Let’s build a wheel with no tools!

Let’s build a wheel with no tools!


Arguably the most specialized area of bike
repair is wheel building. You need to know about spoke types, spoke lengths, hubs, rims,
rim sizes, lacing, truing, dishing, and a variety of measurements that would make your
head spin. Not to mention the expensive specialty tools like truing stands, nipple drivers,
spoke wrenches, and dishing gauges. It’s no wonder that some bike shops outsource
their wheel repair to specialists. Just carrying the parts is a challenge. To me, wheel builders
are like heart surgeons. So, I came up with a terrible challenge: Swap a rim with no specialty
tools other than a spoke wrench. We’re not starting with a pile of parts
though. I actually do have a bent wheel here which needs a new hoop. First we’ll remove
the brake rotor to expose the side of the hub. I said I’d only use a spoke wrench,
but I don’t think a torx driver counts as a wheel building tool. In an attempt to make
my life slightly easier I’m tying all these spokes together with string. For an experienced
mechanic this wouldn’t make things easier at all, but for me it takes the complexity
out of lacing the wheel back up. Now I’m removing all of the spoke nipples,
which would be way way easier with a nipple driver. I feel like my hand is going to fall
off and I haven’t even started fastening the new rim. You can sorta use a screwdriver
for this, but it doesn’t have the little point in the middle that keeps it centered.
It’s harder than you would think. Now to lace the new hoop on. Even with the
spokes tied together this is not easy. In fact, I almost wish I left the string off.
This part of the process wouldn’t have been too bad, but I got a few of the nipples stuck
inside the rim. To get them back out, some wheels are worse than other. A few times I
considered just sawing the rim open and quitting mountain biking. I tried tweezers, magnets,
you name it. The only thing that works is shaking the wheel for 20 minutes and hoping
for a miracle. Now that I have all my hardware back, the
wheel is at least put together. Now it needs to be trued so that all of the spokes have
even tension. Since I’m doing this with no tools, I’ll use the front fork and some
zip ties. If you’ve never trued a wheel before, it’s basically a matter of finding
the biggest bow in the wheel, tightening the spoke on the opposite side of it lightly,
and then repeating the process until the wheel is straight. Although it might look straight,
we still need to align this rim with the hub laterally. This part is called dishing. Dishing is normally done with a gauge, or
even a properly calibrated truing stand. Since I don’t have either, I’ll be using a trick
I saw on a forum. Basically, I’m setting a reference point on one side of the wheel,
flipping it over, and making sure the hub face is the same distance from the rim on
both sides. It’s not. It’s off tremendously. Because it’s off by so much, I’m going
to tighten every spoke on the right side, and loosen every spoke on the left side one
half turn. 30 minutes later and a couple more passes
around the wheel, and I’m as close as we’re gonna get with my homemade precision dishing
gauge. One more tedious truing and we’re finally done. That took me over 3 hours and
I regret it thoroughly. There’s a little jump in the rim too. It won’t be noticeable
while riding, but I’ll know it’s there and it’ll bother me. There are scratches
all over my brand new Easton Arc rim, and the nipples look like they’ve been through
some kind of S&M clamping ritual. I don’t know what tool I missed the most.
Obviously the truing stand would have helped, as a properly calibrated one can pretty much
do the whole job. Not only that, but it provides a nice mount at eye level for working on the
wheel. The other part that killed me was not having a nipple driver. If you’ve ever smashed
your hand in a car door, then you know what it feels like to build a whole friggin wheel
with just a spoke wrench. Let’s also consider that I was building a front wheel, which is
easier than a rear since it’s pretty much centered over the hub. A rear wheel is offset
even more to account for the cassette, so my terrible experience was actually the best
case scenario. I could have used really nice tools, and the
help of an experienced mechanic, but I thought this video would be useful those who wanted
to save a few bucks. Actually, how many bucks are we saving? $35? Ugh… Even if your local
shop charges twice this, I can’t recommend doing it yourself without the proper tools
and knowledge. The risk of you screwing it up and costing yourself more money is just
too great. I hope that at least, this was worth the entertainment. Thanks for riding
with me today, and I’ll see you next time.

About the Author: Michael Flood

100 Comments

  1. I actually just built a 29 inch triple wall deep rim. I am a just do it kind of person i did quite a lot of reasearch beforehand and this was before i saw this video. I laced the wheel did one side wrong and had to redo the whole rim that was a pain but the best part is i am cheap so all i had was a cresent wrench 😉. So the lacing and dishing took nine hours give or take and add another 20 to 24 for torshioning and trueing but i did it anyway. my trick for the dishing and truing was two rulers with foam hot glued to the ends strappd to the frame via zip ties and it worked quite well actually. I got it the best i could .after that my neighbor lets me borrow his truing stand ,it was perfectly true side to side but a little bump up and down. So i did it and it wasnt so bad since i already had the rim paying 12 dollars for the hub and 11 for spokes couple of days in time . Honestly i would do it all again for the same price of the rim i built with a freehub body style not freewheel would be 120 usd so i saved a lot of money and honestly it was an experience i think everone needs to be informed on the level of respect your rims deserve, thanks seth your a really great guy!!!

  2. I’ve built about 10+ bmx wheels with only a spoke wrench and it saves me $ and I don’t need a trueing stand or nipple driver but you wrere able to build it good job

  3. Have got to say…loved the can trick! Who knew my old Relentless cans could be usefull, though I did use 3 🙂 Went from about a 1.5cm difference to maybe a mm…thanks so much 🙂

  4. I just laced up my own set of wheels, and holy hell I understand the pain of dropping a nipple into the rim. Sometimes, I got lucky and the nipple fell out within 30 seconds, but there was one where I felt like I was shaking it forever.

  5. Thank you Seth, awsome for hackers like me. Going to build a wheel with past knowledge. So the video helps.🙋

  6. I'm a total noob. However, I just rebuilt a front wheel with a new rim, spokes and nipples following along another youtube vid in 15 mins. Trued, dished and round took another 30 mins. Good to go. If you want the satisfaction of doing it yourself, make it happen!

  7. I can lace wheels in 20-30 minutes perfectly straight and "dished" with only a spoke wrench and screwdriver

  8. Damn, you're right Seth. Thanks for the heads up! The older I get, I'm like, "there's just some things I can't do". Or it's like, "do I want to do them?"……..Should I dig a hole with a shovel for ten days, or let a backhoe do it?

  9. Some Bike Stores in my arounding want to have 70$ for a Complete Bike Check! But Markgraf only wants 35$.

  10. عندي قضيب كبير عاوز يدخل في شرجك ياصاحب القناة ياشاذ ياخول يابن الكلب

  11. Holy hell…please don't give anyone else wheel building or truing advice. What's next, how to do your own root canal at home with no tools? Good luck with that new "build". Exactly what is the average tension on your spokes in KGf? Let us know if the wheel lasts for more than one day of riding.

  12. I built a rear wheel with only a frame, and it still kicking ass after 6 months. True and solid! So FU lol!!

  13. I have an older kona mtb it is a hardtail with hard forks it has v brakes i jumped and landed a little sideways on my front wheel it bent my rim i started to ride it out but my wheel got locked up in my brakes cuz it was bent. I got shit whipped over the bars

  14. When you realize that you lacing wheels since 2009 without any tools beside spoke wrench. Live in Siberia, Russia, charging $10 for wheel build.

  15. You think the was hard. My dad replaced his front and back motor bike rims with no special tools apart from a a spoke rench. also painted the hubs and polished the spokes it took forever

  16. I've recently taken to building and truing my own wheels, because local shops have been getting increasingly more busy and I need to have my bike available daily. I remembered this video and it also came up in my recommended just now.
    If you're interested in doing it at home bot don't want to spend money on a truing stand, look for "unior pocket truing tool". It's a simple tool that mounts to your fork or frame and which will do just as good of a job as a basic truing stand. The advantage is that you don't have to worry about hub size and axle dimensions. And it's super cheap.
    If you're doing wheel building in ghetto conditions, don't get alu nipples. Get brass ones. It's super easy to break the alu nipples even when you're careful. When you're building your wheel for the first time, it's very likely you're going to be re-doing it and even if not, you're going to have to tighten the wheel once you put some miles into it.

    It's easier to work on dishing in the frame/fork. You just measure the distance from each side. It honestly doesn't have to be 100%, as long as it's not enough to affect which portion of tread you're riding on.

    Also keep in mind that one side of spokes will be much tighter than the other. Ideally, you want to tighten that side first, and finish working on the wheel by gradually tightening the looser side, because the other side will get incredibly stiff and it may actually be difficult to tighten.

  17. cheers for the sitting the rim on some cans dishing trick seth, checked a wheel i built recently last night doing this but used a tape measure to check instead of pennies, not only had i trued it inbetween my brake blocks but i had also got a perfect dish already, amazing 🙂

  18. $35! if only…

    Rang my local store, $350 per wheel inc new spokes and nipples…. Thats if i supplied the rim and the hub….

  19. Nice! I'm thinking of converting my fattie to QRs, so I'll have to start each wheel from scratch. Unless there's an axle conversion availabe. I'm still looking.

  20. dude… for rim replacement you just need to tape the old and new rims together then move over one spoke at a time…

  21. LOL. No tools. If you don't count a screwdriver, or a nipple wrench. Should have been titles "let's build a wheel with minimal tools".

  22. Was about to do this exact thing, so glad I watched this…I will be going to my local bike shop. Thanks and keep it real! Love your stuff, keep it coming!

  23. If only i could find wheel hubs to replace a pitted one in the uk… i know it’s easy to get in the us…. what am i supposed to do with a perfectly good rim and spokes? I wouldn’t mind wasting 3 hours tbh… Satisfaction of accomplishment.

  24. i just laced up my first bmx rim and hub and it really wasnt that bad, i also trued my front wheel with a ziptie and a spoke wrench wasnt to bad.

  25. Ahh that was a epic video laughed alot good info non the less for someone wanting to just straighten their wheel as for long term terrible as the spokes that you are tightening and loosening are usually set into 4 or 3 groups depending on your hub getting the axial and the radial right and fish correctly doesnt mean a true wheel if you do that without equalizing the tensions your wheel will self destruct over time pulling spokes through the rim or worse

  26. I ruined an Araya rim on my BMX back in early 1980-something, while trying to true a little wobble. Last time I ever touched a spoke wrench. * Leave it to someone who knows what they are doing *

  27. Next time, try taping the empty rim next to/ along side the bent one. Then simply move the spokes over one at a time. If u keep track of how many threads are showing above the nipple, u can use as a guide to how much to tighten initially. Use ur caliper as truing stand.

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