Should I Build My Own Bike Wheels? Is it Really Worth It?

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If you’re thinking about building your own bike wheels in order to save money, there are a lot of considerations that go into the decision.

If you’re looking for some insight on negative and positive points before deciding whether or not to build your own bike wheels, this article will help.

Whether you’re an experienced builder or just want to learn how for the first time, this article will help with what it takes to make great wheels.

Another factor to consider is whether or not you’ve got all of the tools and supplies needed to make your wheels.

This article will take a look at some of the items that you may want to purchase before getting started on building your own wheels.

You’ll find that there are many different factors to think about before beginning work on your own wheels. This article will give you a good idea of what it takes so that you can be ready for the process.

Materials for building bike wheels

The first thing to think about when getting started is what you’re going to use for the rims and spokes. Some people choose to use aluminum rims, while others choose steel.

It’s best to select a rim with a width that matches your intended tire size so that it will work well with the rest of your bike.

If you’re not sure about how wide a rim is to get, it’s suggested that you try to match the width of the rim with the width of the tire.

Some people do use aluminum rims for a variety of reasons. Aluminum rims are reasonably priced, lightweight, and durable.

Aluminum is also easier to machine than steel, which makes it easier to adjust the shape of the rim. The downside to aluminum rims is that they’re not as strong as steel; they can bend or dent more easily than steel will.

Another negative aspect of using aluminum rims is that they’re prone to road rash and scratching if you park in an off-road area with lots of bumps in the pavement.

If you’re making your own wheels, it’s best to use steel rims, which are more durable than aluminum. They also tend to be more expensive.

Steel rims have the advantage that they’re easier to machine and have more strength than aluminum rims. The downside to steel rims is that they’re heavier than aluminum rims, which can be a problem if you’re trying to make your wheels work with a lightweight trail bike or one with a low center of gravity.

Spokes

There are a couple of options for spokes to consider. Some people prefer to build wheels with stainless steel spokes, which are more durable than the brass ones that many people use.

The downside is that they tend to be more expensive; aluminum rims usually can’t support steel spokes because of their weight.

You’ll also need a special spoke wrench for stainless-steel spokes, which means adding another expense to your bike wheel-building project.

If you’re not concerned about weight and your wheels will be used mostly on the road, then stainless steel spokes are a good choice.

On the other hand, if you want to save money but plan to have your bike wheel re-built for racing, then you may want to go with brass spokes.

The best way to decide whether or not stainless or brass spokes are right for you is to take some time and experiment with different sizes.

Just remember that most of the time, bigger isn’t always better. It can help to look up some bike wheel rim charts that show the different sizes of rims and spokes, as well as what types of spokes are best for them.

Tools that you need to build your own wheels

Once you’ve decided on the rims and spokes that you’d like to use on your bike wheels, it’s time to begin working on the wheel itself. The first thing that you’ll need is the bicycle Park Tool PCS-9.3 Home Mechanic Bicycle Repair Stand truing stand (truing stand).

A truing stand is the best way to true a wheel. It’s a pedal that attaches to your bike and has a system of adjustable levers and rods that can help to straighten the wheel when it’s off the bike.

It helps to make the rim and spokes parallel, which allows for all of them to sit in their correct position on the rim. The truing stand also gives you a chance to set angles for the rim before you start joining it with spokes so that everything fits as it should.

If you feel that you can’t afford this tool, you can make your own. There are a few things that you need to build a truing stand.

One is a simple 3-spoke fork with outer ears that are the same size as the spokes. These outer ears are just like what you’d find on the front wheels of many bikes.

When mounted on the truing stand, they will allow you to set angles for your wheel while it’s mounted on your workbench. You’ll also need an adjustable plumb bob to help keep things in line.

The tool that you’ll use most often is a spoke wrench. You can find spoke wrenches at bike stores for about $3 – $5 each, and you’ll need one for each spoke that you use on your wheel.

Spoke wrenches are used for tightening the spokes as they’re going onto the hub or rim, so they have to be able to fit onto the nipples of the spokes.

If you’re making your own wheels, there are a couple of things to consider that will help make your job easier.

If you have a truing stand or an old-built wheel, you can use that to measure the diameter of the rim and check how much space is left for the spokes.

You’ll need this measurement because it’s difficult to get an accurate measurement once the wheel is on your bike.

It’s also helpful to use a spoke calculator program if you have access to one. These programs will allow you to input wheel size, lacing pattern, and the number of spokes that are needed for building your wheels. This will help ensure that you’re using the proper size and type of spoke for your new wheel.

When building your own wheels, it’s also a good idea to construct a wheel jig that will help to hold the wheel as it’s being built.

This can be as simple as a plywood box that has holes in it big enough to use with a bolt-on hanging bracket.

The idea is that you’ll be able to set the spoke angle on the rim while holding the hub and rim up and together.

Some bike wheel builders prefer to use a box with holes cut in it that will allow the spokes to pass through the box.

You can then attach a bolt-on bracket onto the side of the box and hold it with straps to keep it still while you’re building your wheel.

The advantage of this is that you can easily set different spoke angles at different times. You can even use a spoke wrench on the spoke holes.

It’s a good idea to make your wheels out of steel, rather than aluminum or stainless steel, for several reasons.

Steel wheels are much stronger than aluminum ones, and so they’ll be able to support more power without buckling or breaking.

Steel spokes are also more durable than aluminum ones. If you’re building a wheel that will be used on the road, then you may want to consider using brass spokes instead of stainless steel ones.

Is it cheaper to build your own MTB wheel?

As many mountain bikers know, there has been a recent trend in the industry to move away from aluminum and steel to carbon fiber wheels.

Carbon fiber is lighter than aluminum and steel so your bike will be easier to carry up the mountainside. However, one of the disadvantages of carbon fiber wheels is they are much more expensive than either aluminum or steel ones.

Many high-end frames and bicycles are made from aluminum or steel but still use carbon fiber rims and hubs.

These can cost as much as $3,000-$5,000 or even more. So the question is, is it cheaper to build your own wheels?

In order to find this out, I asked my good friend Leo to help me come up with a price comparison. He’s been building his own wheels for several years now and is an experienced wheel builder.

According to Leo,

It’s quite cheaper if you have all the needed tools and materials. Here is what Leo said.

“I started to look into what it costs to build wheels out of aluminum or steel. The best price I could find for building my own wheels was from Wheelworks in New Zealand for $1,750 per set. This price included the rim tape, spoke nipples, and all other parts not already mentioned. I purchased an Easton Haven 880 front wheel and Hope Pro 4 EVO rear hub from All Mountain Cyclery in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The Rotor 3D24 front hub is sold at the same shop for $395.

The Easton Haven rim has an external width of 30mm so I went with a 30mm internal width rim tape like this one. 

I didn’t purchase a tape to match the rear hub so I just went with what I had laying around for the back wheel.

I used a spoke shape of 2.0mm with titanium nipples because they are lighter and stronger than steel and won’t rust as aluminum ones will. 

Framebuilding is the most expensive part of building your own wheels but I’d still need to buy some more parts. Here’s what I ended up spending on rim tape, spoke nipples, and all other parts:

At this point, I’ve spent around $1,740 for the front wheel and $2,700 for the back wheel. If we take the $500 I spent on the hubs, the total cost is around $3,600.

After everything was built up onto my bike, it was time to do a test ride.

The result? I loved them!

Is building an MTB wheel hard? Conclusion

This question was most likely posed to someone who just bought their first used bike, and the answer is yes.

Building your own wheel can be time-consuming and difficult, but if you follow the steps listed and explained above, you will have nothing much to worry about.

If you have never built a wheel before, take your time to read through the guide and feel free to ask any questions in the comment section.

Cheers!

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