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Wheel building

Old 02-11-11, 02:18 PM
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Wheel building

Hi,
I would like to start building my own wheels. I have been truing wheels for a long time and can do that pretty well, so it the step up to wheel building relatively small?
Also, I have seen in other threads that sometimes it's cheaper to buy a complete wheel, then de-tension and re-tension the spokes. If a wheel you buy is true already, why do you need to bother de-tensioning and re-tensioning?
What determines if the wheel holds it true or not?
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Old 02-11-11, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by geachyguy
Hi,
I would like to start building my own wheels. I have been truing wheels for a long time and can do that pretty well, so it the step up to wheel building relatively small?
Also, I have seen in other threads that sometimes it's cheaper to buy a complete wheel, then de-tension and re-tension the spokes. If a wheel you buy is true already, why do you need to bother de-tensioning and re-tensioning?
What determines if the wheel holds it true or not?
Many (most?) machine built wheels sold on new bikes have insufficient and uneven spoke tension when new. The Bontrager Race Light wheels on my wife's WSD Trek were all screwed up when brand new out of the box. I had to spend an hour truing and tensioning just to get them good enough to ride.
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Old 02-11-11, 03:32 PM
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If you can true a wheel, the building it part should be pretty easy, I learnt by a combination of Jobst Brant's book, Sheldon Brown's site, and a few other web sites. not had one fail on me yet.

For Aftermarket / complete wheels, I think that these get mentioned a lot as being cheaper; is because they are. I don't think that any wheel I have built has been cheaper than a Aftermarket one, but I know that I built it, and enjoyed doing it.

For the quality of factory wheels, it's years since a bought a complete bike (machine built wheels), so don't know what the quailty of them will be, but would go with the more you pay, the better they are; but I have bought Fulcrum, Mavic, Rolf and Shimano aftermarket wheels, ridden all them hard, and never had any need to true any of them. If you were buying a handbuilt replacement, that should come already correctly tensioned, and not need any adjustment (if the builder knows their stuff).
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Old 02-11-11, 03:49 PM
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Machine built wheels can be as good as any if the manufacturer lets the machine take the wheel to near it's max tension. More can be built if the final tension is lower, ergo the cheaper ones are not as well made.
I like the Gerd Schraner method of spoking the wheel. The pulling spokes have the heads inside the flange. According to Mavic it makes for a little stronger wheel.
If the tension on a new wheel is low it makes sense to raise it, but not untension it first.
I have built, rebuilt and repaired wheels for friends since 1993. I have built at least 20 since then. Normally I don't have problems. The exception was a friend who weighs 225 and is as strong as an ox. He bought a Power Tap wheel built up with an Open Pro rim that he cracked and broke the replacement. They don't make that hub in a 36 so I got a Sun CR-18 rim and tensioned the drive side to 130kg. The only problem he had was when he dropped the chain into the spokes and cut a few.
If you can true one you can build one. Just take your time and get the right tools. I have a Wheelsmith tensiometer, a Minoura truing stand and a cheap dishing tool. I could get by without the last two, but I think the tensiometer is the necessary tool to have. A spoke driver is nice to have and a spoke wrench you are comfortable with.
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Old 02-11-11, 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by geachyguy
Hi,
Also, I have seen in other threads that sometimes it's cheaper to buy a complete wheel, then de-tension and re-tension the spokes. If a wheel you buy is true already, why do you need to bother de-tensioning and re-tensioning? What determines if the wheel holds it true or not?
It's like anything else -- cars, bikes, bike wheels -- if you buy 10,000 at a time, you'll get a price break.

Two things determine whether a wheel stays true, adequate spoke tension and spoke tension balance. Most machine-build wheels are trued -- without a load, when they come off the machine, they're round. That's it. It's worth making sure the tension is brought up to an adequate level (if it's not already), and then do a round to make sure all the spokes are evenly tensioned.

I don't know if it's worth de-tensioning first, but the last few times I've bought a new bike the spokes weren't tensioned adequately. I ended up rebuilding the wheel with known good spokes when the OEM spokes started breaking, but more because I wanted the nipples to all use the same wrench than anything else. (The exception was the bike from Bailey's Corner REI, where the wheels stayed true for 3,000 miles with a load, and then only needed touching up. I suspect the mechanics were responsible for that feat!)
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Old 02-11-11, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by geachyguy
What determines if the wheel holds it true or not?
My understanding is that insufficient tension on the spokes is the main cause of a wheel losing its true. The spokes lose tension every revolution as the load shifts on/off of them. If they get loose enough, they can unscrew themselves leading to a loss of true. A poorly made wheel can also lose true very quickly if the spokes haven't been 'stress relieved'. You'll hear a popping and pinging sound as you ride on the wheel for the first time as the spokes twist around. On the other hand, too much spoke tension can damage the rim or cause the spokes to pull through.
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Old 02-11-11, 05:03 PM
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Along with the other sources already sited on building I also recommend "Professional Guide to Wheelbuilding" by Roger Musson. It is excellent IMO. Get it here.
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Old 02-11-11, 07:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Iowegian
My understanding is that insufficient tension on the spokes is the main cause of a wheel losing its true. The spokes lose tension every revolution as the load shifts on/off of them. If they get loose enough, they can unscrew themselves leading to a loss of true. A poorly made wheel can also lose true very quickly if the spokes haven't been 'stress relieved'. You'll hear a popping and pinging sound as you ride on the wheel for the first time as the spokes twist around. On the other hand, too much spoke tension can damage the rim or cause the spokes to pull through.
Too much tension will warp the rim, but not cause the spokes to pull through, if the rim is of reasonable quality.
Unless they are of poor quality undertensioned spokes will break due to fatigue.
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Old 02-12-11, 09:22 AM
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I used Sheldon Brown's site. I bought a tension meter and a good truing stand. So far, so good.
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Old 02-12-11, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by davidad
Too much tension will warp the rim, but not cause the spokes to pull through, if the rim is of reasonable quality.
Unless they are of poor quality undertensioned spokes will break due to fatigue.
Define "too much". I've pulled spokes through DT Swiss RR415 (no surprise there) and RR465 rims on my PowerTap wheel. I didn't want the NDS spoke tension too low, so to get a proper dish I had to bring the DS tension up to 140+ kgf. Any less than that and the NDS spoke tension just seemed WAY too low.

I wasn't really surprised when about three spokes pulled through the RR415 rim - that was an experiment I was trying to see if I could get the PT wheel weight down somewhat. The RR415 rim lasted about three months. But I was kind of annoyed when I noted cracks around the nipples on the replacement RR465 rim a few weeks ago. I got about 6 months on the RR465.

This time I rebuilt it with an RR585. And cut the DS spoke tension down to 100 kgf or so - per Psimet reco on another thread.
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Old 02-12-11, 10:22 AM
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I have found the dish to be off on the rear wheel most of the time when I buy cheap prebuilt wheels.
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Old 02-12-11, 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Iowegian
My understanding is that insufficient tension on the spokes is the main cause of a wheel losing its true. The spokes lose tension every revolution as the load shifts on/off of them. If they get loose enough, they can unscrew themselves leading to a loss of true. A poorly made wheel can also lose true very quickly if the spokes haven't been 'stress relieved'. You'll hear a popping and pinging sound as you ride on the wheel for the first time as the spokes twist around. On the other hand, too much spoke tension can damage the rim or cause the spokes to pull through.
The popping and pinging is due to the wheel builder having left residual wind-up ("twist") in the spokes as he was bringing the wheel up to tension. When the wheel is cyclically loaded, the slight relaxation in tension of the bottom spoke allows it to untwist in the nipple and loosen permanently (well, until you tighten it again.) The proper procedure while tensioning is to twist every spoke nipple a quarter to a third turn beyond where you want it, then back off the same amount. The spoke should now be tight but not twisted. As a test, you press down on the rim in several places with the axle end resting on the floor. If you have built the wheel properly you will not hear any pings, nor when you ride it the first time. If you do hear pings, you need to retrue and retension the spokes that pinged (in practice you go around the whole wheel), paying more attention to eliminating wind-up this time.

Stress-relieving is a separate operation that is unrelated to spoke windup. Stress-relieving doesn't make any noises. It can't relieve residual twist because the operation momentarily over-tightens the spoke; twist is relieved only when the spoke slackens. Before you do the stress-relieving, you want to have already removed residual wndup. A wheel that has not been stress-relieved will not ping when ridden, but it will break spokes sooner. Good wheels need to be twist-eliminated and stress-relieved.

(I emphasize that I am talking only about traditional wire-spoked wheels of 28 spokes or more. I know nothing about low-spoke-count wheels.)

Interesting that purchasers of machine-built wheels often find it necessary to retension them. I wonder if the value of their time makes it actually more cost-effective to build their own from scratch even though the retail cost of the components exceeds that of the complete wheel....?
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Old 02-12-11, 10:44 AM
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I don't happen to like machine built wheels mostly due to difficulty getting them fixed when they go bad. I realize that most bikes purchased new these days come with machine built wheels and they have to be accepted as part of the cyclist's life. All my replacement wheels have either been hand built by an LBS or Peter White who made one of my sets, and one set by me. I found it worth my time and the cost of buying the tools just to have someone else do it (typical labor to build a wheel set is about $50 at most LBS's, Peter White charges about $40 per wheel); then you need a wheel truing stand that cost about $200 depending on brand, a tensioning tool for about $60, a dishing tool about $40, a nipple driver about $25, a spoke wrench which you should have anyways for about $4, a plastic mallet is helpful for about $7; and that doesn't include tools to overhaul your hub if needed; so your going to spend roughly $350 in tools, for that amount you could have 7 sets of wheels built! So by the time I spent the money to buy the tools plus the time to build it just isn't worth it to me since my wheels last forever anyway, so it's not like I'm going to be building a wheel set every year. But there are books like Jobst Brandt mention by JIMC in book stores or on the internet that can show you color photos and step by step instructions. I got the Jobst book and it helped out a lot with my first and only wheel set I built, but I borrowed tools from friend to do it. Now your probably wondering how I true my wheels if I don't have tools to do it...I use my brake calipers as a guide and true them on the bike; but all my wheels have been built so well any truing I do is very minor and infrequent.
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Old 02-12-11, 11:07 AM
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^ True enough, it probably doesn't really pay and I should get real. I don't do any of my own car maintenance except remembering to check tire-pressure once every dozen fill-ups or so. Lots of people love doing it, as much as I like wrenching on our bikes. I bet I could actually save money if I did my own oil changes and stuff (unlike the case with building bicycle wheels) -- I'm just not interested enough in car maintenance to bother doing it. I pay the shop to do it. They need people like me.

For me, learning to build wheels was almost an excuse to buy tools. But on the other hand, being able to rebuild a damaged front wheel without outside help or supplies did save a tandem trip my wife and I did a few years back.
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Old 02-12-11, 12:12 PM
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I don't have a problem working on my own cars or bikes, but there comes a point of cost vs what I get out of doing it myself. Example, a heater hose broke in a former car once and the location of the hose made the car company to build a special tool to get to the nut to remove the hose, the tool was only sold by Snap-On and cost $180, a radiator shop did the job including the hose for $75, so it was more cost effective to have it done outside rather then me buying the tool then spending an hour fixing it using a tool that I would only ever use once since no other car on the market required it. I always weigh out the cost to buy tools and how many times will I use the tools to do other jobs. In the case of wheel building I simply don't have enough wheelsets built to justify the price of getting the tools even though I have a dozen or so bikes.
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Old 02-12-11, 12:18 PM
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Originally Posted by bobdell
I have found the dish to be off on the rear wheel most of the time when I buy cheap prebuilt wheels.
Can I ask.. how much are they off? Trying to get an idea of what is 'close enough' for dish.

+- .025" ?
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Old 02-12-11, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by geachyguy
Hi,
I would like to start building my own wheels. I have been truing wheels for a long time and can do that pretty well, so it the step up to wheel building relatively small?
Also, I have seen in other threads that sometimes it's cheaper to buy a complete wheel, then de-tension and re-tension the spokes. If a wheel you buy is true already, why do you need to bother de-tensioning and re-tensioning?
What determines if the wheel holds it true or not?
I would de-tension, lube the nipple threads and seats and then re-tension. The factory wheels I've worked on (not many, I'll admit) have not had enough lubrication to allow correct tensioning. When I build my own wheels, I apply a little white grease to the nipple threads before assembling the wheel.

As others have said, high, even spoke tension is the key to keeping a wheel true. Once I learned that lesson (several years after learning to build wheels), my wheels required minimal maintenance after the first couple miles. Not bad for a 6-foot-4, 215 pound rider.

I've replaced many rims due to brake pad wear, but they were still straight. Only once did I leave a rim on too long- but it still rolled: https://home.comcast.net/~jeff_wills/...s/rites042.htm
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Old 02-12-11, 07:18 PM
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Originally Posted by davidad
Unless they are of poor quality undertensioned spokes will break due to fatigue.
Is this what you wanted to say? ...poor quality undertensioned spokes will break due to fatigue.
Or ...good quality undertensioned spokes will break due to fatigue.
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Old 02-12-11, 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by achoo
Define "too much". I've pulled spokes through DT Swiss RR415 (no surprise there) and RR465 rims on my PowerTap wheel. I didn't want the NDS spoke tension too low, so to get a proper dish I had to bring the DS tension up to 140+ kgf. Any less than that and the NDS spoke tension just seemed WAY too low.

I wasn't really surprised when about three spokes pulled through the RR415 rim - that was an experiment I was trying to see if I could get the PT wheel weight down somewhat. The RR415 rim lasted about three months. But I was kind of annoyed when I noted cracks around the nipples on the replacement RR465 rim a few weeks ago. I got about 6 months on the RR465.

This time I rebuilt it with an RR585. And cut the DS spoke tension down to 100 kgf or so - per Psimet reco on another thread.
Reasonable quality seems to define the problem with the rim. It does not matter that DT markets it.
I have tensioned a friends Sun CR18 to 130kg because the Powertap hub has more dish and the non-drive side was breaking nipples.
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Old 02-12-11, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by skilsaw
Is this what you wanted to say? ...poor quality undertensioned spokes will break due to fatigue.
Or ...good quality undertensioned spokes will break due to fatigue.
I just reread it. Sorry about that. Poor quality spokes cause breakage problems. Roy bought a tourer from Bikes Direct and the rear wheel began breakiing spokes right away. We rebuilt the wheel with DT double butted spokes and the trouble stopped.
I should have seperated the thought. Low spoke tension will cause breakage.
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Old 02-13-11, 12:07 AM
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look at one of my older threads/replies for compete instructions- Any easier ways to build wheels? Started by pat5319, 11-04-00 07:39 AM

Last edited by pat5319; 02-13-11 at 12:11 AM. Reason: additon
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Old 02-13-11, 04:48 AM
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Not to highjack this topic, but i just build my first wheel (mavic Module E2 for a classic bike) and when stressing the rim on the floor disaster happened as i pressed thru the rim and now there is a horrible wobble and the rim is gone. No way did i use to much pressure as i'm light build, but where the spokes not tight enough (i used 120/130 kg on the rear).

My main q'n is what was the reason for this.

I have another E2 rim and will start all over, but not knowing what caused this i'm not all to happy to start over again.

Any advice please.
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Old 02-13-11, 06:55 AM
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for the Mavic Module E2, was this NOS or used, if used, was the braking surface worn away?
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Old 02-13-11, 07:25 AM
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Originally Posted by pat5319
look at one of my older threads/replies for compete instructions- Any easier ways to build wheels? Started by pat5319, 11-04-00 07:39 AM
I think that, by far, the easiest way to build a wheel is to start with new, decent quality components. If you do that there is no reason why your first attempt shouldn't be perfectly adequate.

Laceing the spokes requires a degree of concentration and attention to detail but it's not that hard. Once the spokes are laced, starting with a rim that's reasonably rigid, round and flat will eliminate the biggest source of frustration and failure.
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Old 02-13-11, 07:51 AM
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Originally Posted by jimc101
for the Mavic Module E2, was this NOS or used, if used, was the braking surface worn away?
No, the rim was a used one and the braking surface was more than adequate.
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