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Old 08-06-08, 08:48 AM   #1
LagunaPaul
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Fear of Wheel building

I want to learn how to build wheels, but wonder if I can manage.

Is it really that hard? What is the likelihood that I will make a pile of junk on my first attempt? will I end up with a bunch of very expensive ruined rims and spokes? Any advice?
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Old 08-06-08, 08:56 AM   #2
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I did my first by taking an old crappy 27" wheel, taking it apart, then putting it together. I first did a dozen or so trueings before attempting that, and it went fine. If you are going to go the route with new parts, just make sure you dont strip the nipples.... so worst case scenario, you could always take em to the LBS and pay to have em built.
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Old 08-06-08, 09:01 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by milnerpt View Post
I did my first by taking an old crappy 27" wheel, taking it apart, then putting it together. I first did a dozen or so trueings before attempting that, and it went fine. If you are going to go the route with new parts, just make sure you dont strip the nipples.... so worst case scenario, you could always take em to the LBS and pay to have em built.
It would be hard to ruin the rim, you would have to be really trying to mess it up. Stripping the spoke nipples is probably the most damage you could do and it wouldn't be that big a deal. I agree with the above quote, get an old wheel, take it apart and put it back together for practice. Wheel building is not as hard as it seems and it is pretty cool to have wheels that you built yourself. Don't be afraid to give it a shot.
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Old 08-06-08, 10:30 AM   #4
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The first time I built a wheel a number of years ago was the first time I messed with truing wheels at all. I was in a bit of a pinch and didn't have much money after I wrecked my front rim so I bought a new rim and learned how to build wheels. This was of course without any of the proper tools except a spoke wrench. I used the fork as a truing stand and brakes and fingers to check for how true it was.

In the end I took it to my LBS to have it all checked out and it was fine and didn't need any adjustments.

Don't be afraid. There's really not much you can mess up. If you're a little unsure, take the wheel to your shop and have them check your work.
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Old 08-06-08, 10:46 AM   #5
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It is not at all difficult to build a wheel. Good instructions, a couple of tools and patience are all that is required to build a more or less standard wheel.

You have all the time in the world to play with that first wheel untill you get it right. You will in the process, begin to get some feel for how much to turn the wrench to make a change, how many spokes to adjust and many other "hands on" skills.

It is more difficult to be a professional wheelbuilder because you have to be fast enough to make money at the task. The pro also has to be right the first time. Its ok for you to come back in a week or 2 to make some adjustments to your wheel but for the pro that's customer dissatisfaction.

Build an inexpensive simple wheel for your first and you will be surprised.
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Old 08-06-08, 11:20 AM   #6
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I built my first set of wheels this spring for a commuter bike project. I built my own because of the expense buying a prebuilt wheel around a Nexus hub that fit my needs.

I used Sheldon Brown's write up, and links to spoke calculators and it was surprisingly easy. I probably spent more time reading and fretting about doing it than actually doing it. And the wheels have worked out fine.

In about 250 miles they have stayed pretty true. I have not had to touch the front wheel, and the rear required a small tweak to get back in true after the first 50 miles, but has been OK since. Since I didn't use a tension meter, and tried to rely on musical notes for tension, I feared worse.

Go for it.
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Old 08-06-08, 11:23 AM   #7
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For starters, build yourself a radially laced front wheel. It's easy, and will boost your wheel building confidence.
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Old 08-06-08, 11:24 AM   #8
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are 406 (20") rims any more difficult than 700 wheels?
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Old 08-06-08, 11:45 AM   #9
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Nope.
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Old 08-06-08, 08:21 PM   #10
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I started out by replacing a rim. It was easier than I thought, just tedious and time consuming. I really think the worst you could do is round a nipple or two. Make sure you have a few spare nipples. Also lube the spokes and nipples well. Just be patient. Build up some tension, Try to keep it even, true the wheels laterally and radially. Get proper dish. Finish trueing it. Get it to a reasonable tension, I found out I was seriously overtensioning my wheels when I bough a tensiometer I was as high as 150 kgf. Finally stress relieve and don't be surprised if it goes out of true during the frist ride due to spokes unwinding. Just retrue it.
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Old 08-06-08, 08:35 PM   #11
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do it. it's easy once you get over the fear. read a bunch on Sheldon's site, it'll reduce the worries. If you do a horrible job the wheel will just be out of true, or maybe go out of true over some time, it certainly won't immediately fail on you when you're doing 30+ mph with shards of nipples and spokes shooting out- and I agree with a previous post that you'll be proud of them. Nothing like spinnin on the hoops you laced yourself.
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Old 08-06-08, 08:36 PM   #12
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If you are looking for a good reference try "The Bicycle Wheel" by Jobst Brandt ISBN: 0-9607236-6-8. Its a good reference though it may border on giving too much information. There's nothing to fear though.
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Old 08-06-08, 09:36 PM   #13
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The biggest difference between a "pro" built wheel and one you build yourself is that the pro will take much less time to arrive at a true, stress relieved wheel. Those park auto stands are nice and speedy but work on exact same principal as the less expensive models or taping some pointers on an old fork.

Get some basic tools ( a GOOD spoke wrench), take your time and work from good instructions. If it goes out of true, then you've learned something: the need to stress relieve the wheel and release spoke windup and/or you didn't get enough tension in the spokes. Reread how to stress relieve and retrue the wheel.

A tensiometer is useful for getting proper tension in the spokes. Low spoke tension is the most common cause of failure in machine built wheels.
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Old 08-06-08, 11:04 PM   #14
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I don't know if anyone suggested it yet but start with an old used wheel that isn't worth much if you're worried. Take it completely apart and then lace it back up following all the info out there. If you mess it up take it apart again. The only thing you've got to lose is some time taken to correct a boo-boo. If the rim should turn out to be tweaked the tensioning and truing may be harder to do but unless it's got a full on kink in it you should be able to manage.

It helps for the first few builds to have a similar cross and spoke count wheel sitting beside you as a comparison for getting all the in'y heads and out'y heads right and getting all the crosses facing the same way, stem hole in one of the bigger openings and stuff like that.

While a tensionometer is nice you don't need it right away. You can use the musical tones of the spokes as indicators of tension value. Especially if you're trying to keep this whole hobby on the cheap side.

Outside of that the only other thing that you'll hear from me and others is to work the tension up in small stages and correct the runouts as you go. I generally bring the tension up in about 10 to 14 small tightenings with truing at about 3 spots along the way. Then stress relieving, true, relieve and true and perhaps a final tensioning and true again to fine tune the tones and you're done.

Start with a front since all the spokes are the same. Just one less thing to worry about.
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Old 08-07-08, 01:54 AM   #15
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Read and re-read Sheldon, get the nicest equipment your budget will allow, and go slowly. If you don't let frustration or fatigue cost you your nerve, it will be fine.

My first wheel went perfectly and has been in use by my girlfriend for over six months with not so much as a touch-up with the spoke wrench. I got too aggressive with my second, tensioned it too fast, and tacoed the rim...but after I unbent the rim and re-laced the wheel it has been fine too!

I won't lie: I think wheelbuilding IS hard. But with determination and patience, you will gradually develop the touch needed to make efficient progress toward a wonderful, tight, true wheel. I just finished my first Phil Wood wheel this morning - a front for my upcoming bike - and it is a beauty! Wheelbuilding is cool, and you will be glad for the skill once you acquire it. Don't give up!
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Old 08-07-08, 02:28 AM   #16
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Just go for it. When I built my first wheel, we didn't have the internet. All I had was instructions from an issue of Bicycling magazine. I'm not sure if sheldon brown covered this but lube the spoke nipple beds of the rims. Use boiled linseed oil on the spoke threads. This lubricates them during building and dries to secure the spoke nipple but will still allow you to true your wheels if you need to later.
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Old 08-07-08, 08:49 AM   #17
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Get a copy of Wheelbuilding, 4th ed., by Roger Musson. It covers everything in rich, step-by-step detail, and is profusely illustrated. It's an "e-book" that you download from Roger's website as a portable document format file (Adobe pdf).
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