How much is it to lace a wheel?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    New question here. How much is it to lace a wheel?

    One shop quoted me $220 for labor and spokes. That is like half the price of a carbon rim!
    Is that reasonable? What is a fair price and where should I go?

  2. #2
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    That does seem high but what spokes are you using and how fast did you want it built?

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    Quote Originally Posted by driver bob View Post
    That does seem high but what spokes are you using and how fast did you want it built?
    They didn't tell which spokes, but I don't need anything fancy. Within 5 days would be acceptable.

  4. #4
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    Lacing up wheels is expensive as I have found out but honestly 5 days is probably not realistic right now. Itís summer season and everyone wants work done on their bikes. Unless you have an ďinĒ with one of the mechanics or your local shop isnít busy, I would probably give them a week if not two. As for the quoted price, most shops charge $50-70 an hour with a 2-3 hour job plus spokes, yeah that doesnít seem too far off honestly.
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  5. #5
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    Someone was selling a compete wheel building tool set on the NorCal for Sale 2019 thread. $200 I think. That is a steal. Maybe buy it and do it yourself. And if you screw it up, you can always take it to a shop and have them 'true' it for you, as long as the spokes are laced right. Probably a lot cheaper.

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    Exact same wheel that I broke is $359.00. Rim is $85.
    So if I get whole new wheel that would be almost the same cost as buying just the rim and re-lacing, except I will have an extra hub, which retails for $249.
    Isn't that weird?

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5k bike 50cent legs View Post
    And if you screw it up, you can always take it to a shop and have them 'true' it for you, as long as the spokes are laced right. Probably a lot cheaper.
    Virtually never cheaper to start the job yourself!


    Original poster:

    I charge $50 per wheel for labor and have built about a 1000 wheels over the years, too bad I used to do it for $20/wheel.

    Are you buying the rims from the shop? If you are providing the rims, the shop might be adding an extra surcharge.

    Do you know what spoke length you need? The shop will need to measure the rims and do some math, that is not included in the time to build the wheels.

    Some spokes can be $4-5 each, standard stainless steel spokes are $1 each.

    Wheel building, like suspension is one thing that you should ask some other cyclists in your area where they get their work done. Not all mechanics have experience building from scratch.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5k bike 50cent legs View Post
    Someone was selling a compete wheel building tool set on the NorCal for Sale 2019 thread. $200 I think. That is a steal. Maybe buy it and do it yourself. And if you screw it up, you can always take it to a shop and have them 'true' it for you, as long as the spokes are laced right. Probably a lot cheaper.
    Great idea and a great way to learn how to do it.
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    I passionately remove rocks and corners and other stuff I find too hard to ride.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by DIRTJUNKIE View Post
    Great idea and a great way to learn how to do it.
    You gotta start somewhere. Unless you just want to pay someone to do it. I maintain every part of my bikes, and most of my friends bikes (which has become a job in and of itself). I grew up fabricating hot rods, race cars, and custom Harleys with my Dad, so working on a bike ain't that daunting to me!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5k bike 50cent legs View Post
    You gotta start somewhere. Unless you just want to pay someone to do it. I maintain every part of my bikes, and most of my friends bikes (which has become a job in and of itself). I grew up fabricating hot rods, race cars, and custom Harleys with my Dad, so working on a bike ain't that daunting to me!
    Errrrr, I think working on your bike and building wheels are two different things

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by noblige View Post
    Errrrr, I think working on your bike and building wheels are two different things
    Luckily, I can do both.

  12. #12
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    32 hole 3 cross on alloy hoop, straight gauge spokes, would be $120 flat rate for labor.

    Something like a 28 hole, low ratio, carbon hoop, or similar modern wheel would take twice that time and warrant double the price for labor.

    I personally don't even want to build custom wheels these days because machine built wheels are wayyyyy more superior. Plus the warranty that comes with these new high end wheels is way worth the price we pay.

    We mechanics have such the luxury in this modern era of being able to enter in the model of the hub and ERD of the hoop and find the exact spoke length with a few clicks. That helps keep the cost down.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by noblige View Post
    Exact same wheel that I broke is $359.00. Rim is $85.
    So if I get whole new wheel that would be almost the same cost as buying just the rim and re-lacing, except I will have an extra hub, which retails for $249.
    Isn't that weird?
    Yeah that's a PITA. If there were no broken or worn parts that needed replacing, then a swap on a 32 hole rim with a standard 4 side nipple would take less than an hour to swap and probably another hour or less to tension properly. Figure in a new rim strip, maybe a new valve stem and you're styling.

  14. #14
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    Lacing a wheel is quick and easy!

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    Quote Originally Posted by noblige View Post
    Exact same wheel that I broke is $359.00. Rim is $85.
    So if I get whole new wheel that would be almost the same cost as buying just the rim and re-lacing, except I will have an extra hub, which retails for $249.
    Isn't that weird?
    I don't have a clue about what a wheel costs to build up, but I do not find your scenario to be weird at all.

    You are paying a shop mechanic to build you a wheel, which is taking him away from other shop projects (as long as the shop is busy enough to keep the mechanic busy). The shop needs to keep the lights on, that isn't free.

    Or on the flip side, pay for a pre-fabbed wheel done via automation (to a degree) and sold in bulk.
    I could sell you a used wheel in my garage, or I could charge you to build it -I'd rather ride my bike than build you a wheel, therefore you must pay me for my time instead of catching a deal on some left overs in my garage.
    Make sense?

  16. #16
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    Yes, labor is expensive. Wheels take time to do right. Machines can do them these days, but only in bulk.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5k bike 50cent legs View Post
    I maintain every part of my bikes, and most of my friends bikes (which has become a job in and of itself).
    Is it too soon to start calling you ďbuddyĒ? Iíll just start doing it and you let me know if it gets weird. Thanks, buddy.

  18. #18
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    $220 is absurd, find a different shop.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by redmr2_man View Post
    $220 is absurd, find a different shop.
    That's what i thought. I'm sure it'll be just standard grade spokes and nipples too.

    I love the comments from mechanics here that machine built wheels are better. I kind of suspected that as I've seen the battery of wheel building machines at Santa Cruz Bicycles and Vittoria. Hundred thousand dollar machines (essentially robots) building wheels, shepherded by a technician. These things are deadly accurate and 100% duplicatable. Crazy test machines too to ensure the build and duplicability.

    I think many shops don't have a wheelbuilder anymore so this is a dying art and it's tough to be efficiient, make money and build a great wheel.
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  20. #20
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    I dunno.

    32 Sapim Spokes $32.00
    32 Nipples $3.20
    2 hours labor $150.00
    Shipping $25
    w/ Tax $2.96
    Subtotal $213.16

    Profit from sale (assume general 40% KM) = $85.26

    Minus loss of time when
    customer comes back in
    for final adjustment and
    time wasting session... -$75 Hr.

    Final Profit to bike shop -$14.74

    Unless you squeeze the labor down, there is no margin for building wheels in a bike shop.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by fc View Post

    I think many shops don't have a wheelbuilder anymore so this is a dying art and it's tough to be efficient, make money and build a great wheel.
    It's not all about the money! I truly enjoy building wheels and it is a nice relief from the standard lube and clean job.

    I do make slightly less building a wheel then tuning a bike or swapping out inner tubes, but how much is a man's sanity worth?

    Most wheels can be built and tensioned in about an hour by a skilled builder. I thought the original poster was getting a pair of wheels built, $220 does seem a bit steep for a single.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5k bike 50cent legs View Post
    You gotta start somewhere. Unless you just want to pay someone to do it. I maintain every part of my bikes, and most of my friends bikes (which has become a job in and of itself). I grew up fabricating hot rods, race cars, and custom Harleys with my Dad, so working on a bike ain't that daunting to me!
    I knew there was something about you I connected with.
    Quote Originally Posted by mileslong View Post
    I passionately remove rocks and corners and other stuff I find too hard to ride.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by fc View Post
    Hundred thousand dollar machines (essentially robots) building wheels, shepherded by a technician. These things are deadly accurate and 100% duplicatable. Crazy test machines too to ensure the build and duplicability.
    Video posted online today of exactly this: https://youtu.be/vCXjULCMAvY?t=293

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBikeStore View Post
    Video posted online today of exactly this: https://youtu.be/vCXjULCMAvY?t=293
    Very cool, Iím amazed thereís even a human involved in that.
    Quote Originally Posted by mileslong View Post
    I passionately remove rocks and corners and other stuff I find too hard to ride.

  25. #25
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    1. Buy Roger Musson's book
    2. Read it cover to cover once
    3. Read over the important bits again while you build your wheel. Don't question it, just do what he says.
    4. Enjoy awesome wheels that you can maintain for the rest of your life

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by nilswalk View Post
    1. Buy Roger Musson's book
    2. Read it cover to cover once
    3. Read over the important bits again while you build your wheel. Don't question it, just do what he says.
    4. Enjoy awesome wheels that you can maintain for the rest of your life
    This is what I did, and I've built two wheelsets so far.

    There really isn't much 'art' to wheel building.
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  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cornfield View Post
    This is what I did, and I've built two wheelsets so far.

    There really isn't much 'art' to wheel building.
    Nope, just patience and being deliberate. I find it kinda relaxing.

  28. #28
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    Any monkey can watch a video and copy it and lace up a wheel.

    But to add tension slowly and paying attention to all aspects of the build takes years of experience to do it right. No, not just to do it, but to do it correctly. Not 'good enough', but correct.

    And lets face it, some people find better things to do with their time than tinkering on their bikes. Aint nothing wrong with that at all.

    $200 labor to build a wheel however is asinine! I've been building wheels for over 30 years and that has been for top lever performance athletes who depend on their bikes to pay their bills. Have had my own shop for over 15years. But I don't go charging $200/wheel to build....unless it was some janky Campy or Fulcrum road tubeless rim, if you know what I'm talking about....take a Zannex and relax my brutha!

    But for some common MTB hub and rim and spokes $45-65 range would be to be expected from a reputable builder.

    Building wheels, once you've done A BUNCH, can be very ZEN like.....but that comes after many many wheels where it's second nature to what you're doing. That doesn't happen in the first few wheels. The first few wheels should be stressful and full of second-guessing yourself. If you're not, you obviously don't care about doing a good job.

    rambling over...
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  29. #29
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    I bought one of the park tensionometers and then use the DT swiss website to find spoke lengths. IF you are replacing a rim with the same rim you can just measure the spokes that are on there. If you are buying a different rim then this is where it gets more difficult because more than likely you will have a harder time finding the measurements you need from the original hub. There is plenty of information online on how to calculate it and you can't go wrong with the lacing directions from sheldon brown's website.

    You can true up the wheel in your own frame using zip ties attached to the fork legs and chainstay/seatstays centered in the wheel opening or measured from the original wheel before delacing and relacing.

    Most people can do this, it will take a lot of time. If you can get spokes from a local source it is sometimes better than ordering online and if you are lucky either your rims, hubs or both are designed so you only use one length of spoke, which makes things really easy. That said it isn't simple but it is methodical and has been done for many centuries on everything from motorbikes and cars to baby carriages, so it certainly isn't magic.

    That said sweat equity is still money, you just spend your time instead of dollars.
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  30. #30
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    I had a rear wheel built recently at SVCS in Scotts Valley. They do great work there. Cost was flat rate of $90 for the wheel build labor itself, and about $80 for spokes (28 h, DT Comp)/nipples (DT Squorx aluminum). Got it done in less than a week; originally I was just going to have them true the existing wheel but it was pretty bad, so decided to replace the rim. This was was a Sat about a month ago (busy season) when I first came in to drop it off to get trued, that day decided to do a rebuild, got on the schedule for the following Wed. Brought in the old wheel (removed tire/cushcore etc myself first to save a little $) first thing that Wed and it was done later that day.

  31. #31
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    I Learned how to build a wheel, but unless I built one every week, at least, that skill would be gone in no time. Short-term memory is pretty full these days.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Radium View Post
    I Learned how to build a wheel, but unless I built one every week, at least, that skill would be gone in no time. Short-term memory is pretty full these days.
    It would take me a couple three hours to do another wheel, but after that one I could probably knock one out in an hour, laced and tensioned at least.
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  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockcrusher View Post
    I bought one of the park tensionometers and then use the DT swiss website to find spoke lengths. IF you are replacing a rim with the same rim you can just measure the spokes that are on there. If you are buying a different rim then this is where it gets more difficult because more than likely you will have a harder time finding the measurements you need from the original hub. There is plenty of information online on how to calculate it and you can't go wrong with the lacing directions from sheldon brown's website.

    You can true up the wheel in your own frame using zip ties attached to the fork legs and chainstay/seatstays centered in the wheel opening or measured from the original wheel before delacing and relacing.

    Most people can do this, it will take a lot of time. If you can get spokes from a local source it is sometimes better than ordering online and if you are lucky either your rims, hubs or both are designed so you only use one length of spoke, which makes things really easy. That said it isn't simple but it is methodical and has been done for many centuries on everything from motorbikes and cars to baby carriages, so it certainly isn't magic.

    That said sweat equity is still money, you just spend your time instead of dollars.
    Don't forget dishing.

  34. #34
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    I'm somewhat mechanically inclined. I have built 4 of my own wheels. It was as much a "let's see if I can do it" challenge as much as it was for the price of a shop to build the wheels.

    My thoughts on initial costs.
    $150-250 on the truing stand
    $50 for a Park dish tool (it can be had cheaper)
    $80 for spoke tension meter. (not required, but I felt it would limit dumb mistakes)

    That's a lot up front.
    It took me about 5 hrs to do my first. I'm faster now.

    I have done a road wheel and a Cdale Lefty also. I have yet to do an asymmetric rim.

    Bottom line:
    If you have more money than time, have a shop do it.
    If you have more time than money, are doing more than one, and are somewhat mechanically inclined, do it yourself.
    Lead by my Lefty............... right down the trail, no brakes.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by fc View Post
    That's what i thought. I'm sure it'll be just standard grade spokes and nipples too.

    I love the comments from mechanics here that machine built wheels are better. I kind of suspected that as I've seen the battery of wheel building machines at Santa Cruz Bicycles and Vittoria. Hundred thousand dollar machines (essentially robots) building wheels, shepherded by a technician. These things are deadly accurate and 100% duplicatable. Crazy test machines too to ensure the build and duplicability.

    I think many shops don't have a wheelbuilder anymore so this is a dying art and it's tough to be efficiient, make money and build a great wheel.
    Yes, I was thinking along the same lines. I had the misfortune to relace a set of wheels recently myself, it's totally a job for a machine. Not sure whats the art here.

    For the OP, Norcal is one of the most expensive labor markets in the country, manual labor will cost a lot here, its at least two hours for someone with experience (and not all bike mechanics do it on autopilot).
    The price seem OK.

    If I had the same case I would either DIY or buy a new wheel (you can sell the old hub). Rebuilding a wheel with an old aluminum rim is not that hot. I assume that if the wheel has to be rebuilt there was some trauma involved. So its a post trauma rim.

    A few cities have community bike co-ops, they will have all the tools. If you are lucky there is one nearby, it lowers the DIY cost significantly since the tools are not cheap.

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5k bike 50cent legs View Post
    Luckily, I can do both.
    I'm guessing you did not dork up your wheels since you have not posted in the "Rider down" forum.

    Just curious if you could list your tools to build and your price paid. I ask because I want to give someone a clear picture of what it costs to build their first.
    Lead by my Lefty............... right down the trail, no brakes.

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by ziscwg View Post
    I'm guessing you did not dork up your wheels since you have not posted in the "Rider down" forum.

    Just curious if you could list your tools to build and your price paid. I ask because I want to give someone a clear picture of what it costs to build their first.
    I have a bunch of stuff, but you don't need this to build a set of wheels. An $80 truing stand, $50 tension meter, $25 dish tool, $10 spoke key is all you need.

    My tools:

    Park Professional Stand with lateral and radial dial gauges
    Park disc rotor gauge
    Park Tension Meter
    Park Dish Tool
    Spoke Nipple Driver
    Spokey wrenches

  38. #38
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    Let me run this by my CFO

    How much is it to lace a wheel?-screen-shot-2019-09-13-9.11.57-am.jpg

  39. #39
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    This and a spoke wrench are the only tools you need.

    https://www.wheelpro.co.uk/wheelbuilding/book.php
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  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cornfield View Post
    This and a spoke wrench are the only tools you need.

    https://www.wheelpro.co.uk/wheelbuilding/book.php
    Can probably also ditch spoke wrench for pliers?

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by noblige View Post
    Can probably also ditch spoke wrench for pliers?
    Don't get carried away now, lol!

    I built a truing stand similar to the one in the book, it was really easy for me since I do some woodworking, but anyone can make an adequate stand, just Google DIY truing stand. I actually posted about my modified version of Roger's stand here on the forums and he replied with some input. I also made a nipple driver and a dishing gauge, it's all basic stuff. I did buy the $75-80 Park TM-1 just to be sure my wheelsets came out with the right tension, and they did, both times.
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  42. #42
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    How much is it to lace a wheel?

    Quote Originally Posted by noblige View Post
    Let me run this by my CFO

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Like I said, I maintain my friends and family bikes. And they have high expectations!

    You donít need a truing stand, but a good one makes the job so much easier. You can make a dish tool out of a clothes hanger in about 5 min.

  43. #43
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    IMO a tension meter is a must. It is the difference between a wheel that will last or a wheel you would have to rebuild again.

  44. #44
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    Here's some questions you guys can ruminate on: Do you spec the tension before you mount your tires, or after? What do you do when you mount your tires and the tension on your wheel drops (its always does), but unevenly?

  45. #45
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    Been a while since I have been in the forums. Seems like a "we can do the job, but we can make more money doing other stuff" price to me. If it was based on Bay Area labor rates and $1 a spoke, I would consider $150 a fair price from a top end retailer.

  46. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5k bike 50cent legs View Post
    Here's some questions you guys can ruminate on: Do you spec the tension before you mount your tires, or after? What do you do when you mount your tires and the tension on your wheel drops (its always does), but unevenly?
    Road bikes yes, mtb with 14/15g spokes, not enough for me to worry about. I've checked tension on the drive side of a rear road wheel with a tire mounted and inflated to 100psi and I got less than a 5-7 kg drop in tension, less than that on the front wheel.

  47. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by XC Only View Post
    Road bikes yes, mtb with 14/15g spokes, not enough for me to worry about. I've checked tension on the drive side of a rear road wheel with a tire mounted and inflated to 100psi and I got less than a 5-7 kg drop in tension, less than that on the front wheel.
    You use straight gauge spokes? I thought pretty much everyone uses 2.0/1.8 DB or bladed spokes in both road and MTB these days? I haven't built a set of road wheel in a very long time, but MTB wheels can show a pretty big change in both tension and dish after mounting tires, depending on the brand.

  48. #48
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    How much is it to lace a wheel?

    This is what I paid to have my SS wheels built. This was three years ago, by one of the best mechanics of all time
    I had the hubs and hoops already.




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  49. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrozCountry View Post
    IMO a tension meter is a must. It is the difference between a wheel that will last or a wheel you would have to rebuild again.
    I found tension meters to be pretty random. They're good to get a ballpark for what the actual values are (according to what you are aiming to get the tension at) but after that, the 'ole guitar pick + human ear does an infinitely better job at determining if the spokes are at the same tension.

  50. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrozCountry View Post
    IMO a tension meter is a must. It is the difference between a wheel that will last or a wheel you would have to rebuild again.
    When is the last time you calibrated your tension meter?
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  51. #51
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    I cast my own rims using custom sizes and then vulcanize my own tires to fit them. Love my 28.75er.

  52. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by CRUZe View Post
    I cast my own rims using custom sizes and then vulcanize my own tires to fit them. Love my 28.75er.

  53. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by noblige View Post
    They didn't tell which spokes, but I don't need anything fancy. Within 5 days would be acceptable.
    "I don't know just what I'm getting but it seems like too much!" Maybe you should do some due diligence on your part on what specifics that shop is providing ahead of time. 🤔
    It's been almost a week and 50 someodd posts of banter and no wheel order has been decided upon as far as I can tell.

    I thought you were in a 5 day hurry?🙄
    Wait whuuut, who did he tell you that!?!?....

  54. #54
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    I use the park tool meter, mostly to even out the tension between the spokes.

    The workshop has two and they read almost the same. For evening tension between the spokes calibration is not critical.

    Works very well for getting a wheel perfect. You can easily see how turning the nipples immediately changes tensions readings in very predictable way.

    I think it's a must for low spoke count wheels. I can't see how this tool would give random readings.

  55. #55
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    I think $100 labor (per wheel) is about the most I'd pay, and only if the builder is reputable. A good tech should be able to finish one in about an hour.
    I brake for stinkbugs

  56. #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrozCountry View Post
    I think it's a must for low spoke count wheels. I can't see how this tool would give random readings.
    I should have chosen my words more carefully. What I meant was that the human ear is a far more precise (as opposed to accurate) instrument than a Park spoke tension meter, and so it's much better at comparing the tension of one spoke to another when you don't care about what the exact measurement actually is - you're just interested in getting them all the same. With the wheel in the stand you can also pluck half a dozen spokes with a guitar pick and instantly spot the one that's a bit out in about the same time it takes to just move the meter to a single spoke and take a reading.

  57. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by nilswalk View Post
    I should have chosen my words more carefully. What I meant was that the human ear is a far more precise (as opposed to accurate) instrument than a Park spoke tension meter, and so it's much better at comparing the tension of one spoke to another when you don't care about what the exact measurement actually is - you're just interested in getting them all the same. With the wheel in the stand you can also pluck half a dozen spokes with a guitar pick and instantly spot the one that's a bit out in about the same time it takes to just move the meter to a single spoke and take a reading.


    That hasn't been my experience. If nothing else I've found tension meters to be very consistent and their readings often contradict what I think tone would indicate (not tone deaf)

    Maybe tone is better, don't know for sure, but I do know that tension meter and tone are frequently mismatched and I always go with the meter reading.
    I brake for stinkbugs

  58. #58
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMac47 View Post
    "I don't know just what I'm getting but it seems like too much!" Maybe you should do some due diligence on your part on what specifics that shop is providing ahead of time. 🤔
    It's been almost a week and 50 someodd posts of banter and no wheel order has been decided upon as far as I can tell.

    I thought you were in a 5 day hurry?🙄
    Oh, sorry, I didn't want to keep anyone is suspense I ordered complete new wheel. Thinking about picking a stand and tools though as well, then using old wheel/hub/spokes for tinkering.

  59. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cornfield View Post
    This and a spoke wrench are the only tools you need.

    https://www.wheelpro.co.uk/wheelbuilding/book.php
    This.

    I've built 6 sets of wheels (which have over 10K miles on them now) now using only a spoke wrench and a bicycle frame. A wheelstand and dishing tool are probably nice, but all measurements can be made relative to a frame or other fixed object. Spoke tension can be estimated by hand and by the friction when adjusting nipples.

    Also, carbon rims are much easier to build than aluminum rims, as the carbon rims are so stiff, they practically built themselves (very challenging to build them significantly out of true or round).

    I personally enjoy building wheels, but the first few sets can take some time.

  60. #60
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    Universal Cycles charges $65 for a wheel build, and you can send them your existing hub. I built a couple of wheels in my shop days, but never enough to get really good at it. I usually just have a shop build em up to save myself the time. I keep them tensioned myself.

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