A friend of worldwidecycles , Paul McCarthy recently decided that he would like to build a set of wheels for his day to day commuter bike from scratch . Having never attempted to do so in the past he set about finding out how to do it correctly and keep it within budget . Here’s how he got on ;
Dear Barry and Ray,
Thanks for your interest and help in my recent wheel building task. The last time I was in (trying to locate a freewheel remover to undo a Regina Corsa freewheel) I mentioned that I had used a wheel building guide which was written by Roger Musson and which I had downloaded from the web for a fee of £9. Aidan (of Aidan and Mieke) had lent me his own copy of ‘The bicycle wheel’ by Jobst Brandt and having consulted both, I set to work. The Musson book suggested building your own service tools like truing stand, truing guages, nipple driver and dishing tool and because I wanted to avoid spending a lot of money on items like these which had been made by someone else, I followed the ‘Musson route’ and set to fabricating these items for myself. Because I was following Musson to make the tools, I naturally enough ended up spending more time on Musson than Brandt although I did read the latter pretty much all the way through skipping only those bits of the text which I thought fitted ‘background reading’ which I could do later. One early problem was sourcing a new set of hubs as my bike is an antique with 120mm dropouts at the rear. It is an excellent frame though and I never, but never abandon a good thing (rather like your blog comment Barry on 14/12/08…. “Just when you’ve given up all hope and your at 180 bpm going over the top of ‘The Haysheds’ and your legs feel like two sacks of jelly as you struggle against a block headwind an apparition shows itself and all fate is restored in humanity . Some of the group had turned and had come back for us . I felt like a Navy Seal – Never leave a man behind . Thanks Leslie , Geoff , Bobby , Johnny , Andrew , Big Ben , Paul and John”). So I went to Ebay looking for a set of Campag Record hubs. There are very few at 120mm oln and when I eventually found one it was at a shocking price. Hmmm. Then up for auction came a ‘New In Box’ pair of Miche Competitions for reasonable money and I bought them. Through Wordlwide Cycles, I got hold of a pair of Mavic A719s and sufficient DT spokes for the job with some over as spares. Musson has a section on the determination of spoke length and having read this before ordering the spokes I felt that the work had finally started. So now I had all the kit I got Musson’s guide out again and set to with the wheel building. Having given it some thought, I built the rear wheel first and the front second reasoning that if I was to make any mistakes they would likely be found in the first wheel built. If this failed whilst riding it would be bad but not so bad as a front wheel failure. So after hours of fun in the garage with all the kit and making steady progress I felt I had got the job done. And the result? A pair of wheels that I set out on very gingerly and without a lot of confidence, looking down all the time half expecting disaster but to my enormous satisfaction they did not distort or show any sign of failure which is just as well as part of my maiden ride took me along the Suir towpath near Sir Thomas’ Bridge where the water was very deep and very fast after recent heavy rains and had I spilled into it following a wheel failure they would never have found me. My bike yes, but me no.
And the conclusions?
1. Musson’s is brilliant. A first class resource to the wannabe wheel builder.
2. The local bike shop and wheel building friends are great for moral/technical support.
3. Build your own assembly tools – it is easy and they work.
4. There is no substitute for taking your time and avoiding short cuts.
5. You need to concentrate so try to find a place to work with few distractions.
6. The total cost of my hardware broke out as follows;
Truing stand – €28 (€20 for a local engineering firm to make a pair of drilled plates from 6mm steel. The rest was timber and fixings).
Truing gauges (radial and lateral) – €0 (scrap garage stuff).
Nipple driver – €0 (scrap screwdriver and off-cut of dowel).
Spoke length gauge – €0 (Ray gave me two scrap spokes from the shop – thanks Ray!)
Spoke key – €10 (it has various size spoke keys on it).
Masking tape – about 2c worth from a roll costing €2.
Yellow insulating tape – 1c worth (taped over the valve hole to make it easy to see).
Roger Musson’s excellent guide – £9stg from:
7. The sense of achievement is massive. Maybe I was expecting it to be more difficult but I am very happy with the end product!
Attached are a couple of JPEGS showing the workshop kit and the finished wheels.
Thanks very much Paul for sharing this !