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  1. #1
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    Wheel building skills

    I was in my LBS and asked the owner if he stocked Mavic rims. He said he coud get them and of course asked if I planned to build up a set of wheels. I told him "yes" and he smirked and the mechanic in back let out a laugh. He then proceeded to tell me one of his distributors could build me a set exactly the way I wanted and my chances of success where slim. He also said if I failed his mechanic could try and fix it or they could send them out. Is building a set of wheels some kind of black art or is this guy full of it. I could understand if someone had no experience but I only use the LBS to do stuff I can't justify buying special tools for.

  2. #2
    The Red Lantern Rev.Chuck's Avatar
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    It is a realitive thing. You can build a set of wheels that you will be happy with, but if you have never done it before or do it once a year, it will not turn out as well as a pro build. A lot of things are like that. I can trim my dogs hair but it takes me two hours, looks pretty rough and one of us is bleeding. If I take him to the groomers, it takes twenty minutes and the dog looks great.

    As for the quality of your build, do you have a truing stand? If not get one. You can buy one for $50-80 and your results will benefit from it. Get one of the books, Schraeners or Brandts, or read this*. Do a straight forward build, three cross and no tricks.


    *THE CHUCK METHOD:
    I set the hub and rim so the labels read how I want them to, then I insert my first inside spoke to the right of the valve hole. I recheck that all the labels are how I want them then lace the rest of the inside spoke for that side.
    Turn the wheel over. Now I am working to the left of the spoke hole, next to the first inserted spoke. I look down through the hub and insert my next inside spoke in the hole just to the left (opposite flange) of the first inserted spoke. Then do the rest.
    Leaving the wheel in the same postion, drop the outside spokes through the lower flange and twist the hub clockwise (looking from above) Do your cross, looping under the last spoke and insert the spoke into the next hole to the left of the two already inserted. Don't worry about starting next to the valve hole now, just cross three, or two, or whatever and insert into the next hole to the left.
    Flip the wheel over, you are now on the side you started on. Drop the outside spokes through the lower flange and then cross them going to the last open hole in the rim.
    Set all of the nipples so they are level with the top of the threads. I just rest my finger nail against the threads and spin the nipple in until it touches. Sometimes this requires a little leeway. If they start getting tight before you get halfway around the rim, loosen all the tightened ones a full turn, then continue around leaving a little thread showing. The idea is to get the starting position as equal as possible.
    Take your nipple driver or a round screwdriver and go between each crossing pair pulling down towards the hub. This helps align the spokes and takes out some of the spring making the truing easier.
    Starting at the valve hole, tighten each nipple a half to a full turn, depending on how tight the spokes are to start with. Do this as many times as you need to get some (not a lot) tension in the wheel. When you turn the nipples keep them square to the rim, it makes it a lot easier to keep track of the amount you have turned them rather than having them all askew.
    Now the wheel should be pretty round and true, unless you are using a beat rim(In which case you need to slap yourself and go get a new rim)
    Check for true, adjust(working in pairs) and check a couple of times. Then go all the way around the wheel turning each nipple a quarter turn. (The square to the rim thing comes in real handy now) Check true again. Do this a couple of times to build a little tension into the wheel.
    Now check for round, hopefully the wheel is not finish tension yet (That means don't get carried away with the previous step) If the wheel is out(It will be) pull the hop in by tightening spokes in pairs. If it is a long hop you can tighten up to four spokes. You will need to tighten them between a half and a full turn to make a noticeable change (Unless the hop is very minor) Spin the wheel, check and repeat. You may have a little hop at the seam, don't worry about it to much, this is a real stiff point and often you cannot get it perfect here.
    Now you start stress relieving. I do it by holding the wheel like a steering wheel, pulling it up against my forearms and bracing it against my stomach. Once in this position pull towards your head with your hands. You are flexing the part of the rim you are holding against you forearms and stomach. Do this every couple of spokes all the way around the wheel. NOT TO HARD You will hear/feel the spokes ping.
    Now go back to trueing for a turn or two continuing to up your tension a quarter turn all the way around, then back to checking round.
    Soon you should be up to finish tension and the wheel should be round and pretty true. At this point you can turn the nipples less than a quarter turn or even turn only one (GASP) if you need to nudge the rim just a tiny little bit. Don't forget to stress relieve a bunch at this point, do it every couple of corrections

    This the way of doing wheels I have developed, the books say a little different, but I find this method to build a good solid wheel with out a bunch of time screwing around. The only problem is that it is very easy to make a mistake when lacing if you do not pay attention. It won't show until you start getting the wheel tight. So be careful
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  3. #3
    Senior Member royalflash's Avatar
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    this guy is full of it- just go carefully and slowly and you can build a set of wheels that is better than most of the shop bought wheels out there (and a LOT better than some). Its not that hard. They may not be as good as wheels built by an expert but the experience that you will gain will make up for that as you will be able to maintain them yourself rather than just doing what most people do, i.e waiting till they fall apart before you do anything.
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  4. #4
    chopsockey jo5iah's Avatar
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    The guy is full of it.

    I built my first wheels a couple of months ago (Mavic OP, IRO hubs, DT competition, F- 32h 3x, R- 36h 4x) and they're serving me quite well. I used a truing stand and tesniometer, and read Schraner's book 3 times or so. I took the wheels off after a month of riding and were surprised that they are as true as I made them. Well, the rear one was, but that was my second wheel. The front only needed minor adjustment. As the Rev said, it'll take you a while, but if you don't mind that sort of thing, it's totally worthwhile.

  5. #5
    NFL Owner monogodo's Avatar
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    Take the above posters' suggestions.

    Take your time, build it right, then ride it to the shop and laugh at them.
    198? Colnago Super (Campy Record) | 1989 Eddy Merckx 7-Eleven Team Issue (Dura Ace) | Catamount MFS (1x8) | Top Image Neptune (SS)

  6. #6
    Get the stick. darkmother's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bubble head
    I was in my LBS and asked the owner if he stocked Mavic rims. He said he coud get them and of course asked if I planned to build up a set of wheels. I told him "yes" and he smirked and the mechanic in back let out a laugh. He then proceeded to tell me one of his distributors could build me a set exactly the way I wanted and my chances of success where slim. He also said if I failed his mechanic could try and fix it or they could send them out. Is building a set of wheels some kind of black art or is this guy full of it. I could understand if someone had no experience but I only use the LBS to do stuff I can't justify buying special tools for.
    It is not all that hard. I always think it is quite amusing how so many bike store personel, mechanics included, play up wheel building like it's some kind of rocket science. I've built a dozen or so wheels for myself, and even my first try was better than anything I ever got from any LBS.

    This will walk you through the process. Print it out, and read it as you go:

    http://sheldonbrown.com/wheelbuild.html

  7. #7
    Spoked to Death phidauex's Avatar
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    Agreed, wheel building is something that people make a lot of money on, and perpetuating the myth that it is a black art helps them charge more. Most bike shop mechanics don't even know how to do it, believing that it is something a mere mortal could never accomplish.

    An expert wheel builder can put together a great wheel in less than an hour. An inexperienced wheel builder who has a few basic tools, can follow instructions, and is willing to spend a few hours on it, can also build a great wheel. It won't happen as quickly, and you might scratch the rim a bit, but if you take your time and follow instructions carefully, you'll end up with good wheels, and for much cheaper than your snickering LBS mechanic could provide.

    Personally I dislike any mechanics who laugh at their customers. If it really were a bad idea to build your own, they could explain why without laughing at you.

    Good luck, go slow, and carry a spoke wrench and a spare spoke with you for a while, in case you need to retrue a bit if your wheel doesn't stay true (many wheels don't, in their first 100 miles or so, even pro built ones).

    peace,
    sam

  8. #8
    Listen to me powers2b's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phidauex
    Personally I dislike any mechanics who laugh at their customers. If it really were a bad idea to build your own, they could explain why without laughing at you.
    sam
    Same here, my attitude detector is on high as soon as I walk into a shop. The second it goes off I drop all planned purchased on the counter, say thank ou but no thank you, and walk out. It was that kind of treatment that motivated me to read and train to become a mechanic myself.

    I say buy the parts from another shop and build the wheel. You might have to do it twice to get it right but it is well worth the effort.

    Enjoy

  9. #9
    My bike's better than me! neil0502's Avatar
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    My take?

    The first wheels you build will roll. The second set will rock!

  10. #10
    My bike's better than me! neil0502's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by monogodo
    Take the above posters' suggestions.

    Take your time, build it right, then ride it to the shop and laugh at them.
    . . . or . . . ride it to the shop and explain to them that laughing at you cost them a sale. Maybe they'll treat the next cyclist differently.

    Subtle difference, but worth mentioning.

  11. #11
    Glutton for Punishment
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    Amen to that; the first time some damned merchant laughs at me is also the last.

  12. #12
    Videre non videri
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    If you have a choice, that is...

    If you're in an area with only one bike store within 100 km, you're pretty much forced to keep going there.

    Still, I'll build my own wheels in a few months, when I have bought the parts.

  13. #13
    Listen to me powers2b's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CdCf
    If you have a choice, that is...

    If you're in an area with only one bike store within 100 km, you're pretty much forced to keep going there.

    Still, I'll build my own wheels in a few months, when I have bought the parts.
    You obviously have web access.........

    Enjoy

  14. #14
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    Build your own wheels if you want to learn how and if you think you'll build more in the future. Don't do it to save money.
    I build all of my wheels now because it has become a hobby and because I know I can make any adjustments and repairs in the future. There's nothing more satisfying than riding out on a good set of wheels that you are proud of. (Well I guess there still other more satifying experiences but they've diminished with age.)

    Al

  15. #15
    la vache fantôme phantomcow2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by neil0502
    My take?

    The first wheels you build will roll. The second set will rock!
    yep thats how it works. My first wheels, well...may they rest in peace. They worked, just i had such a hard time getting them radially true, that was a big hurtle for me.YOur shop is and isnt right. From waht I have seen, there are many people out there who are probably incapable of building a wheel, or just dont have the patience. So in most instances its better for the shop to do it. But ig you want to get into it, thats great. Just dont expect miracles from your first build.
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  16. #16
    Videre non videri
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    Quote Originally Posted by powers2b
    You obviously have web access.........

    Enjoy
    Eh, and?

    First of all, I'm not in that situation myself, as I've yet to need any bike repairs, but I doubt there's much online repairing going on...

    As for parts, yes, you can order those online, but you still have to wait a couple of weeks to get the parts, so if you need something in a hurry, you still have to go to that one and only LBS of yours.
    Again, I don't have that problem, but many do.

  17. #17
    Older Than Dirt
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    By all means, build them yourself if you want to try. Patience and orderly procedure are the keys.

    Why would I build a wheel myself when there are fine wheels available commecially for little more than the price of the parts? Well, how about the personal satisfaction of doing a good job.

    I think I might like a set of wheels for our tandem with Phil hubs. I am perfectly happy with Sun Rhynolite rims. This is not a combination readily available and I suspect most custom builders would turn up their nose at it.

    Now to come up with the money for the hubs.......

    Doc
    Say Ya to da Yoop, eh!

  18. #18
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    Yep, it's a fun skill to learn if nothing else. Just don't use those phils for your first build...

  19. #19
    The Red Lantern Rev.Chuck's Avatar
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    rhynolites and Phils would make a good tandem wheel.
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  20. #20
    The Red Lantern Rev.Chuck's Avatar
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    This thread reminded me i needed to build a set. I just finished one, IRO flipflop,deepV32h,Dt competitions
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by powers2b
    Same here, my attitude detector is on high as soon as I walk into a shop. The second it goes off I drop all planned purchased on the counter, say thank ou but no thank you, and walk out. It was that kind of treatment that motivated me to read and train to become a mechanic myself.

    I say buy the parts from another shop and build the wheel. You might have to do it twice to get it right but it is well worth the effort.

    Enjoy
    For your first wheel, get an old or 2 - possibly from the shop's trash heap (irony) - study them over, take 'em apart and then put 'em back together (only do one a time so you can see how they are done). Do it couple of times. The buy your parts from so where else and build wheels. It really is pretty easy.
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  22. #22
    Ride it, don't fondle it! Wheel Doctor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bubble head
    I was in my LBS and asked the owner if he stocked Mavic rims. He said he coud get them and of course asked if I planned to build up a set of wheels. I told him "yes" and he smirked and the mechanic in back let out a laugh. He then proceeded to tell me one of his distributors could build me a set exactly the way I wanted and my chances of success where slim. He also said if I failed his mechanic could try and fix it or they could send them out. Is building a set of wheels some kind of black art or is this guy full of it. I could understand if someone had no experience but I only use the LBS to do stuff I can't justify buying special tools for.
    If you can follow instructions, you can build a wheel. The lacing is simple and straight fwd. If you are patient and follow say Jobst Brandt's instruction, hopfully you will have a round wheel. Often novices end up with flats or bulges by getting impatient with their tensioning. Once you have a round and lateral true wheel, strain relief and finish the tensioning portion. Like Rev. Chuck, I have built many a wheel. I can do it without much thought, even while BS'n with friends or customers. I tried also to groom my Schnauzer and he looked like a punk rocker with a bad doo'. Mt groomer fixed it while I BS'd with her.

  23. #23
    Videre non videri
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    I plan to use 36-hole XT hubs, Mavic XC717 rims and DT Alpine III spokes.

  24. #24
    cyclist/gearhead/cycli... moxfyre's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bubble head
    I was in my LBS and asked the owner if he stocked Mavic rims. He said he coud get them and of course asked if I planned to build up a set of wheels. I told him "yes" and he smirked and the mechanic in back let out a laugh. He then proceeded to tell me one of his distributors could build me a set exactly the way I wanted and my chances of success where slim. He also said if I failed his mechanic could try and fix it or they could send them out. Is building a set of wheels some kind of black art or is this guy full of it. I could understand if someone had no experience but I only use the LBS to do stuff I can't justify buying special tools for.
    I've built a 36H 3X wheel for my fixie. Took me about an hour following Sheldon Brown's instructions on the computer screen, then another hour to true it to my liking (including redishing it when I realized it was off center). This was with an old rim that wasn't so true to begin with. I had trued many wheels before and am pretty good at that already.

    The wheel has held up to a couple months of commuting and potholes without losing its true. Go ahead and try it... the actual lacing up of the wheel is not too complicated. The hard part is getting it tensioned and true: if you can't pull it off then heck, just take it into the shop. In any case you'll learn a lot.

    I think you definitely want a truing stand as you can put it on a table and sit in a comfortable position. Got mine for $30 from Performance, and I love it.
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  25. #25
    The Red Lantern Rev.Chuck's Avatar
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    Wow, my grooming fiasco was also a schnauser(mutt)
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