Bicycle Wheel Building From Scratch
Wheel building was a challenging learning experience. The following is a summary of the work involved in building a pair of wheels from scratch. The photo below shows the wheels before the rebuild.
There is a book called “The Bicycle Wheel” that help me out a lot. It had a lot of common sense information that helped give a good appreciation to what is involved in a well built and designed wheel.
The hubs were removed, rebuilt, repacked and completely polished. They too had pitting like the seat post, so it needed some heavy duty work.
I decided swap out the Mavic MA40 rims with Sun M13II’s clinchers. These rims look like nearly identical to Campagnolo Record Chrono without the absurd price tag or need to have tubeless tires. They were well built and unlike tubeless, the tire can be patched on the road.
DTSwiss double butted spokes seem to be popular. But an article on Peter White Cycles revealed why they may not be the best choice for your application due to the bending radius of the spoke end on older hubs.
I went with Wheelsmith spokes as they were the best fit for this hub.
Wheelbuilding was a fun learning experience. There is a excellent and entertaining tutorial on Youtube by a person “thebiketube” that explains the whole process:
After lacing the wheel, the truing process began. I used a Park tension gauge (blue tool below) to set an even tension. There is a system of “tapping” the spokes like tuning a piano, but this tool is worth it as it makes the process much more exacting.
The truing stand is the popular Minoura Workman Pro. It’s no Park truing stand, but it does do the job if you take the time to understand it’s limitations. I liked that it is portable and relatively self centering. It comes with a centering gauge, but even with that, you have to take the centering with a grain of salt. The trick is to center it, remove and flip the wheel and the reinstall it. If the rim is still centered, that you know you can continue to true as your wheel is centered based on the gauge. I wouldn’t use this stand for rims that require deliberate off center truing.
This site shows how to take the stand to the next level with a dial indicator:
I used this dial indicator setup with to get it true within +/-.002″. That stand with the dial indicator can now surpass most truing stands that do not have a dial indicator. Seeing the numbers makes it more exacting to make corrections that hearing scrapes on the feeler gauges.
The tires are Vittoria Open Corsa CX. I tried to find a good clincher tire that had a nice tan wall. Surprisingly, these were rare and inferior to todays modern tire. Vittoria’s Open Corsa CX was well reviewed and had a slight vintage look to it with a little modern flair, which I thought matched perfectly with this bike.
You probably might wonder that this is a lot of work for a bicycle wheel. It was! But the best part was that I gained a better appreciation for the thought and skill required to build a pair of wheels. I never knew so much went into building a bicycle wheel. Also, I never knew how many bad wheel designs exist based purely on marketing and image. I will never take a serious look at 16 spoke rims, 20mm tires or radial / unconventional spoke patterns again.