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Building a Wheel Part Deux

Old 02-01-19, 06:27 PM
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Building a Wheel Part Deux

Hello everyone.
I just finished my second wheel.
Here is a link to my first: Building a wheel (without truing).

I recently flat spotted that wheel after hitting a pothole.

I was rolling and noticed a loose front hub one day. I figured it was just loose so I waited until my next trip to the local DIY bike place to rebulid it.

After rebuilding it, I noticed a creaky wheel that would not tighten without seizing entirely.
I concluded that it was a flared bearing cup or a bent axle.
Because it's a really bad idea to ride on a hub like that, and because I still had the spokes laying around from the previous hub (along with an extra front hub laying around) I decided to have another crack at building a wheel.

This time around, I avoided the bike shop entirely.

I'm writing this post because I had to visit different sites, read through different posts, and use different tutorials and most of them assumed that you had a truing stand.
If you didn't, they didn't go over vertical truing (getting rid of wheel hop) on a front fork leg.

I figured i'd write this so that if someone decides to do this, all the information is here in one post.

Again, here is a tutorial I used to LACE the wheel:

It works for both 36 and 32h (I assume that it COULD work for any h count because of how spokes cross each other, but don't quote me on this).

I re-used my spokes AGAIN (post flat spot).
I read a few posts that went into how the spokes are the longest lasting part of any wheel, and if they aren't bent (think almost right angle or obvious wavy bend) they are very much re-usable.
The advantage of buying new spokes (as far as I can tell) is two fold:
1. They go on MUCH straighter. You will do less truing because you won't be compensating for the small bends in other parts of your spokes (only initially, as things get very tense, it is the same).
2. You have brand new spokes dude.

Call all of your local LBS's. You would be surprised at the quotes they throw at you for brand new CUSTOM CUT spokes. (Some of them have spoke cutters and oodles of spokes laying around).
Those are the ones that will be able to give you a good deal (Because they are not buying them pre-made).
I was very picky. If the nipple didn't go on butter smooth with zero effort (benefit of brass nipples) the spoke was not used. If there was a bend near the nipple, the spoke was not used.
Bends near the j were put through a spoke hole and given a light tug to straighten out. If they still weren't satisfactory after this, the spoke was note used.

Make sure you use a spoke calculator with your hub and your rim to make sure your spokes are of the correct length.
I've used this one many times now when spoke/rim shopping and when replacing spokes.

Ok so here goes. I'm not saying I did anything correctly, but I had to put together information from different places and this worked so it might work for you.

After lacing the wheel with the above tutorial, I had a wheel with EVERY NIPPLE TURNED EXACTLY THE SAME AMOUNT OF TURNS around the wheel.
You can start with 4 or so turns.
The next thing I did, was go around in half turns all the way around the rim. I got this trick from watching a video of people using a drill to get a wheel build "started" (no sense in posting that video).
I learned that you want to get it as tight as possible before truing.

When doing things to every spoke, it helps to use the valve hole as a reference point so you don't have to remember anything or mark anything.
When the wheel started showing it's true colors and started to get wavy (laterally), I STOPPED.
However, I made sure that EVERY NIPPLE STILL HAD EXACTLY THE SAME AMOUNT OF TURNS APPLIED TO IT. This was so, so, important and i'll explain a little later.
You would be surprised at how tight your wheel gets while just truing the damn thing and getting the hops out. If it gets wavy, and you still feel like you have some slacks in some spokes, STOP.

Next, I used advice from both a person I met and by the Sheldon Brown website.
That site is like a textbook for all things bicycle mechanic related. It goes into very precise professional depth on every topic, but it also gives advice for people doing things quickly and without the right tools (he made his own solutions to a lot of problems).

Anyways, there seems to be three main components to building a wheel:
Lateral True (side to side), Vertical true (roundness of wheel and "hop"), and Tension.

I didn't think too much about tension at the start (you should check it when you're done though) as the wheel kind of tends to tension itself as you true it, but I've had to tension the wheel before.
What I did was I got the wheel into a pretty good true, but then noticed that the spokes were still kinda loose. To fix this, I just did the same trick of going a half turn all the way around the wheel then kind of evening out any small kinks. I later messed this wheel up (I'll go into detail later), and had to start over so that's just something I thought of, not sure if it's good.

Anyways, Sheldon Brown and Dude both told me that you want to work on "whatever is worse at the moment".
So if your wheel is hopping more than it is going side to side, work on that and vice versa. (true it laterally if it's not hopping much).

I will now go into truing strategies.

For lateral truing:
(easier IMO), you simply need something as a reference (zip tie on fork did the trick for me). My zip tie was long so I could move it in and out as my wheel became more straight.
I would hold one hand steady while "poking at" the wheel to see when and how hard it hit the zip tie.
When starting, it was easier for me to work out the WORST deflection first, THEN decide whether to "true it left" or "true it right". Since I was doing a front wheel (and I have a track rear), I didn't worry too much about dish and using this strategy seemed to naturally center the wheel. If you notice a gross deviation from the center of the hub, then bring that side of the rim all the way in. If you're doing this on track wheels, this seems unlikely.
So in other words, if it goes left more than it goes right, center the left first, then work on the right one. You may find that the right one has disappeared or re-appeared somewhere else.
This was HUGE as it took the guesswork out of having this mess of a wheel and figuring out how to do it all. Just work on ONE THING at a time (the worst one).

I followed sheldon browns advice on how to turn the spoke.
I will now quote Sheldon Brown directly to truing advice that finally worked for me:

"Try to make your truing adjustments independent of each other. For lateral truing, spin the wheel in the stand and find the place on the rim that is farthest away from where most of the rim is. If the rim is off to the left, tighten spokes that go to the right flange and loosen those that go to the left flange. If you do the same amount of tightening and loosening, you can move the rim to the side without affecting the roundness of the wheel. For example, if the rim is off to the left, and the center of the bend is between two spokes, tighten the spoke that goes to the right flange 1/4 turn, and loosen the spoke that goes left 1/4 turn; If the center of the left bend is next to a spoke that goes to the right flange, tighten that spoke 1/4 turn, and loosen each of the two left spokes next to it 1/8 turn; If the center of the left bend is next to a spoke that goes to the left flange, loosen that spoke 1/4 turn, and tighten each of the two right spokes next to it 1/8 turn. After adjusting the worst bend to the left, find the worst bend to the right, and adjust it. Keep alternating sides. Don't try to make each bent area perfect, just make it better, then go on to the next. The wheel will gradually get truer and truer as you go." (Sheldon Brown).

I didn't worry about how "relatively" straight it was, I only payed attention to what Brown and Dude said, which is, when vertical true becomes worse than lateral (or vice versa), work on the one that's worse.
Again, as soon as your wheel becomes out of round (vertical hop) more than it is out of true, hop over to vertical truing.

For vertical truing:
This was probably the most frustrating part. There is so much advice out there on how to do it, and NONE of the advice tells you how to FIND THE DAMN HOP in the first place.
I had to go through many tutorials of "loosen one side and tighten the other", and "only do the two spokes that are parallel to each other". Ugh, this might work for some people, but Sheldon Brown's method is the one that worked best for me.
I had to do a "soft reset" on the wheel after getting my spokes very tight and having a SUPER OUT OF ROUND and SUPER UNTRUE wheel.
I think there was a reason why I never found any advice about how to remove dips when truing a wheel.
I think it's because you either can't, or it's just too frustrating to try.
When I saw a dip, I literally treated the ENTIRE WHEEL REST OF THE WHEEL as a hop, OR simply took care of all hops and it worked out. If your wheel is very tensioned, and all you have is a dip (has happened to me), it might be time to do a soft reset (i'll go into that later).

Anyways, I used the same strategy of isolating the worst spot here, and it worked.
The key to vertical truing though, was to isolate the CENTER (worst spot) of the worst hop, and work on that first. Meaning, if you have one huge hop, find the center, or worst part of it, then use the tightening strategy that i'm about to post.
I'll just paste straight from brown again because this worked for me:
"For vertical truing, find the highest high spot on the rim. If the center of this high spot is between two spokes, tighten each of them 1/2 turn. If the high spot is centered over one spoke, tighten that spoke one full turn, and each of the two spokes next to it that go to the other flange, 1/2 turn. It takes a larger adjustment to affect the vertical truing than the horizontal truing. Vertical truing should usually be done by tightening spokes, gradually building up the tension in the wheel as you go along." (Sheldon Brown).

So here is how I found the hops in the first place without a truing stand.
My entire day got better literally right after I thought of this.
Find a desk somewhere or something that can at least meet some part of the rim while your bike is upside down and your wheel is in the fork (You will presumably be sitting down).
Any table seems to do the trick for this.

Next, find either a piece of cardboard and a piece of paper.
THEN, move it VERY CLOSE to the rim, until it doesn't touch it most of the time, but really pushes ont he paper when there is a hop. This will help you find the hops.
Next, move this piece of paper further away from or closer to the rim (whichever is easier for you) and hold it with a steady hand while spinning the rim with the other so that you can better identify the worst part of the hop.

This literally took ALL of the frustration out of vertical truing for me and it was smooth sailing from there.
I'll post a pic just so it's clear.

Again, I DIDN'T LOOSEN, I just followed the above advice until the lateral true was worse than the hop, and I moved back to lateral truing again.
You want to make small, deliberate turns. As soon as you stop keeping track of where you're at, and you start loosening and tightening around the wheel to try and get hops out, you're probably going to need to reset the wheel.

I basically just repeated these steps until I got within a millimeter of deflection.
Trying to get it perfect without a truing stand is not something I was willing to do right now.
I'm starting school again so I can't spend a ton of time on this.
My main goal was getting in on there, and this time getting the tension right.
Maybe next time I stop by the bike place i'll get it perfect but I might spend the entire allotted time there (But I might be able to just fix that deflection within an hour).

You would be surprised at how the wheel kind of tensions itself as you do this.
In fact, at times it got so tight, that instead of tightening, I loosened the opposite side to put my finishing touches on it. YMMV but the only effective tensioning method I can think of without knocking the whole thing way out of true again is tighten each spoke a 1/4 turn starting at the valve hole until you hit it again. Repeat this until you are at tension stopping to correct small errors at each revolution if necessary.

I just compared the stiffness of my spokes to the wheel that I pesonally checked with an actual tension tool to check if my spokes were stiff enough.
I also did the "sound check", where you pluck a spoke and compare it to a tensioned one.
At first I thought this was nuts and thought you had to have your ear right next to the wheel to hear this, but you just have to kinda "pluck" at a spoke (or some say two spokes at the cross) right in the center, kinda hard like you would on a bass guitar or something and just listen for the note.
Like on a guitar, notes are higher when the instrument is "tighter", so when using the sound check I noticed that my spokes were either the same as, or sometimes a bit higher than the ones on my checked wheel. This meant that they were at the very least "tight enough".
They should all sound the same when true because if you notice, when doing 3 cross lacing, every spoke has exactly the same amount of spokes going over or under it.
If they were all EXACTLY the same, you wouldn't need a truing stand you would just need a torque wrench.
All of the spokes, bends, inconsistencies in the rim, hub, etc. seem to contribute to making this hard.
When checking tension with a spoke meter, dude told me that you need to be within a specific range.
When sound checking, I just made sure that the spokes were "at and above" the note that my tension tool checked spokes were at.

Throughout this article, I mentioned a soft reset.
I technically built this wheel twice.
The first time I did it, I used some arcane vertical truing advice that mentioned finding parallel spokes and tightening one side while loosening the other. Ugh. My spokes eventually got very tight (almost rounding nipples) and my wheel was way out of wack. I came to the conclusion that this wasn't going to work as correcting anything from this point would just round my nipples so I decided to do a "soft reset".
Your spokes shouldn't be so tight that you are concerned about rounding your nipples.
Because your wheel will naturally tighten as you do this, you will reach a point where your spokes are too tight.
If you are at this point, and your wheel isn't almost true, it's time to start over.

This is starting from square one without having to replace the wheel.
I went around the wheel and loosened every spoke 2 full turns starting at the valve hole and returning to it.

I then did 1 turn at a time until the spokes were "kinda" loose.
NEXT, starting at the valve stem, I COMPLETELY REMOVED one spoke, and put it on EXACTLY 4 TURNS.
I then did this to EVERY SPOKE.
What this did, was keep my spokes laced onto the rim, and "reset" the nipples so that they were all EXACTLY the same amount of turns onto the spoke again, and the wheel was loose.
Hopefully you don't have to do that, but it was a way of starting over in 15 minutes.

Now, given my situation (dont have time or money to make wheel building a hobby) would I do this again if I could get a front wheel of the same quality (double walled rim, sealed cartridge bearings, dt swiss spokes) for the price of what I paid for just this rim? NO. If you look around, good wheel sets with formula hubs are selling for like $135 shipped.
Even at 2x the price it is worth it to get a wheel pre-made. At 3x the price ($100 and above), it becomes questionable and I would maybe put myself through it again to have a quality sealed bearing hub and a good rim.
I just had spokes and a hub laying around so this was the most logical choice.
This is really hard, and really frustrating guys. I'm getting better at it (and will only get better everytime I do it), but it's better to leave this to someone who is doing this for a living unless you have a hobby bike.
Or you plan on changing building wheels/rims all the time and you want to buy all the right tools.
It was a great experience though, and it's nice to know that if i'm out in some random spot and I break a wheel, I just have to go to the local LBS and pick up a rim and some spokes as it is very unlikely that they have a rim that fits the particular purpose of my bike.
It's also nice to know that I can replace a spoke and do some quick corrections if necessary (most likely situation).
It sounds simple, but there will be times when you have to pull in half a rim, or maybe do a group of spokes instead of just two. You'll kind of learn as you go along.
In some ways its very fun and satisfying.
But you're probably not going to get a perfect true, and your wheel building progression probably won't get a whole lot better without a real truing stand.
It's a great thing to practice for emergencies or situations like mine though.

I am getting better at this though, so someday I do plan on doing this again until I become a person that can build really good wheels in a timely manner (Remember, my current wheel is still not perfect).

It's actually really fun and I'm very proud of myself, I'm just not in a position to be doing that right now. I would absoultely do it on a weekend though on a sick bike i'm building and putting together for fun.
As a utilitarian choice (current bike and reason for buying bike parts), I wouldn't do it unless it was 3x more to buy it pre-made.

So there it is,
Guide to building a wheel as just some dude off the street without proper tools or a truing stand as an emergency for when nobody has the kind of wheel you want in stock and if they do it's like $100, and you have half the parts laying around (or you just destroyed a rim and need to replace it).

Anyways, please add tips and tricks to this if anyone can.
If I did something wrong, please correct me or if you are one of those weird loosey tightey people, please give me your opinion.

Sheldon Brown Wheel Building Link:

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Old 02-01-19, 06:30 PM
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Building a Wheel Part Deux

I cannot delete this so I am leaving this message here.

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Old 02-01-19, 07:42 PM
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