A New Set Of Wheels

Velocity-RimsI built a new set of wheels for my Bacchetta Giro 20 recumbent bike.  The biggest reason was that I wanted a 36 spoke rear wheel (versus 32 spoke) to more adequately carry the weight load for a fully loaded set of panniers cross country.

My thanks to Wayne Estes for providing some assistance in selecting the components.  Wayne has done a significant amount of long distance fully loaded bicycle trips over the years.  Based on that experience I decided to use similar component where possible.

Front Rim Velocity Areo Heat – 20″-(406-32)-MSW-black
Rear Rim Velocity Areo Heat – 26″-(559-36)-MSW-black
Rim Plugs Velocity – Veloplug – Red (8.0mm) #601-200
Front Hub Shimano SLX – HB-M675
Rear Hub Shimano SLX – FH-M675
Front Spokes DT Swiss – Champion 14g
Rear Spokes DT SWiss – Competition 14/15g
Front Tire Schwalbe – Marathon HS240 20″ x 1.5″
Rear Tire Schwalbe – Marathon HS240 26″ x 1.5″
Front Tube Q Tubes 20 x 1.25 – 1.5″ – presta valve 32mm
Rear Tube Q Tubes 26 x 1.5 – 1.75″ – presta valve 32mm
Cassette Shimano SLX – CS-HG80-9 9 Speed 11-34

This was the first set of wheels I have built from scratch, so, I purchased an internet book titled Professional Guide to Wheel Building by Roger Musson.  Also, I watched several several internet videos.  Here are three that I watched, #1, #2, #3.

The first step involved measuring the rims and hubs so the spoke lengths could be calculated.  I used the drawings in Musson’s book as a guide, here are my hub measurements, and my rim measurements: 384mm front rim, 537 rear rim.

Using these measurements I went to  WheelPro Soke Calculator, plugged in the component measurements, and wahla, out came the spoke lengths required: front length, rear length.  Remember, for a 14mm spoke nipple you should deduct 1mm of spoke length.  I decided to do a 3X spoke arrangement  based on the existing rims and Musson’s recommendation. Please use all of my measurements as a sanity check.  You should do your own measurements.

I purchased my spokes from Velocity because they seemed to have a good selection of sizes.  Roger Musson prefers double butted spokes but they were not available in the short lengths for the front wheel, so I used DT Champion front spokes.  I did use the double butted DT Competition spokes for the rear.

truing-standNow came the building part.  Following their instructions I first dipped the threaded ends of the spokes in motor oil, and then lightly wiped away the excess.  Next, I used a Q-tip dipped in oil to coat the inside of each spoke hole with oil.  Then I laced both the front and rear wheels and ‘pre-tightened’ all spokes.  There are several videos on the internet that show how to use the bicycle forks & tie wraps as a truing stand.  Roger Musson’s book show how to build a nice looking truing stand.  In my case, I found a used Park Tool #TS-2.2 truing stand at a very good price.

Using a Park Tool Black spoke wrench I began tightening each of the spokes, starting at the valve stem hole.  After each round of tightening I would check for rim ‘wobble’ and diameter ‘trueness’.  In my case, I didn’t purchase a Dishing Gage.



I felt I could do just as well with a clamp and a small piece of wood for a pointer.  By reversing the wheels on the truing stand I could adjust the hub centerline just as easily.  As the wheel became more centered I would move the wood pointer in.  It took me about an hour, but eventually I was able to slip a sheet of paper between the wood pointer and the rim.  I am not sure how close the typical wheel building professional get their wheels, but I felt this was close enough for me.

Pinching The SpokesHow tight should the spokes be?  A very good question.  I used my thumb and forefinger to ‘pinch’ spokes on a commerically built rim to try and get a good ‘feel’ for how much they could be compressed.  At this point I went back and ‘pinched’ the spokes on my new rims.    My rims seemed to be a little ‘stiffer’ than the commerical wheels.  Information on various websites indicated that one advantage of hand built wheels was they were typically tighter than machine built ones, so I left my alone.

The next step was to check and see if all of the spokes were tightened about the same.  One trick I read about was was holding the rim Spoke Tensionstationary and ‘wiping’ a wooden stick across the spoke pairs to see if they all sounded the same.  I tried this, and again, everything seemed acceptable.  Note: each side of the rim will sound slightly different due to the varying spoke lengths.

Then I ‘stressed’ the rims to make sure every thing was fully seated and the spokes were stretched out.  I did this by placing the hub on the ground and pressing down on the rim, rotating the rim about 25o, then pressing down again.  I repeated this on each side of the rims.  As I did this there was some popping & pinging.  At this point I went back and checked the rims for warp and runout.  In my case, I stressed the rims twice and rechecked everything.  The rims did shift and Stressing The RimI ended up having to re-true the rims slightly.

After the wheels were completed I wiped everything down to remove any excess oil, then I installed the VeloPlugs.  I decided to used VeloPlugs rather than rim tape to cover the spoke holes for ease of removal.

At this point I used a cassette lock ring tool and a chain whip to install the cassette.  From there I mounted the tires & tubes and aired everything up to 80psi.  Schwalbe tires can be a pain when it comes to mounting them to a rim.  I used two velcro straps to help out (two of them are in my tire repair kit).

  1. mount one side of the tire to the rim
  2. install the tube
  3. mount the second side of the tire as far as possible
  4. stand the tire/rim up with the unmounted section at the top
  5. compress the tire as much as possible at the 4 o’clock position and velcro wrap the compressed tire to the rim
  6. repeat the process at the 8 o’clock position
  7. this should provide sufficient slack in the tire to use tire bars to finish the mounting process
  8. reverse the process to remove the tires

The new tires/rims were installed on the bicycle withou any problems.  The new rims were a little wider so the brake pads had to be move slightly and the brake cable had to be adjusted so the brake arms could be locked into position.

I have 50+ miles on the new wheels and all seem to roll along quite well.  I enjoyed building the wheels and learned a lot about rims, hubs, & spokes.  Only time and mileage will tell how really good my finished product is.

2 thoughts on “A New Set Of Wheels

    • Thanks, Sandy. I hope they are good, too. Right now I have over 200 miles on them, and they seem to be working. Only time, and mileage, will tell the tale.

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