Do You Know How to Build a Wheel? - Pinkbike Poll

Nov 14, 2017 at 18:23
by Mike Kazimer  
An ENVE rim gets laced and ready for action.


For some, wheel building has an aura of mystery around it, a skill that seems to be held only by wizened mechanics who lurk in the dark recesses of bike shops. Even in the age of instant access to YouTube tutorials on pretty much any topic imaginable, when faced with a rim, a hub, and a pile of spokes, many riders would rather leave the heavy lifting to their local guru. That's nothing to be ashamed of – it takes time to become proficient at building up a strong set of wheels, and it's a skill that isn't required as often as something like adjusting a derailleur or even bleeding a set of brakes, especially given the sheer number of high quality pre-built wheelsets on the market.

However, there is something to be said for the sense of satisfaction that comes from building your own wheels, and with winter approaching in the Northern Hemisphere the time is ripe for broadening your range of technical know-how. It's helpful to have a knowledgeable friend on hand to guide you through the process, although you may need to bribe them with beverages or baked goods – watching a newcomer figuring out the basics can be a tedious task. Be careful, though, because before you know it, you'll be quoting Jobst Brandt, and waxing poetic about the merits of a 32-hole hub laced up in a three-cross pattern with brass nipples.


The wheel hangover from Fort William continues down in the Saracen pits.


Do you consider yourself to be a proficient wheelbuilder?



When's the last time you built a wheel?




245 Comments

  • + 107
 Roger Musson. Buy his PDF book. Read it. Build a wheel. Shred. Keep wheels rolling and never miss a ride because you need to drop off bike for wrench work.

I built my first set a few years ago now and am probably at half a dozen sets. They've all been fantastic. Therapeutic to build and maintain. Love it.

Also is this the place to mention you can build absolutely bombproof wheels for about $400? Since learning to do this, I just laugh at the $1k wheelsets getting kicked around this site.

Stans Flow MK3 - $66 all day online ($132 for set)
Bitex Hubs (bikehubstore.com) - $175-$240 depending on options (for the set)
Spokes - $40
Tape/stems - $20

............and whammy, $400+/- you have a killer wheelset.
  • + 15
 You can also buy hope Enduro wheelsets for 400. I do really enjoy building wheels though and recommend everyone to learn it.
  • + 22
 @lindblomxc: Man that is a great point. I honestly was ignorant to those wheels, just googled around found MSRP to be just over $500, so that makes sense with deals online, etc. to hit the 400 mark. Not bad Hope, not bad!!

I wasn't faulting anyone for buying a set of wheels, just pointing out quality doesn't have to cost $1k in the wheel game. Building is one way to get around it. Buying sensibly, of course, is another.
  • + 6
 Yep, just built up a set of DT Swiss wheels with 350 hubs for $400. Starbike's prices on DT Swiss components are insane - only downside is their slow shipping.

The prebuilt wheelset (with 240 hubs, admittedly) would be $1200. I'll skip on 50g less weight in the hubs where it matters least to save $800, thank you.
  • + 16
 Honestly, you should spend more than $40 on spokes. Get high quality double butted pieces, they're more durable and lighter
  • + 4
 Roger’s book is fanstastic. Even if you never plan on building a set of wheels, it’s great knowledge to have. Buy a version and print it out.
  • + 2
 The biggest mistake I've ever made in the wheel department was buying straight pull hubs and round section spokes...
  • + 5
 @cmscheip: +1 for Roger Musson, Same here, Built my first wheel set 2 years ago and they still rolling like new.
  • + 5
 @mnorris122: You can get two boxes of 36 DT Comp spokes for $40-50 if you shop around, as much as I like building wheels with X-Rays for ultimate bling in terms of weight they offer a gnat's pube over DT comps and no difference in strength.
  • + 6
 +++ This book is awesome, I highly recommend it. I have build 7 or 8 wheel sets now, including 3 sets of carbon wheels. Nextie rims on Hope hubs with DT Comps has been bullet proof for me. I have even cased 40 foot doubles and made all kinds of other riding mistakes and they run just as true as the day I built them. By far the most satisfying bike maintenance skill you can learn.
  • + 7
 @WAKIdesigns: Just grind some flats into the spokes, down near the threads. Instant bladed spokes. Hold with pliers and true as normal. But Waki is very clever so he already thought of that.
  • + 3
 Never heard of Bitex before but pleased you mentioned them. They look good and have lots of options for centerlock etc. Anyone else use them?
  • + 4
 The bitex hubs are also branded as Origin 8 Elite hubs for anyone who wants to shop around.
  • - 2
 @Jubbylinseed: I have never denied being a stupid wanking a*shole, the very fact that I bought round SP spokes means I'm dumb. But grinding DT comps is pushing it. When you ride with grinded sides of spokes everyone knows you are special. Maybe one in 10 thousands will recognize a master wheel builder in you.
  • + 3
 A local shop refused to built my DT straight pull hubs with round spokes last month so I did it myself with a good truing stand borrowed from a friend and some rubber-covered pliers to hold the spokes for the initial tensioning. No big deal, easier than I thought it would be although I didn't tension enough when building - didn't realise that a mounted tyre would reduce the tension so much. Musson's book was a good guide and the wheelset cost about €400 instead of €700-800 for the equivalent 1501 prebuilt wheels.
  • + 3
 Triple upvote. Musson and stan's flow alloy wheels all the way. The third upvote for laughing at expensive wheelsets. I'm asking myself constantly just why.
  • + 3
 @ThomDawson: Available from Justridingalong in the UK. Really decent hubs.
  • + 1
 @Lornholio: My SP round spokes and promax nipples built up great- small vise grips and electrical tape... didn't think it could have been much more straight forward.
  • + 1
 I used Roger Musson book and and also Mike T wheelbuilding guide for all my builds.

www.miketechinfo.com/new-tech-wheels-tires.htm

Combined, they make the ultimate wheelbuilding guide!
  • + 1
 I can build wheels thanks to Roger Musson along with Novatec hubs, DT spokes and Stans Flow rims; less than $350 the set cost me, and I haven't bought a wheel since.

I cannot recommend buying a copy and trying for yourself strongly enough.
  • + 1
 Just replaced a rim on my DT wheels with straight pull spokes and Prolock (that's basically blue Loctite) nipples. Oh, the pain and hassle, you need an insane amount of grip to hold those spokes from spinning!
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: Oh, yeah! This is how Roval wheels are built and how I hate them. They are light but they are a nightmare. J-pull for me from now on.
  • + 2
 @ThomDawson: the front hubs are good cant really mess up a front hub too much but the rear only managed 2 months including a weeks racing in the alps then all of the free hub springs snapped. sealing is also poor
bearings are the cheapest they can get there hands on by the way they have lasted or tolerances are poor
novatec is better


they may have improved in the last year and there are different options i had the best ones they offered

get what you pay for
  • - 2
 @Lornholio: I doubt the wheels you built weighed 1500 grams however.
  • + 8
 Added bonus is having anodized nipples matching the pedals. If your going to build a wheelset, then you might as well be a fashion whore about it too.
  • + 3
 ...the equivalent 1501 prebuilt set don't weigh 1500g either @smaptyjohnson .

@Boardlife69 I wish I'd paid for brass nipples instead of using the free aluminium ones that came with my rims - I damaged a few of the alu ones badly while building before managing to make a Squorx nipple driver out of a T25 bolt. Minor truing will be OK but I'm going to wait until I change tyres before retensioning the wheels completely using the nipple driver under the tape.
  • - 3
 @Boardlife69: you have balls to mention aluminium nipples here
  • + 5
 @WAKIdesigns: I used alu nipples on all bikes even on my BMX front wheel, whats wrong with them?
  • + 2
 @b-wicked: I get the vibe among experienced wheel builders that real men use brass. Then from practical reasons: like it's much harder to round one. If you are building a really stiff rim it can matter. Then for carbon rims they cause galvanic corrosion and even anodized ones can create problems since it's easy to strip anodizing from them as they turn in the rim during tensioning and truing. Finally if your town is like mine, that is they salt the hell out of streets and bike paths in winter, they will corrode and fail. Long story short, the 40-60g of added weight per wheelset is a little penalty if you are into reliability.
  • + 1
 I agree I zen out building wheels, once I get them laced I usually throw the truing stand on the coffee table, crack open a beer or coffee (depending on the time of day) and watch some bike videos.
  • + 2
 @mnorris122: Straight gauge work just fine. Brass nipples for the win
  • + 2
 Where in god's name are you finding Stan's flow mk3s for that cheap online? CRC and Jenson have them up for $100 USD.
  • + 4
 @WAKIdesigns: I built all my wheelset with Alu nipples for the past 6 years and they never coroded or broke.
  • + 4
 @WAKIdesigns:
Agree alu nipples are the spawn of satin himself.

Utterly utterly useless things if you ride in any inclement weather or even live by the sea.
  • - 3
 @lRaphl: I used alu nipples for the last time when I built a wheelset with carbon rims. Then for wheels that sit on my wives bike. But since their only advantage is lighter weight I tend to use/ ask for brass prolocks. I am no wheel builder though, I build them myself to save money and have some entertainment. I do my best and none of the wheels I built disintegrated, I can match logos and put the valve in the right place, put the rim in the center, but I'm far from being a specialist. Tension is rarely even and never managed to make it even in vertical plane, it tends to be 1-2mm off in places.
  • + 1
 @mnorris122: not casing also helps
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: but they pretty oO and actually strong, also all the problems you mentioned are present with brass nippels Big Grin just wash and service your bike more often...
  • - 2
 @b-wicked: every piece of literature I found online says that brass is much less suspectible to corrosion than alu, even the anodized ones. And brass is a harder material so no... not really. Unless you are using some magic alu nipples for the members of wheel builders club Wink
  • + 3
 @mnorris122: And always, always...brass nipples
  • + 1
 That's a good book to buy.
  • + 1
 @tack836: Sick. Thanks!
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns: brass is also a self lubricating metal so way less likely to seize. Alu vs steel however just love to bond...
  • + 1
 Nice. I'm just about to build my first set of wheels using his book as a reference.
I've been straightening wheels a bunch of times both alu and carbon but never taken the build from scratch plunge.
Trying to make a bombproof trail set using:

DT350 boost
WTB i29 Asym.
DT Comp spokes on brass nips.

$440
  • + 3
 +1 for the Brass Brigade. I'm currently working my way around my wheels, replacing all the Alu nipples for brass. I tried to true the wheel, for the first time after I got the bike and I'd say at least 5 or 6 nipples just crumbled to bits. So I'm replacing them as and when I come across a seized or broken nipple.
  • + 1
 I realised that for downhill a reasonably light rim like the Flow MKIII and the ultra-stiff Dt Swiss Champion 2.0-2.0-2.0 spokes are a good combination. I also built another extreme, an Arch EX rim with DT Swiss Revelation spokes (2.0-1.5-2.0). The spokes are so flexy that I can't to turns without the wheel bending as well. Because the tolarance between wheel and frame are tight (Schwalbe Wicked Will 26x2.5), the tyre hits the frame with a rather unsettling sound every time I make a turn. The golden standard for allround mountain biking is probably DT Swiss Competition (2.0-1.8-2.0mm), just as described in the book. But there is something special about riding a wheel with DT Swiss Champion (2.0 mm straight) that divides the pressure evenly on almost all spokes. Makes for a really stable ride, doing 30 km/h on a Mondraker Summum '13 over rock gardens.

The book Art of wheel building is not as good.
  • + 2
 @cmscheip: I was having a beer with a few brain scientists and psycologists, and they were assesing the degree of my payhology regarding bicycles. One of them asked why build your own wheel? Knowing that I don't really save money I answered, because then I get the wheel exactly as I want it. Stans flow or arch mkiii rims, hope pro 4 hubs,brass nipples for future adjustability and reliability, Dt Swiss champion or competition spokes.
  • + 1
 I'm a fan of brass on the drive side on the rear and disc side on the front. The wheel is still balanced and the spokes that require more tension won't round. The only spokes I've ever had to re-tension are Sapim CX Rays on a road wheel.
  • + 2
 @mnorris122: dans comp has sapim race butted (2.0/1.8/2.0) spokes for $.50 a piece including nipples
  • + 1
 @chize: that's exactly what I've used on every build (but with the brass nips)
  • - 1
 @joni0001984: I prefer DT Alpine III over DT Competition. They're pretty much the same, the Alpine III is just thicker near the hub. You're only adding a tiny bit of weight but it is near the hub so relatively unimportant. But if you ever break a spoke it is near the hub so to me it makes sense to have them thicker over there. I never broke one of those spokes.

When I built a new mountain unicycle wheel (broke the original rim) I thought I was clever and used plain 2.3mm spokes. I was surprised to find out that the supplied nipples fitted my standard black Park Tool wrench. Not sure what thickness that is, but the black wrench that also fits the nipples that come with 2mm DT spokes. After a couple of months riding, I cracked the nipple Wink .
  • + 1
 @vinay: I have never broken a spoke near the hub. Must be a unicycle thing.
  • + 1
 @joni0001984: I'd really like to hear about chosing champion spokes - why?

@vinay: DT Alpine are hard to get. Very few shops stock them. But yes, I'd love to have them on my wheels.
  • + 3
 @zoobab2: just pay the ~$12 for it. support the writer, he continually updates it (it's on version 7 or so now, that's an old version)
  • + 1
 @xeren: Yeah absolutely, I'm going to buy that. I learned it through friends and the Sheldon Brown website (and Calvin from Park Tool about using that spoke tension meter and the related software tool) but for this kind of money the book is well worth it.

@WAKIdesigns : Yeah I used to be able to get them through my lbs but they discontinued them so now the easiest sources (for me) are bike24.com and rosebikes.com.

@Lornholio : Unicycle wheels are subject to relatively high and sudden alternating loads (because there is no freewheel). Though I've never broken a spoke there, only a rim and a nipple.
  • + 1
 @vinay: I would say that the sudden torsional force of an MTB wheel under braking would far surpass the "to and fro" balancing of a unicycle.

Unicycle vs bicycle aside though, I have seen more than one broken spoke at either end so I don't think it's attributable to anything super obvious.
  • + 1
 @lindblomxc: So far I've worked on 2 of the Hope sets. Great hubs but the 2 (yes a small sample) sets have both had very bad longevity issues. Both detensioned badly, causing damage to the rim within a few hundred miles of buying them new. I hope this is just bad luck and their wheels are otherwise solid.
  • + 1
 @mastashake: use some spoke freeze next time.
  • + 35
 Easily my favorite part of the bike to work on. Magic pure and simple how the spokes create an almost living organism when you take it to the trail. Blake Sheldon's website has a wealth of information about wheel building! Thanks, PB!
  • + 85
 Isn't it Sheldon Brown?
  • + 31
 @m47h13u: isn't it sheldon cooper?
  • + 72
 Yes, he teaches you how to build a wheel whilst singing country music
  • + 56
 I have brass nipples Focker..., can you build me?
  • + 2
 Wheel Fanatyk is another awesome resource of information and tools.
  • + 12
 It's my favorite part of working on bikes as long as I ordered the right spokes...
  • + 1
 Sheldon Brown is like Mr. Miyagi! Dont' forget to wax on your spoke prep, and wax off the excess.
  • - 5
flag dynamatt (Nov 17, 2017 at 15:29) (Below Threshold)
 @AirBud: that’s Blake Shelton
  • + 10
 @dynamatt: the joke went right over your head
  • + 2
 @AdustytrunkMonkey: SB is awesome and a great resource for anyone... but (you knew there would be) sometimes they miss some newer stuff on the site like DT Pro Lock nipples that basically have a spoke prep of sorts already in them. Faster and easier if you're doing it professionally.
  • - 1
 @dynamatt: Sheldon from the big bang theory?
  • + 4
 @fullfacemike: To be fair the page is 15 years old and Sheldon passed away in 2008 so yeah it may not be up to date, but the info on most aspects of bike maintenance is still very much valid.
  • + 6
 @AirBud: He's also the sexiest wheel builder alive.
  • + 3
 Absolutely. Printed a few pages from the site about 10 years ago and still pull them out every time I build a wheel.
  • + 2
 @Kimura: bazinga!
  • + 1
 @AirBud: How can you concentrate on the wheel when you're watching the sexiest man alive?
  • + 0
 Seems like a good idea to learn how to build wheels. I just bought a new bike from Santa Cruz, and it came with a broken nipple. The fuckers broke it, and shipped it anyway.
  • + 1
 @m47h13u: Isn't it Charlie Brown?
  • + 1
 @m47h13u: That is fair. There's a guy (or several people?) who keeps it up but yea. I'm not knocking it, I have used, do use, and will use again that site.
  • + 0
 @m47h13u: isnt it sheldon johnson?
  • + 17
 I build all my own wheels and even built wheels for a brands top of the range bike models, my record was 12 wheels in a day and my quickest time for a single wheel was 17 mins (including dishing, stressing, tension meter testing and trying), that wheel just flew together like no other I’ve done and was perfect! They usually take around 30 mins.

I’ve built a lot of Danny Macaskills wheels too and he never broke one Smile

Wheel building can seem complicated but once you get the hang of it it’s extremely logical. Good quality parts do make a huuuuge difference though
  • + 11
 In 25 years of BikeMechanicking, I probably built over 3000 wheels. I still love it, and nowadays I just build them for fun. And three days ago, not having any spoke prep around, I dug into my painting kit and built a wheel with linseed oil, for the first time ever. The jar had been sealed for 12 years, since I did my last oil painting, and unscrewing the lid really made me see why the old timers used it on spoke threads.
  • + 7
 The shop owner that trained me swore by linseed. I built over a 1000 sets of wheels. It's a fun skill to have and very cost effective. When I raced bmx, had a friend trash a rim in practice. We drove a shop, bought a new rim. I laced it in the back seat of the car on the way back to the track. Had it done by the second moto and he won a state qualifier.
  • + 10
 I've been building my own wheels for maybe 5 years, but that probably means under ten wheels in total, since I don't need new wheels that often... I basically have to relearn the whole lacing process every time I do it, and even then I usually mess it up and end up having to undo a part of it.
  • + 6
 It usually takes me two goes to make sure the hope logo is showing through the valve hole at the correct angle. I don't know how those Taiwanese factory workers who thread 16 spokes at the same time with one hand always get it lined up properly.
  • + 1
 Stop building your wheels so well , and you'll get more practice maybe? Wink
  • + 7
 I keep a tally of wheels that I have built. It has been 27 years since my first one and as of yesterday I am at 13,675 wheels.
  • + 9
 That's about 1 wheel every 17 hours.
  • + 3
 @acali: yep, it isn't uncommon for me to do 10 wheels in a day. I have always worked at wheel building heavy shops and I build wheels for a high end road wheel company.
  • + 4
 The only part about wheel building I don't like is when you realize you fucked something up and then have to unlace it start over, but it ends up being worth it in the end. I spent several hours getting my last set perfectly true, it was worth every second and i got to use red nipples for added bling factor too.
  • + 32
 My nipples are always red. Isn't that normal?
  • + 4
 even though i know how to do maintenance and repair work on almost every bike component, and electro-mechanical technician, with experience working with small and delicate parts, i do not trust myself to build wheels, so i'd rather pay the nice blokes at my LBS to do it for me.
  • + 6
 You'd be fine. It's just like anything else, once you break it down to individual parts and see how they work together, there's nothing magical to it.
  • + 2
 @BiNARYBiKE: simply building, sure. There's a lot more to getting it perfect, and that takes a lot of practice and feel. I'd say most people can get a wheel 90% by following directions, which is more than good enough to ride for a while.
  • + 2
 @nuttypoolog: The secret is using a decent spoke tension meter and truing stand. But even if you don't have the tools, you can assemble the wheels leaving the spokes loose, then drop it off at a local shop to have them finish tensioning and truing for you. Most shops I've asked happy to do it for $20-40 per wheel, which is still quite a bit cheaper than having the wheels built professionally.
  • + 2
 @BiNARYBiKE: i probably would be fine, but the cost of wheels is what scares me off.
  • + 1
 @colourclashing: Practice is easy, haul a janky old walmart bike out of a skip, take it's wheels and practice taking them apart then re-lacing them. Within a couple of hours you'll have the wheels in better shape than when they left the factory. Just remember to mark drive/non drive spokes so you can tell them apart, or that will be the first thing you learn.
  • + 3
 It's a piece of piss but it takes more time than I've got. Might have something to do with building them straight on the bike. But it works. The index finger is mightier than the wheel building stand.
  • + 1
 @dlxah: how do you calculate the spoke lengths? That's the bit I'm finding the hardest to understand.
  • + 1
 @choppertank3e: I have usually gone to my local shop for the spokes. They usually measure the rim and look at some online calculator stuff to figure out correct length.
  • + 4
 @choppertank3e: I usually reference the spoke calculator on the DT Swiss website and the Pro Wheel builder site with my measurements just to be sure. Once you lace a set backwards you'll have wheel dishing understood perfectly....
  • + 2
 @choppertank3e: almost all hub dimensions are made available by manufacturers, rims always seem a little more tricksy to find the ERD (www.google.co.uk/search?q=effectiive+rim+diameter&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-gb&client=safari) but mostly they’re easy enough to come by also. Try to cross check info from multiple sources and also use multiple spoke calculators to be sure (even if it’s to be sure you entered the numbers correctly!).
This is probably the biggest pain in the arse about wheel building. Once you’ve got all the bits it’s nice to sit down with a beverage and get into it. Or at least it was before parenthood.
  • + 1
 @choppertank3e: What @Gmang and @ThomDawson said. I'll also add that it's generally a good idea to verify the manufacturer's ERD spec by measuring each rim yourself. Search Google for how to measure ERD. There are several good guides online, and it's not difficult to do with a couple spare spokes and nipples. Doesn't hurt to measure it a few times at 60 or 45 deg increments around the rims in case there's any variance.
  • + 1
 @dlxah: funny thing is that DT Swiss calculator calculated spoke length wrong for me. With their own 350 straight pull hubs, EX471 rims and competition spokes... it was 3mm off!!! It was the only instance when it happened to me, and the first time I used exclusively their products. I usually get other hubs.
  • + 2
 @dlxah: This is exactly what any decent wheelbuilder doesn't want you to do... At one time our shop was building several sets of wheels a week and I'd charge extra when people insisted I tension their laced-up wheels - not to be a dick but because it would force me to disassemble the wheel and then re-lace to my standards. There are multiple reasons for this:

1- Obviously, you want it laced correctly in terms of preparation, leading/trailing spoke loads, open box over valve, hub logos lining up properly, etc..
2- When you build a lot of wheels, you're thinking about the entire process from the onset. Usually takes less time to build from scratch as opposed to building from an inexperienced lacer's starting point.
3- To truly ensure the wheel is built professionally (both parts and labor) and provide a guarantee, the shop should take ownership from start to finish.

Lacing is just the first step to building a wheel. While it certainly affects the rest of the build and the final product, the real 'art' of wheelbuilding begins when the wheel hits the truing stand.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I have always only used dt Swiss components for there quality and reliability, and ever since they introduced there spoke calculator online I have used it also. I always go 1-2mm shorter than what the dt Swiss spoke calculator says and they have always been right on. Don't know why there calc is always off, even on their own products.....
  • + 1
 @yamaha0249: it's always spot on for me with j-bends, but these straight pulls got messed up.
  • + 3
 Have built a couple over the years and would love to do more. But, it's not something that an amateur gets much opportunity to do other than a bit of tweeking on out of true wheels. I need to find some victims or destroy more wheels I guess, LOL.
  • + 12
 Step 1: make friends
Step 2: build their wheels
Step 3: drink their beer

Steps are not necessary in the correct order
  • + 7
 @acali:

1. Drink their beer.
2. Build their wheels.
3. ... unlace and try again.
  • + 5
 @acali:

1. Make friends
2. Bring them beer
3. Have them build your wheels
4. Then, let them drink the beer
  • + 2
 @Camolloyd: I have a similar technique for brake bleeds as well.
  • + 5
 @acali: pffft. Amateurs. Scotch. My friends bring me Scotch.
  • + 2
 I've done a good few, though I don't think I'm very quick. I don't use an electric screwdriver like I've seen many do. I count the turns as a basic guide until they're up to tension and then I start to true them. I think it takes me an hour or so to lace and true a single wheel. Then I stress release it (or however you want to call it). That is, I subject the rim to some axial stress to allow the spokes to slide a bit with respect to each other. Then I call it a day. Next day I finish it. My wheels hold up fine (even my first mtb wheel survived the Megavalanche) but I don't think I'm on the level that I could sell a wheel and say it won't need another truing after three months of use. I used to check for equal tension just listening to the tone of the spokes (by plucking them like a string) but recently I got one of the Park spoke tension meters so I'm going to try that on my next wheels. Will probably take me even longer Wink . But it is fun. No rush. Make a cup of tea and relax. If you don't like it anymore, put it away and finish it another day.
  • + 5
 Something I've been meaning to get around to. Pretty much the only thing I can't do maintenance wise.
  • + 1
 Me too. It's my weak spot. I'll do everything from bearing removal to suspension rebuilds with my eyes closed but wheel building is still some voodoo I need to learn better - it's basically just time/experience that I've not sunk in to yet.
  • + 1
 I love 14G DT Swiss Champion spokes. I've NEVER had one break, and yes, it may weigh down a wheel by 40 grams, but the headaches involved with having to put a new spoke in a tubeless rim far outweigh those 40 miniscule grams
I'd be faster if I did it more often, but I love lacing wheels.

Things that have made my wheel building experience even better:
Park 4 sided nipple wrench- never strip a nipple again
To insert a nipple into a rim without losing it, screw it onto a spoke upside down and insert into hole.
Get a truing stand- Park TS-8 is great for beginners

My wife bought me the COOLEST tool ever, a spoke threader. Just cut any spoke to length with a Dremel tool and thread it. This takes about a minute a spoke, but means you just buy longer spokes and it they're too long, just cut'n thread

It is possible to lace up extremely strong wheels for a fraction of the cost of buying them, and if they do fail, it's easy enough to fix them, because you have a better idea of what to do.
  • + 1
 I build my own wheels and will favour manufacturers that support this. Not interested in spokes, hubs, or rims that are difficult to work with, require special tools, etc. Only buy hubs that can be converted to different dimensions.

A big advantage of building your own wheels is that you can purchase extra spokes and nipples, for quick repairs. For my DH wheels I always have a spare rim/nipples/spokes ready to go.
  • + 1
 Wheel building is a skill i would like to learn, I have always relied on places like CRC or Merlin to build my wheels. After my last set from Merlin i will be giving it a go myself next time, the rear kept going out of true (Stans Flow mk3's on Hope Pro 4's), i took it to a friend who knows his stuff and he told me the the spoke tensions were all out and the wheel had been dished by 10mm. After he sorted the rear (and found the front was the same) the wheels have been superb so i will be investing in a truing stand and having a practice myself now.
  • + 1
 I did build a wheel once; I was around 12 in the 90's and I changed the lacing of my front wheel from normal to twisted.
Undo-twist-do went wrong, so I had to start from scratch. No internet tutorials; took me 3 hours.
Took it to LBS for proper truing (the guy told me it was hard) and the wheel, so stiff, never ever had to be retrued, and it looked really sick.
Mine and the guy a I got the idea from are the only two twisted lacing wheels I've seen. I'm always thinking about doing it again.
  • + 1
 I've built a few twisted spoke wheels over the years; best one used bladed spokes and looked like a ninja weapon when complete... I don't think I'll ever do another though.
  • + 1
 @sspiff: do you find any advantages other than look? I did some research and some people swear by them.
I was a 90 pounds monkey back then, but I used to huck to flat a lot and race on a fully rigid bike, the fact that the wheel stayed true forever left me wondering...
  • + 1
 @ismasan: Built these back in my shop days and policy was any twisted spoke lacing pattern had no long-term guarantee, I generally found wheels would come back in for retensioning periodically during an initial relaxation time. After this they seemed fine. I only ever built one that I personally rode for any period of time and it felt stiff and always functioned fine, but it was a bar bike front wheel - not really the proper bike to comment on huck to flat durability (though I admit there were quite a few drunken shenanigans that it survived!). I don't remember what happened to it...
  • + 1
 I did a few in the 90's too, but i found that it put weird stresses on the nipples and eventually led to nipples breaking.
  • + 1
 I've built (and subsequently rebuilt...) about 3 sets of my own wheels. However one question I have never received a satisfying answer to is how to remove a flat spot in a rim? I know how to properly remove high spots but doing the opposite of that procedure does not result in fixing a flat spot. (I'm thinking of rim repair here, because you definitely shouldn't have any flat spots with a new wheel build.)
  • + 5
 here is an interesting tool idea for that very problem. www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oGWgSKAjw0
  • + 1
 @pevensey: wow that is perfect, thanks!
  • + 1
 Always fixed my own when I buckled them, so made sense to do a full rebuild when I bent a rim bed so followed the guide on here (that's really good), I was surprised quite how easy it was. Since then built six from scratch and currently got parts in the post to build another two. I find it a sad indication of how unskilled the average bike shop employee around these parts these days as in years past I have asked at the LBS only to be met with excuses or quotes so expensive any normal person would think insane to accept. i.e. They've acted like wheel building is a special rare art.
  • + 2
 "...you'll be quoting Jobst Brandt, and waxing poetic about the merits of a 32-hole hub laced up in a three-cross pattern with brass nipples."

Jobst (RIP) would say the correct number of spokes is 36.
  • + 1
 Wheel building is an art that takes years to become proficient. I've built over 800 wheels in my years... People have watched me with mouths wide open in amazement. It's almost like black magic! It is such a relaxing experience it feels like meditation. I just built myself new wheels yesterday!
  • + 1
 when i was 15 and pressed for cash i had to teach myself to relace a hub to a new rim to get back on the trails. how hard can it be i thought. took me a few tries and now a few years later i have laced maltiple wheels just for fun.
  • + 1
 I can build the hell out of some wheels, do i want to? nah. I am so lazy when it comes to wheels. I have built so many when I worked at the shop, I think it took all the fun out of it lol. I would rather pay to have it done now i think.
  • + 1
 Well..I haven't counted how many wheels I've built this far, but I did it at least couple times at week for five years when working at a bike shop. Since that I've built plenty of wheels for my self (and my friends). Building wheels feels almost relaxing/meditating king of activity to me (chilling at home, building with quality components and enjoying some good beverage Wink ). It seems to be quite intimidating black magic kind of thing to some, but it's fairly simple thing after all.

Truing wheels can also be satisfying, especially when you revive an almost hopeless case and it holds on for one more race/trip/season. But trying to true some low quality cheap wheels.....It can be done, but it's so annoying/frustrating, because you know it's not gonna hold straight for long. Have had to do it way too much for customers who don't want to invest on some decent quality rims/wheels, but are willing to waste a lot of money during longer period of time to keep their cheap wheels running...Having hard time to find the logic behind that.
  • + 2
 Love lacing wheels. Nice off-season activity, plus it is quite relaxing. I had to do 3 pairs for my husband in the last month, I ended up filming a tutorial on how to lace wheels ????
  • + 0
 Cuz the first three pairs you built him fell apart?
Hahaha
  • + 1
 Built one set of wheels before in........2001 for my Schwinn Supermatic BMX. Alex double wall hoops with Suzue "fat jack" high flange hubs, beefier flat axles, 4 crossed the spokes and they still work great. I barely ride the bike anymore. Used The Bicycle Wheel, 3rd edition by Jobst Brandt book and it was great. Never bought or used a spoke tensioning tool and never used the Park truing stand again either. I don't remember it being very hard and I'd do it again for mtb wheels if I ever have to get new wheels.
  • + 1
 Sorry to hear about that set. 48 hole, 20 inch, high flange 4 cross wheels have to be about the most painful wheels to build. No room to work
  • + 1
 I'm a wheel builder with 16 years mechanic experience and i love build wheel. Some times become a real challenge but it's part of the game.
How long do you take guys for build a MTB wheel? What is your best time? Mine 30 minutes with Stans flow MK3, Hope pro 4 hub, DT swiss champion spokes and brass nipples. Smile
  • + 3
 Laced my husband's in less than 25min with DT 350 hubs, DT comp spokes and HX581 rims.
  • + 1
 I once tag teamed with a friend and we did a radial front rim brake wheel, laced and tensioned in 15 minutes. Then we rode home and took the long way which took a couple hours. At night. I used to be able to do a pair in a little over an hour. Now it takes me an hour each but I also use a cheap Park tesiometer. I find it helps a lot.
  • + 1
 @marymoncorge: Your husband is a lucky guy.
  • + 2
 Having built a fair number, I finding building wheels pretty tedious. Once you learn how to do it and proven you can do it, there's really nothing challenging or interesting left...just tedium.
  • + 1
 That just means you aren’t thinking.
  • + 2
 MTB wheels are easy compared to BMX which have more, and shorter spokes. First set of wheels I built were for an 87 Haro Sport with Peregrine 48s hoops and hubs. Not fun, but I learned quickly.
  • + 2
 wheel building is my proudest skill as a bike mechanic, I'm not has high up as some people on here but I've built wheels of all types from Bmx to road and mountain. id say I have about 3-400 builds under my belt
  • + 1
 I built my first "serious" road bike wheels around 1975: Rare one-piece chrome-plated-steel Campy hubs, Fiamme red label rims, and I forget what kind of spokes. That was when Clement Campionato del Mondo Seta tires were $25 each. Quite a sum back in the mid-1970s, but I got three of them. All the parts came from the Montrose Bike Shop, So-Cal. Later on, I became friends with Gravy of GravyWheels, and he built me a set. Never once had to touch them with a spoke wrench until I wore through the back rim. And still later I went to BBI and learned the "secrets" of how to accomplish this.
  • + 4
 Being a bike mechanic its must do. Every week at least one set and its more fun then bleed (Avid) SRAM brakes Smile
  • + 3
 Nothing beats spending an early morning knowing you're on wheel/flat duty and not bleeding brakes...
  • + 4
 i realy enjoy building wheels at the lbs where i work, its relaxing, a bit of music, and get them going
  • + 1
 wow,such comments.

I truly enjoy building wheels, and its not that hard to get a pretty good build. Just read a few articles, watch a few youtubes and use common sense.

If you´re accurate and spend the time you will get a better build than machine built wheels, and I guess that an expert builder can squeeze another 10-15% performance over your own build...... if you lace it correctly, tensioned it evenly and are meticulous.
  • + 1
 Done a few in my day. They didn't hold up too well. There's a reason why guys like Gravy are famous for their wheel builds. I think there really is an art to it and a master can get that extra bit of balance and perfect tension out of it that makes the wheel hold together and stay true for longer. Takes years to get to that Master level.
  • + 9
 It takes years to get the reputation of "master", but with proper technique and a few practice wheels, one can achieve amazing results in wheel building in a pretty short amount of time.

I've been building wheels for about 10 years now and only recently have I really stepped up my game, after I started working with a better wheelbuilder than myself. Having someone with whom to brainstorm ideas is a great way to expand your knowledge base and try new things with bike mechanics.
  • + 3
 @seraph: One thing I learned from working with one of the best wheel builders of all time is; don't work with junk. If the rim is a piece of crap, you'll never make a good wheel with it. Same with hubs, spokes, and nipples.
A lot of garage mechanics make this mistake, and start with a losing combination. Maybe it's obvious like they're trying to reuse old alloy nipples, maybe they're using spokes that aren't the correct length.... but it's also just as easy to buy the latest design and have it turn out that the new rim was too soft or brittle.
  • + 3
 nah, literally the first wheel i built is still holding up. musson's pdf, if you absorb the whole thing will make you into a competent wheel builder.

the difference between a master and and amateur like me isn't the quality of the wheel build (or at least, not enough to matter), it's the speed at which they can do it. my builds take >3 hours - one wheel is a full night for me. a really good builder can do it in like 1/4 the time.
  • + 3
 @nuttypoolog: Agreed. Hard to mess up building with good modern stuff, the standards are so much higher now. the wheels build up super fast. Sign of a real master is being able to quickly build a good wheel from a crappy rim.
  • + 1
 @nuttypoolog: amen sir
  • + 2
 @xeren: "the difference between a master and and amateur like me isn't the quality of the wheel build (or at least, not enough to matter), it's the speed at which they can do it. my builds take >3 hours - one wheel is a full night for me. a really good builder can do it in like 1/4 the time."

Right you are--an occasional builder can do a good job, but will spend a lot of time going in circles. The step up in proficiency comes when one can adjust true, roundness, tension, and dish simultaneously. That is how professionals make the jump from 1+ hr. builds down to 30 min builds.
  • + 1
 @e-fro: yep, i haven't put that all together in my head (and i doubt i ever will, since i just don't build enough wheels). my wheel builds will probably take 3+ hours for the rest of my life.

but i was shocked at how much more proficient I became between build #1 and build #5 - things became much, much more intuitive.
  • + 1
 After waiting for the local “pro” to order my spokes, get it wrong....order again and totally screwed up the build I learned to do it myself. Takes sometime and patience but well worth it.
  • + 1
 Definitely a skill worth learning, but sounds like you need a better shop too.
  • + 1
 I built my first wheelset two years ago. It was fun to learn and not too hard to do. Rode all the same trails/bikeparks/jumps/drops etc. They held speeds up to 80km/h. Try it and save some money Smile
  • + 2
 first wheel i built i realized it wasnt black magic at all - and its actually quite easy, just a little bit time consuming. you do want to buy all the proper tools though...
  • + 2
 Always wanted to do this, thing I always struggled with was calculating the spoke length when speccing up a build and then went "ah f#@£ it I'll buy some hopes"
  • + 1
 There's a plethora of free spoke calculators online.
  • + 2
 i like to allign the hub brands, valve hole, sixbolt position, rotors marking, tire brand and also 1 color spoke in valve area (with wide spokes position of course) Smile Smile Smile
  • + 1
 I would love to build a pair, but my DT Swiss ex471s are just too strong, I can't seem to destroy them. I crash and land sideways all the time and they are straight as an arrow.
  • + 4
 With the help of Youtube - you can build the world!
  • + 1
 I built a wheelset once. It was awful. Probably if I screw up three to four more sets, I will figure it out. Just need to be confident and have patience.... and the right spoke length too, haha
  • + 1
 While we're on the topic of wheels - can anyone recommend durable alloy replacement rims in *28 hole*/29"? My OEM DT Swiss wheels work great but I'd like a wider footprint than 22.5mm.
  • + 2
 DT Swiss XM 481 are 30mm internal, and come in 28H. i have 3 of these rims across 2 different bikes and have zero complaints about them
  • + 2
 @xeren: Cheers! These look like the way to go.
  • + 3
 Six months? Try last night. Lol
  • + 1
 Same here! And had my trusty Jobst Brandt next to me for quick reference
  • + 1
 After close to a decade in bikeshops, ive built plenty of wheels... Still do it from time to time, but not nearly as much as I used to.
  • + 1
 This is great. Should be an add in for hiw many people can true up a wheel. So many i know who rude all the time and bikes are their life cant even true a wheel. .......
  • + 2
 Always have, always will build my own wheels the only thing I ever stress over is getting the correct spoke length.
  • + 1
 Do mavic make a special tool for holding straight pull spokes inplace when building wheels,had a right game rebuilding my old deetraxx
  • + 2
 There are a couple companies that make tools to hold bladed spokes and the best one for round is a tool called the twist resist.
  • + 2
 I struggle with building a sandwich let alone a wheel, without doubt that’d be certain death
  • + 1
 I built a set of wheels with those ex471s and man those rims are the tits. I'm thinking my next bike might have to be built up with them again.
  • + 1
 check out the EX 511. as far as i can tell, they're the 30mm version of the ex471
  • + 1
 Which tension meters are people using? Opinions please... P&K Lie, Sapim, DT Swiss, Park, FSA, Ebay special, or just a good pluck with the finger?
  • + 1
 the park one seems to be the best cross between build quality and cost for an amateur builder
  • + 2
 To quote an old story here, some people should never fuck with the b-limit screw or pickup a spoke wrench. Thats me.
  • + 1
 Ive built one wheel luckily as was at the shop and the mechanic showed me how while doing it That wheel still runs true and been 2 years NEVER Again
  • + 1
 Don't give up. The second one will be easier than the first, and the third one easier than that.
  • + 1
 @iamamodel: someone gave a wheel for free in pieces

gotta build the dam thing now lol
  • + 2
 I was priviledged enough to learn how to build wheels by the late great John Kovachi.
  • + 1
 Yes sir!
  • + 1
 I've done it out of necessity in bmx. grenade a hub you just swap it over. or on really old stuff, getting rid of a coaster hub, swap it over.
  • + 2
 I once changed a spoke on a 26" wheel, but then i bought a 27.5" and i couldn't get my head around the extra length.
  • + 1
 I'm an armchair engineer, of course I know how to build a wheel !!! I know how to design and manufacture it too in case you're interested.
  • + 1
 Best thing I ever learned to do on my bikes is building wheels, just finished an Onyx SS on WTB i29 asym last week, bombproof.
  • + 1
 I only use red nipples around my valve stems. Spoke prep is key. Bong resin works great as does linseed oil. Something Zen about making the wheels ....
  • + 2
 Building my last wheelset was very relaxing and enjoyable for me. Looking forward to the next set.
  • + 3
 I only know how to break them.
  • + 1
 Been building wheels for over 25years, learned from Frank the builder. Built a lot for racers. Prep work, tension and stressing is key for a great wheel.
  • + 1
 I've built more than I can count. I worked for a small custom wheel builder for ten years off and on... Kovachi Wheels. RIP John
  • + 3
 Sorry, That's Sheldon Brown.com - mildly dislexic sometimes..Wink
  • + 1
 Where is the option for "I am a professional mechanic and have built so many wheels I can do it (insert handicap of choice here, ie, blindfolded, asleep, etc..)"
  • + 1
 tacoing wheels annually, its become something i've had to learn, and doesn't hurt the wallet as much. its pretty simple if you have the proper resources.
  • + 1
 the wheelbuilding process is easy, but picking the right size spokes may be tight
  • + 0
 leonard.io google it, best calculator I've used
  • + 1
 Haven't yet but I'd like to. I'd leave The final touches to someone who knows what they're doing though.
  • + 1
 I've been using musson's book for 800 years and it is still holding up well. Good build quality.
  • + 2
 New winter project! Building a wheelset!
  • + 1
 Honestly assembling and truing a wheel is very tedious, but when you master it you save some bills XD
  • + 2
 I have built over 4000 wheels!!!
  • + 1
 Its all about even spoke tension, and checking your wheels periodically for damage, trueness and even spoke tension.
  • + 1
 I used to build bicycle wheels for a living when I was in my early 20s. Was a pretty good paying gig for a bike shop job.
  • + 2
 Don't know how to build wheels , just know how to trash them !!
  • + 1
 The most important question for a wheel builder is "are you a Brandt or a Schraner type?".
  • + 1
 I tried once, remeber that video of the guy rampaging down the highway in a bulldozer?
  • + 2
 I know how to build and how to destroy !
  • + 2
 I've built a 1000 or so sets of wheels. Think I know a thing or 2..
  • + 1
 it's easier to lace the wheels on my dirt bike than my bicycle. Then again I'm no good at either.
  • + 3
 I'm on my 4th one today.
  • + 1
 yes, with a stick, screw driver and spoke wrench. only tools used
  • + 1
 Sh1t I don't know how to break a wheel.
  • + 1
 I need to open up my wheel building business again, judging by the polls
  • + 1
 Why would you do that with so many obvious experts here...? Wink
  • + 1
 Duke knows how to build a f'n wheel !
  • + 1
 This sexy article makes be wanna build a wheel
  • + 1
 I9 pull spokes is cheating when building a wheel
  • + 1
 But they come out together
  • + 1
 Can I build a wheel? You mean a round one right?......no
  • + 2
 Slow day?
  • + 1
 What are the essential tools one needs to build a wheel?
  • + 1
 Things that have made my wheel building experience even better:
Park 4 sided nipple wrench- never strip a nipple again
To insert a nipple into a rim without losing it, screw it onto a spoke upside down and insert into hole.
Get a truing stand- Park TS-8 is great for beginners

Beer? Never hurts! Music? Comfy chair.
Follow the instructions on Sheldon Browns website. I use a spoke calculator to figure out correct spoke length, this is probably the hardest part. I use leonard.io
Have fun!
  • + 1
 @woofer2609: Good tips. Also, a good, well-lighted work area cannot be overstated. Consider also spoke prep - I used two colors (spokes on either side of a wheel may be of different lengths - so I'd use one color for L and the other for R so I could tell the spokes apart.) A spoke ruler is essential, and a spoke tensioner is very useful too but they tend to be pricey. I also have a Park Tool magnetic dish to keep the nipples in one place. ONLY USE BRASS.
  • + 2
 Long live Brass!
  • + 1
 The only way
  • + 1
 When's the last time you built a wheel? YESTERDAY!
  • + 1
 Park TM-1. Brass nips. can't be beat
  • - 2
 Truing? Sure. Building? Nope. Of course my next wheels will be Santa Cruz Reserves so I won’t have to worry about it ever. Smile
  • + 3
 as someone who has build several hundred wheels that seems really weird. Building wheels is a lot easier than fixing a wheel someone has messed up.
  • + 1
 I wish I knew how
  • + 1
 wheel building is an art
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