Saturday, April 28, 2012

building the mercian: wheels part I

i think an essential skill in bike mechanics is building wheels so I decided its time for me to learn. frankly, I am intimidated. while simple, its complicated, and after all, there are mechanics that are known for the integrity of their wheel builds.  Who am I?  I am a first timer, and just want to build some decent wheels and be dependent on no one.  I watched this video series and decided I could build a wheel.

To get started, I went down to Box Dog Bikes, the shop closest to my house, to pick up some parts. I had a set of record hubs, so I just needed rims and spokes. While I bought a set of rannondeur rims from BDB, I decided to not get spokes from them.  Besides the fact that Dan, who helped me, seemed completely unimpressed and unengaged when I talked to him about the wheel build, he quoted me $140 for spokes, uninstalled.  They cut their spokes to size, which means I would have had to wait a day to get the spokes, and the price was ridiculous.   I decided to find a shop where I could walk out with spokes, and hopefully where the person seemed half interested in my project.   Thanks for the nice rims, BDB.

gee wheels I called Pedal Revolution, they also cut spokes to size and their machine was broken.  No dice.

I called Valencia Cyclery and they carry different sized spokes and will measure the length for you if you bring in your rims and hubs, so I dropped in.  Michael helped me and was all I could ask for in a bike shop mechanic.  He was full of questions, to make sure I was legit; tips to make sure I was successful; and warnings to make sure I was realistic.   I was pretty scared after talking to him about taking on the project, but he sensed this and offered up encouragement. He calculated the spoke lengths for me, got me the right sizes, gave me some build tips and I was out the door for $65 with my  bike coalition discount.

Michael from Valencia Cyclery was awesome and interested, and even went to the retail shop next door to get me a spoke wrench, which I purchased along with the spokes and nipples.  You can't fake customer service and michael is the real deal.  Thank you! 

With spokes rims and hubs in hand, I laced up the wheels according to the video Part 2. Of note the video does not mention that you need three different lengths of spokes: 1 for front wheel, 2 for drive side of rear wheel, 3 rear wheel non-drive.  Michael told me at the shop.  I watched a few other videos and asked some questions of friends to assist in correct implementation.

I'll spare the boring details, but each wheel was laced two times, each for a different reason.  Lacing was easy and gratifying in an ocd kind of way.

lacing the wheel
The wheels are laced, tightened up, ready to be trued.  Truing is the hard part.  Coming soon.


  1. take a glass of wine out to the garage, your fave tunes, and go for the truing. it's not hard, just kinda zen - maybe ocd as you say. do the vert hops first then the side to side alignment. 1/4 turns only after fully tightening...

  2. and congrats on your 1st wheel set build! awesome!