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Old 11-27-09, 03:44 PM   #1
FreddyV
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Is it really worth building your own wheels?

A little while ago my road bike's rear wheel got a bit messed up. It is still holding up, using MTB pads for my brakes which works... But still I want a set of new wheels this spring, so I still have a little while to figure a few things out.

If I'm replacing my rear wheel, I want a new front wheel as well. Just because I cannot stand the sight of two different wheels on one bike.

A new wheelset brings me to about €300 on costs. As I'm not too light I need to be sure the wheels can take the weight, which takes me around those costs.

Now, I've researched a few things, and it turns out that I will need around €250 for building a wheelset with parts I really like. These costs however, include a few other things I need, like cassette removal tools, spoke tools and (pretty important too) a truing stand.

It saves me about €50 during this run, but as the wheel has to set after it's been built and ridden a while, it has to be trued again afterwards. Looking at a previous bill from my LBS, that should save me another €20.
Basically, I'm off cheaper when I build my own wheels.

I know some of you build your own wheels, and I was wondering what are your experiences with that? Is it worth the hassle and the time you put into it, or should I go for a brand new wheelset instead?
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Old 11-27-09, 04:12 PM   #2
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it is more economical to buy a prebuilt wheel set, in the usa at least.
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Old 11-27-09, 04:23 PM   #3
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Money wise - probably not. Unless you find some amazing deals on parts, wheels built from scratch are almost always more expensive than pre-built.

That said, my answer is yes, it is worth it. But from a perspective of learning new skills, appreciating the bike from another angle, being self sufficient, etc. If you have any interest in working on bikes, building wheels is a great experience. If you are going to be annoyed that you're spending a weekend learning how to do this and would rather be out riding, buy some wheels.
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Old 11-27-09, 04:29 PM   #4
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it's cheapest to buy pre-built wheels, but you get a (slightly) inferior product. Building up your own wheels is more expensive, but you get a better wheel. It's the most expensive to have someone else build up your wheels for you. Or you could try and trade beer...
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Old 11-27-09, 04:34 PM   #5
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I do it because I enjoy working on my and my friends bikes and trikes. If you are a big person I reccomend a nice set of 36 spoke wheels with double butted spokes.
Are these close enough to you? http://www.sjscycles.co.uk/product-H...Rims-18133.htm
I bought a TA crankset from them and was happy wioth the service.
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Old 11-27-09, 04:35 PM   #6
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Check out Spinlite, online. Make your order by phone, so you can thoroughly discuss your needs/wants. bk
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Old 11-27-09, 04:46 PM   #7
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Building your own may not save much when starting from scratch, but it certainly saves me some money when I need to repair an existing wheel. Usually only part of the wheel has failed. Typically I may need to replace the rim while keeping the hub and spokes since those components tend to last much longer. Building your own wheels also gives you more confidence to do minor repairs such as a touch-up truing or individual spoke replacement - and it lets you pick the individual components you want to use instead of settling for a package deal.
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Old 11-27-09, 04:51 PM   #8
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Actually building one's self, from scratch as opposed to having them built or fact. builts ? I can't see it.
Let's make believe we could at least build one that's relatively round, would be as good ? Don't think so. Aside from time, the actual cost of the rims, hubs, spokes, niples, eyletes perhaps..etc. is close in cost.
Wheel building's a craft. Like any other endeavor or task, job; one needs to fail a number of times in order to prevail. Perhaps for fun or as learning experience but it's not practical, not if a high level of quality is warranted. On a beater or a rat bike, perhaps repair if most is on hand. I read you as the former, SCRATCH... totally not worth it unless you want to make it yet another hobby.
I've read members maintain an opposing point of view. I supppose that these individuals having done so, may know better than I. Think about it though; what would compell these same individuals to admit, to assert that's so very easy ? It's as if they're not giving credence to building as a skill.
Pro-built custom wheels are a good option, most shops have an outside vender if not an in-house wheel man. The past few years though, it seems more and more wheels are availble prebuilt. Bear in mind, most wheels are hand-built or at least mostly built or fishished by hand. Robots can't do it all.
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Old 11-27-09, 05:07 PM   #9
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If you are good at it, or if you think you can learn it well, the best value and compromise is to buy pre-built wheels, disassemble them, then reassemble them. Of course, this is a compromise, because it's not as low-trouble as just buying pre-built wheels and using them, but it's one thing you may have not considered.
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Old 11-27-09, 05:19 PM   #10
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If you are good at it, or if you think you can learn it well, the best value and compromise is to buy pre-built wheels, disassemble them, then reassemble them. Of course, this is a compromise, because it's not as low-trouble as just buying pre-built wheels and using them, but it's one thing you may have not considered.
It's a pretty good idea. Same could be said for a defective wheel etc... the learning exp. aspect.
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Old 11-27-09, 05:51 PM   #11
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A new wheelset brings me to about €300 on costs........ and it turns out that I will need around €250 for building a wheelset with parts I really like. These costs however, include a few other things I need, like cassette removal tools, spoke tools and (pretty important too) a truing stand.
Your cost figures are interesting. Basically you are saying you can buy all of the needed components, a cassette, a spoke wrench and a truing stand for less than the cost of a pair of prebuilt wheels.

That generally is not true here in the US where the components alone usually cost more than a similar set of prebuilt wheels, nevermind the cost of the needed tools. Here the best approach is to buy prebuilt wheels and have the true and tension refined by yourself or a proven good wheel builder.
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Old 11-27-09, 05:53 PM   #12
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I'm not convinced that wheel building is some mysterious skill that only those with 20 years can accomplish properly. There is definitely skill involved, and with experience the job will become much easier and MUCH faster, but as far as quality, I think a good wheel building book and lots of time are all you need. Wheel building essentially involves taking a straight rim and tying it slowly and progressively to a hub without taking it out of shape. There may be some art to it, but it's a very mechanical/physical thing. I recently read an account on this forum of a guy building his first wheelset and riding the new set something like 5k miles + before truing was necessary.

About 1.5 years ago I had 3 consecutive/same side spokes ripped out of my paired/low count front wheel when someone came into me during a crit. The LBS offered to sell me a similar wheelset for a GREAT price, but I decided to at least try unlacing the wheel to see if the rim was damaged. I found that the rim was still perfect, so I bought $10 worth of spokes (bought a few extra) and sat down in my living room with an upside down bike, screw driver and spoke wrench to try to put it back together. 3 hours or so later, and I was finishing up the process. Took it to my mechanic for a checkup and he took a close look and asked the other available mech. to tightened each spoke up by 1/4 turn and hand it back to me. Sure, I used their services to verify my work, but by that time the build was over, and with a tension-gauge I'd have been able to skip that step.

With probably 4-5k miles on that wheel now and I haven't touched it since that day. I've done mutliple 50 mph+ descents on it and ridden on all kinds of bad roads. It's not rocket science, and just because someone on this board may not feel comfortable doing it themselves, doesn't mean that you should let that discourage you. Thats why all the helpful mechs are including "if you're mechanically minded" and "if you feel comfortable learning a new skill" etc..

If you want to build your own set and don't want to do the build with it mounted to an upside down bike, you can always build your own stand. Just a couple of weeks ago (and in preparation for my first complete wheel build) I put this together off of Musson's E-book on wheel building. Great book, and he gives you ideas on how to minimize shop tool costs buy making stuff yourself. This stand cost me about $14, $10 of which was the qaurt of polyurethane that I decided to finish it with.

-Jeremy

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Old 11-27-09, 05:54 PM   #13
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Not long ago, the answer to the OPs question would have been, build it yourself or at least finish it yourself, because factory builders do not always properly follow the routine of tensioning, de-stressing, and truing with repeating as necessary. Are the factory builders now a lot better than they were?
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Old 11-27-09, 06:04 PM   #14
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Not long ago, the answer to the OPs question would have been, build it yourself or at least finish it yourself, because factory builders do not always properly follow the routine of tensioning, de-stressing, and truing with repeating as necessary. Are the factory builders now a lot better than they were?
Some are. Wheel building machinery is far more sophisticated than it was years ago and completely machine built wheels can be quite good. I recently bought an inexpensive rear wheel from Jenson USA with a Tiagra hub, 32 3x DT straight 2 mm spokes and an Alex 390 rim for about $90. I was surprised how good it was right out of the box. The true was nearly perfect, the tension pretty much spot on and the dish took only 1/4 turn of each of the nds spoke nipples to get exact.

That said, the best prebuilt wheels are hand finished after the machine does the major assembly work. Colorado Cyclist does that with their prebuilt wheels and the results are excellent.
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Old 11-27-09, 06:34 PM   #15
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That truing stand is gorgeous. Maybe I'll build it, too.
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Old 11-27-09, 06:54 PM   #16
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I'm not convinced that wheel building is some mysterious skill that only those with 20 years can accomplish properly. There is definitely skill involved, and with experience the job will become much easier and MUCH faster, but as far as quality, I think a good wheel building book and lots of time are all you need. Wheel building essentially involves taking a straight rim and tying it slowly and progressively to a hub without taking it out of shape. There may be some art to it, but it's a very mechanical/physical thing. I recently read an account on this forum of a guy building his first wheelset and riding the new set something like 5k miles + before truing was necessary.

About 1.5 years ago I had 3 consecutive/same side spokes ripped out of my paired/low count front wheel when someone came into me during a crit. The LBS offered to sell me a similar wheelset for a GREAT price, but I decided to at least try unlacing the wheel to see if the rim was damaged. I found that the rim was still perfect, so I bought $10 worth of spokes (bought a few extra) and sat down in my living room with an upside down bike, screw driver and spoke wrench to try to put it back together. 3 hours or so later, and I was finishing up the process. Took it to my mechanic for a checkup and he took a close look and asked the other available mech. to tightened each spoke up by 1/4 turn and hand it back to me. Sure, I used their services to verify my work, but by that time the build was over, and with a tension-gauge I'd have been able to skip that step.

With probably 4-5k miles on that wheel now and I haven't touched it since that day. I've done mutliple 50 mph+ descents on it and ridden on all kinds of bad roads. It's not rocket science, and just because someone on this board may not feel comfortable doing it themselves, doesn't mean that you should let that discourage you. Thats why all the helpful mechs are including "if you're mechanically minded" and "if you feel comfortable learning a new skill" etc..

If you want to build your own set and don't want to do the build with it mounted to an upside down bike, you can always build your own stand. Just a couple of weeks ago (and in preparation for my first complete wheel build) I put this together off of Musson's E-book on wheel building. Great book, and he gives you ideas on how to minimize shop tool costs buy making stuff yourself. This stand cost me about $14, $10 of which was the qaurt of polyurethane that I decided to finish it with.

-Jeremy

Beautiful! And I'll bet you don't have the centering issues I have with my Parks TS-2
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Old 11-27-09, 06:57 PM   #17
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Actually building one's self, from scratch as opposed to having them built or fact. builts ? I can't see it.
Let's make believe we could at least build one that's relatively round, would be as good ? Don't think so. Aside from time, the actual cost of the rims, hubs, spokes, niples, eyletes perhaps..etc. is close in cost.
Wheel building's a craft. Like any other endeavor or task, job; one needs to fail a number of times in order to prevail. Perhaps for fun or as learning experience but it's not practical, not if a high level of quality is warranted. On a beater or a rat bike, perhaps repair if most is on hand. I read you as the former, SCRATCH... totally not worth it unless you want to make it yet another hobby.
I've read members maintain an opposing point of view. I supppose that these individuals having done so, may know better than I. Think about it though; what would compell these same individuals to admit, to assert that's so very easy ? It's as if they're not giving credence to building as a skill.
Pro-built custom wheels are a good option, most shops have an outside vender if not an in-house wheel man. The past few years though, it seems more and more wheels are availble prebuilt. Bear in mind, most wheels are hand-built or at least mostly built or fishished by hand. Robots can't do it all.
I got my wheels from the very first one nice and trued both vertically and horizontally, and dished properly too. As good a quality as I ever purchased, definitely. It's not that hard, just takes parktaking of some of the wealth of knowledge and add a little patience and tools that work. Been doing my own and for friends ever since. They're all in regular use being bashed about on rocky trails (some roads, too), not on some beater experiment. I used to think truing a wheel was beyond my skills until I learned about it...same for building up the wheel. You should really give it a try.

As to doing it cost effectively, I can all too often get very close to what I want with a prebuilt tax paid and delivered cheaper than I can put together components. However, I do have a good stock of components, good quality hubs in particular, so don't really need a whole new wheel most times....
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Old 11-27-09, 07:01 PM   #18
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That truing stand is gorgeous. Maybe I'll build it, too.
Thanks, but all credit has to go to Musson for the design. His book includes detailed plans that basically would allow any old hack to scrap one together and make it look decent. =) I didn't really change anything from his plans. Used it today to equalize spoke tension and true 3 different wheels, including one that I completely de-tensioned to learn that the rim was slightly off. Re-tensioned it to true anyway since it's my commuter bike and it was only off by a bit. Sure is easier than truing on the bike. The one problem with this design (if you want to call it a problem) is that it's only good for truing, not dishing. But the same book includes directions on making a VERY simple dishing tool basically for free that will work perfectly. Just haven't made that one quite yet. Just center it in the forks for dishing right now. Trying to get as much practice as I can so that my wheel build will go smoothly. Obviously my response to the OP in this thread is to at least strongly consider building the set yourself simply for the mechanical connection you'll develop with the bike you ride...but only if you care about that. If not, the LBS's can use your business too. Or talk to "Psimet" on this forum about a wheelset. He'll let you pick from an assortment of components to match your needs and build you a strong set for a compromise between the two if doing it yourself is intimidating.

-Jeremy
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Old 11-27-09, 08:45 PM   #19
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How the hell would you true a 26"/20"/16" wheel on that? What if the hub is smaller/bigger than the one pictured...??

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Old 11-27-09, 08:47 PM   #20
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Some are. Wheel building machinery is far more sophisticated than it was years ago and completely machine built wheels can be quite good. I recently bought an inexpensive rear wheel from Jenson USA with a Tiagra hub, 32 3x DT straight 2 mm spokes and an Alex 390 rim for about $90. I was surprised how good it was right out of the box. The true was nearly perfect, the tension pretty much spot on and the dish took only 1/4 turn of each of the nds spoke nipples to get exact.

That said, the best prebuilt wheels are hand finished after the machine does the major assembly work. Colorado Cyclist does that with their prebuilt wheels and the results are excellent.
Pretty much any wheelset that costs < $200 CAD will blow out of the box with some rare exceptions. The higher zoot wheelset it is, usually the better. For example Campy G3's, Fulcrum 1's, Dura ace Tubeless, Shamal Ultra Tubeless. These are perfectly trued and tensioned out of the box. Zipp 404's etc.
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Old 11-27-09, 08:49 PM   #21
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It appears that there is a slot in the base to allow the right side upright to move out. This is really an impressive machine, much better than the TS2.

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Old 11-27-09, 09:07 PM   #22
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It ain't pretty but it has helped me build and tune up more wheels than I can remember and it now lives at my bike shop... where I build wheels.

Like Op said, < $200.00 off the shelf wheels tend to blow but... they can be good if you get them professionally checked to make sure everything is right.

At times, buying a complete wheel is much cheaper than buying the parts separately... one LBS just had a blowout on pre-built wheels and was selling XT hubs laced to Mavic A719 rims (with DT spokes) for $90.00... retail on the A719 alone is $90.00.

Just about every wheel I ride on was built by me... the only ones that have ever caused me issues are the ones that were not built by me and if I have a wheel problem I don't have to look far to complain.

I build a lot of clyde worthy wheel sets and have nothing but positive feedback from my customers... most of these had gone the route of buying off the shelf and were nothing but frustrated and disappointed in the wheels they got... even the plus $200.00 ones.

I also tune a lot of off the shelf wheels for people and it is always nice when they can be tuned up before they get ridden on.

So basically, you can go a number of ways.

Go for the full on custom build.

Build them yourself... if it's a first time have a wheel builder check your work (they may even accept beer as payment).

Buy off the shelf and have the wheels professionally checked.
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Old 11-27-09, 09:32 PM   #23
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How the hell would you true a 26"/20"/16" wheel on that? What if the hub is smaller/bigger than the one pictured...??
All that this truing stand has to do is provide the secure mounting and platform for the wheel. So it's basically just like the above upside down fork, with the exception that it has an adjustable leg. As AL1943 pointed out, the right hand tower (with the wingnuts at the base) is adjustable about 3 inches along two routed slots. Loosening the wingnuts allows me to move the tower laterally to accommodate any size hub. You'll notice that behind that tower is another piece of Material that I'll use for marking each location on. One for 110mm/120/126/130/135mm etc. so that I can pre-set the tower and then drop the wheel on for truing. Easy enough.

To answer your other question, truing smaller wheels would be possible by using really anything as a guide that's tall enough to stand on the platform and reach the braking surface. Those little movable guide platforms were the easiest part of this stand and if I need to build a taller one to accommodate smaller wheels it won't be difficult at all. This one will do Road and Mountain wheels without trouble, with tires or without. =) You'll notice that my guide piece for lateral truing has two position options, the second (unused in the picture, selectable by loosening the pivot wingnut) would be for a fatter mountain bike tire, allowing the guide to reach further without the base getting in the way.

Go ahead, pretend like you don't have the itch to build yourself one now. Seriously, I had access to a woodshop, but that just made it quicker. This could easily be done with a cheap table saw and cordless drill. You'd just have to use straight edges on the radial truing guide instead of the smooth sweep.

Like I said above, the plans are in Roger Musson's downloadable e-book...taking all thought out of the project. Just cut the pieces, attach them together and that's it.

http://www.wheelpro.co.uk/wheelbuilding/book.php

-Jeremy
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Old 11-27-09, 09:35 PM   #24
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All that this truing stand has to do is provide the secure mounting and platform for the wheel. So it's basically just like the above upside down fork, with the exception that it has an adjustable leg. As AL1943 pointed out, the right hand tower (with the wingnuts at the base) is adjustable about 3 inches along two routed slots. Loosening the wingnuts allows me to move the tower laterally to accommodate any size hub. You'll notice that behind that tower is another piece of Material that I'll use for marking each location on. One for 110mm/120/126/130/135mm etc. so that I can pre-set the tower and then drop the wheel on for truing. Easy enough.

To answer your other question, truing smaller wheels would be possible by using really anything as a guide that's tall enough to stand on the platform and reach the braking surface. Those little movable guide platforms were the easiest part of this stand and if I need to build a taller one to accommodate smaller wheels it won't be difficult at all. This one will do Road and Mountain wheels without trouble, with tires or without. =) You'll notice that my guide piece for lateral truing has two position options, the second (unused in the picture, selectable by loosening the pivot wingnut) would be for a fatter mountain bike tire, allowing the guide to reach further without the base getting in the way.

Go ahead, pretend like you don't have the itch to build yourself one now. Seriously, I had access to a woodshop, but that just made it quicker. This could easily be done with a cheap table saw and cordless drill. You'd just have to use straight edges on the radial truing guide instead of the smooth sweep.

Like I said above, the plans are in Roger Musson's downloadable e-book...taking all thought out of the project. Just cut the pieces, attach them together and that's it.

http://www.wheelpro.co.uk/wheelbuilding/book.php

-Jeremy
Interesting.

Unfortunately I neither have the skill or inclination to build such a device as awesome as it looks. I have several TS-2's that I use on a regular basis that is extremely quick and easy to use for a variety of wheels at work.
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Old 11-27-09, 11:07 PM   #25
bionnaki
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here's a better view of the same design:


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