Just as a disclaimer, please do not expect to get this right on the very first try. My first time building a wheel I took a compilation of 3 different guides/how-to’s, 1.5 hours, and 4 tries. I’m hoping this guide at least takes care of needing more than 1.
Before I go through this guide, I want to define a few words that I might toss out there.
1 – Wheel – A complete assembly on a bike
2 – Rim – The outer part of a rim which the tire sits on
3 – Hub – Central part of a wheel
4 – Flange – The disk on the side of the hub that has holes drilled for spokes (attached permanently to hub)
5 – Nipple – Yeah, giggle a little bit. The technical term for the nut on the end of the spoke that holds it onto the rim.
6 – #h – The # sign stands for any number that can be put there, and the number stands for how many holes there are for spokes in total, #/2 on each side.
7 – #x/#cross – The # corresponds to how many times the spokes cross over each other in lacing.
Alright, to get down to things. Below is a numbered picture with the main parts you need for a wheel build.
3- Nipples (They’re in a case, sorry, camera flash distorted it)
5- Spoke Wrench
Also, the spoke wrench is not a NECESSITY, but it is nice to have. Well, let me clarify: It’s not a necessity to build a wheel. If you’re truing a wheel, you will need one (but that is a different guide).
Spokes come in different lengths! A lot of sites have “spoke calculators”, which you enter the rim and hub combo, and the specs for crosses and holes, and it pops out a number for which length you need. Don’t just “guess”. You will almost always guess wrong.
Another thing to keep by you is a water bottle or something to drink. If this is your first build, again, it might take you a while :P
If you’re building a front wheel, skip over the red text. If you’re building a rear wheel, read it. There’s not much different, but a few little things.
Remove the driver! It will be a REALLY annoying build (and impossible, depending on the size) if you leave it on there. If you have a freewheel, it has to come off. Removal tool needed for you. Local shop will probably be able to do it for a small fee.
1- grab a spoke, any spoke. Drop it through a hole, any hole. (It doesn’t matter if you start with drive or non-drive side).
Lay the rim down on your lap, so the spoke hole is directly across from you. An easy giveaway to find the valve hole if you cannot, look for the sticker of the company/name of the rim, etc. When that is found, look directly across the rim.
Use the hole to the left of the rim for this spoke. The thing to look for is the hub/spoke line up. The hole should be on the upper level (if the rim is lying flat). If you accidentally use the wrong one, just flip the rim over and it’ll be correct. :D
Grab your driver and spin it. (as in, put it back on for this step) The direction DOES matter for a rear wheel. The hub should be spun in the direction of rotation from the chain. So, either know which way, or just grab the driver and give it a spin. The hub should go with it.
Grab it, and rotate it in the OPPOSITE direction as the hub is rotated in the rim. You’ll see in the images below.
I’ll do the first example with 3cross 36h (because that is the wheel I am building for this guide). Take the spoke and cross it over 2 spokes. That becomes 2 of the 3 crosses. The third cross is actually underneath. So, looking at it from above, you go “OVER, OVER, UNDER”, then secure the spoke in the hole. There should only be 2 holes where it ends up, so use the one on the same side as the flange the spoke is coming from.
On whatever cross number you use, it should go over all of the spokes, and then under the last. If you're doing a 2x lace, it would cross over one, then go under the next, before being secured.
Just as a quick note, the side you did the first spoke on will cross in the opposite direction as the other side. If you saw the images above, that was the first side. This is the other side
AND YOU’RE DONE! WOO! Your wheel is BUILT. If you tighten the spokes up a bit you’ll see the wheel start to look a little more like a wheel, as in the spokes will straighten out rather than looking all Dr. Seuss like.
As a few notes at the end. You’ll notice I never mentioned how tight the nipples should be. The average when building is about 5-7 rotations, sometimes a bit less. You shouldn’t need the spoke wrench, but I did end up using it a few times. I had a few nipples that my fingers could only do a rotation or two. DO NOT leave them like that! The spokes already have some decent stress on them. One or two rotations will slip out, and can damage your materials.
All the stuff I used is not new, at all. It’s old, and has been built up and torn down maybe 10 times, combining all the times I used it for practice, and guides in the past. Also, this guide took 2 builds, since the first build somehow got lost in the pictures. D:
It IS okay to bend spokes. I had them bending quite a bit. Just don’t bend them too much. If you let the tension go (from bending), and the spoke stays bent, then ditch it. Always order a good amount more. Whenever I do a 48, I order 55. When I do a 36, I order 45, etc. This allows you to bend 1 or 2 on accident, and replace those which break.
You CAN put this wheel on and ride for the front, or brakeless rear. However, it will be wobbly as hell. The wheel is built, but not trued. I will get a guide on truing out eventually (not in a big rush). However, I will add some links to a few at the bottom. The other option is to bring it to your local shop. Most shops charge about 8-12 for truing something like this, but upwards of 20-30 to build it. it’s easy to build, real easy. Just not as easy to true D: Support your local shops.
If you have any questions, leave them as a comment please.
Thanks for reading! Happy building!