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  1. #1
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    My first wheel build - What an experience...a test of endurance!

    Evening everyone...

    I just thought I would share my experience of building my first wheel.

    Well, I got started yesterday at 5pm, laying out all the bits and pieces:

    - Sapim race spokes
    - Brass spoke head washers - for a stronger wheel.
    - Mavic XC717 disc rim
    - spoke wrench
    - minoura cheap wheel jig
    - the dish stick
    - brass nipples
    - a bit of oil and grease
    - kitchen roll
    - masking tape
    - glass of water, haribos, radio on.



    Lacing the spokes wasn't too bad, following the 3 cross pattern from the various websites out there. Mounted the wheel onto the jig and then screwed the nipples on until no thread was showing. A spin of the wheel and sure enough there were a few wobbles.



    An hour later after getting ride of the wobbles and checking the dish I discover radial hops!!! Oh man! So I get to work truing those out adding tension, taking some away...taking ages. I have to admit that at one point I started losing concentration and was undoing tension by accident and truing the dish to the wrong side. It is worth noting down on paper which way you want to wheel to go visually.



    Bit of food and water...classic fm is on. When I think it is done, I check the tension with my fancy blue Park Tool tension meter (recommended investment). Tensions seem uniform, but I do go around the wheel scientifically trying to get accuracy. A bit of OCD here! Mmmm...all looks ok, so after about 4 hours of strangely therapeutic efforts I have a wheel. It is round and strong! Haha



    But then, I decided to convert my tyres to tubeless and something like this happens!

    The stans liquid explodes everywhere...like being slimed from Ghostbusters!



    So what did I learn. on your first wheel build, do it in stages over a one to three days, possibly a week. Break it up...oh and read Sheldon browns BEFORE you start!

    sheldon brown wheel guide

    I finished at midnight!

    Hope you enjoyed reading...perhaps share your first wheel builds with us?

    Thanks,

    tBike. (junior wheelbuilder)

  2. #2
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    Great job. You taught yourself how to fish! I know the first time is tiring. I can assure you though, builds will become exponentially faster and easier with time and experience.


    Thanks for sharing!
    Check out www.zencyclery.com for fully customizable, handbuilt wheels.

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  3. #3
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    I have been wrenching on bikes for 35 yrs and will not build wheels. I am soooo glad I paid pro to do it. But I am so happy for you. Great work! I took my 29er Chris King/Dt spoke/WTB i23 wheelset to Downieville for 5 runs, and put another 25 rides on them and they are still true! I am jealous that you did it, and hope they work great! Good job man.

  4. #4
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    By the way, the guy from Wrench Science built both wheels while I stood there in about an hour!!!!

  5. #5
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    Nice job!

    Back when I built my first wheel we didn't have the internet and Sheldon Brown. Well, we did, but I didn't have a modem in my computer nor an internet connection. So I built my wheel by copying an existing wheel, and I did it the wrong & hard way too by building one side at a time. Let me tell you, don't do it that way, trying to fit & bend all the spokes into place took longer than tensioning & truing the wheel (I was pretty good at truing wheels by that point). I think I started when I got home from school and didn't finish until bedtime.

    I didn't learn the right way to build wheels until a year later when I saw a mechanic at a local shop do it. He did it the Sheldon Brown way, but with power tools to thread the nipples on, and holy crap was it ever fast. Went from a bunch of parts on a workbench to a laced up wheel in 10 minutes or so, and had the entire wheel tensioned and trued in under half an hour. It was seriously impressive.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by aerius View Post
    Nice job!

    Back when I built my first wheel we didn't have the internet and Sheldon Brown. Well, we did, but I didn't have a modem in my computer nor an internet connection. So I built my wheel by copying an existing wheel, and I did it the wrong & hard way too by building one side at a time. Let me tell you, don't do it that way, trying to fit & bend all the spokes into place took longer than tensioning & truing the wheel (I was pretty good at truing wheels by that point). I think I started when I got home from school and didn't finish until bedtime.

    I didn't learn the right way to build wheels until a year later when I saw a mechanic at a local shop do it. He did it the Sheldon Brown way, but with power tools to thread the nipples on, and holy crap was it ever fast. Went from a bunch of parts on a workbench to a laced up wheel in 10 minutes or so, and had the entire wheel tensioned and trued in under half an hour. It was seriously impressive.
    I built my first 6-10 wheels using a mid-'80s Bicycling mag article by Ric Hjertberg. Similar to Sheldon's instructions. Slow to build, but easy to get it right.
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  7. #7
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    Thanks for all the feedback, much appreciated.

    This is the side on view.


  8. #8
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    Great job. And, as everyone has said, it will only get easier now. Next you will find yourself building wheels for fun!

    Thanks for sharing too

  9. #9
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    Aloha, yes, great job. Each wheel you learn a little and it actually isn't that bad. I agree, sometimes I break the job up into mini tasks in front of the TV or something so I can relax while I am doing the job.

    One tip. When airing up and seating a tubeless tire, good idea to wear safety glasses AND ear plugs. In all the years I've been doing this, I've had 2 tires blow off. The first one made my ears ring for a bit. From then on, I've always said if it happens again, I'll be "safe".

  10. #10
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    I built a wheel today...my 5th. Took about an hour to lace sitting in an easy chair watching a movie. About another hour to tension and true.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by hoolie View Post
    I have been wrenching on bikes for 35 yrs and will not build wheels. I am soooo glad I paid pro to do it. But I am so happy for you. Great work! I took my 29er Chris King/Dt spoke/WTB i23 wheelset to Downieville for 5 runs, and put another 25 rides on them and they are still true! I am jealous that you did it, and hope they work great! Good job man.
    You shouldnt be jealous, you should give it a shot! its really pretty easy, the first one can run into hiccups and take a while, but if you put in an effort, you'll get a good wheel.

    Wheelbuilding is only an mysterious art until you give it a shot

  12. #12
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    Great job! I'm still working on my first wheelset. I could probably knock it out faster but with 2 little kids time is hard to come by. It is fun and very rewarding.

  13. #13
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    When building wheels, I use one of these initially to make all the nipples as close to evenly positioned on the spoke as possible.
    Problem Solvers
    This has a small piece of spoke sticking out of the center, so when it hits the spoke, it just stops spinning. Theoretically it provides same amount of turns on the spoke all the way around. Once you get all the spokes set, then I event them off so the flats on the nipples are as close to being the same all around. Then I simply turn in each nipple the same amount around the wheel until it starts to build tension. If you do this(some do it differently) this will help to keep the hub centered, and help to reduce or eliminate the chance of "hop". I keep tensioning, truing every few turns until I get my drive side (rear wheel) tension where I want it, then simply true the wheel. I never worry about the tension on the non drive side unless its really low or uneven, at which point I will bring it up then readjust the wheel. Of course you will need to check dish during this process as well and adjust from there.

    It will become easier with time!

  14. #14
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    The spokes aren't loaded in the hub correctly. The inner spokes should be going in the same direction, as should the outers. Also, if you really want to finish a wheel correctly, a tension gauge is required.

  15. #15
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    That's a cool little tool!


    Quote Originally Posted by nov0798 View Post
    When building wheels, I use one of these initially to make all the nipples as close to evenly positioned on the spoke as possible.
    Problem Solvers
    This has a small piece of spoke sticking out of the center, so when it hits the spoke, it just stops spinning. Theoretically it provides same amount of turns on the spoke all the way around. Once you get all the spokes set, then I event them off so the flats on the nipples are as close to being the same all around. Then I simply turn in each nipple the same amount around the wheel until it starts to build tension. If you do this(some do it differently) this will help to keep the hub centered, and help to reduce or eliminate the chance of "hop". I keep tensioning, truing every few turns until I get my drive side (rear wheel) tension where I want it, then simply true the wheel. I never worry about the tension on the non drive side unless its really low or uneven, at which point I will bring it up then readjust the wheel. Of course you will need to check dish during this process as well and adjust from there.

    It will become easier with time!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by pursuiter View Post
    The spokes aren't loaded in the hub correctly. The inner spokes should be going in the same direction, as should the outers. Also, if you really want to finish a wheel correctly, a tension gauge is required.
    I was advised by my LBS that this is the preferred way to lace when using a disc hub due to the torsional forces being loaded onto the leading spoke of the disc side. Highlighted spokes on inside of the flange on the disc side. Any other views on this ?

    Click to make bigger


    Really interesting to hear everyones feedback, I did use a Park Tool TM1 tension meter, brilliant tool
    .
    On the rear wheel I made sure that all tension were more or less perfect on the drive side, but the wheel was untrue. This made me believe that the rim was slightly weaker in some areas. It was a second hand rim. In the end I had to settle with some deviation of tension to keep the wheel true. Aluminium weaknesses do show up.

  17. #17
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    @photoshiekh- I've heard some numbers thrown around that lacing heads in (elbows out) on the rear DS can stiffen up the wheel torsionally, so I would assume that this would be similar for deceleration, if it is in fact true.
    The reality is though, that the build would've worked just fine had the leading spokes been heads out, and pulling heads in.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by photosheikh View Post
    I was advised by my LBS that this is the preferred way to lace when using a disc hub due to the torsional forces being loaded onto the leading spoke of the disc side
    When stressing the wheel, asymmetrical builds (such as yours) are noticeable weaker. Heads in/heads out doesn't really matter, key point is that the inners go the same way and the outers go the same way.

    In the end I had to settle with some deviation of tension to keep the wheel true. Aluminium weaknesses do show up.
    It's always better to live with some out-of-true than unequal tension. If you have disc brakes, what's the big deal if the wheel wiggles a little?

  19. #19
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    I've only built 3 or wheels. I plan to build a set of 650B this winter. I was originally taught by a friend of mine and I generally use a Dirt Rag mag to remind myself of the process. It's # 35 from 1993 "Building Mountain Wheels" with master wheel builder Peter White as told by Philip Keys. I need more tools because I too have the problem of not getting the wheel perfectly tensioned and true when I'm done. Run-out or out of radial true etc always crops up. I have a ways to go before I perfect my wheel building but it's therapeutic and fun. Hope to learn a but more this time and not have to take them to anybody to perfect them.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by morkys View Post
    I need more tools because I too have the problem of not getting the wheel perfectly tensioned and true when I'm done.
    Have you tried using the tone method? I find its a really quick and easy method of building the tension in the wheel evenly throughout the process.

    Basically as soon as you get to the step where the last of the threads disappear into the nipple (monitoring the exposed threads is an easy way of gauging relative tension early in the process), go through and pluck an number of the spokes on one side of the wheel. Pick the average tone, and then tighten or de-tension all of the spokes that deviate from that average tone. Then do the other side. Then check then check the tension of the drive side. If its still too loose...give everything a full or a half turn. Then check tones again. You can rough tune the wheel by ear in a fraction of the time it takes to do it with the meter and it is at least as accurate.

  21. #21
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    That's a good idea. Thanks.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by pursuiter View Post
    When stressing the wheel, asymmetrical builds (such as yours) are noticeable weaker. Heads in/heads out doesn't really matter, key point is that the inners go the same way and the outers go the same way.
    I dont see what you're saying.. all his heads out spokes go left, and all his heads in go right.. standard lacing.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by One Pivot View Post
    ...standard lacing.
    Standard machine lacing for low-cost wheels. Quality hand builds are never done like that. If you stress the wheel, you'll see there's a significant difference. Less likely to taco.

  24. #24
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    If you stress the wheel, you'll see there's a significant difference. Less likely to taco.
    Show me numbers.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by photosheikh View Post
    I was advised by my LBS that this is the preferred way to lace when using a disc hub due to the torsional forces being loaded onto the leading spoke of the disc side. Highlighted spokes on inside of the flange on the disc side. Any other views on this ?
    According to the Shimano tech docs, pursuiter is correct.

    However, I disagree with Shimano's recommendations IF the clearance between the spokes and brake caliper is very tight. In that situation, lacing the spokes the Shimano way can result in the spokes hitting the caliper under heavy braking since the spokes that are getting loaded will tend to straighten and push outwards towards the caliper. In that case you'd lace the disc side the way you did it so that the loaded spokes push inwards away from the caliper, and on the drive side, put all the heads in spokes heads out and vice-versa while keeping everything else the same.

    Since I have healthy clearance on all my wheels, I lace them the Shimano way. It's also the way I learned to lace all my wheels so I do them that way by default.

  26. #26
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    edit.

  27. #27
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    I had a machine built wheel hanging around, so I checked it.. both left and right side were laced heads in left, the way not advised by shimano. So I relaced the NDS heads in right, like they show. Tensioned and checked.

    Its no different. its not stiffer, the wheel feels the same. So much for that.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by One Pivot View Post
    ...So much for that.
    With a light road rim it's very noticeable, perhaps that made a difference in your test. Lots of wheels are ridden every day laced incorrectly, you'll be fine either way.

  29. #29
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    Nice job photosheikh!

    I just finished my first wheel today. I had a bit of an experience since the company I ordered the spokes from mixed in 8 spokes with a different gauge than what I ordered. I didn't notice until I had the wheel almost finished but weird things were happening.

    Anyway, they sent me the correct spokes and like I said, I finished the wheel today. Actually built up nicely after getting the correct spokes in there.

    I bought Roger Musson's book and used it to build the wheel, which turned out to be a very good guide to build wheels. Now I just need to complete the rear wheel.

    Happy wheel building!

    -Skippy

  30. #30
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    I finished my first wheelset today. For decades I have been great at truing wheels, but the actual act of lacing spokes just scared the heck out of me. I don't know why, because it was so much easier than I thought.

    The sense of pride I felt rolling down the road was like nothing I've ever felt before. First of all it was like 25 years in the making. The first thing I felt or think I noticed was how fast they accelerated. The tension is higher than all my other wheels, so maybe they're stiffer, I don't know. I just know that the sense of acomplishment, mixed with having a custom configuration that is stiff and strong, is bliss.

    The final frontier for the home mechanic. Finallly. I don't know what I was scared of, but I'm so glad I did it. It's the last step to be completely free from your LBS. It's the beginning of a whole new world for me, now.

    I can't believe I just jumped curbs and hammered up hills, standing up and putting lateral loads on these wheels, and they're still true and perfect. I just can't believe it worked. I'm as proud as a pig with two tails right now.

  31. #31
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    Well done Trilancing.

    It really is the last step to completely servicing your bikes.

    Now and then you have to remind yourself when whizzing along, that you built these wheels.

    When man created the very first wheel can you imagine how they felt?

    These days everything is made for us.

    It is our curiosity to understand how things work, then build it ourselves.

    Man watches a birds flying, then man builds an aeroplane.

    What next...what about a KERS system to generate power for your lights when you brake?

  32. #32
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    My first wheel build - What an experience...a test of endurance!

    This thread is still lacking input from wheel building gurus, Mike T and meltingfeather.

    Would love to hear their take




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  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by dwt View Post
    This thread is still lacking input from wheel building gurus, Mike T and meltingfeather. Would love to hear their take
    Maybe we're being quiet for good reasons. Really, I think much of the stuff being talked about here won't make the sky fall whatever way it's done. A couples of comments though -

    Pursuiter - if you really want to finish a wheel correctly, a tension gauge is required.
    I guess my 51 year tally of home built wheels haven't been done correctly then as I've never used a spoke tension meter. Something else must be holding them together. But - the pluck/ping method of setting relative tensions is excellent (and it's what I use); it just won't do anything for acceptable tension. Judgement must be used for this if measurement isn't and I guess my judgement has been ok - so far.

    As for the "which way should spokes go" discussion - all I'll say is this ~ all my wheels, whether they be self-built or built by others, are "mirror image" - meaning all my heads-in spokes radiate one way and all my heads-out spokes radiate the opposite way. Which way they go doesn't bother me as I've done 'em both ways with the same (ok) result. What I do like though is the final cross on the DS rear pulling the spokes away from the derailer when in low gear.

    Anything else I don't give a **** about because I've proved to myself that it doesn't matter.

    And to photosheik - you just can't lose your place when building a wheel. For me it would be the reason to start over again. My webpage info stresses this. AFAIC when you lose concentration and lose your place, it's all over. To try and correct the mistakes while going forward just complicates the job way too much. Maybe that's why my wheelbuilds still take me 4 hours each. I'm in no hurry.
    Mike T's home wheelbuilding site - dedicated to providing Newby wheelbuilders with information and motivation.

  34. #34
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    Congratulations on your first build ... have you been bitten by the bug now?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    ... What I do like though is the final cross on the DS rear pulling the spokes away from the derailleur when in low gear ...
    So is that final set of spokes on the DS, heads-in or out?

    I have built my wheels ... heads in for the final set on the DS ... and for a 3x ... it was over, over and under?

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by chinaman View Post
    So is that final set of spokes on the DS, heads-in or out?
    That would be a heads out set.
    Mike T's home wheelbuilding site - dedicated to providing Newby wheelbuilders with information and motivation.

  36. #36
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    Just did my first wheel build the other day as well. It was mostly spare parts that were lying around the shop; I got the lacing pattern right, and it's trued and dished. But the tension is not uniform. Needs work! Anyways, I've got a new wheel build in the works. I'll be using sram x7 hubs (not the greatest obviously), and I was wondering about spoke length. I can calculate the spoke lengths, but I'm concerned about something. The hub diameter on the non-drive side is 67mm, while on the drive side it is 54 mm. To get the spoke length right on the drive side, should I subtract the radius of the drive side from the non-drive side and then subtract that measurement from the calculated spoke length I would get using a spoke calculator? The spoke calculator I will use does not have my hubs listed so I have to do all the measurements.

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by aspiringmechanic View Post
    The spoke calculator I will use does not have my hubs listed so I have to do all the measurements.
    Then you're not relying on possibly incorrect information.
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  38. #38
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    That's true. Am I making sense though? I feel the offset I mentioned (hub diameter on each flange side) WILL affect the spoke length. Does the math seem sound, or am I at least in the right direction?

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by aspiringmechanic View Post
    That's true. Am I making sense though? I feel the offset I mentioned (hub diameter on each flange side) WILL affect the spoke length. Does the math seem sound, or am I at least in the right direction?
    It makes perfect sense. With all spoke calculators you can insert the flange diameters - even if different, as yours are (and lots are) along with flange spacing (from the axle mid point) and you will get two spoke lengths. And then you're all set to go.

    Please do your own measurements though as lots of rim ERDs and hub dimensions are incorrect. And the producer of the bad data never gets to suffer the consequences; you do. Roger Musson's excellent e-book gives you all the info you need to do this easy job.
    Mike T's home wheelbuilding site - dedicated to providing Newby wheelbuilders with information and motivation.

  40. #40
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    Thanks Mike T. You've been very helpful and courteous. I'll be sure to take your advice, and I'll check out that e-book in the meantime as well! Hope you all enjoy the trails when that nice weather finally comes around!

  41. #41
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    Liking this thread. I've always entertained the idea of building my own wheels but was always worried I'd mess it up. Last summer I tacoed a front wheel and was reluctant to shell out the $$$ to get a new one. Several months later I got some inexpensive parts to build a front wheel. Parts were:

    WTB Speed Disc AM rim (29er)
    Shimano M545 hub
    Brass nipples
    Double butted spokes

    Followed Musson's directions and even made the spoke driver with a dollar store screwdriver and a dremel (did not bend screwdriver shaft as prescribed).

    Father-in-law made a plywood dishing tool and I had a wonky Minoura truing stand. During the process I ended up getting a spokey wrench, a set of feeler gauges and Park Tool TM-1.

    Build started off well and I ended up with an OK wheel. Took a few days to do the build working on it a bit at a time. Patience was required to reconcile radial and lateral true and dish *whew*. Once it was done it took me a few weeks before I was able to test it (snow, salt and crap on the roads). When I did I was amazed that it did not collapse, and actually took a bit of a 'beating' rolling down stairs and the like. However, I was not satisfied as I thought the spoke tension could be more even after reading a bit more on the subject. Was also worried tension was too high after I asked WTB about max tension for the wheel.

    Got the TM-1 and checked overall tension which was way beyond what was recommended (or so I thought). I loosened the spokes, threw my dish off, and messed things up enough to remove tension in the spokes and start over. Re-tensioned, dished and trued again and while checking the tension noticed that the readings I got that were too high earlier was the result of me misreading the TM-1 chart

    Still did not regret using the TM-1 as I was having trouble determining relative tension using the pluck method. I don't seem to be proficient at discerning high-low tones if they are too close together. They have to be way different for me to tell.

    Second round build was OK ,but still too tight. Spent an afternoon redoing the tension before I was satisfied. When I have a few moments I'll mount tires and rotors, I just need to help out more around the house to get my 'tinker time' account topped up

    While some frustration was involved, I'm still glad I gave it a shot. Although I have yet to give this incarnation of the wheel a test ride, I'm still looking at sourcing some $$$ for my next attempt.

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by aerius View Post
    According to the Shimano tech docs, pursuiter is correct.
    Not exactly. Shimano would have you build a symmetrical front wheel and an asym rear. link
    I have also never seen any reasonable attempt to justify or rationalize the "Shimano way" of lacing. A recent thread about it digressed into followers of the Church of Shimano giving testimonials about how they came to believe.

    Quote Originally Posted by aerius View Post
    However, I disagree with Shimano's recommendations IF the clearance between the spokes and brake caliper is very tight. In that situation, lacing the spokes the Shimano way can result in the spokes hitting the caliper under heavy braking since the spokes that are getting loaded will tend to straighten and push outwards towards the caliper. In that case you'd lace the disc side the way you did it so that the loaded spokes push inwards away from the caliper, and on the drive side, put all the heads in spokes heads out and vice-versa while keeping everything else the same.
    Chris King agrees (page 1).

    Quote Originally Posted by aerius View Post
    Since I have healthy clearance on all my wheels, I lace them the Shimano way. It's also the way I learned to lace all my wheels so I do them that way by default.
    I haven't had any experience that would indicate that it matters (clearance aside... I have heard a caliper being rubbed under braking).
    Last edited by meltingfeather; 04-03-2013 at 05:35 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by pvd
    Time to stop believing the hype and start doing some science.
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  43. #43
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    My first wheel build - What an experience...a test of endurance!

    Quote Originally Posted by pursuiter View Post
    Quality hand builds are never done like that. If you stress the wheel, you'll see there's a significant difference. Less likely to taco.
    I agree with terrible and would like to see/hear your basis for this belief. It's generally contrary to my experience and nothing I know about wheel geometry and structural analysis would support what you're claiming.
    Quote Originally Posted by pvd
    Time to stop believing the hype and start doing some science.
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  44. #44
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    My first wheel build - What an experience...a test of endurance!

    Quote Originally Posted by Metamorphic View Post
    That's a cool little tool!
    The thing is, you can get to the same point just by looking at the threads, and neither method accounts for the minor differences in spoke length that are commonly encountered.
    Quote Originally Posted by pvd
    Time to stop believing the hype and start doing some science.
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  45. #45
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    My first wheel build - What an experience...a test of endurance!

    Quote Originally Posted by chinaman View Post
    So is that final set of spokes on the DS, heads-in or out?

    I have built my wheels ... heads in for the final set on the DS ... and for a 3x ... it was over, over and under?
    "Final cross" and "final set" from a lacing perspective are two different things.
    In terms of lacing, the final two sets should always be heads in... someone has already alluded to what happens if you do it the other way.
    Quote Originally Posted by pvd
    Time to stop believing the hype and start doing some science.
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    I've gotten the lacing down pretty well at this point, having practiced it multiple times on two different wheels. Getting proper spoke tension, dishing the wheel, and truing it are proving to be quite a challenge. Having to take things very slowly and start from scratch again haha... Still glad I'm trying wheel building though.

  47. #47
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    In the grand scheme of life, I personally think that learning to build "the wheel" is a quietly huge achievement. Think of ourselves as the first caveman who just made a breakthrough! Don't take your biking for granted until you have built your first wheel!

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