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Computer built wheels

Old 08-07-20, 09:56 AM
  #1  
rydabent
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Computer built wheels

Most cyclist feel that having wheels built by a master wheel builder is the zenith of bike wheels. Well maybe they are, but most of us do not have a set of them.

OTOH both my bike and trike im sure has computer built wheels. My bike is 12 years old and my trike is 9 years old, and the 5 wheels on both of them are perfectly true yet. I have never had to put a spoke wrench on any of them.

What has been your experience?
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Old 08-07-20, 10:47 AM
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Bike parts Wholesalers (To Bike Shops) make up wheels using automated wheel machines,

The assembly factories making new bikes do too.
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Old 08-07-20, 11:06 AM
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Computers are never wrong. Always trust the computer.
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Old 08-07-20, 11:26 AM
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I don't know about computers but my understanding is that machine built wheels can be as "good" as the manufacturer chooses, depending on how many passes ($$) through the tensioning process. It's been awhile since I read about that so it could be all different now.
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Old 08-07-20, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by tyrion View Post
Computers are never wrong. Always trust the computer.
That must be why all those Tesla drivers are dead.
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Old 08-07-20, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
Most cyclist feel that having wheels built by a master wheel builder is the zenith of bike wheels. Well maybe they are, but most of us do not have a set of them.

OTOH both my bike and trike im sure has computer built wheels. My bike is 12 years old and my trike is 9 years old, and the 5 wheels on both of them are perfectly true yet. I have never had to put a spoke wrench on any of them.

What has been your experience?
My experience is that machine build wheels are generally better than those build by a man and I build wheels all the time - or did until good wheels became cheaper than buying a set of good spokes.
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Old 08-07-20, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
What has been your experience?
The OEM wheels that were on my touring bike when I bought it were definitely "computer built," and I usually checked their trueness about once a year. I never had to make more than a minor adjustment to those wheels.

I ended up building a new front wheel for that same bike (laced a Sturmey Archer XL-FDD into a Mavic A319) because my V-brake arms were wearing out too quickly due to my all-weather riding habits. The drum brake in the new hub gave me a permanent solution to my front braking needs, so I built the wheel myself. I've checked it for trueness once a year (about 4 years total) and have never had to make any adjustments. Once the spokes were properly tensioned and balanced, that wheel became pretty much bomb-proof.

That's been my experience with pretty much all my wheels across 5 different bikes over the years: once you get the spoke tension right, there's not much in the day-to-day world that will un-true a good wheel.
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Old 08-08-20, 08:38 AM
  #8  
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Road a Wheelmaster wheel for well over 30 years and never turned a spoke more than 1/4 turn in all that time. Magic MA40 rim with 36 ST Swiss straightgage spokes. This is with a 220 pound rider. Only reason I replaced it was it ate a broken chain.

Always amazed when people state categorically to always buy a hand built wheel. Not sure how much of that is factual, how much is posturing and how much is someone wanting a union card punched
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Old 08-08-20, 08:51 AM
  #9  
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Back in the early 80s, Trek used a wheel building robot from Holland Mechanics. The robot needed to be fed wheels that had been manually laced, and then it tensioned the spokes. The wheels were touched up by hand after leaving the robot.

Things have progressed since then, e.g.:

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Old 08-08-20, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Pop N Wood View Post
Road a Wheelmaster wheel for well over 30 years and never turned a spoke more than 1/4 turn in all that time. Magic MA40 rim with 36 ST Swiss straightgage spokes. This is with a 220 pound rider. Only reason I replaced it was it ate a broken chain.
A properly built wheel shouldn’t require a quarter turn at any point in it’s life. A quarter turn of a spoke nipple is a major adjustment. The problem with most machine built wheels is that they aren’t sufficiently tensioned and have a history of breaking spokes, especially for heavy riders.

Always amazed when people state categorically to always buy a hand built wheel. Not sure how much of that is factual, how much is posturing and how much is someone wanting a union card punched
Huh? I’ve never seen anyone categorically state to “always buy a hand built wheel”. They nice to have but most people don’t.

And, news flash, there is no bicycle wheel builders union. Custom wheel builders are usually individuals that build wheels through a shop or as a side job or because they just like to build wheels. I guarantee that no one is getting rich off of building wheels. The cost of parts at wholesale is expensive and, when labor and markup are included, the cost of a wheel set quickly becomes prohibitively expensive. The bike and bike wheel manufacturers buy thousands of units and get a huge price break on the parts. Some guy building 10 wheels a year on spec can’t get the same break. Add in overhead...shop rental, insurance, utilities...and the little guy isn’t going to make much on an expensive wheel set. They are almost doing you a favor.

I build my own wheels...I don’t build for others due to liability...and I also teach people how to build wheels through my local co-op. The very first thing I tell my students is

...Let me start by saying that if you are planning on building a wheel to beat the price the “Man” charges for a new wheel, stop right there. Just as with building up a bicycle, don’t do it to save money. You won’t. Machine built wheels are available at less cost than any hand built wheel. If you just need a wheel at a reasonable price, talk to a bike shop. They can find you really good wheels for very reasonable prices.
But I also tell them

Now that I’ve turned you off to the whole idea of building wheels, I’ll address some of the reasons that you should build a wheel.There are certain wheel combinations that you just won’t find in a prebuilt wheel. Seldom are you going to find butted spokes or boutique hubs. Perhaps you want wider rims or even narrower rims. Perhaps you want some combination of wheel components that will be lighter and stronger than what you can get in a prebuilt wheel. You might tour and want stronger wheels so that you don’t have to replace broken spokes. Maybe you like the idea of riding on something that you built. The list is endless.

Just don’t go building wheels to “stick it to the Man”. The House always wins.
Bottom line: if you want a wheel that is made with a Shimano hub, 2.0mm spokes and whatever rim is suitable, buy a machine built wheel. You can’t really go all that wrong...the issue with broke spokes notwithstanding. If you have special needs (see above), go custom or build your own.

But never assume anyone is getting rich off of bicycles.
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Old 08-08-20, 02:15 PM
  #11  
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I've searched everywhere, but I haven't been able to find an app for my computer that will allow it to build wheels. Is it because I'm using a Mac?
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Old 08-08-20, 03:31 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
bunch of stuff
Wow. Struck a nerve on that one. 30+ year wheel with a heavy rider and never a broken spoke. Sounds like a well built wheel to me,not sure what else one could ask for.

As for never hearing to buy hand built wheels , not sure what to say to that one.
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Old 08-08-20, 05:45 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
Back in the early 80s, Trek used a wheel building robot from Holland Mechanics. The robot needed to be fed wheels that had been manually laced, and then it tensioned the spokes. The wheels were touched up by hand after leaving the robot.

Things have progressed since then, e.g.:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKLkr2hM524
The Shuz Tung machinery does not look that fast. Lots of steps still done purely by hand. But it will work with hands that have no skill. That is the only purpose. It is about total respect for capex and zero respect for humans.

A skilled wheelbuilder doing production work - series of wheels all to same spec - should build a wheel in about fifteen minutes. I will name names if anyone cares. Full custom wheels take 20 minutes. Capex on a hand build wheel shop is trivial. It would take a market for huge volumes of wheels for the machine built wheel to make any sense. Sure, Giant and Trek will want these. Most others should work with humans. But that would mean respecting humans.

Even in the promo video Shuz Tung has a more manual setup for high end wheels. Accuracy of 0.1mm is presented as some sort of big deal. Hand built wheels hit that mark every time if the rim itself is accurate.

One of my favorite wheels was built by Oscar Wastyn in 1959. Did not have huge miles when I got it but plainly had been used. Prewar FB hub, 32 hole. Unknown spokes about 1.9/1.4mm butted with a uniform layer of protective rust. Fiamme Red Label rim, a rim that all over at C&V will claim is Kleenex. So far about 10,000 miles in my custody. Have not done a thing to that wheel and it is dead straight, perfectly centered, absolutely uniformly tensioned.
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Old 08-08-20, 05:56 PM
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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
Most cyclist feel that having wheels built by a master wheel builder is the zenith of bike wheels. Well maybe they are, but most of us do not have a set of them.

OTOH both my bike and trike im sure has computer built wheels. My bike is 12 years old and my trike is 9 years old, and the 5 wheels on both of them are perfectly true yet. I have never had to put a spoke wrench on any of them.

What has been your experience?
You have a bicycle? I am shocked!! Based on your posting, I would have never guessed.

My experiences are...
- single wall rim machine built wheels are trash. The ones I have come across through refurbishing bikes have consistently been unimpressive. They were all machine built based on a cost avoidance strategy. Many are out of true both radially and laterally. Lateral trying is easy enough so thats usually what gets fixed.

- modern double wall rim machine built wheels can be good and can be terrible. It all depends on the rider and how much time went into tensioning and trying the wheels during the build. This is, as mentioned, the number of cycles a wheel goes through.
Some have been great for years. Some are absurdly high tensioned and true. Some are low tensioned and true.

- handbuilt wheels have been great. simple as that.
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Old 08-08-20, 06:00 PM
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So long as it's properly laced and tensioned, it doesn't matter if a man did it or a machine did it. At the same time, it's not like there's some absurd cost that prevents us from buying handbuilt wheels. I have 6 bikes in my shop, and five them are on handbuilt wheels.

And as I've said what feels like a zillion times, rating a component based on it's life in years in kinda meaningless-- you could have a wheel from 1978 that's been hanging in a garage for 40 years. The hand-built front wheel on my Ritchey has 22,000 miles on it. Never been touched.
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Old 08-08-20, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Pop N Wood View Post
Wow. Struck a nerve on that one. 30+ year wheel with a heavy rider and never a broken spoke. Sounds like a well built wheel to me,not sure what else one could ask for.
Consider yourself lucky then. 30+ years on a single wheel...if that is what you are implying....is way beyond what most people would consider the life of a wheel. Honestly, the technology has changed so much that most people wouldn’t go much longer than 10 years. Rims wear out in less than 30 years.

Originally Posted by Pop N Wood View Post
As for never hearing to buy hand built wheels , not sure what to say to that one.
You said people “state categorically to always buy a hand built wheel”. Are you referring to all people or just a few or a random sampling? I’ve been poking around on bicycles for a very long time and I’ve never heard someone say “without exceptions or conditions, absolutely unqualified, or unconditionally” that someone has to buy hand built wheels. People will often suggest a hand built wheel if someone has wheel issues...which is common with OEM wheels...but I’ve never heard anyone saying that a particular person has to buy hand built wheels, much less everyone has to buy them.
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Old 08-08-20, 06:46 PM
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Originally Posted by 63rickert View Post
The Shuz Tung machinery does not look that fast. Lots of steps still done purely by hand. But it will work with hands that have no skill. That is the only purpose. It is about total respect for capex and zero respect for humans.

A skilled wheelbuilder doing production work - series of wheels all to same spec - should build a wheel in about fifteen minutes. I will name names if anyone cares. Full custom wheels take 20 minutes. Capex on a hand build wheel shop is trivial. It would take a market for huge volumes of wheels for the machine built wheel to make any sense. Sure, Giant and Trek will want these. Most others should work with humans. But that would mean respecting humans.

Even in the promo video Shuz Tung has a more manual setup for high end wheels. Accuracy of 0.1mm is presented as some sort of big deal. Hand built wheels hit that mark every time if the rim itself is accurate.

One of my favorite wheels was built by Oscar Wastyn in 1959. Did not have huge miles when I got it but plainly had been used. Prewar FB hub, 32 hole. Unknown spokes about 1.9/1.4mm butted with a uniform layer of protective rust. Fiamme Red Label rim, a rim that all over at C&V will claim is Kleenex. So far about 10,000 miles in my custody. Have not done a thing to that wheel and it is dead straight, perfectly centered, absolutely uniformly tensioned.
We have a winner! Thank you for raising up all those points. Those machine-built wheels look like heavy wheels, using heavy round spokes. Sorry folks, but these are wheels for the horse carriage. A highend lightweight wheel using bladed spokes probably still invovle a lot of human intervention.
And what about highend aero wheels with internal spokes? Gonna need a human there.
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Old 08-08-20, 08:33 PM
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I've seen wheels on two new bikes in the family fleet go out of true, and found both of them to be under-tensioned. Both were name brands, albeit relatively low end models, purchased at LBS's. I would personally check the tensioning on any new wheel. On the other hand, two other new bikes, a Surly and a Diamondback, both had impeccably built wheels.

The quality of today's bikes is like the quality of cars up through the 1970s: Hit or miss. Bikes are not fully tested before they leave the factory. A built up frameset is pulled off one pile, wheels from another pile, and they're thrown in a box. What you ultimately get depends on the hands that the bike passes through after it leaves the factory, including your own. With that said, I'm sure reputable dealers don't want to waste their time reworking bikes, or deal with excessive warranty service, and have an interest in selling a decent bike. But they will take matters into their own hands if needed.

After a few beginner attempts that were substandard, my home built wheels have held up quite well, though I have not put as many hard miles on them as some here. At 14 miles per hour, it takes me longer to put miles on my wheels. I build wheels because I like oddball hub combinations, like an ancient Sturmey Archer on a new Sun CR18 rim.
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Old 08-08-20, 09:07 PM
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I'm no master wheel builder at all, but I built all my wheels - I enjoyed the work, they turned out pretty good, and it's satisfying to ride them.
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Old 08-09-20, 07:31 AM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
Most cyclist feel that having wheels built by a master wheel builder is the zenith of bike wheels. Well maybe they are, but most of us do not have a set of them.

OTOH both my bike and trike im sure has computer built wheels. My bike is 12 years old and my trike is 9 years old, and the 5 wheels on both of them are perfectly true yet. I have never had to put a spoke wrench on any of them.

What has been your experience?
I've built few sets of wheels in the last couple of years....but I also have some machine built wheels which have been bulletproof. Never had any problems with any of my machine built wheels.
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Old 08-09-20, 08:42 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe View Post
I've searched everywhere, but I haven't been able to find an app for my computer that will allow it to build wheels. Is it because I'm using a Mac?
I would not buy a M$ PC built wheel
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Old 08-09-20, 11:55 AM
  #22  
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CNC bicycle wheel assembly machines

etc.
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