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  1. #1
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    Wheel Building Question

    Hi,

    I'm trying to learn how to repair my own bike but I'm just at the beginning.

    The problem I have at present is that the roads round here are in a bad state and my wheels keep getting buckled. Last time I had a spare pair of wheels and just got the guy in the shop to fit them, but 2 weeks later now they are buckled too.

    I'm out of spare wheels and new ones look really expensive as well as having to pay to have them fitted each time. I've been reading up online about wheel-building and found some good videos on Youtube. I always thought a wheel was a wheel and you just bought it as a whole part, but it seems that it's actually made up of rims/spokes & hubs and can be re-built by hand.

    So my question is this; I have a buckled rear wheel. There are no cracks or breaks in the metal of the rim. If I get new spokes will it be possible to make a true wheel out of this again? I don't want to fork out for the spokes only to find out the rims cant be reused as I need them custom cut to length. Is there any test I can do on the rims first to make sure they are suitable?

    Any advice appreciated.

    TIA

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    generally rims are the consumable item. spoke are reusable if they have a good history. i try not to rebuild low end hubs. hubs are reusable if the cones/cups in good shape or the cartridge bearing are spinning smooth. if you want to rebuild your current wheel do some spoke length calculations to see if you need new spokes.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    If the rim is buckled, it's "toast".

    What do you mean by getting wheels "fitted"?

    You didn't state what size wheels.

    You might alleviate some of your problems by using a fatter tire/maintaining proper air pressure.

  4. #4
    Can'tre Member 3alarmer's Avatar
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    "Buckled" can mean many things to different people. What it means to me
    is distorted far enough out of round or plane that the rims should be discarded.

    You will get better answers here if you post photos.

    My suspicion is that you are not yet mechanically sophisticated enough to
    rebuild a wheel, but i might be wrong.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by cwedgwood50 View Post
    Hi,

    I'm trying to learn how to repair my own bike but I'm just at the beginning.

    The problem I have at present is that the roads round here are in a bad state and my wheels keep getting buckled. Last time I had a spare pair of wheels and just got the guy in the shop to fit them, but 2 weeks later now they are buckled too.

    I'm out of spare wheels and new ones look really expensive as well as having to pay to have them fitted each time. So my question is this; I have a buckled rear wheel. There are no cracks or breaks in the metal of the rim. If I get new spokes will it be possible to make a true wheel out of this again? I don't want to fork out for the spokes only to find out the rims cant be reused as I need them custom cut to length. Is there any test I can do on the rims first to make sure they are suitable?
    There are several issues here to address. The first is that if your wheels "keep getting buckled" another new set of wheels is not going to solve the problem. You could be choosing a hazardous route, not riding carefully enough - avoiding curbs, potholes, coming out of the saddle over rough spots, etc, not maintaining the wheels regularly (spoke tension, tire pressure) or just using wheels not appropriate for your needs (narrow rims/tires in rough conditions or high rider weight). Whatever the cause, you need to first address your problem in not being able to keep a set of wheels going for a reasonable amount of time - meaning many hundreds, if not thousands of miles.

    Secondly, if you need to have new wheels "fitted" to the bike each time then you apparently are not well versed on brake and derailleur adjustment, and perhaps not tire/tube installation. Certainly if you are just realizing that wheels are made up of component parts you are also not familiar with wheel truing. Building the wheel is relatively easy - it is getting it into not only straight but stable condition that is difficult. I don't know what you do for a living but getting two wheels properly completed and mounted at the point you seem to be in your knowledge could involve dozens of hours total

    Thirdly, "buckled" does not explain what is wrong with the wheels, but if the rims have bulges or flat spot from impact or are badly bent in one area new spokes are not going to solve the problem. The spokes only function to hold the rim in the correct alignment to the bike - they will not straighten a rim that is itself bent.

    Finally, if you still are determined to build from scratch be aware that you are not going to save a lot of money, even using the old hub, and you have not explained why you would need to have spokes custom cut to length, unless the shop you use does that routinely with their own machine and does not charge a premium.

    My recommendation is this: After addressing the first point above and understanding what type of wheel you need, consider an online purchase of a decent set of compatible wheels and have a good mechanic or wheel builder properly tension them, or purchase them from a shop that will guarantee them (given proper riding/care). Then study how to maintain the wheels when the spokes need a minor amount of attention.
    Last edited by cny-bikeman; 12-24-12 at 08:46 AM.
    There's no such thing as a routine repair.

    Don't tell me what "should" be - either it is, it isn't, or do something about it.

    Please take the time to post clearly so we can answer quickly. All lowercase and multiple typos makes for a hard read. Thanks!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by cny-bikeman View Post
    There are several issues here to address. The first is that if your wheels "keep getting buckled" another new set of wheels is not going to solve the problem.
    +1 One wheel buckling or otherwise failing might be a fluke, either a poor wheel or just bad luck. Multiple wheels failing is a pattern. Bad roads may be a factor, but bad roads alone can't account for your problem. Wheels are tough and durable and can just about any bad roads you'd find.

    So whether you buy or build, your bad luck will continue until you figure out what else is wrong and correct that.
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  7. #7
    jyl
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    If the rim simply has a gentle warp like a potato chip, it might be possible to use it again. If it is dented, bulged, or other wise sharply bent, it is probably not re-usable.

    Bicycle wheels are pretty strong. Sure, some are stronger than others. But the problem is most likely how you are using them.

    Maybe you can provide more information. What brand rims, what size rims (26", 700C, etc), and what size tires (26x1.5", 700Cx25, etc)? What inflation pressure? What do you mean by bad roads - are you riding through deep potholes, riding off curbs, what? How much do you weigh?
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  8. #8
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    The problem is that not all bike shops understand how to build a good wheel, even though it is very simple. The guy at the bike shop is clueless. Never take your wheels there again. I've taken our loaded tandem on tours over very bad roads and never touched the completely ordinary wheels. It weighs 400 lbs. in touring mode.

    If you can't find a shop that knows anything about wheels, you'll have to build your own. The indispensable aid is a Park TM-1 spoke tension meter. It's not expensive. You also have to know the spoke tension required by your rim. Most rims want about 105 kgf on the front and drive side rear spokes. Non-drive side spokes tensioned to center the wheel. All spokes on the same side to have about the same tension.

    Another thing you can do is: every time you have a wheel worked on or buy a new wheel, go over it with your TM-1. If it's not up to spec, bring it up.

    With your current bent wheel, you can try taping the spokes together at the crosses so you'll be able to get the wheel back together again, then remove the rim by unscrewing the spoke nipples. Lay the naked rim on a flat surface and see if it's flat. If not, you can try reefing on it to see if you can flatten it. If you can get it approximately flat, put it back on the wheel and adjust the spoke to make it true and centered. You need the TM-1, but not a truing stand. Just put the wheel on your bike and true it using the brake pads as indicators. Flip the wheel to center it - the pads should be the same distance from the brake tracks no matter which way it's mounted. Same with rear wheel as front. Doing this will take you several hours, but you'll learn really a lot about wheels doing it.

    As I said, taking the wheel to someone who knows what they're doing is much quicker. Your wheels should almost never go out of true, and you should never break a spoke on a well-built wheel. I've never broken a spoke, even on our tandem. If your wheel does go out of true, ping the spokes to find which are loose and which are too tight. Loosen one or more by 1/4 turn and tighten the other side by the same amount. 1/4 turn is usually all that's necessary.

  9. #9
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    +1 One wheel buckling or otherwise failing might be a fluke, either a poor wheel or just bad luck. Multiple wheels failing is a pattern. Bad roads may be a factor, but bad roads alone can't account for your problem. Wheels are tough and durable and can just about any bad roads you'd find.

    So whether you buy or build, your bad luck will continue until you figure out what else is wrong and correct that.
    The OP sounds like the situation I was in years ago. Bought a bike and wheels would last about 3-4 months. Then spokes would pop and the wheel would (naturally) twist.

    As a learning experiment, I replaced just the spokes on my latest wheel failure... as the rim by itself seemed true and the hub was OK. I decided to read up on wheel building, buy a few tools and put together a wheel on my first attempt that lasted several years.

    Maybe the OP is looking for encouragement to get into wheelbuilding. If he/she has the time and energy, might be a satisfying way to solve this problem.

  10. #10
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    Thanks to everyone for responding.

    Just to clarify my mechanical experience is zilch! I am a total noob at this. That's what I meant by "I'm trying to learn how to repair my own bike but I'm just at the beginning."

    I have never done anything other than ride the bike before, but I am now looking to pick-up the skills to maintain my bike so that I won't be so dependent on the shop every time I have a minor problem and I can keep the bike in good repair before a critical issue occurs. That will be a steep learning curve for me, but my plan was to tackle the issues I have 1 by one in a logical way until I understand how to completely strip and build up my bike from scratch(the wheel issue is just the first of many challenges I will face). I understand this will take some time to master, but ultimately it will give me the freedom I am looking for.

    Most of you don't live in the UK so I'm guessing you don't know how bad the roads really are here , but there are other contributory factors in this case. 1) the bike is very old approx 1987, 2) I have never done any work on it before other than take it into the shop for specific things when needed.

    OK, I guess my grasp on the terminology is not quite there yet:
    -By buckled I meant if you spin it round and look at the brake block it goes in and out as it turns.
    -The wheels are 700c
    -Fitting a wheel, I give the guy a wheel and he attaches it to the bike so it goes round

    The spokes have completely had it, several are broken and the rest are in poor state, so I would need new ones. Why would I need to get them cut? My understanding from reading up is that there is no standard length of spoke and it will depend on the other components used so I will need to specify the exact size I need to order for them to be cut. Is this not right?

    Gerv, Thanks. I think you hit the nail on the head. I was just hoping to get some pointers and encouragement as I learn through experimentation.

  11. #11
    jyl
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    When a rim merely wobbles right and left between the brake pads as you spin it, that is called being "out of true". If it can still spin - isn't out of true so badly that it bind up against the pads - then the rim can almost surely be re-used. If it is more out of true, then could be iffy. If the rim has a visible dent or bend or damage, then it probably should be replaced, unless you want to try hammering and bending it back straight, a tricky thing to do.

    If spokes are broken, a rim will go out of true. If spokes are loose, they will break.

    When you brought the bike into the shop, they should have replaced any broken spokes and tightened the spokes to bring the wheel back into true and eliminate the looseness in the spokes. In the US, that costs around $30 to $50. I cannot tell if they did that, or offered to do it.

    Since you want to learn bike maintenance and repair, and are I assume serious about it, you might want to try your hand at rebuilding one of the untrue wheels. At worst, you can bring that wheel or the other untrue wheel to a bike shop and have them fix it, if your own efforts fail.

    You will need a spoke wrench ($5), a flathead screwdriver sized for the spoke nipples, some grease (a small tub or tube will be more than enough), some light oil. If one of the broken spokes is on the drive (right) side of the rear wheel, you will need the appropriate tool to remove the freewheel, and a largish wrench to turn it (the freewheel blocks removal of the spokes on that side). The tension meter mentioned is useful, maybe not mandatory but it will make things a lot easier. You will need to remove the broken spokes, measure their length, and get replacements of the same length, gauge (thickness), and type (straight or butted). Spokes are not the same length from front to back or from drive to non-drive side, so measure each broken spoke, dont assume measuring one spoke works for all the spokes. You will also want several new spoke nipples as some of the existing ones will be rounded off or otherwise hard to work with.

    And you'll have to read up on how to replace a spoke and true a wheel. I don't have a link handy. If you go to Sheldon Brown's website and start poking around, you should find something. That website is one of the best ways to learn about bike repair.
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  12. #12
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cwedgwood50 View Post

    I was just hoping to get some pointers and encouragement as I learn through experimentation.
    A good place to start is the Sheldon Brown wheelbuilding instructions. That's what I use to build mine and if you follow them closely, you should be successful.

    Have a read and see if you are up to tackling this.

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    Thanks jyl, I did make a start taking the wheel apart after my first post, unfortunately I didn't see the tip from Carbonfiberboy about taping the spokes together untill afterwards, but I think that would have really helped me.

    I got all the spokes removed with just a screwdriver but ended up stuck at that point. It's a rear wheel and I found that I could not get the spokes out of the flanges because the bit for the chain to go round was in the way. I tried to get this off but it didn't seem to want to budge. I think I may need to read up on this and get some more tools. I'll have a look at the website you recommended.

    Thanks

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    700c covers a pretty wide range of wheels, too. are these vintage really skinny (and fragile) racing wheels? or 25mm wide (at the flats of the rims) 'hybrid' wheels? or something in between? what size tire are you using, and what PSI/kPA? how many spokes? How much approximately do you weigh?

    for riding on bad roads, I'd want to use a 700x28 tire on a lightweight 'racing' type bike, and a 700x32 or x38 on a 'hybrid' or 'comfort' bike which can take them. I'd want 36H spoke wheels, with good quality stainless spokes. Cheap wheels are not very good quality, if I'm buying a replacement wheel, I'd expect to spend at /least/ $100 each, then spend another $20 or so per wheel having the bike shop fine tune them (I'm way out of practice on spoke tuning). Last pair of tires I bought were $50 apiece, plus inner tubes.

    simply putting wheels on and off a bike is really easy, any cyclist should learn to remove a wheel and change a tire, fix a flat, this is really basic stuff. truing a wheel is a little more advance.

    simple smooth side to side wobble should just be a matter of tuning the spokes, not replacing the wheel, unless the spokes are poor quality and corroded.

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    S'Cruzer pierce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cwedgwood50 View Post
    Thanks jyl, I did make a start taking the wheel apart after my first post, unfortunately I didn't see the tip from Carbonfiberboy about taping the spokes together untill afterwards, but I think that would have really helped me.

    I got all the spokes removed with just a screwdriver but ended up stuck at that point. It's a rear wheel and I found that I could not get the spokes out of the flanges because the bit for the chain to go round was in the way. I tried to get this off but it didn't seem to want to budge. I think I may need to read up on this and get some more tools. I'll have a look at the website you recommended.

    Thanks
    there's two general types of rear cog clusters, old style "Freewheels", that were threaded onto the hub, and new style 'cassettes' that are on a splined 'freehub' and held in place with a locking ring. either way, they have to come off, and each requires a different tool (actually, freewheels might need different tools depending on the brand). with freewheels, you put the tool in a bench vise, then put the wheel on the tool and turn the whole wheel to unscrew the freewheel as they are often frozen on very hard.. That Sheldon Brown site has pages on both of these types.

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    The bike is a Raleigh Kelloggs Pro Tour road bike approx 1987. I'm not sure if these are the original wheels or not as I bought it used, but they have the following engraved in; Weinmann 116 Alloy, ETRTO 622x16 700c if that helps.

    I don't race it competitively, just use it to get from A-B.
    I'm about 11 stone.


    I'll have to do some measurements and see if there is any info on the tires tomorrow.
    I'm not sure what you mean by PSI? Do you mean the pressure that the wheel is pumped up? I just put the pump on and pump till the tyre is inflated.

    It looks like I might have picked a hard thing to start off with, but that's just the most urgent thing that needs doing.

  17. #17
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    The fact that you have no idea of what to call "the bit for the chain to go round" indicates that viewing a few Youtube videos is not going to do it for you.You need to study a lot more about each step in the process of working on something before you dive in, as you are approaching this neither logically or with enough caution.

    As indicated above you need specialized tools to remove the freewheel/cassette, and if it is a freewheel (fairly likely with a 1986 bike) you have just made it impossible to remove it from the hub, as you have to have the rim laced tightly to the hub for leverage. You also will not be able to true/tension the wheel with a screwdriver when rebuilding - a spoke wrench is required.

    As for spokes, most all shops have multiple spoke lengths in stock so there is usually no necessity to cut to length (they also need to be rethreaded if that is done).

    An example of needing to be cautious is that using the taping trick only works if you are reusing the same rim again or the replacement rim that has the spoke holes next to the valve stem offset in the same manner.
    Last edited by cny-bikeman; 12-24-12 at 02:10 PM.
    There's no such thing as a routine repair.

    Don't tell me what "should" be - either it is, it isn't, or do something about it.

    Please take the time to post clearly so we can answer quickly. All lowercase and multiple typos makes for a hard read. Thanks!

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    S'Cruzer pierce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cny-bikeman View Post
    As for spokes, most all shops have multiple spoke lengths in stock so there is usually no necessity to cut to length (they also need to be rethreaded if that is done)

    actually, the local guy who makes the best wheels here got himself a spoke cutting/threading machine so he DOESN'T have to stock a bazillion sizes, just the basic gauges and types (butted, straight), He says its much cheaper this way, because the one-size-fits-all spokes are bought in much higher quantities, giving him better discounts, and he's never out of some odd size he needs to finish that mixed 3x/4x rear or whatever.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cny-bikeman View Post
    you are approaching this neither logically or with enough caution.
    I'm not sure that I can be any more cautious than "having a go" on a wheel that is most likely destined for the dustbin anyway. If I broke it, I broke it. But if I learnt something in the process it was not a wasted endeavour.

    To be fair; I have pointed out several times that I don't know what I am doing and am only learning this stuff as i go. That is why I have used inexperienced terms like "the bit the chain goes round". If I knew how to do it I wouldn't need any help would I.

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    Going from relying on "the guy in the shop fit your wheels" and not knowing the correct term for "the bit for the chain to go round" indicates that you probably are not now ready to safely build your own wheels. Please note that testing your theory that "I'm not sure that I can be any more cautious than "having a go" on a wheel that is most likely destined for the dustbin anyway" is great way to end up in the hospital.

    You're going to have to learn the proper bicycle component/parts terminology just so that you'll know what to purchase. You might also need one, or more, "specialized" tools in order to safely build your own wheels (this is not to mention that you're going to need an assortment of decent hand tools).

    At this point, I'm going to say that, for you, your buckled rims are most likely junk. Rim "straightening" (let alone wheel building) is not something for an absolute beginner to tackle. It is, as others have mentioned, very important that you reason out just why your wheels are failing in only a few weeks. Just some of the wheel failure issues that must be addressed are: both your weight and the weight of any cargo you're carrying, the speeds that you travel at, and the type of tires and the air pressure(s) that you're running them at. Failure to properly address these issues will, almost certainly, result in further wheel failures (as others have previously mentioned).

    I too strongly suggest that you start by thoroughly reading Sheldon Brown's repair guide:

    http://sheldonbrown.com/repair/index.html

    You should, imo, also read Park Tool's repair help guide:

    http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help

    The great thing is you've put at least two of the biggest "bicycle mechanic" hurdles behind you: i.e, the desire to work on your own bike, and the intelligence required to ask questions.

    Have a good holiday season and a happy New Year!

  21. #21
    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    You can educate yourself by perusing the sheldonbrown.com website. There's enough info to keep you busy for weeks.
    YOU knowing the correct terminology helps US to better help YOU. Right now, we are basically trying to "read between the lines" to understand what you really mean.

    Relace the old wheel, so you can remove the Freewheel.
    Maybe it's NOT destined for the dustbin, with a bit of effort.

    IF you are going to deal with spokes, get a GOOD spoke wrench. The cheap ones are just going to round off the nipples.

  22. #22
    S'Cruzer pierce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun View Post
    IF you are going to deal with spokes, get a GOOD spoke wrench. The cheap ones are just going to round off the nipples.
    speaking of. the one in my toolkit is probably 30 years old, looks like the one in this picture labeled 'my fave'... are these considered 'good' ?



    it always seemed to work fine for me on decent wheels (stainless spokes, brass nipples), although I never had much luck with crappy corroded junk wheels with plated spokes.

  23. #23
    or tarckeemoon, depending marqueemoon's Avatar
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    To the OP - You should check and see if there is co-op bike shop in your area. Many major cities and college towns have them. You pay a membership fee and/or volunteer your time in exchange for use of the shop which will include all the tools to work on your bike. Often these places have maintenance classes that cover the different aspect of working on your bike. Some commercial bike shops have these as well, but the advantage of the co-op model is you can take your bike there and do the work when the class is over.

    Taking a wheel building class is how I got into it. I did my share of internet research and question asking, but I ultimately decided I wanted the hands-on experience. If I'm counting correctly I just built my 13th wheel last night.

  24. #24
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pierce View Post
    speaking of. the one in my toolkit is probably 30 years old, looks like the one in this picture labeled 'my fave'... are these considered 'good' ?



    it always seemed to work fine for me on decent wheels (stainless spokes, brass nipples), although I never had much luck with crappy corroded junk wheels with plated spokes.
    My favorite:


  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by marqueemoon View Post
    To the OP - You should check and see if there is co-op bike shop in your area.

    From some of the language you're using, OP, I've a feeling you may be in the UK? If so, where? I might be able to assist....

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