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  • Inexpensive Wheel Building Kit
  • Premier Icon johnw1984
    Free Member

    After having a bargain set of wheels sold from under me I thought about actually building my own. I’ve been wanted to have a go for ages and I actually bought the Roger Musson PDF a while back.

    The only thing I have is hubs. I’m looking for a cheapish wheel truing stand and associated building tools.

    I’m building a set of XC wheels for my Ibis (maybe around 25mm internal width), so would appreciate rim suggestions that won’t break the bank, along with what spokes and nipples I’m better off with.

    I take it that 32h rims are quite plentiful?

    Help a noob!

    Premier Icon ajantom
    Full Member

    No need for a jig, build it in your frame.

    I’ve built many, many wheels using a frame and forks over the years.

    You only really need a decent spoke key – spokey or Park tools style are both popular.
    Electric screwdriver is useful for winding on the nipples, but not a necessity.

    There were some good deals last year on WTB i25s, look on the PX website.

    Spokes – either DT or Sapim are good. Doublebutted for preference.

    Premier Icon kerley
    Free Member

    Agree with everything above.

    Premier Icon dovebiker
    Free Member

    I have a low rent wheel jig I can let you have for the price of postage – PM me

    ACI double-butted spokes are perfectly adequate for regular builds – 1/2 the price of DT or Sapim

    Premier Icon johnw1984
    Free Member

    Ah cool, thanks for the tips. @dovebiker sending you a PM now, that’s very generous of you!

    I’ve read that you can use your frame etc, but from what people tell me it’s much easier and less faff to put them in a stand.

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Full Member

    As above, you only need a bike and some cable ties- it’s a little more faff but it doesn’t make the wheel build harder, I heard someone say “it’s like having a really good bike stand- it makes things smoother and less hassle but it doesn’t index your gears any better than a cheap one” And you do want a good spoke key.

    Having said that, I absolutely love my Cyclus nipple centre-driver tool. It’s even nice to type.

    https://www.rosebikes.co.uk/cyclus-tools-drill-bit-nipple-driver-249277

    Speeds things up a lot but also if you’ve got the spokes right, you can get a ridiculously close result just by setting the depth right and tightening every spoke the same (well, every spoke on each side). One of the last set I built literally could have been ridden on without a single bit of finetuning. It wouldn’t have been very good, but it’d have been better than some wheels I’ve paid money for.

    (you can make your own tool of course but this is one place where the “proper” tool does genuinely work. I got it after my 4th wheelset, so it’s not like it’s essential, but had I known then what I know now I’d have got it the same day I bought the first rim and spokes.)

    Premier Icon johnw1984
    Free Member

    I’ve literally 0 DIY skills so making anything is out of the question 🙂

    I’ll have a look at the Cyclus nipple centre-driver tool and get a decent spoke key too.

    Where do people buy spokes and nipples for a reasonable price? I’ve read that I should go with brass nipples (can you get coloured brass?).

    Premier Icon cynic-al
    Full Member

    Seals do cheap aci spokes, or at least used to.

    Brass nipples come in any colour you want as long as it’s brass. You will appreciate this any time you work on a wheel with aluminium nipples, they seize and corrode and are fit only for places where it does not rain.

    Nipple drivers are nice but low on my list of tools to buy (been building for 31 years including some years as a mechanic).

    I’d get a good spoke wrench, that’ll do you fine for now. Forget tension guages too, I’ve never felt the need (and have used them).

    A truing jig is nice and comfortable, but I managed 30 years without.

    Premier Icon takisawa2
    Full Member

    Grind yourself a nipple driver from an old screwdriver. Its half the battle won. I’ve only ever built one pair in a jig. The rest have been built in a frame or fork. Blue tack & a nail for your guide. A clothes peg too, for when the wife calls you in for your tea, you can keep your place.
    And don’t fret over a mm of spoke length either way.
    Run your combo through a couple of online calculators to check your length.
    Always oil your nipples well before you start.

    As above, avoid alloy nipples. Nipple driver gets all the spokes to the same tension quickly. It’s my preferred method.

    Premier Icon ajantom
    Full Member

    Most spokes come with nipples, which are usually brass.

    My first port of call is often eBay, as you can sometimes find deals on random lengths.
    Otherwise it’s a matter of looking round the normal suspects, and seeing who is currently cheapest.

    As someone mentioned above ACI spokes are pretty good, and often quite a bit cheaper than DT/Sapim.
    http://www.cyclebasket.com are good for them.

    Read and re-read Sheldon Brown’s pages on wheelbuilding, and you are good to go…
    Sheldon on Wheelbuilding

    Premier Icon johnw1984
    Free Member

    Good stuff, thanks a lot for the info all. I was going to ask about spoke tension gauges as the majority of the research I’ve done has leant towards not bothering with one.

    I’ll have a look around for suitable rims and play about with the spoke calculator and see where I go from there.

    Premier Icon CraigW
    Free Member

    The Unior nipple driver bit is cheaper than the Cyclus version. Not adjustable, but there is 2 different lengths available.
    https://www.bike24.com/p2332474.html

    And less hassle than grinding down a screwdriver anyway.

    Premier Icon MaryHinge
    Free Member

    I used Sheldon Browns guide. Did my first set in the frame/forks and they are still going strong after 4 years of commuting and a couple of years as a grocery getter.

    I built some 29ers using Superstar 25mm rims, and DT spokes and nipples from ebay and they have been great wheels. Used Rose bikes in Germany for spokes too.

    It’s a nice skill to learn and impress your friends.

    Premier Icon andy4d
    Full Member

    I use rose bikes for my wheel building bits. I usually build mine in my frame and don’t have a jig. I like the feel of spokey nipple wrenches and i invested in a parktool nipple driver. It’s pricey (and yes you can make your own) i second what otjers said above and really advise getting some form of driver as it lets you tighten all the nipples to the same depth therefore giving you a good starting point with your spoke key.

    Premier Icon johnw1984
    Free Member

    I’ve read a bit of Sheldon Browns’s site in the past, but I’ve also got the Roger Musson PDF that I got years ago. I’ll do plenty of reading this week and shop around for bits.

    Going to get a few of the tools ordered too. Excited to get my first set built now! I would like to build some really nice wheels in the future for me and the missus.

    Premier Icon cynic-al
    Full Member

    really advise getting some form of driver as it lets you tighten all the nipples to the same depth

    As does any flat screwdriver.

    Premier Icon infidel
    Free Member

    As does any flat screwdriver.

    yep!

    Another vote for ACI nipples and spokes

    Premier Icon johnw1984
    Free Member

    I’ll go for some ACI spokes then as it’s pretty unanimous 🙂

    Watch this space!

    Premier Icon CraigW
    Free Member

    really advise getting some form of driver as it lets you tighten all the nipples to the same depth

    As does any flat screwdriver.

    But with a flat screwdriver, you could overtighten the nipples to start with. Especially if the spokes are a bit too short.
    I’m following Roger Musson’s guide. ie use the nipple driver to take up most of the slack, then the spoke key for getting them tight.

    Premier Icon johnw1984
    Free Member

    Thanks to the amazing @dovebiker I now have a basic wheel stand to get me started!

    I’ve also bought a decent spoke key and one of the Park Tools Nipple Drivers. I’m about ready to order some rims in the next week or so. I’ve looked at the DT Swiss in the link as they look decent for the money.

    https://www.chainreactioncycles.com/dt-swiss-xr-391-25mm-mtb-rim/rp-prod168813

    I had a look around for Kinlin rims, but I couldn’t find what I was looking for (25mm width internal, 32H 29er).

    Any others I should be looking at? More on the XC/trail spectrum really.

    Premier Icon samwilk200
    Free Member

    R2 Bike have some XM 421 rims for less than 70 euro each, these would be better (lighter and stronger) than the XR 391 rims.

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Full Member

    Think it’s rose, or on of the big German retailers, they do DT spokes at a fraction of the cost of most places, but you need separate nipples as they’re OEM (about £2.80 for 80 IIRC so son’t forget to add them to the basket).

    They also work out cheap for DT rims.

    I was going to ask about spoke tension gauges as the majority of the research I’ve done has leant towards not bothering with one.

    Depends on your rims more than anything TBH.

    My first wheels were 26″ with tough rims. they were a doddle as the spokes are short and the rim will still be straight almost irrespective of how uneven the tension is.

    My second pair were a set of 1250g road wheels with the softest rims imaginable and long skinny spokes.

    Some people claim they can guess tension by giving the spokes a squeeze, or comparing them to a tuning fork.

    I can (just about as long as G is correct) tune a guitar by ear, I couldn’t get those wheels right. They’d be straight but the tensions were all over the place and they felt horrible to ride. Two attempts and still not right. Bought a tension gauge and they’ve done hundreds/thousands of miles without so much as a wobble.

    So you can build good wheels without one, but you will build good wheels with one. You wouldn’t true it by eye without a stand or pencil and blu tack. So why try and tension it by ear/guess work.

    Premier Icon ratherbeintobago
    Full Member

    Isn’t there a guide somewhere to building a jig out of wood?

    Premier Icon johnw1984
    Free Member

    Some good point there cheers for the tensioning advice.

    I’ll have a look at the Germans for rims too. I’d settled on the ACI spokes, but I’ll compare to the DT Swiss (especially if I order rims).

    Yeah the jig is on the Wheelpro guide I’ve got, but it’s beyond my skills 🙂

    Premier Icon Scienceofficer
    Free Member

    As others have said, it’s perfectly possible to build a wheel in the frame or forks, but I like building my wheels in the warm, with good light and a beer, so ai favour a cheap wheel jig.

    Premier Icon joebristol
    Full Member

    Aci double butted spokes are fine – the ones from Cyclebasket come with silver coloured brass nipples. There is a £6 courier charge with those on top.

    Think I got my last DT spokes from Rose and they were also ok but more expensive than ACI.

    Starbike are normally cheap for DT rims – the XM421’s are all mountain rims and you need to build them with phr washers and the relevant nipples. Looks like you need them for the xr391’s too. Squorx nipples or DT pro nipples I think it is that work with phr’s.

    Premier Icon cx_monkey
    Full Member

    If any one is interested, Wheelsmith do brass nipples in black. I also don’t have a problem with using alloy nipples – but you will have way more issues with them than with brass – cracking, corroding, rounding out. Normally experienced when you need to true a wheel down the line.

    There’s loads of decent spoke brands out there – all the above mentioned, plus Wheelsmith and Pillar.

    This is my favourite online calculator:

    https://www.prowheelbuilder.com/spokelengthcalculator

    I’ve been building wheels week in week out for 25 years, and only really have a tension tool as a check. If I’m building them for myself, and the spokes and rims are new, round & flat (stick the rim on a desk when you get it to check) and spokes the correct length when I start, I probably don’t even bother to use it if the spokes don’t feel baggy when i’m finished with it. It’s probably mentioned in one of those guides linked to above, but make sure you’re de-tensioning the wheel as you go through the build to reverse any wind up in the spokes. Oiling your nips as you build helps reduce the wind up ;o)

    Premier Icon johnw1984
    Free Member

    Good call on the washers being needed! It’s getting more complicated than I thought this 🙂

    Thanks all for the extra tips too, I’ll be sure to give this another read before I start.

    Premier Icon joebristol
    Full Member

    @johnw1984

    I think my XM481’s from Starbike came with both squorx nipples and phr washers. Either that or the washers came from Rose bikes when I ordered the dt competition spokes.

    The squorx nipples are alloy that came with it but so say have some kind of solution inside to keep spokes tight / stop them seizing. I used a light chainlube on every spoke thread just to be sure before threading the nipple on.

    I also used a dab of grease to stick the phr washers to the nipple so it was easier to assemble.

    Squorx nipple have a funny head on them (no screwdriver slot) like a torx bolt. So you either need a DT squorx driver or you could use the appropriate size torx bolt head clamped into something for a cheaper option.

    DT rims are awesome when built but they are a bit of a fiddle. The other option is to pick rims that have eyelets in them that don’t need the fancy nipples / washers / driver.

    Premier Icon johnw1984
    Free Member

    @joebristol

    I noticed that the XM421 come with the nipples and washers, but I’m not sure they’ll be ideal for a first build…

    Anywhere else I should look for good value rims? They don’t have to be DT Swiss really and anything half decent will do for my first build (going on my Ibis DV9). Or, should I just man up and build those XM421 and get another driver for the squorx things?

    Premier Icon joebristol
    Full Member

    Squorx are fine for a first build I’d say – it was only my 3rd set that I used them for – on Hope Pro4 hubs. The DT spoke driver is really easy to use and actually makes getting the nipples in the rim easier (just don’t drop the PHR washers).

    I’ve build with wtb i23 and i25 rims which have eyelets so no washers and the cheaper aci spokes / nipples would work fine. The KOM i23/25 are lighter than the st i23/25 but a bit softer. Should be fine for xc riding though. I got a few pairs of the DT rims really cheap in the last couple of years – try Planet X.

    Stan’s are meant to be good rims too – but I’ve never had any / not sure which ones you’d need for your stated purpose.

    Premier Icon johnw1984
    Free Member

    Cheers Joe, I’ll have a think on it before I buy. Most of the WTB rims I’ve looked at are more expensive than the DT, but for some reason I associate the DT rims with being better quality?

    Premier Icon epicyclo
    Full Member

    @johnw1984
    One thing I advise is to get an old dud wheel (or two) and disassemble it, then rebuild it.

    Do this a few times and you’ll pick up the necessary skills, and any mistakes are not critical.

    Premier Icon johnw1984
    Free Member

    Good thinking @epicyclo, I’ve got a couple of surplus wheels knocking about too. I’ll have a go at that this weekend.

    Premier Icon joebristol
    Full Member

    I’d class DT Swiss rims as better than WTB personally. But I think of wtb as cheap because I got sti25’s for £12 each and sti23’s for £10 each in sales last year / the year before. Maybe that was just a freak year where got CRC and Planet X had overstocked / wanted to shift them on.

    If the DT’s are a good price then just go with those….my XM481’s have been perfect so far despite a few uplift days (Antur Stiniog / BPW / BMCC / Flyup 417) as well as getting battered through a couple of black loops at CYB and descending the Ranger Path down Snowdon.

    I also have some older factory DT E1900’s that are a few years older and they’ve been faultless too.

    Premier Icon adscatt
    Free Member

    I’ve built a few wheels using the Roger Musson “book”, been good too, the Mavic and DT Swiss rims have been the easiest to build (even with the squorx nipples and washers), ACI spokes used many times as they were cheaper than DT Swiss. I find it quite a therapeutic process building a wheel. The DT Swiss rims you mention would be my choice, just built some XM511 on Pro 4’s, turned out nice and solid, may get the 481’s for the hardtail.

    Premier Icon DezB
    Full Member

    I built mine after watching that bald fella on Youtube. He’s very meticulous. Method worked very well on my wheels.

    Only things not mentioned (on a quick scan though, apologies if they were) are a spoke tensioner (cheap off ebay) – no way could I have guessed I’d got the tensions right without. Cheapo was fine, but needed a dab of oil.
    Plus a dish tool. Made my own out of some bits of twin-slot shelving. Does the job.

    Premier Icon DezB
    Full Member

    Oh yeah – the bald fella: Chris Garrison

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Full Member

    Good call on the washers being needed! It’s getting more complicated than I thought this 🙂

    TBH washers are a good idea on any rim, particularly non-eyeletted ones. They’re pretty cheap and weigh nothing. If you really want to go to town building a reliable wheel you can get tiny washers for the hub end too! But those are only ever really used for Tandems and other heavily loaded builds.

    Only mistake you can make with them is to order the oval ones that won’t fit into a normally drilled rim!

    Premier Icon stormtrooper
    Free Member

    <Oh yeah – the bald fella: Chris Garrison>

    Who knew – Alan Shearer is a wheel building master?!

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