The wheel building process usually starts with a consultation, during which I create a rider profile with the client and try to understand their aspirations on the bike, their physical traits, and budget. This allows us to select the best possible combination of components to meet an individual rider’s needs. Time will be taken to explain the reasons for specific component selection, so that the rider can understand the technical suitability of their wheelset.
Basic assembly of the wheelset takes place once all the components have arrived for the build. Assembly comprises lacing the wheel in the appropriate pattern taking into consideration rider characteristics and spoke count and may include cutting of spokes to the correct length or preparing spokes with various compounds to ensure smooth tensioning of the wheel.
Tensioning the wheel can now begin. This starts by taking the slack out of the wheel and ensuring spokes which take a shorter path are pre-tensioned to balance the wheel from the very beginning. The wheel will be trued to a very basic level laterally and radially at this stage.
The de-stressing procedure begins in between tensioning of the wheel. This is a manual process which places great force on the wheel, ensuring all components (usually a mixture of stainless steel and various aluminium alloys) are well bedded in and “stretched” together. This process is vital in ensuring that by the end of the build the wheel is fully settled and will not wander out of true or drop tension under normal riding conditions.
Tension is added very gradually to the wheel, usually half a turn or a complete turn of the nipple. Every time this occurs, the wheel is de-stressed and trued radially and laterally. Tensiometers are used to ensure as even as possible spoke tension to guarantee longevity of the wheel.
The gradual tensioning, de-stressing, and truing process continues until the wheel reaches its maximum tension and no longer deviates in tension or trueness through de-stressing. The wheel is now “settled”. Throughout this process the wheel builder uses experience and discretion to achieve the best tolerances radially, laterally, and in spoke tension, to ensure optimum performance and lifespan of the wheel. Every wheel is unique in this respect.
Once a wheel is complete, it is cleaned and prepared for shipping. Additional greasing of hubs and pre-loading of bearings will be carried out at this stage. Rim tape is applied, and an anti-corrosion treatment may be used on the inside of rims to protect against harsh riding conditions. At this stage each wheel is assessed and measurements are taken so that a Birth Certificate can be created. This document is unique to each customers wheelset: it is a record of my craftsmanship and will be referred to during any future servicing or crash repairs. All wheelsets ship with full care instructions, or I welcome clients to the workshop to collect or receive additional tuition.