Custom-built Wheels Accompany New Bike

Components needed to build your own wheels.

Today was the first step to building a new bike. I assembled some wheels to my liking: Mavic Open Pro 700C rims, 36 holes; Shimano Ultegra hubs, Wheelsmith 14 gauge spokes.

I’m not a wheel builder any more than I am a car mechanic. I change my car oil and do other light maintenance. I learned how to build wheels 25 years ago, thanks to Jobst Brandt’s easy-to-understand instructions in The Bicycle Wheel.

This was the first set I had built in more than 20 years. My Mavic MA2 rims and Campagnolo hubs have served me well, only rarely breaking a spoke.

I like Ultegra hubs because they’re serviceable — no sealed bearings. MA2 rims haven’t been made in decades so I had to settle for the Open Pro. MA2 had an advantage with an internal sleeve that seated the spoke nipple better.

I use an ancient truing stand and a Park spoke wrench. The one item I used that’s not in the photo is a small flat-head screwdriver.

About 5 1/2 hours later I had a set of wheels. Ten-speed freewheels may give you more gears but they compromise wheel strength. The dish on the freewheel side is severe, putting more load on these spokes where torque is transmitted. Spokes are much more likely to break here than elsewhere.

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