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Reasonable wheelbuild price?

Old 04-19-11, 12:34 PM
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Oil_LOL
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Reasonable wheelbuild price?

What does your LBS charge to build a 700c wheel using an existing rim and hub? I'm trying to price a possible build, but I don't want to ask, and end up not doing the build.
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Old 04-19-11, 12:51 PM
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Somewhere in the rough vicinity of $50 per wheel in labor, but remember that good spokes cost roughly a buck each.

But I don't know for sure. All of the LBS guys around here who do anything as sophisticated as build custom wheels are either rude or flaky enough that I don't enjoy trying to do business with them. One basically laughed me out of his shop when I asked about a new custom wheel for a vintage bike, and the other strung me along for months with empty promises when I tried to buy a custom bike from him. So I learned wheelbuilding myself and have always built my own.

Edit: Harris Cyclery charges $45 as a base build price, and they tend to be expensive, so maybe you can do cheaper. Also, note that many/most shops will refuse to build wheels with used rims.

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Old 04-19-11, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Oil_LOL View Post
What does your LBS charge to build a 700c wheel using an existing rim and hub? I'm trying to price a possible build, but I don't want to ask, and end up not doing the build.
$70 + spokes. You're going to get a huge variation depending on local costs (retail rent + labor) and market (median income).

Having lived with a rear wheel that wouldn't stay true due to insufficient tension and a front which probably folded for the same reason I learned to do my own work.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 04-19-11 at 12:58 PM.
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Old 04-19-11, 01:04 PM
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My price is $35.00 per wheel < 36 spokes and $40.00 / $45.00 for 40 and 48 spoke wheels and I have been known to give a small discount on sets.

$50.00 per wheel is a pretty steep price... rates at other shops here are in that $40.00 per wheel category but I can where certain shops charge more because of massive overhead costs.
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Old 04-19-11, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by FLYcrash View Post
Also, note that many/most shops will refuse to build wheels with used rims.
How used is "used"? I asked about this not building around used rims and was basically told that it just makes for a crappy wheel.

I had a wheel built around freewheel hub a few years ago. Rode it 20 miles or so and a spoke broke. Had it relaced. . . never used it. Now it's just siting there with an obsolete hub (with no axle, btw). Is the rim really a total loss at this point?
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Old 04-19-11, 01:28 PM
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I charge $ 25 per wheel plus the cost of spokes.
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Old 04-19-11, 01:55 PM
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Hi Dwellman,

My feeling is that the very act of building a rim into a wheel makes it "used." The forces in a built wheel are enormous. Rebuilding a previously-laced rim straight and true is significantly more frustrating than building a fresh one. Typically one cannot get the wheel round and flat and get the spoke tensions constant at the same time.

I'm an amateur here, so don't take my word as gospel, but I've built at least four wheels with a rim that was used by this definition. In only one of these cases (relacing a rear wheel for a friend who was constantly breaking spokes) was the build fairly painless. My second-ever wheel, initially done with a new rim, went poorly, and the wheel mildly tacoed before I was done truing it. I unlaced it, flattened out the rim, and rebuilt it. This is not a representative case, as I screwed up the rim, but 3-4 years later that wheel still suffers from occasional spoke breakage and truing issues, while every other wheel I've built has remained true and kept its spokes over time.

Sixty Fiver and bikeman715, I wish I lived near you.

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Old 04-19-11, 02:12 PM
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im in nyc expensive as all hell and my lbs charges $40 plus spokes.
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Old 04-19-11, 02:32 PM
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How hard would it be to build a wheel myself?
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Old 04-19-11, 02:34 PM
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but remember that good spokes cost roughly a buck each.
NB Butted spokes cost More than that..
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Old 04-19-11, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
NB Butted spokes cost More than that..
I can buy DT 2.0/1.8, 1.8/1.6, and 2.0/1.5 spokes one at a time in even and odd lengths for $.69 on-line

https://store.icyclesusa.com/revolution-c2612.aspx

or Sapim 2.0/1.8 for $.40 each cut to length

https://www.danscomp.com/435915.php?cat=PARTS
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Old 04-19-11, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Oil_LOL View Post
How hard would it be to build a wheel myself?
Easy but time consuming.

Jobst Brandt tested _The Bicycle Wheel_ by having each of his grade-school sons build a wheelset using only the book for instructions with no other help.
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Old 04-19-11, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
NB Butted spokes cost More than that..
Buck a piece is what my LBS charges double butted spokes sold one at a time. Cheaper if you buy a box.
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Old 04-19-11, 03:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Oil_LOL View Post
How hard would it be to build a wheel myself?
It's not an art. It is a straight forward mechaical job. I would recommend a good spoke wrench and a tensiometer as the minimum tools necessary to build up a strong true wheel. A truing stand and dishing tool are the next items that would be nice to have.
A good book like Jobst Brandt's book "The Bicycle Wheel" is full of good info.
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Old 04-19-11, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by davidad View Post
It's not an art. It is a straight forward mechaical job. I would recommend a good spoke wrench and a tensiometer as the minimum tools necessary to build up a strong true wheel.
You can skip the tension meter when building with conventional box section rims of moderate weight by using Jobst's method of increasing tension until the rim deforms in waves when stress-relieved and backing off half a turn from there.

The last two wheels I built that way measured 110kgf average +9/-5% except at the bend which had me replacing the rim without a tire installed (front Mavic Reflex clincher, 32 spokes, cross-3 on a 1996 Campagnolo hub) and 110kgf average on the drive side with a tire installed (rear Open Pro, 32 spokes, cross-3 on a 1996 Campagnolo hub with a 9 speed freehub and 1mm drive side spacer).

It just takes longer.

A truing stand and dishing tool are the next items that would be nice to have.
I wouldn't want to do it without a truing stand since that lets me sit at the kitchen table and build. Wheels can be flipped to check dish if you want although the dish stick is more convenient since it doesn't require removing the wheel from the truing stand.

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Old 04-19-11, 11:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt View Post
I can buy DT 2.0/1.8, 1.8/1.6, and 2.0/1.5 spokes one at a time in even and odd lengths for $.69 on-line

https://store.icyclesusa.com/revolution-c2612.aspx

or Sapim 2.0/1.8 for $.40 each cut to length

https://www.danscomp.com/435915.php?cat=PARTS
Thanks for the link! I swear by the DT double-butted spokes, and my source had been Lickton, which fairly recently raised their prices to $18 for a box of 20. That I'd spend $36 for two of these boxes for a 36-spoke wheel gave me the buck-a-spoke frame of reference. Looks like these guys undercut Lickton by a fair margin, though.

FWIW, when I was rebuilding my mom's bike in Houston a couple years ago, retruing her wheels broke a couple of the old galvanized spokes. The LBS over there charged $2 per spoke. It was a little outrageous, especially given Houston's generally lower prices, but I had little choice if I wanted to get the job done.

Edit: I feel that wheelbuilding is one of the more challenging bits of bike mechanics out there. I think it'd be worth it to go all in with a truing stand, dishing gauge, and tensiometer. I got a tensiometer starting with the second wheelset I built, and I've thanked my lucky stars for it ever since. Best to start amortizing its cost early.
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