Wheel Rebuilding

How much does it cost to have a wheel rebuilt from all of the components. Assuming i had all the parts, how much do you think it would cost for the actual labor? Any ballpark figures you can give are helpful. Also, how difficult is this? Is it something I could easliy do, and, if so, what tools would I need?


Figure on about $20 to $30 labor to build a wheel. That is, if you have all of the parts it should cost you about $20 to $30 to have the wheel laced, tensioned and trued.

If you do it yourself plan on about 20 to 30 wheels to learn how to do it correctly yourself. I’m too lazy to learn how to do it myself, and I don’t want to experiment upon my own wheels. It’s easier for me to just pay my local wheel builder to make me a wheel. I have found a really good local wheel builder who does a really great job (he is awesome). I know that every time I bring him a wheel that he’ll do a great job of building it or fixing it. It’s not worth it to me to learn how to do it myself given that I’d have to build 20 to 30 crappy wheels before I get the hang of building a good one. Building a good wheel is part art and part science. It takes time to learn both the art and the science part.

How did i know JC would be the one to answer this? I even typed in lowercase letters for you.:smiley:

Thanks though. Would my local bike shop people be able to do it or do I have to find a certified wheel builder with a Phd? I guess I’ll just have to get up and walk around the corner to ask them. Boo walking boo!

Edit: would they take the wheel apart for me too. I guess they would. Can’t hurt to ask you, Great one.

Please dont put that in your sig:D

The hard part is finding a local wheel builder who does a really good job. Many bike shops will build you a wheel for $20 to $30. Few bike shops will build you a realy good wheel.

Ask the local freeriders, downhillers, mountain bikers and tandem bikers where to get a wheel built. Find who they recommend the most and go there. A good place to ask is on a discussion group (mailing list) for a local mountain bike club.

I found a local shop where the wheel builder is a downhiller and freerider and he builds awesome wheels.

Re: Wheel Rebuilding

It depends what you mean by a rebuild. Presumably you want to rebuild a unicycle wheel which means you don’t have to tear open a hub. This is much simpler.

So, the big question is: Why the rebuild?

Assuming that you want to change the mix of hub, spokes and rims there are only a few possibilities. The first step is obviously to take off the tire, tube and rim strip. You will need a spoke wrench that fits tightly on the nipples, your unicycle frame and some sort of lube (spoke prep, linseed oil, even motor oil). If you don’t need the old spokes then a pair of wire cutters will speed things along.

There are a few different routes you can take:

  1. If you are replacing a rim with another of equal size (uses spokes of the same length), then use a spoke wrench and gradually unscrew all the spoke nipples. Make several passes around the wheel, backing off the nipples about a turn at a time until the spokes are slack.

Then tape the new rim to the old rim, making sure to line up the spoke holes so they are comparable. Now, one by one, unscrew the nipples, transfer the spokes to the new rim, and screw the nipples back on. Keep doing this until you have transfered all the spokes, then get rid of the old wheel. You now have a slack wheel - go to step 5.

  1. If your spokes are FUBAR - breaking for no reason, bent from crashes, etc. - then you need new spokes.

2a) If you don’t care if the rim survives then just take a pair of diagonal cutters (the inner cutting faces of vice grips work too) and cut the spokes in the middle. Remove the debris from the hub. Go to step 4.

2b) If you do care about the rim, then detension the spokes first (see 1 above), and chop them out (see 2a). Go to step 4.

  1. If you are changing rim size, or using a hub of a different size then you need spokes of a different length. This may be true even if both rims are the same diameter since the depth of the rims may be different.

3a) Assuming you want to keep the original spokes then detension (see step 1) and unscrew the nipples completely. Unlace the old spokes from the hub. Go to step 4.

3b) If you don’t want to keep the original spokes then just chop them out (see step 2) and go to step 4.

  1. Lacing the new wheel: This is much easier than it sounds. Take a good look at the holes in the hub. See how the left and right holes are offset? The right ones line up in between the left ones, and vice versa. Makes sense, eh? If it is an old hub, check the holes for wear. You’ll see a deformed spot on one side of the hole where the old spoke was sitting. This is where you want the new spoke to go. No sense in deforming the hole twice - it just weakens it even further. Notice also that the odd holes have the spoke mark on the inside of the hub going either clockwise or counterclockwise, and the even holes have the mark on the outside going the other way.

Take your spokes and divide them into 4 piles. All symmetric wheels use a multiple of 4 as the number of spokes - 28, 32, 36, 40, and 48 are common. One pile is the left side that leans clockwise, the next is the left side that leans counterclockwise, the next is the right side that leans clockwise, and so on. Dip the threads into spoke prep, linseed oil or some other lubricant and things will go smoothly later on. And make sure you only screw the nipples on with one or two turns at this stage. It keeps the wheel slack which means you won’t have to force anything.

Hold the hub so the axle is vertical. Drop a spoke in every other hole in the upper flange. Be a bit clever about it and figure out which way to do this so that the spokes will seat in the old marks if it a used hub. Thread one spoke through a spoke hole in the rim right next to the valve stem hole. Now comes the only tricky part. Get this one right and the wheel will lace perfectly - turn the hub either clockwise or counterclockwise so that the spoke sits in the old mark in the spoke hole (if it’s a new hub it doesn’t matter). If this tilts the spoke AWAY from the valve stem, then good. If the spoke tilts TWARDS the valve hole, then flip the rim around 180 degrees while holding the hub steady. Now the hole is on the other side of the spoke and so the spoke should be tilting away. Lace up the rest of this set of spokes, using every 4th hole in the rim from the one you started with. When you are done the lacing should be symmetric with three empty holes in between each spoke on the rim.

Now take the wheel and tilt it until the hub is vertical with the empty flange on top. Twist the hub until the spoke nearest the valve hole tilts away from the valve hole. Look straight down at the point on the flange where this spoke inserts. Pick the spoke hole on the empty (upper) flange that is half a hole AWAY from the valve-hole side. Lace a spoke through this upper hole, then thread it into the rim at the 2nd hole away from the valve stem. Now drop spokes into every other hole as before and lace them into the corresponding holes in the rim. When you twist the hub correctly everything should be fairly symmetric - two empty holes in the rim, then two spokes that are sort of parallel, then two empties, and so on.

Turn the wheel so the axle is vertical again and drop the next set of spokes into all the remaining holes in the LOWER flange. This is your first set of crossing spokes. This is the first intersting part about lacing up a wheel. (Hopefully you’ve only screwed on the nipples with a turn or two, otherwise this will be hard.) Take the hub and twist it so that the spokes near the valve stem tilt away. Shake the wheel a bit to seat the nipples and twist again. Now take one of the swinging spokes and lace it into the wheel. If you are doing a three cross this means going outside two spokes and under the third, then into the right hole in the rim. Spokes going into the rim go left-right-left-right, so it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out which hole to put this spoke into. It should be the one exactly in between the other two spokes from that side. Continue lacing up the free spokes until you have one side laced.

Now look at the wheel. Does it look like a unicycle wheel? Everything sort of symmetric? Is is obvious where the other spokes should go? Good. Drop in the last set and lace them in place. Does it look like a wheel yet?

Wheels at this stage don’t really look like wheels yet. Assuming that it is symmetric and laced like your other wheels the problem is that the spokes aren’t lined up right. Time to “set” the spokes.

Hold the hub with a flange in each hand. Use your thumbs to bend the outer spokes at the flange until they line up with the holes in the rim. Do the same with your fingers on the inner spokes. Keep at it until it looks sort of like a wheel even though the spokes are slack. Now it is ready to tension and true.

Step 5) Go to a bike shop and ask for their help. Hopefully they will congradulate you on lacing the wheel properly. Tensioning and truing a wheel isn’t any harder, but it takes a bit of feel that I can’t describe in a post. It’s also intimidating if you’ve never done it before. Ask if you can watch while they do it. If there isn’t much going on then most bike shops will say sure. If they don’t then find another shop.

Most people take a long time (3-10 hours) to make their first wheel, but it comes out ok. I’d say about half the time the first wheel has a lacing mistake that becomes obvious about half-way through the process and requires a re-start (the 10 hour folks), but it gets there eventually. The next one goes a bit quicker.

After you’ve made 20 or 30 wheels you can knock one out in about a half hour. The really good wheel builders that have delivered a few hundred or more have had feedback from customers that helps them pick the right components for a customer.

Good luck,


Bring it to me & I will either do it for you or teach you how to do it yourself… (for free) I guess as I live in the UK it will be hard for you to take up my offer.

Same applies to anyone else who want help with wheels.

I have built about 60 unicycle wheels but it still takes me several hours to do a really good job on them.

Thanks for the help Cyberbellum. That sounds hard. So, instead of sitting in front of the computer, following your steps word for word, I’m gonna go blow some cash and have it professionally done. The reason for the change is that my axle is twisting from hopping around too much. Also, the wheel needs to be trued.

Thanks for the offer, Mike Hinson. I was in England last summer. I wish I’d known you then. Maybe next time:)

Kids nowadays! No respect for hard work! Why in my day I had to trudge 2 miles through the snow just to FIND a spoke wrench, let alone someone who would tell me how to us it. And we had to make our own hubs and spokes, too! It took hours of chewing on buffalo sinuw to get even ONE spoke! Sometimes it was years before we had a buffalo with a leg bone strong enough to whittle a hub out of. Grumble, grumble, grumble… kids! Harumph!!

(Wise choice, Oh-be-one :slight_smile: )

Like others here on the forum, I followed Sheldon Brown’s wheel building page step by step. I printed it out and read it over a few times. It worked out very well.
The axle in one of my Profile wheels was loose in the hub shell and rather than try to fix that myself, I decided to have Profile take care of it. I had to tear the wheel down and send the hub to them. (they replaced/installed a new axle for free and shipped it back at their expense! The guys at Profile are great).
When I got the hub back I decided to rebuild the wheel myself.
I was always a bit intimidated by the wheel building process but once you do it, it’s not a big deal. It’s a very rewarding experience. I’ve been on a few tough muni rides since the build and it’s holding up very well. Still nice and true. I’ll be building my own uni wheels from now on.
I used my frame as a truing jig with Jagur’s water bottle stand idea. (Thanks Jag).

- Frank

Cool. Could you (or someone) give me the link to the, guide by Sheldon Brown.

Also, Sheldon Brown is a Defensive Back for the PHiladelphia Egales. Well, at least someone who shares his name.

click on repair tips, then wheelbuilding


I guess you should not try to rebuild the wheel if your main motivation to do it is to save money.

Its fun to learn it, but you have to spent time; and if you dont stay focused and start to think “how long does it take before I can ride this !§$ thing again” it will probably take much longer :slight_smile:


No list of unicycle wheelbuilding tips is complete without this:


also see the links at the bottom of the spoke calcualtor page (quoted above).


Re: Wheel Rebuilding

john_childs <john_childs@NoEmail.Message.Poster.at.Unicyclist.com> writes:

> If you do it yourself plan on about 20 to 30 wheels to learn how to do
> it correctly yourself. I’m too lazy to learn how to do it myself

I don’t know about that. I think it is entirely feasible for a
beginner to build a good wheel from scratch. What takes real skill is
patching up botched up wheels that started life out of round and
improperly tensioned and were thereby prone to abuse from the start.

My experience wheel building has been very positive. I learned from a
book (Brandt’s “The Bicycle Wheel”) which is out of print, but good
instructions on the web have already been mentioned. None of my
wheels have been failures, but the first few required a little touch
up truing after the first few rides. Those were bicycle wheels. I
think uni wheels require more care because they get repeatedly
stressed sideways and always from the same direction (because of
torque from the cranks).

In buliding a uni wheel, be sure to tension the spokes good and tight.
This is probably the hardest thing to get right, since you need to go
by feel (and sound). Unless, of course, you own a tensiometer and are
buliding a wheel large enough that it can be used. I always tighten
cheap, machine built wheels before riding on them. Also be sure to
“stress relieve” the spokes. Even then don’t be surprised if the
wheel goes out of true because of the crank torque, which stress
relieves half the spokes that you thought you already stress relieved
(next time push harder).

My rule for keeping wheels true is to start round and keep it round.
That means starting by positioning all the nipples at the same thread
on the spokes and pre-tensioning by turning them all exactly the same
number of turns. When truing, keep the number of tensioning turns
exactly equal to the loosening ones (e.g. if I turn one nipple 1/2
turn tighter, I’ll loosen its neighbors by 1/4 turn each). Then, I
make one pass and pluck the spokes for tone, adjusting any that need
it (without conserving roundness) before final tensioning, stress
relieving, and truing. I don’t use a truing stand or dishing tool for
building unicycles wheels - the hubs don’t fit in truing stands, and
careful assembly results in a correctly dished wheel.

A pro might take as little as an hour to completely build a wheel.
After a handful of previous builds (six to ten, I’d guess), it takes
me under 2 hours to get from a pile of parts to riding away. A first
attempt will likely take the better part of an evening, but be willing
to put down the work and resume the next day if you get tired or

As for tools, you need screwdriver/wrench(es) to take the hub off the
frame, a spoke wrench that fits your spoke nipples, and (optionally)
tire levers if you need help removing or mounting the tire.


I’ve decided that instead of rebuilding the wheel, I’ll get a new unicycle!!!

This might be a little late if you’re just going to scrap the whole thing (I’ll take your old one… :wink: ), but I built my own wheel, with help from someone who had only built one wheel of his own as well. I screwed up once, but it was possible to fix it pretty easily. It took a while, but I did it and have used my MUni for intermediate trail riding ever since, and haven’t had any problems. It’s really not that bad*

*Disclaimer: If you seriously jack up your unicycle from following my advice, I take no responsibility for my claim. :smiley:

I think I have to get the wheel rebuilt now. Or at least worked on by someone, maybe me. I was hopping about today. Then I stopped and idled for some reason. I heard a metallic twang type of noise every time my wheel reached a certain point. I thought it sounded like a sound a spoke might make, so I dismounted and checked that no spokes were loose.

One was loose. One had broken in the nipple, and, when I checked to see if it was loose, came out of the nipple. I tried to put it back in with a spoke wrench but it was too short. Then I realized that part of the spoke was still inside the nipple.

So now I think my wheel needs a new hub, spoke(s), and a nipple. So I think I’ll have it professionally rebuilt.