" book on wheel building and my LBS said the same thing. It is not a large book, but it is largely academic, with more equations and scientific data than you'll probably need. You might benefit from it since you are on a quest to build the strongest possible wheel.
    That's good to know about Harris. I may use them.

    I think that I'll order that book tomorrow. Thanks.
    It's better to cycle through life than to drive by it.

  20. #20
    Very Senior Member MikeR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ginsoakedboy
    In addition to the Sheldon Brown article and texts others have referred to, check out Peter White Cycles websits. Peter is one of the foremost names in wheelbuilding in the US, and he has helpful articles and a forum he hosts that are excellent resources.

    I'm also a big rider and got into wheelbuilding for that reason -- but, and this was a huge revelation -- I got a set of wheels built for me by Peter White that I have now ridden about 2000 miles and have never even needed truing. Get a strong enough rim (your Rhynolite, or Velocity Dyad, or the Mavic touring rim PWhite discusses on his site) and go with a higher spoke count like 36-40 and you should never have problems. PWhite guarantees his wheels for life.

    To de-tension wheel while building, take it off the stand -- rest it on edge on the floor on something that will cusion the rim, and put some downward force on it -- not a ton, just enough to compress the rim a bit and allow the spokes to unwind.
    I've heard of Peter White's wheels. Is there any connection to the White Industries hubs?
    Last edited by MikeR; 06-26-07 at 02:09 AM.
    It's better to cycle through life than to drive by it.

  21. #21
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    There are a couple of ways to stress relieve a wheel. First, put the wheel on the floor with the axle and one part of the wheel touching the ground then just push down lightly with both hands on opposite sides and you might hear the wheel creak if it is bound up. Second, stand the wheel on the ground, like it's on the bike, and just push down directly down on the rim, you might hear it creak. Third, you can take a tire lever and put it in between the spoke crosses and kind of pry them apart to make them flex and you might hear the wheel creak. I usually use all three methods pretty often when building wheels and I have honestly never trued a wheel that I have built and ridden in normal conditions, wheels bent in wrecks don't count. No I don't use a tension meter, just bring them up equally and you won't have a problem with even tension. Lastly, I go way overboard and use a wax substance around the nipple where it contacts the eyelet. I don't know what this actually does but I do believe it makes building faster and easier and like I said, I have never trued one of my wheels from riding under normal conditions.

  22. #22
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    No connection b/w White Industries and PWC to my knowledge.

  23. #23
    Very Senior Member MikeR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ginsoakedboy
    No connection b/w White Industries and PWC to my knowledge.
    Thanks

    Oh BTW I ordered "The Bicycle Wheel" today.
    It's better to cycle through life than to drive by it.

  24. #24
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeR
    I want to start with a front wheel build for my Trek 720. The wheel that my LBS has now is a Sun Rhyno Lite rim with the original hub. I told the LBS to give me the old rim after the new build. I think that the rim might have some life left in it, so if it looks like it’s in good enough condition I think that I’ll use it with a new hub and spokes.
    If you think that the old rim has so much life left in it why are you replacing it?

    I always advise the people to buy a decent quality rim for their first wheel build. There's enough to learn without having to compensate for a rim that's warped or not-quite round or a cheap rim that's so flexy that it won't tension evenly.

    A new Rhyno Lite rim would be an outstanding choice for your first wheelbuild.

  25. #25
    Very Senior Member MikeR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch
    If you think that the old rim has so much life left in it why are you replacing it?

    I always advise the people to buy a decent quality rim for their first wheel build. There's enough to learn without having to compensate for a rim that's warped or not-quite round or a cheap rim that's so flexy that it won't tension evenly.

    A new Rhyno Lite rim would be an outstanding choice for your first wheelbuild.
    I never thought of that. I guess I should get a new one. Which rim is better the Rhyno lite or the Velocity Dyad?
    It's better to cycle through life than to drive by it.

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