Author Topic: Who does their own wheels?  (Read 866 times)

pavel

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Who does their own wheels?
« on: August 24, 2016, 07:52:10 PM »
Long ago I spent a summer and a semester as a bike mechanic.  I tried to build a few wheels, under some semi-expert tutelage and found myself to no be very good at it.  I think as a young person I did not have the same patient mind set I might be able to muster now, and there were pressures to rush everything, so I've never re-visitied the idea. 

In truth it is not a way to save money. By the time one gets good tools (and I despise sub-standard tools) there goes the money for a decent wheel, and as far as profit over getting a wheel built, I think one would have to do many builds just to break even. But there may be a satisfaction to building one's own wheels. I imagine that with the right mind set, it could be kind of ... therapeutic?

Anyways, I have two questions. Who here on the forum builds their own wheels, and why?  Also, other than premium Parks equipment, which seems to be priced at the platinum level, are there good tools by lesser names that you would recommend?

I think a minor itch is back. I wonder if I'd enjoy the build process and get a true wheel at the same time as a new hobby?

Danneaux

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Re: Who does their own wheels?
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2016, 08:32:57 PM »
Pavel,

I've ended up building an awful lot of wheels over the last 38 years. Though others might differ, except for spoke wrenches, I've never found the price or quality of my wheel building tools affected the outcome, though tool quality certainly affects ease of use and convenience. The primary determinants were the time, patience, skill, and care I put into the task. I've built wheels while on tour using only the bike as a stand and dishing gauge. When I needed to get fancy, I used a shot glass and stack of coins on a sidewalk cafe table as a dishing gauge.

In each case, the final wheel ended up true to within 0.1mm (about the thickness of a piece of printer paper and my usual standard), built with high, even tension, later confirmed with a tension meter. I must be doing something right, because I have several pairs of wheels that have remained true with well over 20,000 miles of use in really brutal conditions and I have yet to break a spoke in a wheel I have made.

That said, my usual shop tools are an all-steel truing stand and dishing gauge by Minoura both well over 30 years old. I bought them because they were what I could afford at the time and I have kept them because they continue to work well. I use a Bicycle Research offset nipple driver for initial threading, and Park loop spoke wrenches for initial tensioning. I use a Rixen & Kaul SpoKey Pro 4-sided spoke wrench with stacked double driver inserts for high tensioning.  I have found this spoke wrench prevents nipple distortion. An old Sugino left-side crankarm is used for spoke setting and fisherman's parallel-jaw pliers are used with the Spokey to limit spoke windup at high tension. I prefer to lube my nipple seats and threads with a mix of anti-seize and Phil Tenacious Oil.

Wheelbuilding is an enjoyable hobby and a useful skill to have in hand while on-tour. Once you have the basic skills down. You can be largely self sufficient in most circumstances with just a spoke wrench.

Best,

Dan.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2016, 07:07:08 AM by Danneaux »

mickeg

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Re: Who does their own wheels?
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2016, 08:58:41 PM »
I built up my own wheels for my LHT and those wheels are now on my VO Pass Hunter, the wheels for my Sherpa, for my Airnimal Joey foldup, and for my Nomad.  All of these bikes I bought the frame and built it up for myself.

I worked in a bike shop in the early 70s, was not good at building wheels at that time.  There were between 15 and 20 of us working as mechanics, it was a large bike shop.  When new bikes came in and had to be assembled, the wheels were never in true.  Since we had many more mechanics than truing stands, I got quite competent at using the bike brake blocks in the frame as my truing stand.  There were some very good mechanics there, they always did the complete wheel building, so I only built wheels for myself.

But when I built up my LHT in 2004, I decided to try wheel building again.  With the time lapse I could not remember how to go about building a wheel, so I was happy to find that Sheldon put together a very good article on how at:
http://www.sheldonbrown.com/wheelbuild.html
Even though I had built wheels before, after reading Sheldon's article I felt that I knew more than I had known when I worked in the shop.  Without that article, I probably would have bought complete wheels.  And the internet made spoke length calculators easy to find.  I was quite pleased with my first set of wheels after reading that article.

I shared that Sheldon Brown article with a friend who used to be a co-worker before we both retired.  He used it to learn how to build wheels too.  He now works one day a week as a bike mechanic at a bike charity.  He was the only one that knew how to build wheels there, so he taught the other mechanics how to build wheels, all from that Sheldon Brown article and his own wheel building experience. 

On two of my sets of wheels before long tours, I brought them in to the charity where my friend works and he checked my spoke tension with a Park meter, I do not have a meter to check that so was happy that he has access to one.

I have not invested in a better truing stand, I still use the bike frame and brake blocks as my truing stand.  Since I trued up wheels that way decades ago, I got used to it, so a truing stand would be little benefit to me.  I do not have a dishing tool, instead I frequently turn my wheel around in the frame so that if the rim is off to one side, it becomes very apparent and can be adjusted during the truing phase.

But I can say with certainty that a good spoke wrench is worth having so you do not round off any nipples.  I have several Park spoke wrenches in three colors for different gauge nipples.  And I carry one of those on my bike tours.

When practical I buy Wheelsmith DB-14 spokes.  On my Nomad (my most recent set of wheels) I used straight gauge instead on the rear wheel simply because I could not find the right length DB-14 spokes for the Rohloff wheel, but someone had the straight gauge ones in my length on sale.  Also on the Nomad I used Sapim nipples for the first time for both front and rear. 

I used to buy my spokes from a local shop that would measure my hub, my rim, calculate the spoke lengths I needed and sell me the spokes at a very good price with two spare spokes per wheel.  That shop closed, so for my most recent wheel set (the Nomad) I had to calculate the spoke lengths and buy the spokes elsewhere.  A bag of 50 was cheaper than the other local shops wanted for 36, so I changed my spoke source to the internet instead of a local shop.  Fortunately the Nomad has two undished wheels, so only needed two bags of spokes, not three.

I mainly do the wheel building myself because bike mechanic stuff is a hobby that I enjoy.  Thus, I do not mind spending the time working on them.  And that way I can choose the exact spokes, rims and hubs that I want.  I might have the only Nomad that has a 36 spoke Rohloff wheel in back and a SP dynohub on the front.  Fortunately SJS could supply the CSS rim I thought I wanted in 36 spokes with the Rohloff drilling for the Nomad.

martinf

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Re: Who does their own wheels?
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2016, 06:46:22 AM »
I started replacing spokes and re-truing wheels in 1976 (because the factory wheels on the bike I had at the time broke spokes frequently in the rear wheel).

A few years later I bought a VAR truing stand (very expensive at the time), and since then I have either built up the wheels for family bikes, or systematically checked and retensioned wheels that came already built on new or second-hand bikes when necessary. In practice, nearly all ready built wheels have required attention, with the exception of the 3 wheels built by Thorn/SJS cycles. 

I've never felt the need for a dishing tool (I turn the wheel around in the truing stand), and not bothered with a tension guage.

The truing stand has been worth it, with over 35 years of use. But I have sometimes retrued ready-built wheels using the bike frame and brake pads when too lazy to remove the wheel from the bike, when the rim allows this without removing the tyre.

Good spoke wrenches are worth it, but I have occasionally used a small adjustable end wrench as an emergency spoke wrench.

I have had very few wheel problems since I started building or retensioning my wheels. I still carry spare spokes on tours, but have never needed them.

pavel

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Re: Who does their own wheels?
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2017, 03:05:54 PM »
Sorry to revive an old thread.  I put it out of my mind as best as I could but it's never completely left.  I don't think I got across my point for the motivation.

I studied "process piping design" in college (lot's of mechanical physics, some metallurgy etc, all that later would serve in a very indirect way to my wanting a Rohloff, and appreciating bicycles from a design point of view, rather than just for their use) Then after moving to the US and wanting to do something very different. It wasn't rational, I was sort of pulled by emotions contrary to intellect.  I went to community college and studied to become a machinist and then Tool and Die.  I could see it would not be suitable for me as a job - the writing was on the wall back in 92 that the industry was moving from a highly skilled craftman like occupation towards Computer controlled low skill mind numbing work.  How little I knew how right I was.  But I've always been glad I took such an odd turn.  I loved it.

Well what's that got to do with wheel-building and hobbies as existential angst?  I think what motivates me in some of my lusts is not exactly the thing itself.  I don't really particularly care about a nice wheel.  I could just buy that and be done with it.  But I want something where the process is the thing itself. For example, the first project in my machinist study was to work one half day a week, all semester long, and hand build a knife from a block of metal. it had to all be filed by hand, hardened, temper, the works.  I don't care for knives one bit.  Don't even own a pocket knife.  But I build four of them - like some sort of obsessed nut-job, always trying to make it "better"  And so I keep wondering about the bicycle wheel as a hobby itself.  The process itself. The wheel as un-obtainable perfection and art? Yeah, I know how strange that sounds.  :) (but maybe some of you can relate?)

It's even weirder, because I'm kind of wondering if I'm not tired of and done with cycling.  Honestly if I did not have a bike with a Rohloff inside that rear stay, I'm almost certain I'd move on. But I can't part with something I find so beautifully engineered and thus so full of potential. It's either get out ... or fully get in.  And I'm sitting here unable to decide - months now. I mean my Kawasaki KLR takes me to the same bits of natural beauty as my bicycle could - but much easier, with much less sweat. So is cycling some substitute for religious cravings.  Zen and the perfect harmony inside the quest for the perfect wheel?

To sum up, I'll use an example.  This is the truing stand, if I go forward with this that I think I'll aspire to.  The price is a bit high at $1800 US dollars, but what price, sublime perfection? It seems a harmonious accompaniment to the Rohloff, does it not? I will purchase this, a few Rohloff hubs, move far away to a monastery in Tibet, and attain perfection.


 Plus - I can ride the thing!

So any comments on this truing stand, with regards to true enlightenment?   http://www.pklie.de/truing_stand.html


Oh, and by the way -is it true that one should not make major decisions on pain medication? :D


David Simpson

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Re: Who does their own wheels?
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2017, 05:05:42 PM »
... I will purchase this, a few Rohloff hubs, move far away to a monastery in Tibet, and attain perfection.

Perfection? Have you considered the shipping costs from Bridgwater?

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mickeg

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Re: Who does their own wheels?
« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2017, 05:42:06 PM »
First I will make an update to add to my lengthy post above for those that came here to learn about wheel building.  I built up three more wheels since the above post was written.  I used 12 mm Sapim nipples on Wheelsmith DB-14 spokes on two of those wheels.  Got home a few days ago from a 5 day short loop tour with my camping gear.  Those wheels functioned perfectly.

The rear was of course dished (not Rohloff hub) and I was not enthusiastic about buying two bags of spokes when one would do. (Spokes usually sold in 2 mm increments.) I learned of Sapim nipple washers at another internet site:
http://forums.roadbikereview.com/wheels-tires/lets-talk-about-nipple-washers-315229.html

I figured out from the spoke calculator that if I used one nipple washer on each drive side nipple on the rear, that I could allow me to use the same spoke length on both sides of the wheel saving me from having to buy a second bag of spokes.  Bought enough concave Sapim nipples for the drive side plus a few spares.  This vendor is in USA, you likely have more choices where to buy these if you are in Europe.
https://www.bikehubstore.com/Sapim-Nipple-Washer-Round-PolyAx-p/spw-1.htm

A couple photos attached, and yes I have a disc on back but rim brake on front.

Sorry to revive an old thread. 

...

To sum up, I'll use an example.  This is the truing stand, if I go forward with this that I think I'll aspire to.  The price is a bit high at $1800 US dollars, but what price, sublime perfection? It seems a harmonious accompaniment to the Rohloff, does it not? I will purchase this, a few Rohloff hubs, move far away to a monastery in Tibet, and attain perfection.

 Plus - I can ride the thing!

So any comments on this truing stand, with regards to true enlightenment?   http://www.pklie.de/truing_stand.html

Oh, and by the way -is it true that one should not make major decisions on pain medication? :D

Not sure how many places there are to use a Rohloff fitted wheel in the area surrounding monasteries in Tibet.  But if that is your goal, go for it.  But before you go to Tibet you should find out how to ship things to the monastery, as that could add some difficulties to your plans.  At higher elevation, rotor driven aircraft like helicoptors do poorly, thus depending on Amazon drones to deliver hubs might not be a reliable means of procurement.

A side note:  I no longer open links I see on bike forums, there was an article today in NYTimes on how a lot of malware is spread now in social media since people are more careful about what is in e-mails.  In this case, I put the truing stand link (above) into google search, I then opened the google cached version of that page.  That is a neat stand but I still use the brake blocks in a frame for my truing stand.

Regarding major decisions on pain meds?  Cooooooooooooool.   I am old enough that we used to use phrases like far out and groovy.

JimK

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Re: Who does their own wheels?
« Reply #7 on: May 29, 2017, 06:46:22 PM »
yeah, riding around Tibet is one of my dreams that I used to justify buying a Nomad! "Tibet" is a difficult term. In China there is the Tibetan Autonomous Region, where Lhasa is located. But Tibetan culture spreads far beyond that. Quite a few people ride in those regions, e.g. https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=1mr&page_id=153971&v=Qj Bill Weir.