When your bike wheel breaks, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Will you buy a new one or will you have it repaired? These are most likely popular and widely adopted options.
However, there is a more exciting way to handle your broken wheel that is building up your bike wheel.
If you do not know how to build a bike wheel, the following article will be your guide!
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Definition And The Role of Bike Wheel
The wheel is one of the essential components of a bicycle. Without a bike wheel, you could not ride, or in other words, your bike will not be a bike at all. In general, the bike wheel comes with a rim and a large number of spokes connecting to the center hub.
The bike wheel is not only the key to bike movement but also plays many vital roles. With a pair of suitable bike wheels, you could use your bike for different riding purposes.
Moreover, thanks to the bike wheel’s unique design and construction, your cycling will be smoothers on bumpy and challenging terrains.
Necessary Tools for Bicycle Wheel Building
You could not build a bike wheel with just your two hands. Here are several necessary tools for this process.
The first thing that you have to use is a spoke wrench. Generally, you could use a cheap plastic spoke wrench to do this process. I highly recommend you to go to the DT spoke wrench.
The following tools that you need for your wheel building are a dish stick and a truing stand. These things are pretty expensive, but they could help your work much more quickly.
Besides, an electric screwdriver and a spoke tension meter might be beneficial in some ways.
Essential Materials for Bicycle Wheel Building
The hub is the first material that you need for building a bike wheel. The typical hubs will come with aluminum material which is affordable and durable enough for both front and rear bike wheels.
You could use forged hubs for your bicycle wheels as an ideal alternative. However, this type of hub is suitable for the front wheel since it is weak for rear wheels.
You will see the flange hole on the wheel hubs, which helps you fix the bike wheel spokes.
For the best quality, I will recommend you to go to hubs with thick spoking flanges. The hub flange could be made from aluminum or steel to have the best thickness and strength.
You could not have a complete bike wheel without spokes. These spokes are responsible for keeping the bicycle wheel steady and not deformed when subjected to tremendous pressure from the ground and your body weight.
There are several types of spokes that you could pick on the market, including stainless steel spokes, carbon fiber spokes, aluminum spokes, and other cheap-built spokes like chrome-plated carbon-steel spokes.
If you prefer the best type of spokes, stainless steel material is the way to go. It is more durable and stronger than other materials. The second priority might be aluminum since it’s light in weight but still robust enough.
Number of spokes
In general, you will need 72 spokes for both front and rear bike wheels. You could use 36 spokes in front and the same number in the rear. In another case, you could have 32 in the front and 40 in the rear.
Don’t use less than 32 spokes in a wheel unless you want your wheel to be thicker and heavier.
Size of spokes
Spokes come in a variety of sizes and diameters. You could use thin spokes or thick spokes depending on your riding purposes. There are four standard sizes of spokes, including 1.6mm (16 gauge in US/UK), 1.8mm (15 gauge in US/UK), 2.0mm (14 gauge in US/UK), and 2.3mm (13 gauge in US/UK).
It might be better for the rear wheel’s right side if you use thicker spokes since it is under higher tension compared to the left side of the wheel.
This one could be made from nickel-plated brass or aluminum as well. While the brass nipples are more durable and hard to corrupt, aluminum nipples are more suitable for those who prefer lightweight and better performance.
The following material that you need for the bicycle wheel building is the rim.
If you are looking for standard rims for your bike wheels, aluminum rims are the ideal way to go. They are stainless and durable enough for long runs.
In case you prefer a lighter type of rim, I highly recommend you go to carbon fiber rims. This type of material could help you save a considerable amount of weight.
There are two common types of rims on the market that are single-wall rims and double-wall rims. Nowadays, double-wall rims tend to be more popular.
Rim tape is essential for protecting your inner tube from spoke nipples. On the surface of this part, you could see a valve hole as well as spoke holes.
The best material for the rim tape is rubber. You have to choose a rim tape that could fit the bottom of the rim completely.
To avoid spoke breakage, you could use the washer. You could slide a wash Before installing spokes to the wheel hub. Brass washers are the best deal for all types of bicycles.
Steps for Quick Building A Bike Wheel
Step 1: Lubricating
Many people might ignore this step since they feel that it is unnecessary. However, if you lubricate nipples and spokes carefully, you could tighten and install them more easily.
Moreover, lubricating materials could help your wheel be more durable and smoother when running.
Step 2: Understanding the position of spokes
If you use a wheel hub with 36 holes, you will have to install 18 spokes on each flange of this hub. Likewise, if your hub comes with 32 flange holes in total, there will be 16 spoke on each side of this hub.
When you lace the spokes, there are four groups of spokes that you should notice.
On a hub, you will have the right-side flange and the left-side flange. You need to divide the number of spokes equally by each side. On each flange, you have to determine which are leading spokes and which are trailing spokes.
Step 3: Lacing the first group of spokes
After determining the number of spokes that you need for your wheel building, the next step is installing the first spoke, also known as the key.
You have to lace this spoke next to the valve hole on the right side of the hub. Also, the simplest way to install the spokes is to start with a trailing spoke. Thus, it would be best if you used the key spoke as a trailing spoke so that the process will not be entangled afterward.
After lacing the key spoke, you have to install the next spoke so that it is three holes from the key spoke on the rim and one spot on the hub, excluding the valve hole. Repeat the same process until you have the first nine spokes on the wheel.
Based on the key spoke position on the left or right side of the valve hole, you could determine whether the first spokes are on the hub’s left or right.
Step 4: Lacing the second group of spokes
You have to insert a spoke into the right side next hole to the key spokes. Then, you need to install other second-spokes clockwise.
In other words, the key spoke and the first spoke of the second group will place in the first and second holes to the right of valve holes, respectively.
When you finish this step, you will have 16 trailing spokes for the 32-spoke wheel and 18 for the 36 spoke-cross-three wheel.
Step 5: Lacing the leading spokes
After inserting the trailing spokes, you have to lace the leading spokes inside the flange and the right side toward you. You could start with any hole on the wheel hub and twist your bike wheel clockwise for the most convenient installation.
The first leading will cross three trailing spokes. You will have to bend it a bit so that you can pass it through the trailing spokes. This process is also known as interlacing.
You need to remember the spokes’ order, which belongs to the first group and which relates to the second group. It will prevent you from getting confused when you install the leading spokes.
The first leading spoke has to go above 1 spoke of the first group and two spokes of the second group. At the same time, it has to thread underneath the second spoke of the first group. Then, you repeat this process until you have nine leading spokes.
Step 6: Lacing the second group of leading spokes
For the second group of leading spokes, you have to fit them in the remaining holes in the rim and the wheel hub to complete the spoke-lacing process.
Step 7: Adjusting the spokes
After lacing the spokes, your bike wheel is not ready to roll since it is not straight and stable. Thus, before using this bike wheel, you have to adjust and tighten the spokes.
You will need an electric screwdriver to adjust the nipples. You have to tighten these nipples until they are firm and have the same setting. However, you should not over-tighten them.
The spokes will not be straight in the first place. Therefore, you need to adjust them by hand or specific tools to fit snugly against the wheel hub.
Step 8: Tensioning and truing
In this step, you will need a truing stand. You might see your bike wheel sway because it has not been appropriately adjusted. To fix this problem, you have to tighten each spoke carefully. Then, don’t forget to turn the nipples for the best fit.
You should follow four stages to complete this step in a perfect way.
The first thing that you should keep in mind is lateral truing. You need to put your bike wheel on the truing stand and spin this wheel to find out the irregularities.
For example, if you find your wheel deflects to the left, you need to tighten the spokes on the right side and vice versa.
In terms of vertical truing, you need to find the highest position on the rim. Then, all you need to do is drag them towards the hub until the rim’s posts are about equal distance from the axle.
After lateral truing and vertical truing, you should move to wheel dishing. This step ensures no spokes in the upright position with the rim and the wheel hub when you place the wheel horizontally on the ground.
The spokes on each side of the bike wheel have to form the shape of a dish. That is why I call this step is wheel dishing.
As for the front wheel, the two ‘dishes’ on both sides of the wheel will have a symmetrical position since the spokes are of an equal length.
On the other hand, for the rear wheel, spokes on the side with sprockets should be shorter than those on the other side.
Finally, checking the tension on the freewheel side is necessary. Even though there are different methods to monitor the pressure, the best one might be using the spoke tension meter.
If you do not know the standard tension for your bike wheel, you could ask the experts at the store where you have purchased the tools or materials for your wheel building.
For more wheel building methods, you could watch the following videos:
Benefits of Building Your Own Bike Wheel
There are many reasons to convince you to make a bicycle wheel at home instead of buying a commercial pre-installed wheel or hiring an engineer to do it.
The first reason is, it is much easier than you think. If you do not want to build a bike wheel just because you believe it is difficult, then it is indeed a pity.
As I mentioned above, it is possible to create your high-quality wheel with simple tools and materials. Not only that, the process to create a wheel is straightforward and easy to follow.
Moreover, when you build your own bike wheel, you value it more. Also, this wheel could fit your bike better than a pre-built wheel on the market.
Once you understand how the bicycle wheel works, it is no longer a problem to adjust or repair it.
As a result, when your wheel breaks, you can completely repair it yourself and save a lot of money.
How much can we save when building wheel bikes?
Wheel building is a little bit more expensive than buying a pre-assembled bike wheel. However, if you create your bike wheels, they will be more durable and higher-quality than purchasing wheels on the market.
How long does it take to build a bike wheel?
In general, you have to spend at least 45 minutes building a bike wheel. However, to ensure the best quality and performance, you should spend more than 45 minutes. If you are a beginner, it might take several hours to finish this process.
Is it hard to build a bike wheel at home?
No, it is not. Building a bike wheel is an easy task. All you have to do is follow recommended steps and use suitable tools for this process. Wheel building is just a little bit time-consuming.