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Your First Wheel Build...

Old 07-24-19, 08:32 PM
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gaucho777 
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Your First Wheel Build...

My first wheelset failed...after almost 32 years.

In 1988, at the age of 15, having a couple of years racing under my belt, I toasted my first set of race wheels. On a hot day, I rolled a tubular, which lodged between the chainstay and rim. I miraculously kept the bike upright, but skidding on a bare rim across the pavement left a big, ground-down flat spot on the rim. I needed a new set of race wheels, but couldn't afford to have a new wheelset built. I raced on my training wheels for a couple of months while I clandestinely extended my bedtime by studying the arcane art of wheel-building thanks to "The Bicycle Wheel" by Jobst Brandt. Having absorbed as much as I could, some of it admittedly over my head, I built a new set of wheels using new Wolber rims onto the existing Mavic hubs. This new "race" wheelset lasted throughout my teenage years. Since then, this wheelset became my everyday wheelset on my Look once I stopped racing and returned to cycling.

Well, the rear wheel finally gave way recently. On a fast, bumpy descent, the wheel went wobbly. I pulled over and tried to true it on the roadside, but quickly discovered the problem and limped home gingerly the last 10 miles. In addition to the cracks at the nipple, a close look at the rim reveals another crack starting to form at the brake surface.

Lightweight wheels are like dogs. I'm grateful for every day we have together and sorry we often outlast them. My first lived a good life.




What's your first wheel build story?

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Old 07-24-19, 09:50 PM
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Still waiting to have one

My hat's off to those of you who can build wheels. I can't even true one without effing it up even worse!

Cut out that section and display it proudly. I think you got plenty return on your investment in time and money in the course of those 32 years.

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Old 07-24-19, 10:34 PM
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My first wheel build was 30 years ago. The front is still going strong but I had to rebuild the rear a couple of months ago. It should be good for another 30 years. I'm 64 yo and quite certain the bike and wheels will out-live me.
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Old 07-24-19, 10:57 PM
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There's something magical about taking a light set of aluminum hoops and a handful of wires and constructing wheels in which you entrust your life.

I saw "Breaking Away" when I was in highschool. I was a nascent gearhead back then so I loved the scene where Dave trues the wheel of the bike he's riding in the crit race. But I didn't get into biking 'til later, commuting in San Francisco. My machine built wheels kept failing. I got a copy of Jobst Brandt's book. I built a set of wheels using Clyde rims and triple butted spokes. I wanted them to be bombproof. I only had a spoke wrench. My truing stand was my forks and my brake pads. I didn't get the dish on the rear correct. My LBS showed me how to fix it. I'd have worn them out like you did yours had the bike not been stolen.

Since then I've built ~a dozen sets. Friends ask me to repair their wheels. I feel like I get a little bit better with every set. My latest wheel set was for my plastic bike which came with a decent set of Mavic Ksyriums. I upgraded to DT Swiss hubs and rims, Sapim bladed spokes. These shaved off nearly half a pound of rolling inertia weight. I'm still notice the difference every time I get on that bike now over a year later. I've not retrued them once and I'm a pretty bike guy (190lbs).

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Old 07-24-19, 11:07 PM
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Originally Posted by gaucho777 View Post
My first wheelset failed...after almost 32 years.

In 1988, at the age of 15, having a couple of years racing under my belt, I toasted my first set of race wheels. On a hot day, I rolled a tubular, which lodged between the chainstay and rim. I miraculously kept the bike upright, but skidding on a bare rim across the pavement left a big, ground-down flat spot on the rim. I needed a new set of race wheels, but couldn't afford to have a new wheelset built. I raced on my training wheels for a couple of months while I clandestinely extended my bedtime by studying the arcane art of wheel-building thanks to "The Bicycle Wheel" by Jobst Brandt. Having absorbed as much as I could, some of it admittedly over my head, I built a new set of wheels using new Wolber rims onto the existing Mavic hubs. This new "race" wheelset lasted throughout my teenage years. Since then, this wheelset became my everyday wheelset on my Look once I stopped racing and returned to cycling.

Well, the rear wheel finally gave way recently. On a fast, bumpy descent, the wheel went wobbly. I pulled over and tried to true it on the roadside, but quickly discovered the problem and limped home gingerly the last 10 miles. In addition to the cracks at the nipple, a close look at the rim reveals another crack starting to form at the brake surface.

Lightweight wheels are like dogs. I'm grateful for every day we have together and sorry we often outlast them. My first lived a good life.




What's your first wheel build story?
Chalk one up for sewups! That could have been an exciting (and very likely expensive and maybe even painful) experience with a clincher. A clincher tire would have blown that weakened sidewall apart before you saw the brake wear crack. Failures like tha have been known to ruin carbon fiber frames and slice rider's legs. (Think of a sharp, jagged saw blade 10 " long blown out at right angles to the wheel and still attached. Kinda like a scaled down war chariot with scythes attached to the wheels.)

I had a rim nearly that far gone (roughly 17,000 miles). Bunny hopped a utility repair and just caught the far edge. Put a 1" + dent/kink in the rim. Like yours, the sidewall was already gone in places. But being a sewup, the tire didn't care. Bumped that 10 miles home and put it on a new rim.

I don't remember the story behind my first wheels. Just that I used my hung up bike as the truing stand for my first half dozen or so. My first race wheels were built that way.

Another good wheelbuilding book is Robert Wright's. I think it is called "Building Bicycle Wheels". I googled it recently and it is still around to be purchased. Very, very different from Jobst Brandt's. He is hands on, only talking theory as needed. An easy read but a very good book for a first wheel. (And he was a master wheelbuilder. This book was written by someone who knows.)

Ben
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Old 07-24-19, 11:09 PM
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I bought what I thought was a nice wheelset off craigs. When I got 'em home and started tensioning them better, I realized the spokes in both wheels were way too long. So my first build was to rely on internet measurements of the hubs and relace the wheel, spoke by spoke. It worked out. Sheldon gave me all the info to true 'em up. Sold the bike.

Most of the other sets I've built I've kept.
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Old 07-25-19, 05:33 AM
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Hey, cool thread.

When I bought my '79 Moto Grand Sprint, it was in super nice shape except for the wheels - one was out of true and the other was missing a spoke or two. I put those wheels aside and put a new wheelset in their place.

Years later I rolled the dice on my '78 Grand Jubile on eBay. I should have sent that bike back. What a mess! A 700/27 mismatched wheel set, one brake lever, bent steerer tube, frame out of alignment, on and on...

But, I stubbornly kept the bike and got to work. When it came time for wheels, I grabbed the front wheel from the other Moto, Rigida AL1320 laced to Atom low flange hubs, and tried my hand at truing it. The results were acceptable.

Using Sheldon's building guide - which is excellent for a beginner like me - I relaced the rear wheel with new DT stainless spokes. Voila, I had my first wheel:



While it was a great learning experience, and I've done a few more since then, I still don't really enjoy building wheels.
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Old 07-25-19, 05:58 AM
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I'd say after 32 years, it was the rim. That's pretty impressive.

I laced my first set while watching TV and looking at another set. Once I got it snug, I took it to a shop for truing and tensioning.
He said "it's all wrong." I said "it looks right to me." He said "OK, but no warranty." I rode them for a few years, forgot about it.

I've only done two since, both had to go to a shop for rescue.
Pretty sure I suck at it, so I sold my truing stand and tools, and don't go down that hole no mo'.

@Otto Rax was my go-to guy on wheels, a Zen builder on a couple sets.
@speedevil is now my hoop engineer. One set and one 650c "ignorance is bliss" challenge. (the hole count matched....and that was it).

1 have 3 sets of Bill Mould builds. Money in the bank.
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Old 07-25-19, 06:12 AM
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Learned the art on motorcycle wheels, first was in '73, for a friend that wanted a 21" front wheel on a Suzuki 185 he was going to convert to an MX bike. I had watched the mechanics at shops build some X3 and X4 wheel sets for motocross bikes and picked up the basics there. Built wheels for others and a nice set of DID rims and Buchannan's spokes for my 71 Maico 400 Square Barrel in the mid-70s.

Got serious about cycling again in '79 and built wheels for anyone asking to have a set done. Built a set of tubulars for my Motobecane so I could race it in '81 and jut kept my hand in it over the years. Built the wheels on both of my Italianate C&V rides, now I have a friend at his LBS that checks my work and tensions the wheels for me so that I get a good feeling, longer lasting wheel set.

Jobst Brandt's book, along with Eugene Slone's encyclical, taught me the finer points of the skills, experience makes it better.

Bill
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Old 07-25-19, 06:20 AM
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Built my first set a couple years ago, using 90 year-old nickel plated New Departure hubs, butted stainless spokes and Velocity Chukkers. There were enough good nipples on the old wooden rims to use on one wheel, so I bought some long ones for the rear to match. Sheldon's guide is comprehensive and easy to follow.



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Old 07-25-19, 06:40 AM
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I did my first set the latter part of 2017. Purchased a copy of Roger Musson's "Professional Guide to Wheel Building" which helped, though as it turned out Sheldon's basic online how-to was my main reference through the process. It came out well and I've put a couple of hundred miles on them with no issues. A tedious task but not difficult - I completed my 4th (and hopefully last for awhile) set last week. With the wheel building turns out the $60 truing stand I bought a few years back was a better investment than I expected at the time.
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Old 07-25-19, 06:44 AM
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Originally Posted by RobbieTunes View Post
@speedevil is now my hoop engineer. One set and one 650c "ignorance is bliss" challenge. (the hole count matched....and that was it).
Wow, I've never been called an "engineer" before (I've been called lots of other things, but never an engineer). My Dad will be very proud, since he's an EE/ME.

Slight correction - two sets, plus the 650c Rolf wheel. If I never have to lace a Rolf wheel again I will be happy. This one was complicated by having to lace the wheel with spokes that were too long, and then measuring to determine the actual length needed. I used regular nips, upside down, with a spoke washer between the nip and the rim. It was an exercise in frustration to get the nips on the spokes without losing the washer. But it turned out pretty well, all things considered.
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Old 07-25-19, 06:45 AM
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It was forty years ago, and I forgot the name of the book I used to guide me. After a few wheels it isn't much more complicated than lacing your shoes.
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Old 07-25-19, 06:54 AM
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Mine was about ten years ago. A Sante hub I bought off Ebay and a rim off my hybrid Giant. Still going strong, though that wheel has become my spare front. I used Roger Musson's ebook, which I later had printed. I've done a few since, and am in the procrastination stage for the next few. I have hubs, rims, and a box of leftover spokes, some of which will hopefully be the length that I need. I am very good at truing wheels, and enjoy building them.
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Old 07-25-19, 11:41 AM
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In 1980 I bought a used Atala Competezione, which came with 8 year old sew-ups. I rode them for a few weeks and couldn't take the uncertainty of riding them - no spare, no sewing ability, etc., etc., etc.. Disassembled the wheels and built clinchers. Eugene Sloane might have been my guru, or it could have been an article in Bicycling.

Had an LBS do final truing. 'It'll be $20,' said the guy at the LBS. 'But on the phone you said minimum of $4 up to $20. I'm OK with $20 if that's what it needs, but if it needs less work, I expect to pay less,' said I. 'OK,' said the guy. Cost for final truing was $4.

The bike was stolen on Labor Day, 1981. The wheels worked great up to then, and I hope they failed soon after the theft.
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Old 07-25-19, 12:53 PM
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Not sure what happened to the first set of wheels I built, but I'm still riding the second set I built, over 40 years later. No sign of failure yet, but I used the industrial-strength Weinmann "concave" rims, as this was for my loaded tourer: 40h rear, 36h front.
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Old 07-25-19, 01:21 PM
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I have built several sets of single speed wheelsets using a multispeed freewheel rear without dish and then centering the axle in the hub. I have also built up some nice sets to make what I needed for a few bikes I have built up here in Cambodia. It is cheaper to buy good hubs and spokes in the States and reuse some decent rims I find here to get good wheels.
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Old 07-25-19, 01:40 PM
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It was 1978. I was 17 and working as a bike shop mechanic. I told my boss I wanted to build a pair of wheels for myself and was having trouble deciding what hubs to start with. He surprised me and said I should use Campagnolo Record hubs. I didn't think of myself as deserving such high-end stuff, but he pointed out that quality matters, especially in hubs. I followed his advice, and I used Super Champion Arc en Ciel rims.

Those rims left with the bike they were on when I sold the bike. Or maybe the bike was stolen. I don't remember, but the wheels did not fail. No wheel that I've built has ever failed completely. I have a pair of wheels I built in about 1983, for my commuter bike. They've been bashed on potholes, and the rear wheel has flat spots, but it's ridable. I retired those wheels last year.

I've built plenty of other wheels for myself and for other people. I now volunteer at a bike coop on Monday evenings, and I teach people how to true and build wheels. This past Monday, two people with no experience ended up truing their wheels, under my tutelage. They did fine jobs.
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Old 07-25-19, 02:02 PM
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Six or seven years ago I bought a Nishiki MTB to flip. After a pretty thorough overhaul I still had a rear wheel that I was not satisfied with. Shelved the project temporarily. Shortly after I found a donor bike with the rim I needed. Using Sheldon's format I made the swap, including stress relieving the spokes and re truing. As a first timer I was pretty happy with the results. The following winter I took the Nishiki to a swap in Chicago. Had some interest in the bike and one woman in particular grilled me pretty hard on it. So I told here everything I had done to the bike. She then asked if the guy that had been riding it around the bike corral all morning was with me, as he was talking the bike up quite a bit. He was not but he did help sell it.
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Old 07-25-19, 03:06 PM
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I'm looking at them right now. I got a Raleigh Record project at the Baltimore co-op back when I was doing a lot of volunteer hours there, along with a Maillard HF fixed/free hubset and some used Araya rims. I copied the lacing pattern from other 36h rims, and using the co-op's spoke bins, truing stand, and spoke wrenches to build 'em up. It's now my office bike, for bopping around downtown Baltimore.

Doing the first wasn't too hard, and it definitely demystified the process. I've probably built up a couple dozen sets by now. It's a very satisfying process.

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Old 07-25-19, 05:39 PM
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My first wheel build was about 8 years ago for my McBain track bike aka 'fixie'. The wheels it came with had rusted spokes and I didn't really want to run tubulars on the street. Sourced some Mavic Module E rims and refurbished the Maillard Galli hubs - 3x front and 3 leading, 3 trailing on the rear. They're still going strong:



My only regret is I should have laced the front radial. After that I swore I'd never build a set of wheels again...

So two years ago I wanted some new wheels for my Pinarello. Got some 8 speed Chorus hubs for a good price and built them up with H Plus Son TB14 rims. Radial front and half radial/3x rear:



One day I'm just going to do an ordinary 3x front and rear...
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Old 07-25-19, 06:50 PM
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I just returned from my first ride on my first official build. Technically I swapped rims on a wheel years ago but this was the first legitimate build. An FiR rim laced to a tri color rear hub.

The spokes went in well. Trued it up ok on the bike. Then I lost confidence. I brought it into a shop willing to pay $20-30 for a pro to safely tension it so it doesn't kill me. To my surprise their wheel guy said I had actually done an ok job. Just pull the drive side over a bit and the tension would be all square. So that's what I did. After 15 miles and not the nicest of pavement I'm alive to tell the tail and the wheel still spins true.
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Old 07-25-19, 07:00 PM
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The maiden voyage on a bike that you built, including wheels that you built, is a pretty special moment. I think that building your own wheels is sort-of like a masters thesis for bike mechanics. It's not really too hard to do, but it does take some practice and care to do it right.

Congratulations.
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Old 07-25-19, 07:40 PM
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May 1972. I was in 10th grade and due to excessive snow days the school year was extended by 2 weeks, so the faculty created unusual and interesting alternative courses for the “mini-semester”. The physics teacher invited me to take his course on bicycle riding and mechanics. Turned out that I had a knack for both rigid and wrenching, and I haven’t missed a season since then. I’ve posted more about that teacher and our relationship here.

I was one of the few participants he taught to build wheels by having us disassemble and rebuild our front wheel in the last days of the course. My bike was a brand-new gaspipe Chiorda that I believed was an upgrade from the 1965 Schein Varsity I started the course with. 27” steel rims, galvanized spokes, steel low-flange unbranded hubs. I can’t count how many wheels I’ve built since then, but it’s a practice I greatly enjoy.
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1987 Mercian Pro, 1971 Raleigh International, 1971 Peugeot PX-10E, 1970 Raleigh Professional Mk1, 1966 Raleigh Sports
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Old 07-25-19, 08:11 PM
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vintagerando 
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I have a Park truing stand, spokes, nipples, polished vintage Mavic rim and a polished high flange campy hub......all sitting in the garage. I have no idea where to begin
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