Saturday, June 25, 2011

My First Wheelbuild

For years I have been mesmerized by the bicycle wheel. Those thin wires holding up all that weight. With myself being on of those "let's take it apart and see how it works" types, I have been tempted to build up my own wheelset.

Now the stock wheelset on my Surly Cross Check is fine. It's heavy, strong, and still perfectly true after lots of abuse. But it's plain. Boring. Stock. So I turned to ebay for some cheap hubs. After some google searches, I found that a lot of people are happy with Novatec hubs from Taiwan. Since the price for the pair after shipping was less than a quality front hub, I figured I'd give it a shot. Red of course. Bling!

The rims are the trusty Salsa Delgado Cross. Heavy and strong, and cheap! These have a solid reputation as a great commuter rim. Since I have a slight affinity for the Salsa brand, these were a no-brainer.

The spokes on the other hand were a different story. I knew I wanted Sapim brand spokes, but couldn't find a decent source online. Well I could, but shipping was ridiculous! Inspired by facebook and blog posts, I turned to Ben at Milltown Cycles in Faribault, MN. Ben was extremely helpful and suggested the Sapim Force spokes. Triple butted for strength, but not much heavier than a standard double butted spoke (6.6grams each for a 296mm spoke). Ben ordered some spokes for me and had them to my door quickly, for a very reasonable price.

While I waited for the hubs to arrive from Taiwan, I started doing a bunch of research on how to build wheels. Youtube videos, Sheldon Brown's website, etc. I found Mike T's website very informative as well.

Once everything arrived, it was time to get down to business in the makeshift bike shop area of my garage.

I started with the front wheel since it's easier. Spokes are all the same length, no weird centering required. Perfect for a first attempt.

I started by loading the hub with spokes like so...
And then started lacing it up. Since Sheldon Brown's site and many others go over lacing patterns, I won't attempt to explain that here.

8 out of 32 spokes in their proper place:

16 out of 32 spokes in place:

And done:

I was amazed at how loose and bendy the spokes were before tensioning. Once it was done, it was time to put the wheel into the truing stand.

After a couple hours of twisting the spoke wrench, the wheel was well within my tolerance, approximately 0.5mm

For style points, I made sure the hub logo was visible through the valve hole. Not sure why this is a big deal, but the pros do it, so I'm gonna do it.

Lather, rinse, repeat for the rear wheel (which turned out to be EASIER than the front!), then mount up my tires, and it's photo time.

Bling! They turned out great and I'm very excited to get them mounted up!

I did a quick loop around the block and I think I'll be very happy with these wheels for quite some time. If not, I'll build more! It's fun, and easier than I thought.