Building my first wheels- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Building my first wheels

    I MAY build my own wheels instead of paying a shop to do it. I plan on using my bike for my truing stand. I got Stans arch ex rims and Hope pro 2 evo hubs on the way. I doubt I will be building any wheels again anytime soon (maybe never) and don't want to throw money away on stuff that will never get used again. So how important is a spoke tensionmeter? I have been told that equal tension is more important that the actual number by a wheel builder. Another older retired gent locally used to have a bike shop and has built wheels for years and as far as aluminum wheels he said he never used/owned a tensionmeter. I am concerned of 2 things: My own safety (wheels blowing up on a jump from improper tension) or too tight and buldging my rims. If I absolutely have to use one to do it right I will probably buy a Park tool guage which is fairly cheap. But still if I have to dump 100 some dollars in tools to do this maybe I should just pay a shop to do it for me? I want the self satisfaction of doing it myself. But maybe in my case it is not worth the money.

    I am not sure yet what my plan is. I may still pay a pro to do it. It is something I want to tackle and I know I have the background to do it but just don't want to buy a bunch of tools that i will probably never use again. I don't bike serious enough to tear up wheels regularly. A good set will last me for years.

  2. #2
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    I'm with the guy that said equal tension is just as important as the exact tension number. It's been awhile since I've built a wheel, but I'm thinking about building a set, too. I would think that very few riders measure and re-tension their spokes with any sort of consistency and do just fine. I believe the important thing is to avoid a spoke that is much tighter or looser than the others, and keep both sides as close to equal as possible. You want all of the spokes to take the loads. You can actually run less tension for a more supple ride or more tension for a stiffer wheel, but there are drawbacks. I think more tension stresses the spoke nipples and rim, while less tension puts the stress at the spoke bends and hub. I am definitely not an expert, but that's what my limited experience has taught me. Have fun!

  3. #3
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    I built my own set, first and only build ever.
    Number one is spoke length, get it wrong and your dish is way off before you even get to the tension part.
    Next, plenty of lube and the right size spoke wrench for your nips.

    Pluck-N-Tune is what I did in replacement of a tension meter.
    I'm sure it off here and there but my wheels have stayed true and the tension is still present every time I check.

    I'm no racer or a shop mechanic/wheel builder selling a service so my tension doesn't "have to be" perfect..close yes!! Perfect.. naah

    If it rolls true and the spokes stay stiff, all after 50 miles off road riding = success!

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  4. #4
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    Check my site (link below plus up in the Wheelbuilding Stickie) as I tell ya how to build without a tension meter. I did it this way for 52 years until I was given a Wheel Fanatyk Tensiometer a few weeks ago by Ric Hjertberg in his attempt to drag me into the modern world.

    I've always used the pluck/tone method of getting tensions equal but I've never known what my actual tensions were. It must have been ok as I never suffered from the usual issues caused by lack of tension - broken spokes or loosening nipples. With the new tensiometer I found that all my wheels were slightly on the slack side (between 90 and 100kgf ~ "normal" is around 100 ~ 125kgf so I'm told). So I'm proof that your tensions can be low and the wheels will be just fine. I do think that equal tensions are more important than perfect tension.

    My site is just for guys like you - who want to get into wheelbuilding but don't want to invest much money. Hundreds of Newbs have gotten their start due to my site's encouragement.

    Recently, my column at RoadBikeRider.com covered what tools are really necessary. Right here.

  5. #5
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    All encouraging! ! Thanks a bunch. Can you use your bike upside down instead of wheel truing stands?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by iowamtb View Post
    Can you use your bike upside down instead of wheel truing stands?
    Of course. It's better if you hang it though - be creative. Loops of rope are fine.

  7. #7
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    I got a new park pcs 9 so hanging is no problem

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by iowamtb View Post
    I got a new park pcs 9 so hanging is no problem
    Yeah, hang your bike from its seatpost.

  9. #9
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    I will as soon as I get it lol. right now it is by top tube but I just barely apply pressure. Nothing extreme. just to point of contact then maybe 1/8 turn on clamp. Just enough to keep it from sliding. I am anal as hell cause it's a brand new steel frame.

  10. #10
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    So what kind of spoke wrench should I get. I see screwdriver types that go through nipple holes in rim and then there is the type that adjusts from outside the rim. Is one better than the other?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by iowamtb View Post
    So what kind of spoke wrench should I get. I see screwdriver types that go through nipple holes in rim and then there is the type that adjusts from outside the rim. Is one better than the other?
    The ones that go thru the rim need hex-head nipples and you won't have them. Just get a normal one - but get a good one. Here -

    Unior Spoke Wrench

    Or here -

    Products Archive - Wheel Fanatyk

  12. #12
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    Some of the screw driver types your seeing are also nipple drivers not spoke wrenchs, makes getting nipples onto spokes a bit easier and faster.

    I used a standard park tools wrench cause thats what I had but Mike lists awesome ones (couldnt spare the coin after everything for the wheel set and spoke tensioner).

    Guys like Mike and Roger (and others) have been great for putting good info up to make wheel building much more DIY friendly instead of thinking you need expensive tools. My new cardboard dishing tool is best bang for buck tool I have now (cause it cost me NOTHING lol, and works great).

    Most of all, TAKE YOUR TIME. Read through Mikes site a few times so info sinks in, then go back through it while building. As I just learned, it looks and sounds far more difficult than it is. I like tinkering and trying new things, so tools I couldnt make myself cheap made sense cause I know Ill use them. But as said, a bunch of fancy tools are far from NEEDED.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by tigris99 View Post
    Some of the screw driver types your seeing are also nipple drivers not spoke wrenchs, makes getting nipples onto spokes a bit easier and faster.

    I used a standard park tools wrench cause thats what I had but Mike lists awesome ones (couldnt spare the coin after everything for the wheel set and spoke tensioner).

    Guys like Mike and Roger (and others) have been great for putting good info up to make wheel building much more DIY friendly instead of thinking you need expensive tools. My new cardboard dishing tool is best bang for buck tool I have now (cause it cost me NOTHING lol, and works great).

    Most of all, TAKE YOUR TIME. Read through Mikes site a few times so info sinks in, then go back through it while building. As I just learned, it looks and sounds far more difficult than it is. I like tinkering and trying new things, so tools I couldnt make myself cheap made sense cause I know Ill use them. But as said, a bunch of fancy tools are far from NEEDED.
    Yea I like the ground phillips head screwdriver idea. I also saw that on Sheldons website. I am going to buy a quality spoke wrench. Even though I will not be building wheels regularly I know a good wrench will be necessary for truing. Heck my Jamis that I bought brand new last spring has had a tiny lateral wobble since the day I bought it. Might be time to true it up as well.

  14. #14
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    No need to break the bank to get a good spoke wrench IMO, the lowly Park is still my favorite and only about $6



    also a sharpened spoke is free and ultra handy for inserting nipples into the rim without losing them.



    Good luck and have fun!

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    No need to break the bank to get a good spoke wrench IMO, the lowly Park is still my favorite and only about $6

    He really should be getting the version that grabs all 4 corners.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    He really should be getting the version that grabs all 4 corners.
    I wouldn't argue with that, I guess I'm just so used to the old ones that the 4 sided ones seem a little cumbersome to me. As long as the fit is good they're all OK though. I've rebuilt my rear wheel 3 times (hub/rim failures) using the same spokes and the same alloy nipples with the old 3 sided Park and I could easily do it again because the nipples are still fine.

    It's the ergonomics of the Park that I like.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    I wouldn't argue with that, I guess I'm just so used to the old ones that the 4 sided ones seem a little cumbersome to me. As long as the fit is good they're all OK though. I've rebuilt my rear wheel 3 times (hub/rim failures) using the same spokes and the same alloy nipples with the old 3 sided Park and I could easily do it again because the nipples are still fine.

    It's the ergonomics of the Park that I like.
    To be honest, I use two wrenches when building a wheel - an older 3-sided one for the early going, for speed & ease, when there is little tension, and then when the tension increases I switch to a 4-corner one. Of course it's harder to round off a nipple with a 4-corner wrench.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    To be honest, I use two wrenches when building a wheel - an older 3-sided one for the early going, for speed & ease, when there is little tension, and then when the tension increases I switch to a 4-corner one. Of course it's harder to round off a nipple with a 4-corner wrench.
    Can someone post a pic of a 4 corner nipple wrench

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    The ones that go thru the rim need hex-head nipples and you won't have them. Just get a normal one - but get a good one. Here -



    Unior Spoke Wrench



    Or here -



    Products Archive - Wheel Fanatyk

    These links take u straight to them. They are best if u can spend the cash (I plan on getting them at some point)

  20. #20
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    Park also makes a 4 sided (actually more like 3 1/2 sides) one that is otherwise exactly the same as the one I posted for $8. Excellent product.

  21. #21
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    I see they have different sizes. Is there one size that the majority of us will be using with DB 14/15 spoke nipples?

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by iowamtb View Post
    Can someone post a pic of a 4 corner nipple wrench
    Right here -

    Unior Spoke Wrench

    4 sides, I should have said, not 4 corners.

  23. #23
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    Name:  nipples and wrench 006.JPG
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    Park Tool

  24. #24
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    I ordered my spokes, nipples, and tools today from the bikehubstore.com. I went with the unior nipple wrench and yes I did break down and buy a park tool tensionometer. I rear Mike Ts webpage and I know this wasn't needed but as a newbie I want a little piece of mind to get me started to know I am not too severly undertensioned and not over either. I am sure as builds/repairs go by I will eventually get a feel and won't need that tool as much but to start out I am more comfy having a little insurance. Heck it is going to be worth the 70 bucks this little tool costs.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by iowamtb View Post
    I ordered my spokes, nipples, and tools today from the bikehubstore.com. I went with the unior nipple wrench and yes I did break down and buy a park tool tensionometer. I rear Mike Ts webpage and I know this wasn't needed but as a newbie I want a little piece of mind to get me started to know I am not too severly undertensioned and not over either. I am sure as builds/repairs go by I will eventually get a feel and won't need that tool as much but to start out I am more comfy having a little insurance. Heck it is going to be worth the 70 bucks this little tool costs.

    That was why I bought mine, peace of mind. I figured I could get things even enough but after checking my front wheel on my other set, which I replaced the hoop on, I got tension a BIT higher. Like 140s lol. Oops. But explains why it came away from last crash without any issue while some how my rear (I went otb...) needed truing I have no idea. But tensions there were in the 90s on the high end (factory built).

    Good luck and have fun with your first build. Remember take your time and pay attention. And don't forget the lube.

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