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Old 01-17-10, 01:50 PM   #1
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Please guys... learn to build your own wheels.

As bicycle mechanics, our wrenching gives us a lot of enjoyment and saves us money too. But one thing that many mechanics shy away from is wheel building... dunno why... but maybe it is just too intimidating for many folks. But wheel building isn't rocket science and building your own can save you some money. I've found that building my own wheels doesn't really save me that much money on new wheel sets... but it allows me to get exactly the wheels that I want for a given purpose without the expense of going to a custom builder.

But where wheel building can really save you a ton of money is in allowing you to repair and reuse parts that would otherwise go into the junk pile. I often run into wheels that have great hubs and tapped out rims... or great wheel sets that only need to be reworked and re-tensioned.

Example:
I was in my LBS last Saturday buying some parts when in comes a guy carrying a set of used wheels.

He told the shop guy, "These are the wheels that I replaced with that set that I bought from you... you guys want them?"

Shop guy: "Nah... we'd just throw them away if you leave them here."
Wheel guy: "Well, they won't stay true... so they're no good to me."

So I figured that I'd offer the guy a few dollars on the off chance that I could scavenge some parts from the wheels. He refused to take any money and gave them to me... pointing to where they sat across the room.

After the guy left, the shop guys told me about how they'd worked on those wheels several times and couldn't make them behave. Hmmm...

I grabbed the wheels as I left the shop, and discovered that these weren't the crappy wheels that I'd expected. Barely worn Mavic Open Pro rims laced to almost new Ultegra hubs... and he'd left a brand new set of Hutchinson Fusion tires installed!

When I got around to inspecting them at length, I discovered that about half of the nipples were rounded off... no wonder they couldn't be adjusted.

So I replaced all of the nipples... loosened the tension all around the wheels... and started tightening up everything just like I was building a new wheel.

It looked like someone started trying to true these wheels and ended up getting the spokes so tight that the nipples started to round off, and they didn't know how to recover and make the wheel right. So the only thing wrong with the wheels is that they were an unevenly tensioned mess because neither the shop mechanics nor the owner knew how to build or properly true a wheel.

I ended up with a like new set of top shelf wheels for the price of a handful of nipples and a couple of hours of work.

So guys... learn to build your own wheels. Think about it. If you don't know how to adjust a derailleur, it costs you $15 or $20 to have it done for you. Don't know how to adjust a headset? $10. But if you don't know how to fix a wheel... like this guy... it can cost you hundreds of dollars.
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Old 01-17-10, 01:56 PM   #2
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Cool story bro
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Old 01-17-10, 02:21 PM   #3
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As bicycle mechanics, our wrenching gives us a lot of enjoyment and saves us money too. But one thing that many mechanics shy away from is wheel building... dunno why... but maybe it is just too intimidating for many folks. But wheel building isn't rocket science and building your own can save you some money. I've found that building my own wheels doesn't really save me that much money on new wheel sets... but it allows me to get exactly the wheels that I want for a given purpose without the expense of going to a custom builder.

But where wheel building can really save you a ton of money is in allowing you to repair and reuse parts that would otherwise go into the junk pile. I often run into wheels that have great hubs and tapped out rims... or great wheel sets that only need to be reworked and re-tensioned.

Example:
I was in my LBS last Saturday buying some parts when in comes a guy carrying a set of used wheels.

He told the shop guy, "These are the wheels that I replaced with that set that I bought from you... you guys want them?"

Shop guy: "Nah... we'd just throw them away if you leave them here."
Wheel guy: "Well, they won't stay true... so they're no good to me."

So I figured that I'd offer the guy a few dollars on the off chance that I could scavenge some parts from the wheels. He refused to take any money and gave them to me... pointing to where they sat across the room.

After the guy left, the shop guys told me about how they'd worked on those wheels several times and couldn't make them behave. Hmmm...

I grabbed the wheels as I left the shop, and discovered that these weren't the crappy wheels that I'd expected. Barely worn Mavic Open Pro rims laced to almost new Ultegra hubs... and he'd left a brand new set of Hutchinson Fusion tires installed!

When I got around to inspecting them at length, I discovered that about half of the nipples were rounded off... no wonder they couldn't be adjusted.

So I replaced all of the nipples... loosened the tension all around the wheels... and started tightening up everything just like I was building a new wheel.

It looked like someone started trying to true these wheels and ended up getting the spokes so tight that the nipples started to round off, and they didn't know how to recover and make the wheel right. So the only thing wrong with the wheels is that they were an unevenly tensioned mess because neither the shop mechanics nor the owner knew how to build or properly true a wheel.

I ended up with a like new set of top shelf wheels for the price of a handful of nipples and a couple of hours of work.

So guys... learn to build your own wheels. Think about it. If you don't know how to adjust a derailleur, it costs you $15 or $20 to have it done for you. Don't know how to adjust a headset? $10. But if you don't know how to fix a wheel... like this guy... it can cost you hundreds of dollars.
When I was applying for a job as a mechanic at a certain shop, I told them I knew how to build wheels. The owner told me in certain words that it was a "neat" skill to have, but it was an outdated skill. I think this stems from the fact that as a business man, he's rather sell new prebuilt wheels rather than have a customer spend labor time for a build. All he sees are problems, ordering and stocking rims and spokes, calculating spoke length, etc. If a procedure takes more than a couple turns of a 5mm hex, they're offended and label it as not being cost effective. The customer you got your wheels form is a prime example of this philosophy. Today, many shops figure the customers are ignorant, and are happy for them to remain ignorant.
About your story, one funny part is that even at less ideal circumstance, where you'd have to completely replace the spokes and nipples, you'd be looking at spending maybe $70 at the most. I wonder what the customer paid for the replacement set?
If I was the selfish type, I'd encourage people to NOT learn to build wheels. It makes those of us who know look like freaking magicians.
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Old 01-17-10, 04:18 PM   #4
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Don't listen to this guy. Wheel building really is black voodoo magic and should only be done by us witches for a high price.

Seriously, if you can count to 4, you can build a set of wheels.
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Old 01-17-10, 04:33 PM   #5
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$5 bet, someone used the wrong sized spoke wrench on the nipples.

the black and green handle spoke wrenches seem like they fit the same sizes... but they don't.
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Old 01-17-10, 04:47 PM   #6
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the black and green handle spoke wrenches seem like they fit the same sizes... but they don't.
Worse than that, the red wrench from one brand is not the same as the red from another brand.
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Old 01-17-10, 05:06 PM   #7
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You know, if I bite the bullet and buy a Park TS-2 truing stand like the guys in the other thread recommend, you know I'll be building my own wheels.
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Old 01-17-10, 05:11 PM   #8
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Worse than that, the red wrench from one brand is not the same as the red from another brand.
Hahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
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Old 01-17-10, 05:18 PM   #9
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Worse than that, the red wrench from one brand is not the same as the red from another brand.
Very true. The color codes do not correlate from one brand to another.
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Old 01-17-10, 05:36 PM   #10
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$5 bet, someone used the wrong sized spoke wrench on the nipples.

the black and green handle spoke wrenches seem like they fit the same sizes... but they don't.
You're probably right. I once went into my VERY LOCAL Trek dealership (not my preferred shop) and asked them what spoke wrench I needed to true up the road wheels on my trek 2300...The guy smiled and handed me the red/blue Park wrench (the 42) and said, "this one will work for basically all road wheels." I didn't think twice about trusting this guy as at that point I didn't know any better. I did however wonder why I was always ALMOST rounding off the nipples that I needed to adjust (thankfully they're brass and I was being very mindful of it) and it wasn't until 2 years later in my wheel building research that I found out how wretched his advice was. It wasn't even ALMOST correct...but TWO sizes too large for my need. Idiot. This is the shop that's seriously like 4 blocks from my house...but aside from little piddly parts and emergency issues, I happily drive 10 miles or so to the shop in the next small city for my bike shop needs. I agree with the original post though, and hope to find a similar opportunity someday. =) Excellent work.

-Jeremy
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Old 01-17-10, 05:36 PM   #11
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So, is there a good wheel building guide for noobs? I mean, like really from the basics? I was always intimidated by this task. I built my own bike and can take pretty much anything apart now from a headset, BB to freehub body but I still feel uneasy about building wheels. I imagine this as very frustrating task that can have catastrophic consequences if done wrong.

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Old 01-17-10, 05:37 PM   #12
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When I got around to inspecting them at length, I discovered that about half of the nipples were rounded off... no wonder they couldn't be adjusted. So I replaced all of the nipples... loosened the tension all around the wheels... and started tightening up everything just like I was building a new wheel.
How did you remove these nipples since the edges were rounded off? Did you use a flathead from the bottom of the nipple, or are there other tricks?

Any info you can share would be very helpful.
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Old 01-17-10, 05:38 PM   #13
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mike t's site or sheldons page is good enough.
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Old 01-17-10, 05:45 PM   #14
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I found this: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/wheelbuild.html
Who is Mike T? Any links?

Adam
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Old 01-17-10, 05:48 PM   #15
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http://www.miketechinfo.com/new-tech-wheels-tires.htm
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Old 01-17-10, 05:48 PM   #16
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I imagine this as very frustrating task that can have catastrophic consequences if done wrong.
Actually, I find wheel building to be very relaxing. I put my favorite tunes on the radio and twiddle away on a wheel. It's sort of like my version of knitting.

And no... your mistakes will not be automatically catastrophic. You have to REALLY screw up to have a wheel just fold up and collapse on you.
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Old 01-17-10, 05:53 PM   #17
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How did you remove these nipples since the edges were rounded off? Did you use a flathead from the bottom of the nipple, or are there other tricks?
Yep. Unmount the tire and get at 'em that way. And used pliers to get some slack on the ones that were bottomed out until I could get into the nipple slot.
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Old 01-17-10, 05:57 PM   #18
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Actually, I find wheel building to be very relaxing. I put my favorite tunes on the radio and twiddle away on a wheel. It's sort of like my version of knitting.

And no... your mistakes will not be automatically catastrophic. You have to REALLY screw up to have a wheel just fold up and collapse on you.
Haha! That's exactly what my girlfriend says when I'm building wheels. "Are you knitting again?"
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Old 01-17-10, 05:57 PM   #19
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alternatively, just cut the spoke with a grinder if the spoke is completely fused with the nipple.
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Old 01-17-10, 05:59 PM   #20
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Thanks for the link. I feel encouraged. I need to do some reading now

Edit: I just looked at JensonUSA and PricePoint and it doesn't really make a lot of sense to me moneywise to build your own weheels from scratch. If you already own some parts or want to refresh old wheels then perhaps it's worth it. But ready built wheels from LBS or online vendors will be cheaper.

But then, of course, there is the satisfaction aspect of doing it yourself

Adam

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Old 01-17-10, 07:02 PM   #21
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yea you are right. it is not worth it to build you own wheels. these wheelsets you see are almost always machine built. they are not checked by humans before they get boxed up. i buy prebuilt wheels all the time and check tension, true before i use them. some even detention and rebuild them
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Old 01-17-10, 07:51 PM   #22
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Thanks for the link. I feel encouraged. I need to do some reading now

Edit: I just looked at JensonUSA and PricePoint and it doesn't really make a lot of sense to me moneywise to build your own weheels from scratch. If you already own some parts or want to refresh old wheels then perhaps it's worth it. But ready built wheels from LBS or online vendors will be cheaper.

But then, of course, there is the satisfaction aspect of doing it yourself

Adam
And let those links lead you down the wrong path. Not one mentions a tensionmeter. Want to be worthy of calling yourself a professional wheelbuilder or mechanic? Those guides won't take you there.
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Old 01-17-10, 08:33 PM   #23
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I just looked at JensonUSA and PricePoint and it doesn't really make a lot of sense to me moneywise to build your own weheels from scratch. If you already own some parts or want to refresh old wheels then perhaps it's worth it.
Or you can do what I do. I'm always on the lookout for high quality parts for a bargain price. My favorite catches are 1st or 2nd generation Dura Ace hubs... or early Ultegra hubs. I usually can snag a nice Dura Ace hub for less than $25. Then I rebuild them with new bearings for about $2 (I buy Grade 25 bearings in bulk on eBay) and lace them to nice top shelf rims. I use only new high quality name brand spokes. I regularly see people paying $1000 or more for wheel sets that are inferior to the ones that I build for under $200. I own 11 bikes, and wheel building allows me to put exceptional wheels on each and every bike.

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yea you are right. it is not worth it to build you own wheels. these wheelsets you see are almost always machine built. they are not checked by humans before they get boxed up. i buy prebuilt wheels all the time and check tension, true before i use them. some even detention and rebuild them
So you hit on the number one reason that I build my own wheels. I don't trust their wheels. I am very picky about how my wheels are built... I want it done right. Machine built wheels are rarely destressed properly and the spokes aren't seated properly. It drives me crazy to see someone ride off on a new wheel set amid a symphony of pings and pops. My wheels don't ping. Never. Ever. I consider it a personal failure if they ping.
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Old 01-17-10, 08:57 PM   #24
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And let those links lead you down the wrong path. Not one mentions a tensionmeter. Want to be worthy of calling yourself a professional wheelbuilder or mechanic?
Don't own a tensionmeter. Don't need one. And most of the wheels that we will build for normal use won't require one. If you're building some ultra lightweight wheels with carbon stuff, then your tension becomes more important. But for about 90% of us... a tensionmeter isn't at all necessary.

But that's a whole 'nother thread...
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Old 01-17-10, 11:03 PM   #25
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But for about 90% of us... a tensionmeter isn't at all necessary.
.
100% false
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