Bad to lace a wheel myself and have the LBS do the rest?

I’m trying to save some cash on a wheel build. So I’ve researched it, and I was going to lace my own wheel, and then take it into the LBS to have it lubed, dished and trued. Is this a bad idea?

I am confident that I could lace the wheel correctly, I was just wondering from a mechanics point of view if that is a hassle or anything.

At some point I’d like to become decently knowledgeable about tech on my own uni’s, so part of the reason I want to lace it myself is for the learning bit.

Thanks for any help

It’s not a bad idea at all to lace the wheel yourself. With a little patience, and a good guide on wheel building you should be able to take all of the way through tensioning and truing as well. If you get frustrated, or just want a pro to finish it for good measure it’s not a bad idea to take it to the bike shop.

You want to prep the spoke threads prior to lacing, so you would lube them ahead of bringing it to the bike shop. I have used linseed oil, and Tri-Flow to prep my spokes with good success. I generally prefer Tri-Flow, but if you are afraid of the nipples loosening the linseed oil will act as a thread locker as it sets up.

If you’re going to lace it, you might as well build it. You’re more likely to make errors lacing it than tensioning/truing it.

Just finished my first wheel today. Took me 2 hours. Used another wheel as a guide. Wasn’t hard at all - I’m sure you can do it too. Uni wheels are easy in that there is no offset (dish?) as there is on a multi-speed rear bike wheels.
After I laced all spokes to rim with nipples threaded onto spokes so that the end of threads were just covered by nipple, I started tightening each. First, two turns all the way around. Check. Do it again. Check. Until the hub stops flopping around and spokes are fairly snug. Check for obviously loose spokes and tighten them individually. Now place wheel in uni frame and check for wobble - correct by loosening bulge side and tightening other side to pull wobble out. Check for humps by spinning wheel in frame and holding an extra spoke across frame at outside edge of rim - luckily my rim didn’t have a hump and I think if you’re using a new rim and take your time using small adjustments, you don’t get humps. Go the entire way around on one side and “pluck” each spoke and tighten or loosen until you get an even, somewhat high tone (pluck spokes on a good wheel to get the pitch). Turn around and do same on other side. Now recheck for wobble and correct. Last, check that rim is centered by measuring from frame to rim on each side. If rim is not centered (and it won’t be) loosen all spokes on the side that’s too close to frame equal amounts (one complete turn, for example) and tighten all spokes on the other side the same amount. Remember - always loosen first, then tighten when making adjustments.
Maybe I was just lucky, but my first wheel turned out to be alot easier than I thought. Side wobble is less than 1/32.

If you are going to bring it to a bike shop for finishing at least get the wheel up to initial tension so it isn’t much more than a standard truing.

but really if you are going that far you might as well just do the whole thing yourself. Building wheels is great practice in learning how to fix anything that can go wrong with your wheel. It will teach you how to dish, true, and get your rim round. All useful things to know down the road.

Ah ok, doesn’t sound so bad. Time consuming, but not all that difficult with patience.

So besides the pieces to put the wheel together, I’ll need:

Flathead screwdriver
lube (for the threads and for inside the nipple?)
spoke wrench
some kind of rough truing reference, like a uni-frame with breaks?


It would be fun to learn the whole process, even if I had to still take it in to have it pro-adjusted.

Dish? True? Round? …What are these things you speak of? I believe the correct terms are “wobble”, “bulge”, and “hump”. All of which can be fixed with a do-dad and a do-hicky-thing-a-ma-jig.

Instead of a flathead, I used a short (about 2 inch) phillips bit - one that chucks up to a power driver. I just ground off the two side wings so that it will fit down into the nipples. The pointy shape of the phillips bit keeps it from slipping out of the nipple and the short length lets you use it as a finger driver (less bulky).

You might get rubbing from the breaks early on so they aren’t necessarily the best choice. Lots of people use zip ties, I tend to use a pen on an elastic.

Make sure you flip the wheel in the frame to check dish, frames aren’t always strait.

Edit: oh and tstessney’s advice on the modified philips screwdriver is a priceless little tid-bit that makes the initial build much faster and easier.

I wanted to build my own wheel as well, so I had a talk to my LBS and they said it would be a great experience.
They suggested I use my ‘speedo’ as a reference, and gave me a quick demo (this is when I took my wheel in to get the spokes tightened)

No need for a truing stand - just something like a bike stand to clamp your uni into.
Dish I believe refers to the tension being even on both sides of the hub. You can have perfectly true spokes on the left and right side, yet have messed up the dish. (At least this is how I understand it.)

Go here for a great article…

By flip in the frame, you mean that I have a reference (like your pen) and then I flip the wheel over to check if it is the same distance to the pen?

I just finished bulding my 36er guni wheel yesterday. It was my first. Uni’s are easy to build up. There realy is no dish to worry about. Just center the wheel in the frame. I used the brake for reference. It took about two hours from a pile of parts to a full wheel. I watched a few you tube videos and read Sheldon Brown’s wheel building guide. There are only a few bike shops around here that build wheels and they want between $80.00-$100.00. If you ride a 36er keeping a tight & true wheel is critical to avoid brake rub. When I first got my Nimbus Nightrider the wheel was very loose. I spent about an hour tightening & truing it. Since then I’ve only had to do some touch up truing.
For the nipple lube you can use any kind of oil. I used sewing machine oil. I also used anti sieze on the spoke threads. It rains here all the time so I don’t want siezed spokes.
Don’t worry, just go for it. The guides are straight forward.

You prep the spoke threads, and then when they’re in you lube inside the nipple from the tube-side of the rim right?

I dipped the spoke threads into the anti sieze then threaded the nipples. After that I oiled from the outside of the rim between the eyelet and nipple. If you don’t use anti sieze, thread the nipple on a little and oil from the tube side into the nipple hole. It will be a little less messy. I don’t think it matters which side you apply the oil as long as the spoke threads and the area between the eyelet and nipple are lubed.

Just go ahead and build the wheel yourself. If you have a wheel to copy, it isn’t bad. Just make sure to tighten the spokes evenly, and stress-relieve and retighten the spokes before riding.

You don’t really need the screwdriver. I think it’s just as fast without one.

The frame may not be perfectly true, so you flip the wheel instead of trusting that the frame is perfect. That way you know the rim is perfectly dished, that is, centered over the hub.

I think it’s Spoke Prep or lube. You don’t really need either though; see the Sheldon Brown article.

I remember my first wheel build when I was eleven. It took me two weeks because I couldn’t do it in one sitting. Now it takes up to half an hour from start to finish. There are so few parts on a uni, and the wheel is the essence of the whole. It is worth it to really learn how to work on it to complete your uni-jedi training.

Wheel Dish: When the rim is centered between the locknuts, or in our case the bearings. When a wheel needs dishing, it means that the rim isn’t centered on the hub. Uni wheels are symmetrically dished, rear wheels on bikes with derailleurs are asymmetrically dished, but in both cases the rim is in the center of the locknuts/bearings.

Spoke Prep: A while back Wheelsmith started selling a product called “spoke prep” which is not necessary. Spokes can be lubed with Tri-Flow just as well. Using a lube on the threads makes it easier to turn the nipples when the wheel comes up to tension, and later on it helps to prevent them from seizing. If you ride in a salt environment, like an area where they salt the streets in the winter, or near the ocean, you can have galvanic action between the brass/aluminum nipples and the steel spokes. If that happens it is almost like a chemical weld that is very hard to break. A little oil on the threads when you build the wheel is a good idea. Wheelsmith “Spoke Prep” is unnecessary.

Awesome resource…

Happy building (& riding)!

UPD in Utah

Just build it, the experience is very rewarding, and you will likely make a mistake, so don’t stress it, just read the directions such as what Sheldon wrote, then check it. It’ll be obviouus if you mess up.

I’d suggest using an electric screw driver to do the intial nipple tightening, otherwise you’ll wear out your wrist.

The only tool that would be nice to have, and one I don’t “yet” own, is a spoke tensionometer. I have always used “tone” to check spoke tension, seems to work fine, so that’s why I haven’t puchased a tension checker.

I “made” my son build his wheel last year, he was 14yo, did fine, I did most of the trueing work, though he did some and I walked him through the fine tuning. It takes time to develop wheel building skills, the hardest part being trueing.

Use the uni frame/brakes for trueing, flip flop the wheel to get proper centering, keeping in mind that some frames are not quite square.

I use wet, non aerosol chain lube for spoke prep, works fine, lets the spokes move in the nipples, prevents them from seizing, doesn’t dry out.

Take your time, have a beer, put on some good music, then sit down on the floor and do it :slight_smile:

Nurse Ben,

I was going to get a spoke tensiometer but after talking with several pro wheel builders I decided to save money for other things. They all do it by feel. I was concerned about high tension on a Schlumpf hub causing shifting problems. My initial ride this morning was a success! No creaking or popping. It shifts the same now as the unlaced hub. I did hard starts & stops without using the brake, sharp cuts, and mild hopping all in 1:1 gear for the first ride. I check the wheel after the ride and it didn’t require any truing adjustments. My Nimbus Nightrider popped & creaked for the first 10 miles. I also had to tighten it up quite a bit with lots of fine tuning. I might check my spokes at work with one of our tensiometers. They are for rigging aircraft cables. I haven’t found an actual number value for 14 guage spokes yet. I might just reference between each spoke on my wheel. If there any spokes really tight or really loose compared with the average spoke tension I’ll adjust the extreme spokes. All of the spokes feel uniform & the pitch is all about the same.

Well thank you everyone for your input and tips!

I’m really excited to learn this stuff! :slight_smile: I like building things, and I have always been a perfectionist (when it is appropriate to be so) I just have to remember to pace myself and be patient :smiley: