People ask me these questions time and time again both via email and in person.
Frequenty Asked Questions
Here is a short list of queries that people nearly everyone makes. I'm sure that you've had one of these on your mind.
How long does it take you to build a wheel?
I'd like to just give a figure such as an hour or an hour and a half but it's not as simple as that. The answer is that it depends. If it's a regular three cross pattern for example where the rim doesn't have any sort of deep section then it takes me around about an hour and a quarter. With any sort of deep section rim where there is a risk of losing the nipple in between the layers that usually adds another 15 - 20 minutes. I need to put the nipple on to a nipple holder and then feed it carefully to the hole. This is always the case with deep section carbon rims. Building with exotic patterns also adds extra time such as crow's foot or snowflake. Building a rear wheel crow's foot requires four different spoke lengths so it could be more than half an hour just to lace the wheel.
Add to this the time taken to unpack the parts from a delivery, time spent ordering and discussing options with a client and I would say that the minimum would be two hours.
If you'd like to have a go yourself you can follow my video tutorials, attend one of my classes or even come along and work next to me while I'm building wheels.
How did you start building wheels?
When I built my first fixed gear bike back in 2004 having put together everything else myself I didn't want to stop at the wheels. Apart from Sheldon Brown and a bike maintenance book that I had there were no other resources. There was no YouTube at the time and not a great deal online. I bought some tools and decided to have a go at it. My first wheel (which I still have) took me more than four hours to build and I made a lot of mistakes. The second was a little easier but not much.
Having figured this out with few resources I thought that I would share what I had learned and put together a small website to show the steps that I'd taken. I thought I'd build a few wheels for others just to earn some money to cover the cost of the tools making it clear that I had only just started building wheels. I received an amazing response which gave me a great deal of confidence and a side business was born. After hundreds of wheels I still love it and am constantly learning more and more about it.
Do you work full time building wheels?
It's part-time but sometimes I do get overwhelmed with orders and enquiries so that it can become more of a full time occupation for weeks at a time. As well as building wheels I work as a yoga teacher and a web developer. Working freelance means that I can rearrange my schedule as required. Usually things work out so that when I'm not so busy in one field the demand in the other fields increases which is a nice ebb and flow. But sometimes there is demand in all three which can be tricky to manage.
Can I have parts delivered directly to you?
Absolutely. Many people do this especially if they are busy and want to source the parts themselves. It can save money but mainly saves them a trip. If you are having the parts delivered by a courier then do check with me first to see that I'll be home on the proposed delivery date.
Can I pick up / drop off outside of your working hours?
Most people are working during the day so they'll need to drop off and collect finished wheels either in the evening or at the weekend. This is absolutely fine with me so just let me know when you're planning to arrive. Email, phone and text are all fine. I'm not much of an early riser to mornings aren't great but do stay up late so if you wanted to come at say 10pm in the evening that would be fine.
What would you recommend for a touring set?
A touring wheelset needs to be strong. Weight is a secondary consideration. You are likely to be in the middle of nowhere and miles from a bike shop so need to be able to rely on your wheels. I would recommend 36 holes with the standard 3-cross pattern. You are more than likely going to be using tyres of 28 mm and above so the first consideration would be the rim. I would suggest something like the Mavic A319 or the A719. The Rigida Sputnik and Grizzly are also worth considering. There are many hubs that would be suitable and you can choose according to your preference from road hubs, MTB disc hubs, dynamo front hubs, internally geared hubs and fixed gear hubs.
In terms of spokes I would opt for so called strong spokes such as DT Swiss Alpine or Sapim Strong. These have a thicker section near the spoke head and reduce the amount of play where the spoke is passing through the hub hole. Another way of reducing play where the spoke head comes into contact with the hole in the hub is to use spoke head washers. These are tiny brass washers which help to bring the section of spoke after the elbow closer to the hub flange.
Obviously these are generic recommendations, so do feel free to get in touch to discuss your own specific requirements which may or may not be similar to what I have described above.
Can you build mountain bike wheels with thru axles?
Yes, I have special cone shaped thru axle adapters on one of my truing stands which will hold thru axles securely.
What is the average turnaround time?
The turnaround time depends on a number of factors. Firstly is the availability of spokes. If I already have the spokes that would be required for your build then the turnaround time would be fairly quick otherwise there is usually a few days wait while I order and receive the spokes required. The other consideration is how busy I happen to be at the time. I work part time and aside from myself there are no other employees in this small business so the only way I can manage busy periods is to use a queueing a system. If it is such a busy period then your turnaround time would depend on both the availability of spokes and my current workload.
So how long then on average? Between 7 and 10 days. If you want to jump the queue you can do so by paying a queue jump fee. If you already have the required spokes when you bring me the hubs and rims then I can often build them in a day or two.