I know a lot of you follow us because you are interested in building your own wheels so I put together a video better detailing how to lace your own bike wheels! This video covers the lacing process in detail, if you watch to the end of the video you can find the complete video on how to tension and stress relive your wheel after it is laced.
Let me know if you have any questions at all!
Custom Wheel Building Tools
We are always looking for our next thing to help work more efficiently and have some fun while doing it so we went down the rabbit hole of 3d printing tools for bike mechanics. The one we are most excited about is the nipple shuffle box that drastically speeds up lacing time. This isn't a new idea but we feel ours is the best on the market. We can even customize them with things like shop names, random text, different colors, etc! If this is something you are interested in be sure to check the tools page on our website to order your own.
Other tools we are working on are a speed driver for square drive or ENVE style spoke nipples. We have our prototype finished up and the production run is currently in queue at the machine shop here in town. We may offer one for traditional slotted spoke nipples as well that can reach deeper section rims but that one is still up in the air. We have the drawings finished on it and are just trying to decide if there is enough demand for a production run.
If there is any tool you wish you had as a bike mechanic, be sure to reach out and let us know as we are always open to building new tools if it is within our capabilities!
I still get excited with each set of these I build. I get a lot of customers who come to me complaining of Zipp hub problems such as short bearing life and needing constant adjustment. This is not terribly surprising as Zipp really builds race wheels more than anything but many many people use them to handle the bulk of their training too. While I think Zipp makes some amazing rims that can handle training volume their hubs leave something to be desired, especially if you spend much time in the rain. To get my customers the best of both worlds I really like how building a Zipp to a White Industries T11 works out, not only are the hubs incredibly durable but they roll really really well so you end up with wheels that are fast enough to win any of the worlds biggest races but durable enough to train on day in and day out!
Aren't you biased?
Absolutely! But there is a good reason for that. I first got into building my own wheels out of necessity. At the time I was commuting 40 miles round trip every day, 5 days a week and doing longer rides on the weekend for fun. During this time I did not own a car so I put a ton of miles on my bike. I kept breaking spoke after spoke after spoke and I finally got fed up and built myself a set of Open Pro's laced to Chris King hubs and never had a wheel problem again, even doing some light touring on those wheels in the middle of my long commute. This was the beginning of my love affair with custom wheels.
Not all wheels are created equal, even when from the outside things look almost identical. Take the wheels above, both have carbon rims, Sapim CX Ray spokes, 24 hole count, built to the same standards, surely they are the same right!?!? Not at all, while both wheels could be used in similar conditions there are some small but key differences that will really make the difference when pushed. The wheel on the left will be used by Kurt Searvogel to get him to the end of his attempt at the highest annual mileage record and is shooting for 80k miles in 365 days averaging just over 200 miles EACH day, he is currently at around 50k miles for the year... The wheel on the right will be raced by Fernando Riveros Paez and is likely going to see the podium in a number of pro level cyclocross races. The set ridden by Kurt has a few changes that should significantly increase its life over something like the wheel ridden by Fernando. Things like a higher quality hub, brass nipples, slightly heavier rim that can take higher spoke tensions are all small changes that should have a big impact on durability. On the other side, the wheel ridden by Fernando has a cheaper hub because being race wheels they will not see many miles, it also uses aluminum nipples and a lighter rim to help acceleration on the race course. While this wheel is sufficiently durable for its intended use I would not have much faith in it if I expected it to see 10k miles or more which the wheel for Kurt should easily do. These are just two examples that stood out because I happened to build them in the same day and it hit me how drastically different the operating environments will be despite seemingly similar design.
Most of us do not fit in the middle of the cycling bell curve and we all place different demands and expectations on our equipment, even during the same style of riding. A 130lb climber will place different demands on their equipment than a 180lb sprinter even if they are both in the same exact race at the same time. The climber could benefit from a 20 spoke super light wheel when under that 180lb sprinter would feel like a noodle that flexes so bad it rubs the brakes when they stand to pedal. Even if you don't race you can still benefit from fine tuning your wheels to your riding style. Someone who rides 12k miles in a year might be willing to make some slight performance compromises to maximize comfort and durability and the rider who loves fast club rides but sees much more modest miles might sacrifice comfort for an aero edge.
If you do big loaded tours, well...no one really has good "off the shelf" options for you...
The same can be applied through all areas of cycling, commuting, touring, mountain biking, etc. We all place different demands on our equipment and with wheels being one of the biggest changes you can make to how your bike feels, it seems like a shame to just go with a cookie cutter wheel aiming for the "average" cyclist.
So how does one customize ride characteristics of a wheel?
Comfort is a big thing that can be changed through selecting the best components for your riding style. Box section rims tend to have a more compliant ride than deep aero rims. Shallower rims also are less influenced by cross winds than a deeper rim making it easier to control the bike in windy areas. Rims come in all sorts of different depths, everything from your traditional box section rim like the Open Pro all the way to 80mm or deeper rims, usually in about 20mm increments. The trick is finding that balance between comfort and aero that fits your riding style best.
From a performance standpoint, you obviously factor in aerodynamics with things like rim profile and depth but also throw in things like spoke count, spoke type, hub quality, nipple type, etc. Some things in building "fast" wheels can even be counter intuitive, sometimes higher spoke counts can actually help you go faster by wasting less energy in flexing the wheels rather than propelling them forward, deeper wheels may be more aero but there is a threshold you can cross where you are just adding weight for the climbs slowing you more there than it helps in the faster sections. If you ride huge miles you may end up on wheels so stiff they beat you up so bad that you get fatigued from a harsh ride well before your legs are finished. This can be especially true with big gravel and dirt road rides that have a ton of washboard more than on pavement.
The real art in custom wheels is not the black magic many think it is. It really comes down to paying attention to details many consider silly or trivial. Not only the obvious things like sufficient and even spoke tension, proper stress relieving, and proper lubrication of spoke threads but also other details like proper component selection for your riding style. Not only does that mean rims and hubs that fit your needs but also selecting the right spokes and nipples for your rim selection. Some rims can not handle the extra stiffness from heavier gauge spokes but will work flawlessly with lighter gauge options, some combinations leave rear non drive side spokes at lower tensions than ideal and can benefit from lighter gauge spokes that seem to be happier at lower tensions on the non drive side. When durability is king, you can gain a ton of fatigue resistance by going with a triple butted spoke such as the DT Alpine 3. The number of options are truly limitless and this is why it pays to work with someone who has not only the experience to guide you through the component selection process but also the desire to do everything possible to exceed your expectations.
Sure, custom wheels can cost more than some of the bargains you can find in some online retailers but when you consider that wheels have one of the biggest impacts on ride quality and performance it seems like a silly place to cut corners, there is a reason pro teams have trucks filled with different options. With wheels, you also have to consider many people move their wheels from bike to bike, which makes them an even better long term investment. If you go with a builder who really takes pride in their work (like me) you will usually even get a lifetime guarantee against spoke breakage and free touch up work for life at no additional charge (who charges extra for them to stand behind their work anyways?!?!?).
Again, obviously I am very biased but after having built many thousands of wheels I have still not had a single person regret their decision to go with quality wheels tailored directly to their riding style. You give a lot of your life to this wonderful sport, indulge a little!
Sick and tired of dealing with hubs that do not want to stay adjusted or bearings wearing out quickly in less than perfect weather? If you don't mind voiding a warranty this is the most elegant solution to all of your hub troubles, re-lace your rim to a White Industries hub! That way you get the best of both worlds and no compromises, one of the best rims out there laced to one of the smoothest and longest running hubs you can buy!
Obsession, or passion? Who am I to judge? Either way I simply love building wheels for those who appreciate quality!