Wheel Building questions.

Nobody responded to my last post about building a coker wheel
(36" Airfoil rim with unicycle.com. cromo hub) so I’ll ask again. How hard is it to lace a wheel? How long does it take? How do you determine the lacing pattern? Were would I find examples? Am I insane? Should I just purchase a completed wheel?

Re: Wheel Building questions.

Not very

From 5 to 15 minutes

Read up on it. (Jobst Brand wrote an excellent book, and Sheldon Brown’s web site is wonderful.)

Look at any bicycle or unicycle wheel.

Literally or figuratively?

Only if you don’t want to do the work.

Hope it helps,


Re: Wheel Building questions.

I can’t answer your questions, but probably this web site can:

Running a forum search with keywords coker wheel building might help too. If nothing else, it will bring up a thread called Strongest Coker Wheel in the World, which might help if you decide you want to buy instead of build.

I looked at the sheldon brown site and it describes a 3 cross pattern. Isn’t the coker a 4 cross?

Re: Wheel Building questions.

“oxfordrider” <oxfordrider@NoEmail.Message.Poster.at.Unicyclist.com> writes:

> I looked at the sheldon brown site and it describes a 3 cross pattern.
> Isn’t the coker a 4 cross?

I prefer 3-cross for 36 spoke wheels. 4-cross is OK, too. For 48
spokes, use 4- or even 5-cross. The size of the rim doesn’t affect
the lacing shoice significantly.

Anyway, I usually spend more than 15 minutes lacing a wheel -
sometimes a lot more - and I’ve built a few. Something usually goes
wrong. Either I get careless and make a mistake, encounter a new
gotcha (like my first rim with offset nipples), or get fouled up with
the wrong size spokes (note to self: Measure the ^%$#@! spokes
yourself before lacing next time). Plan on a full evening and maybe a
little time the next day for your first wheelbuild and you won’t get
too frustrated.

I highly recommend building your own wheels. Not only do you get the
satisfaction of a job well done, but you end up with a better result
than cheap wheelsets. Plus you gain the skills to properly maintain
wheels that you buy preassembled (i.e. properly tension and true you
new wheel so it only needs maintenance after really bad crashes).
Note that I think it is harder to true a screwed up wheel than build a
new one from scratch, largely because you can assure your wheel is
close to round as you build it.

I refer to “the Bicycle Wheel”, an out of print book by Jobst Brandt
for wheel info. But the directions at sheldonbrown.com look
excellent. I suggest ignoring the stuff about “leading” and
“trailing” spokes.

By the way, I can’t fit unicycle wheels into my truing stand. You can
do a perfectly acceptable job using the thumbnail of your hand holding
the frame. I went off the deep end and clamped a dial indicator ($14
from Harbor Freight Tools) to get my last wheel within .004" of
perfectly round and true.


The stock Coker with the steel rim uses a 3 cross pattern. It just happens that using a 4 cross pattern with the Airfoil rim allows you to use the Coker spokes. It’s almost freaky that it works out that way. Quite convenient. So the Airfoil wheels use a 4 cross just because that allows you to use the Coker spokes.

If you really want to get fancy you can get stainless steel spokes for the Coker wheel. Tom Miller at The Unicycle Factory has long spokes that he uses for making big wheels and he has a modified spoke cutting machine to cut and thread the spokes to Coker length. Cost is more than $2 per spoke (maybe as much as $3 per spoke). Then you need different nipples that you can get from Semcycle USA. They’re the nipples Semcycle uses for their big wheels. U-Turn here on the forum may also be able to get you the spokes and nipples. Otherwise Unicycle.com sells the original galvanized Coker spokes for $1 each (that may or may not include the nipples).

Re: Wheel Building questions.

Building the wheel is not too hard; just take your time. I think it took me about 3 hours (I had built two wheels before, but that was almost 30 years ago). The lacing itself actually went pretty quik. More time was spent tensioning and truing the wheel (I tend to go slow at that, slowly but surely getting the wheel truer and truer until I just can’t get it any better).

One note: if you are using the stock Coker spokes, you will have to enlarge the spoke holes in the uni.com cromo hub. I simple enlarged a hole 1/64" inch at a time until a spoke would fit, then drilled out all the other holes to that size (took 5-10 minutes). You may or may not need to do this with other spokes.

I used the link already given for building instructions, and the wheel turned out great.

Re: Wheel Building questions.

If you really want to learn to build your own wheels, then I do not recommend starting with a Coker wheel. In my estimation, building to my standards, they are about 4x harder than a normal wheel just in effort and skill required. Gathering the components is difficult and expensive, and during the build you will not understand some of the phenomena that one experiences with the Coker wheel because of its size and the nature of the rim, spokes, and geometry.

Far better to start with is a 36-spoke 20", 26", or even a 700c (29er). The components are much less expensive and readily available, the effort and skill required are much less, and if you get into trouble you are more likely to find an LBS that can assist you.

I have built many of these Super Coker wheels now and it still takes me over a full day to build one, not to mention all the time spent procuring the components. This includes many, many steps such as painting the hub, washing the spokes in degreaser, applying Spoke Prep, creating a wheel map, and the like. It also involves substantial investment in tools that are specific to the larger size. I’m guessing that so far I’ve put over $800 into this type of equipment, and those are not even retail prices. Tom Miller, who built the 7-foot wheels for Cirque du Soliel, has even more exotic equipment.

If you are a rider, and not particularly interested in building your own wheel, then the key thing is to find a wheel builder you trust and cultivate a relationship that will last.

The excellent Jobst Brandt book is up to the 3rd edition, is in print, and available at amazon.com.

At present I do not sell the wide hub or spokes or nipples individually. Tom Miller and Sem would be glad to sell them to you.

My two cents.

Response to U-Turn

Are your super coker wheels for personal use or are they for sale and if they are avaialble for sale how much?

Re: Response to U-Turn

Hi oxford. I have two here for personal/local use and also make them for people. I have had to increase the price to cover costs but waited for a while until we had gotten rid of most of the uncertainty. Nathan’s first wheel was a big gamble on his and my part (thanks again Nathan) and things have improved a lot since. The rims and hubs have improved as well as the time to obtain the wheel and the method of shipping. The price is now $615 plus shipping. This includes tire, tube, SKF bearings, Airfoil rim, custom wide hub, custom-cut s-steel 14 g spokes, nickel/brass wide-flange nipples, steel valve extension for easier mounting, metal valve cap with core tool, poly rim tape, 4 spare spoke setups, highest-quality wheel build, and lifetime warrantee on the truing. In addition, I dress the rim surface as required for unparalleled braking smoothness, etch the wheel’s serial number on the hub, and give the hub two coats of clear Krylon for better weather protection. I also provide a small “owner’s manual.”

There is an additional $20 charge for the shipping box, which is 500 lb test mil-spec stapled cardboard and is suitable for long-term shipping worldwide for all your adventures. The boxes were expressly sized and cut for these Coker wheels. Shipping to overseas customers might involve additional fees; I know little about that at this time.

Presently there are three suitable/compatible frames. You can easily widen the stock Coker frame, which works great for quite a while. When you want to use brakes, I recommend either a GB4 or Hunter. Both framemakers do beautiful work. If you purchase the frame through me, then I will do a lot of sizing work to ensure that the frame fits your body dimensions properly, including requesting special frame dimensions from the framemakers. I do not know if they offer that service or not for Coker frames. I’m sure that Rick Hunter does that for bicycle frames, though.

There are many compatible cranks, from the $20 Miyatas up to Nathan’s $450 adjustable cranks (not fully tested yet).

I can also do really nice air seats (CF too), full Magura setups, the GBDS handle, headlights, cyclometers, dual rear waterbottles, and I almost have a working rear cargo carrier solution. The latter two do not yet fit all customers/frames.

I also service everything I sell, so you have a place to send your whatever for refurb.

Just for fun, here is a photo of over a half-ton of Coker wheel shipping boxes (the minimum order).

Super Coker Wheel

The wheel sounds great but would definately break my budget. I was squawking about paying $209 for an airfoil wheel from unicycle.com. Maybe if my financial position improves. Thanks for the write up.