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The Wheelbuilding Process. diagram

The modern road or gravel cyclist is more varied than ever before, both in physicality and in their expectations of what man and machine should be capable of achieving together. To truly address this variety, a bespoke approach is the only way to ensure a rider’s individual needs are met. Simply put: hand built wheels have never been more relevant.

At Sharp Precision Wheels, the process is split into 7 stages. It is an intensive, manual and methodical approach which uses all the knowledge, intuition and tactile skills gained as a result of working with thousands of combinations of components for a wide variety of riders.

  1. 1) CLIENT CONSULTATION AND ANALYSIS

    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.

  2. 2) SPOKE PREPERATION AND LACING

    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.

  3. 3) INITIAL TENSIONING

    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.

  4. 4) DE STRESSING

    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.

  5. 5) TRUING AND TENSION BALANCING

    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.

  6. 6) REPETITION, UNTIL THE WHEEL IS SETTLED.

    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.

  7. 7) FINISHING AND PREPARATION FOR RIDING.

    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.

Precision Tools = Performance Wheels

The finest wheel building tools in the industry are used throughout the build process to ensure that your wheels achieve the tightest tolerances possible. No two wheels are identical, each possessing a unique combination of lateral/radial runout and spoke tension balance, based on the micro-tolerances of each individual component. A dedication to precision in the build process translates directly to a wheel that performs at its best for as long as possible

A Japanese made Kowa spoke cutter ensures spokes are always cut to the perfect length for each build, with threads rolled to factory specifications with no loss of material strength. The P&K Lie truing stand from Germany enables precise measurement of lateral and radial runout to within +/- 0.05mm. EVT Tools in the USA supply the trigger dishing stick which ensures every wheel is perfectly dished.

Finally, analogue and digital tensiometers from Park Tools, Sapim and Wheel Fanatyk are used throughout the wheel building process to ensure that high tensions are achieved accurately, and tolerances can be recorded digitally in an instant using a foot pedal data logger.

Why Hand Built Wheels?

Approaching a wheel builder and ordering a pair of hand built wheels is a rewarding process, and an ideal time to reflect on your individual needs as a rider. Evaluate your priorities on the bike and it will be possible to create a wheel that delivers: whether it is greater reliability and strength, improved aerodynamics, comfort, lighter weight and rapid acceleration or just something that suits your unique style.

  1. 1) Performance and Reliability

    Each pair of wheels is the result of a day’s labour, gradually working the components towards their maximum achievable tolerances. I firmly believe that the lengthy build process and extensive de-stressing of a low volume wheel builder ensures you receive a wheel that out-performs a factory setup in terms of tolerances. As a result, long term durability is massively improved.
  2. 2) Serviceability

    A hand built wheel is designed to be a serviceable product. A high specification of components existing in harmony, which can be easily maintained and repaired in a user-friendly manner, with commonly available parts in the event of an accident. A quality set of hubs will continue to perform for far longer than the life of an average rim, at which point a replacement should be not only technically straightforward but economical too.
  3. 3) Fit for you, and your purpose

    We are all different. Some riders are 50Kg climbers, others are 120Kg rugby players. Some of us want to go as fast as possible in a straight line, others want improved traction with tyres run at low pressures on rougher ground. A good wheel builder looks at who you are and what you want to do on the bike, selecting the right components to put a smile on your face and reach your riding aspirations with a finished product that will last.
  4. 4) Aesthetics

    your style is as varied as your riding can be. Matte pink hubs, silver spokes, red nipples, custom decals to match a frame: there are hundreds of options available to make sure your wheels are as individual as you need them to be.
  5. 5) The Bespoke Experience

    Purchasing a pair of hand built wheels gives you the bespoke treatment at a price point which is far more accessible than a fully customised bike. They are a rare purchase which stands apart in the immediate and disposable world we now live in. To know that something has been made specifically for you, the focus and attention of a skilled wheel builder solely directed at improving your cycling experience is a truly special thing. Your wheels are the single most important component on your bicycle because they directly influence how it feels to ride. The complete experience from consultation to first-ride should be a rewarding one.

Visit the Ordering Process page to find out how to place an order.