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  1. #1
    Member dasding's Avatar
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    wheel building resources

    can anybody recommend some good wheel building resources (internet or books) that explain the rationale behind building light-weight road wheels? I've built up a few wheels now but they were pretty basic--high spoke counts, non-butted spokes, entry-level rims. I understand the basic principles of lacing, tensioning, etc, but I'd like to learn more about how to select rims, hubs, and spokes for lighter, lower-spoke count wheels. There seems to be tons of anecdotal info out there but I don't know of any place that has a more systematic, or substantiated explanation.

    for example, if you are going to lace the front wheel radially, and you choose a rim (say a velocity areohead), what factors influence the decision of whether to use 18, 20, 24, or 28 spokes--the rim comes in all of those drillings? And how does choosing a hub work, do you have to get a special hub designed for radial lacing? And spokes...

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    Senior Member Shimagnolo's Avatar
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    Senior Member vredstein's Avatar
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    Here's a link to a topic in another forum. Nothing but links and links and more links.
    http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=517093
    "See, it's not that getting wet is a big deal. Really, it's what you're getting wet with.
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    To be on the safe side a radially laced wheel should have a hub designed especially for radial lacing. These are heavier and defeat the purpose of building a light wheel.
    The number of spoke holes in the rim must match the number of spoke holes in the hub flange.
    Factory pre-built low spoke count wheels have bigger heavier spokes, rims, and hubs.
    I think the right way to built light weight rims is to use quality products, no fewer than 28 double butted spokes in the front, no fewer than 32 3-cross double butted in the rear. I like DT Swiss Revolution spokes (2.0-1.5-2.0) except for the drive side rear. They are a bit harder to build because they twist easily, I hold each spoke with pliers. I use DT Swiss Competition spokes (2.0-1.8-2.0) for the drive side rear. I lace either 2X or 3X in the front and 3X in the rear. For heavier loads I would use 32 Competition spokes all the way around and 3X front and back.
    I like the book "The Bicycle Wheel" by Jobst Brandt.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Tunnelrat81's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dasding View Post
    can anybody recommend some good wheel building resources (internet or books) that explain the rationale behind building light-weight road wheels? I've built up a few wheels now but they were pretty basic--high spoke counts, non-butted spokes, entry-level rims. I understand the basic principles of lacing, tensioning, etc, but I'd like to learn more about how to select rims, hubs, and spokes for lighter, lower-spoke count wheels. There seems to be tons of anecdotal info out there but I don't know of any place that has a more systematic, or substantiated explanation.

    for example, if you are going to lace the front wheel radially, and you choose a rim (say a velocity areohead), what factors influence the decision of whether to use 18, 20, 24, or 28 spokes--the rim comes in all of those drillings? And how does choosing a hub work, do you have to get a special hub designed for radial lacing? And spokes...
    This is just my opinion, but I think it might be hard to find "published" literature recommending low spoke count wheels of any kind. Most of the wheel building material that I've read (including sheldon's site) speaks very strongly against lowering the spoke count because it's directly effecting the durability/longevity of the wheel. So perhaps what you're looking for is a wheel building book entitled something like " The wheel builder's guide to measured compromise." I'm not denying that lower spoke counts are sometimes appropriate, but simply that in order to publish a book on the topic is sort of opening yourself up to potential problems. A wheel builder needs more than just body weight to safely advise on lower count wheels. Someone my weight (150lbs) could potentially require anywhere from 20/24 spoke count to 28/32 depending on the chosen rim, style of riding or required usage. If you stick your neck out there with advice to people who aren't smart enough to consider all the variables realistically, you'd have unhappy customers who failed at making the compromises that they don't have the experience or skill to make safely.

    In addition to that, any believable recommendations have to come from a third-party rather than a product manufacturer. Just like the 'off the shelf' wheel companies, component companies can make all the promises of rim strength that they want to, and then just deal with the failures through warranties for those who are either too heavy or too hard on their stuff.

    When I decided to build up my own "everything" set, I consulted a respected wheel builder for advice who was very familiar and experienced with my specific rims/spokes/hubs to confirm my ideas. Oh, and FWIW, the wheel building book that I bought was very clear in recommending 32 spoke wheels as well. My final choice was 24/28 DT swiss Comp spokes on WI hubs and Kinlin 270/300 rims. So far so good, but according to all the published (both online and printed) information that I found, my set is under-built. What I find extremely interesting is that according to the semi-experienced or non-wheel builder BF standards, my wheels are OVER-built and I could have done myself a favor by dropping below the 1600 gr. weight. Hmm, who to believe.

    -Jeremy
    Last edited by Tunnelrat81; 10-25-10 at 01:29 PM.

  6. #6
    Member dasding's Avatar
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    Jeremey, What you describe is precisely the situation that I'm finding myself in. I've read parts of Brandt's book, and Brown's site is the resource I used to build my first set of wheels--it was a great help. I can tell, however, that the philosophy behind much of this info is building a robust wheel that will last a long time--not the same philosophy behind a high-end set of race wheels. I'm also familiar with the rationale for avoiding low-spoke count because it requires weight gains to be compensated for in other parts of the built--the point that Al1943 makes.

    But "measured compromise" is just another way of saying that different designs have different ideal applications and there is no perfect solution for all of them. I'm interested in understanding the trade-offs, hence knowing the rationale behind declaring a wheel "underbuilt": how does rider weight factor in, how does one optimise design for a specific use, like racing? I'd bet that a lot of people who make their own wheels also "overbuild" the wheel given their application. In any event, it sounds like you're saying that you have to go talk to a wheelbuilder to find this information, rather than find it in a book somewhere. That's the main thing I was asking--where do the wheelbuilders learn this info, or how do the companies that make the wheelsets approach these problems? The paradox you describe--being unable to tell if they are under or overbuilt depending on who is judging is exactly what I was getting at with my post...

    btw, Jermey, which book was it that you ended up buying?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Al1943 View Post
    I think the right way to built light weight rims is to use quality products, no fewer than 28 double butted spokes in the front, no fewer than 32 3-cross double butted in the rear. I like DT Swiss Revolution spokes (2.0-1.5-2.0) except for the drive side rear.
    1.8-1.5-1.8 are strong enough and will wind-up less because the smaller diameter threads impart less torque.

    They are a bit harder to build because they twist easily, I hold each spoke with pliers.
    You can put a piece of tape on a representative sample of each spoke group (front, rear drive-side, rear non-drive side), undo whatever is happening on that spoke, and do the same for the rest.

    I like the book "The Bicycle Wheel" by Jobst Brandt.
    Jobst's book is excellent.

  8. #8
    In beaurocratic limbo urbanknight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al1943 View Post
    To be on the safe side a radially laced wheel should have a hub designed especially for radial lacing. These are heavier and defeat the purpose of building a light wheel.
    Hubs for radial lacing just have slightly more flange after the spoke hole. Is it really that much of a difference? My American Classic Micro 58 weighs 60g and is meant for radial lacing.


    Quote Originally Posted by Al1943 View Post
    Factory pre-built low spoke count wheels have bigger heavier spokes, rims, and hubs.
    I think the right way to built light weight rims is to use quality products, no fewer than 28 double butted spokes in the front, no fewer than 32 3-cross double butted in the rear. I like DT Swiss Revolution spokes (2.0-1.5-2.0) except for the drive side rear. They are a bit harder to build because they twist easily, I hold each spoke with pliers. I use DT Swiss Competition spokes (2.0-1.8-2.0) for the drive side rear. I lace either 2X or 3X in the front and 3X in the rear. For heavier loads I would use 32 Competition spokes all the way around and 3X front and back.
    I like the book "The Bicycle Wheel" by Jobst Brandt.
    I agree with this for the most part. My 28 spoke clincher wheelset weighs 1375 grams. I did the math and could not come up with a lighter build using less spokes that I would feel comfortable on at my weight (155 at that time) because keeping the strength would require either a deeper (heavier) rim, or thicker spokes, or both. I did radially lace my front, but I recognize that it's a matter of less than 10g.

    I will say that your 28/32 prescription is for the average weight rider. Lighter riders can get away with fewer spokes with all else equal, and clydes really want 32/36 at least.
    "Well, I guess you can cut the arts as much as you want... Sooner or later, these kids aren't going to have anything to read or write about." (Richard Dreyfus as Glenn Holland)

  9. #9
    Senior Member Tunnelrat81's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dasding View Post

    btw, Jermey, which book was it that you ended up buying?
    I purchased Roger Musson's "The Professional Guide to Wheel Building." It's about $15 and you just download the .pdf file. I printed mine (double sided) and put it in a nice binder that I can lay flat on the workbench. I can't say whether it is better or worse than Brandt's book on the basic/practical stuff (since I haven't yet read that one), but I will say that it was very clear and easy to understand. It includes some discussion of Roger's experience/understanding of spoke design and some of his pros and cons for the different types. No surprise that his ultimate recommendation is Double butted 14/15/14 spokes like the DT Competition spokes. The book also includes plans to build a wooden truing stand, which I built and have been extremely pleased with. Not sure if you have a good truing stand yet, but the plans alone were worth the $15. =) If you're interested in taking a look, let me know and I'll post a picture for you. I've just shown it off so many times here that I don't want to tire-out those who've already had it forced upon them. =)

    -Jeremy
    Last edited by Tunnelrat81; 10-25-10 at 07:35 PM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member SJX426's Avatar
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    Not an expert, but.... I just finished Brandts book. Great reference and good advice. Well orgnaized as well and addresses almost every issue stated here. Highly recommended as he comes off as being extremely knowledable.

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    Senior Member Shimagnolo's Avatar
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    When I started building my own wheels (after miserable experience with incompetent shop mechanics) Brandt's book was my *only* resource.

  12. #12
    Member dasding's Avatar
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    that roger musson book looked really interesting to me but I was hoping to find a recommendation of it before downloading. I guess I'll do that, as I was also interested in building my own truing stand so having a blueprint would be nice.

    the reason I want to learn more about the pros and cons of lower spoke-count wheels is because my brother wants me to build him a set of racing wheels, and he wants to do a 20/24 combo using velocity rims and hubs. his thinking is that if velocity does it, and the wheels are light and race-worthy, why can't a home builder make the same set of wheels. is there any reason? I understand the various reasons people have for sticking with higher counts and double-butted spokes, but is it that much harder to build a 20 spoke wheel with bladed spokes than it is to build a 28 spoke wheel with 2.0-1.8-2.0 spokes?

    if you look at velocity's pre-made wheels with they sell one set with 20/24, bladed spokes, and using the same rim they sell another set with 24/28, double butted.

  13. #13
    Insane Bicycle Mechanic Jeff Wills's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shimagnolo View Post
    When I started building my own wheels (after miserable experience with incompetent shop mechanics) Brandt's book was my *only* resource.
    I built wheels for about 8 years before I read "The Bicycle Wheel". I had plenty of problems before reading "The Book". After reading and correcting my problems, I haven't broken a single undamaged spoke. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, I'm not easy on wheels, either. I usually build 36-spoke rear wheels. Fronts vary with application, but I've ridden a 24-spoke for a couple years (that's on a long-wheelbase recumbent, though.)
    Jeff Wills

    All my bikes.

  14. #14
    Senior Member canyoneagle's Avatar
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    In addition to the wealth of information Brandt's book, I really like the easy to memorize lacing method introduced by Gerd Schraner in his book, "The art of wheelbuilding". It is a foolproof method that works for any number of spokes in the standard (1x, 2x, 3x, 4x) patterns, and is much easier (IMO) than some of the other lacing methods.
    Currently one bike: Singular Gryphon do-it all bike with Nuvinci N360
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by dasding View Post
    .. I want to learn more about the pros and cons of lower spoke-count wheels ...
    One thing to keep in mind is that very few people manage to ride enough wheels to destruction under comparable circumstances to generate enough "hard data". If you're a pro wheel builder you can get the numbers up enough to stabilize the build quality, but you're still exposed to the big unknown of ride conditions. What makes up a real hectic season for one rider can be pretty much average for another. One is a spinner, good at going light, the other likes to honk it out etc etc.

    Another thing is that businesses tend to look at where the money is, and this usually translates into doing things good enough and as fast as possible. It's quite rare to be given the opportunity to build as good as possible at any cost. Building better than required might leave the builder well contented, but is unlikely to put more money in his pocket.

    These two above make up compelling reasons for pro wheel builders to be a tad conservative. Plenty of spokes in good ol' 3x makes for fast builds and few returns.

    Quote Originally Posted by dasding View Post
    .. why can't a home builder make the same set of wheels. is there any reason? ... but is it that much harder to build a 20 spoke wheel with bladed spokes than it is to build a 28 spoke wheel with 2.0-1.8-2.0 spokes?
    There's no question about can, but the spoke tension does get a bit daunting. With fewer spokes and higher tensions the margin of error slims right down. Tool quality and prep work becomes real important. Some resort to levering the wheel sideways to get the spokes a little slacker for the final tensioning. Bladed spokes are nice in the way that they make it real easy to keep track of wind-up. Do note that some bladed spokes will only fit in special hubs.
    Last edited by dabac; 10-26-10 at 12:55 AM.

  16. #16
    Member dasding's Avatar
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    as usual I'm impressed with all the great answers to my question on here. I'm unclear about this technique that you mention, however:

    Quote Originally Posted by dabac View Post
    Some resort to levering the wheel sideways to get the spokes a little slacker for the final tensioning. Bladed spokes are nice in the way that they make it real easy to keep track of wind-up. Do note that some bladed spokes will only fit in special hubs.
    could you clarify what you mean about getting the spokes slack before the final tensioning? thanks

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by dasding View Post
    ...could you clarify what you mean about getting the spokes slack before the final tensioning?
    Pushing the rim sideways while the wheel is stuck in a real solid truing stand will cause the spokes on one side of the wheel closest to the pushing point to slack off a bit. At this moment that spoke nipple can be turned a bit easier than if the rim had been left alone. Useful when dealing with alloy nipples for instance.

  18. #18
    Member dasding's Avatar
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    ok, got it. I haven't used that technique, but I've also only used brass nipples. thanks for clarifying

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