Custom Wheel Building
As of March, 2008, most prices are correct, but given the steadily declining value of the dollar, well...
I built my first bicycle wheel in 1970. It was high comedy, in hindsight! I've learned quite a lot since I was 16 years old. I've built thousands of wheels since then. Since 1988, when I began Peter White Cycles, I have given a lifetime guarantee on most wheels I build. If I recommend the rim, spokes and hub for you, it comes with my lifetime guarantee.
I build wheels for road racing bikes, touring bikes, mountain bikes, recumbents and folding bikes. I stock hubs with and without disc mounts. I stock rims for rim brakes and disc brakes. I stock 20 axle front hubs for certain suspension forks. I stock tandem hubs threaded for the Arai drum brake, and I stock the Arai dum brake. I also stock tandem hubs for disc brakes. And I stock hubs that generate electricity to power lights.
I stock rims from Mavic, Sun Metal, Salsa and Velocity. I stock Campagnolo, Phil Wood, Shimano, Velocity, White Industries and Wilfried Schmidt hubs. And I build with Wheelsmith spokes.
The Wheel Rant
Let's be very clear about something. Rims for racing bikes, such as the Mavic Open Pro and Velocity Aerohead, are made for people who use bicycles in races. That's why they're called racing bikes; because people actually race with them! To be a competitive road racer, you will not want to weigh much more than about 160 lbs. Even at that weight, you'll find yourself at a significant disadvantage in many road races, at least those with any hills. Since the manufacturers of racing rims are aware of this fact, they don't bother making these rims strong enough for 230 lb cyclists, regardless of whether those 230 lb cyclists have the curious notion that it would be a good idea to ride a bike with "racing rims" and 23mm tires.
Remember, reality is what it is, regardless of what you read in the cycling magazines.
So, when you call and tell me you weigh as much as the typical NFL running back and you're just tickled pink with your Campy Record 10 speed equipped bike but you want a set of wheels that are light weight and "bomb proof" (I love that one!) don't be surprised when I suggest you go on a diet and call me back in a few years. I'm not writing this because I don't want your business, it's because I hate feeding on misconceptions spread by the marketing departments of various cycling companies and the moronic magazine scribes.
I can build a very strong wheel that will hold 23mm or 25mm tires so that the wheel with tire mounted will fit in your "racing" frame. And even if you weigh 250 pounds, the wheel will be strong enough. But that doesn't mean that the bike is suitable for you. Since most "racing" bikes can't accept tires larger than 25mm, you'll need to inflate those tires to very high pressure in order not to pinch flat. The ridiculous pressure ratings you see on tire sidewalls are best ignored since they result in a harsh ride and no actual performance improvement.
Most of the telephone calls and emails I get from people looking for wheels are from people well over 200 pounds, riding bikes made for 150 pound racers. Yes, they're having all sorts of trouble with their rear wheels; that's why they're calling me. Most bikes you find in bike shops have poorly built wheels. But the rear wheel isn't the real problem. The real problem is they've bought a bike which isn't suitable for their weight. The clearances in the frame aren't large enough for suitably large tires.
If you're not racing, what the heck are you doing with a racing bike? And if you weigh over 200 pounds and have a racing bike and you keep trashing wheels, my best advice is to get rid of the damned thing and get a bike that's better suited to you, like this. Then talk to me about wheels.
My Lifetime Guarantee
If wheels are properly built, they will need little if any truing ever. The rim or hub should fail before the spokes. My guarantee covers spoke breakage and truing. If you buy a wheel from me that I recommend for you, and a spoke ever breaks that hasn't been obviously impacted and damaged by jamming the chain between the cassette cogs and the spokes or getting a foreign object caught in the spokes, I will replace that spoke free of charge, while you wait. If that wheel ever needs truing, I will true it while you wait, free of charge. Of course, as a practical matter, unless you are a local customer, my guarantee may not be of importance to you, since you would need to get the wheel to me, and pay the cost of shipping. When I first began my web site in 1997, it never occurred to me that people in Indiana or New Mexico would be interested in buying a wheel from me here in New England!
If a customer asks for a wheel to be built with spokes I don't believe are strong enough for that customer, or with fewer spokes than I think is appropriate, I don't guarantee the wheel. But after explaining my concerns, I will of course happily build the wheel. Racers in particular often want the lightest possible wheels and aren't concerned with long term durability.
Rims wear out with use. It's normal for rims to wear out. If your rims don't wear out, you're not riding your bike enough. The sidewalls of rims used on bikes with rim brakes wear down from abrasion while braking. As the sidewalls wear, the rim becomes more flexible, which leads to cracks in the rim. If you don't have enough air pressure in the tires, or if the tires are too small, you can easily dent the rims. And even with enough pressure, riding through a big enough pothole can cause a rim dent. My guarantee does not cover rim wear!
To help keep your new wheels from being stolen, consider using Pitlock skewers. And your wheels will need tires. I think Schwalbe makes some of the best. I don't have a web page for tubes yet, but we have many from Salsa, which are very well made by Kenda. We have many sizes with extra long valves for deep V section rims, so you don't need to use those pesky valve extenders.
I used to build wheels with DT spokes. Now I use Wheelsmith spokes. A few years ago DT began a program for bike shops where they teach mechanics how to build wheels DT's way. On DT's web site they claim that DT Certification "separates the experts from the amateurs". Well, guess what; I'm not DT Certified. Why not? Well, I guess I don't care for the attitude. If being certified means signing on to the idea that I'm some kind of "expert" and everyone else is an amateur, I'll pass. There were lots of expert wheelbuilders around before DT began their certification program. I suppose DT thinks I'm an amateur. But then, DT doesn't guarantee that your wheels will never break a spoke. I do. So which would you prefer, a plaque on my wall, or a lifetime guarantee?
Some people prefer Wheelsmith over DT, and some others prefer DT over Wheelsmith. I used to be in the DT camp. But in the year 2000, DT changed their spoke specifications which prompted me to look into other sources for spokes. After looking carefully at several other brands of spokes, I decided that Wheelsmith was making top quality spokes, and that I could offer my lifetime guarantee on wheels I build with Wheelsmith spokes as well. I now like the Wheelsmith spokes so much, I see no reason to order more DT spokes.
How true will your wheel be?
That depends on how true the rim is. "WHAT?!?!?!?", you say!
Well, some rims are better than others. And the sad truth is, that in order to keep prices under control, some rim makers are not as particular about the straightness of their rims as they roll out of the factory as I would like them to be. When I build a wheel, I want to end up with a wheel that is round and true. It shouldn't have any perceptible hop or wobble, and the spoke tension should be the same for all of the spokes on each side of the wheel. Most rear wheels will have higher tension on the right side spokes than on the left side, that's normal. But a perfect wheel would have all of the right side spokes at exactly the same tension, and the same for the left side spokes.
But sometimes I can't get a wheel to be both round and true, and have perfectly even tension all around. That's because of irregularities in the rim itself. If the rim isn't perfectly round and/or true, the spoke tension cannot be even, and end up with a round and true wheel. In order to have a round and true wheel in that case, the spoke tension must be uneven. In that case, I have a decision to make. If the rim is so out of true that the wheel cannot be built with adequate tension in all of the spokes, I cut out the spokes, get another rim and start over again. But if the rim is just a little bit out, and I can correct it with moderately uneven spoke tension, I'll finish the wheel. As long as I can build it so it stays true, I'll do it. And it may end up with a slight vertical hop or dip, but not enough to notice while riding.
This is a compromise. But it is a necessary one, since not everybody can afford the best rims. And not everyone can afford to have a builder spend hours testing each rim from the factory and building and rebuilding the same wheel looking for the perfect inexpensive rim.
So how does all this shake out in practical terms? Top quality rims from Velocity and Mavic are generally perfectly round and true. The most I ever see is a slight vertical dip (1mm) at the joint on some of the Mavic rims, and an occasional hop at the joint of the Velocity Deep V. It rarely happens and it's almost never enough to affect the wheel in any way. Since they are expensive rims, my standards when building with them are very high. If there's a small defect, more than 1MM vertical deflection, I'll start the wheel over again with a new rim. But don't be surprised if when you look closely at the wheel while spinning it, there's up to 1m of vertical runout near the joint. You'll never feel that while riding.
But inexpensive rims from Sun have to be treated differently. Sun rims are remarkably strong, quite resistant to warping or denting. But Sun's quality control, frankly, leaves a bit to be desired. They often have crooked joints and slight warps right out of the box. But very often they will build up as perfectly as a Velocity or Mavic rim. And there's really no way of knowing before hand.
Where rims are concerned, you really do seem to get what you pay for.
But don't worry, if I can't guarantee it, I won't sell it.
I don't special order rims, hub or spokes from other manufacturers. So if you want some brand that you don't see listed on this web site, sorry, but you'll need to get it elsewhere. We have enough trouble trying to keep enough inventory from the few companies we normally do business with. I just don't have time to run around after other parts. Sorry.
Also, the rebuilding charge you see below is for rebuilding wheels with new spokes and rims you purchase from me. It's the same whether the hub is new or old. If you aren't purchasing the hub with the spokes and rim, you're charged the "rebuild" price. I don't normally build wheels with rims or spokes provided by the customer. The exception is disc rims. Here's why.
If you use rim brakes, the roundness and smoothness of the rim's sidewall determines how well your brakes work. A minor defect in the sidewall can cause the brakes to grab with every rotation of the wheel. Some irregularity is unavoidable, particularly with rims that don't have machined sidewalls. But most rims nowadays have machined sidewalls and riders are accustomed to having their brakes work smoothly. If I build wheel using my own rim inventory, and half way through the build I realize that the rim has a defect, I just stop work and start over with a new rim. Even though I inspect every rim before starting, I still miss lots of defects. So if you send me a rim with a defect that I don't find until the wheel is almost finished, I have to charge you for the time already spent, and the time spent undoing the wheel, and then again for building up on a new rim. With a disc rim, the odds of there being a defect that I can't see beforehand, which can have an adverse effect on the wheel's performance is negligeable. So I will build wheels using disc specific rims supplied by the customer, but not with rims made for rim brakes.
However, you are certainly welcome to send me your hubs, either new or used for building. If you're sending used hubs, please clean them up so there's not lots of dirt and grease on them. And if the hubs need internal service, please do that before sending the hubs to me for wheelbuilding. I don't service cup and cone hubs. I can replace sealed cartridge bearings on most older hubs. Please call to be sure I have the correct tools and bearings to service your hub. Some hubs require proprietary tools to service. I have the tools for replacing bearings in White Industries, Chris King, Suntour, Specialized, Suzue, Sanshin and Phil Wood hubs. Those tools often will work in other hubs as well.
But some hubs I will not build with under any circumstances. Some people need power assist to ride a bike, and there are hubs with electric motors available for this purpose. But they are very heavy, and I can't work with them due to my arthritic back. Also, I will not built wheels using "straight pull" spokes. If you don't know what that means, don't worry. I also don't build with bladed or "aerodynamic" spokes.
Please also remove any brake discs, or freewheel / cassette cogs from the rear hub if possible. If you don't have the tools, it's OK, but I may have to charge you for removing some components to rebuild the wheel. And if your rear hub takes a freewheel, never cut out the old spokes before removing the freewheel. Without an intact wheel, it's impossible to remove old freewheels. When in doubt, call!
Grams are boring. I've been hearing about grams for years, too many years, in fact. And I'm tired of it. The number of grams that a particular wheel weighs is of no interest to me. And if you ride a bike rather than think about bikes and obsess over bikes and bicycle components, you'll quickly grow weary of grams too. So please, when calling or emailing about wheels, don't ask me how many grams it will weigh. I don't know, and I don't care. A wheel weighs what it has to in order to serve its purpose. The hub weighs what it has to, as do the spokes, and the rims. A racing rim doesn't need to be as tough as a tandem touring rim, and so it weighs less, because it has less material in it. Same with spokes and hubs.
If you want to buy a wheel from someone who weighs them beforehand, I'm sure you can find someone out there who will make you happy. It's a big world full of lots of people with loads of time on their hands to obsess over grams. I'm not one of them.
I will discuss how much you weigh, and what purpose your wheels will have, so that you and I can decide what rim, hub and spokes are best suited for your needs. We'll talk about which rims are lighter or heavier, and I'll use the published specs as a reference point. But the total weight of a wheel is quite meaningless, since mass at the rim has a far greater effect on acceleration than mass at the hub. And the total difference in mass of various racing wheels is such a small percentage of a rider's weight as to be meaningless. You either trust me to build you a suitable wheel for your purpose, or you don't. Nuff said.
Ask for a Quote
When you email us for a quote, we need some basic information. We need to know how much you weigh. And if you're carrying other weight not within the confines or your epidermus, we need to know that too. We need to know what size tires you'll be using; not just the diameter, like 26" or 700c, but the complete tire size. It's usually given as something like 28-622 or 50-559. The three digit part is the diameter in millimeters, and the two digit part is the width in millimeters. It should be printed on the sidewall of the tire. We also need to know if your bike uses rim brakes or disc brakes and if it's discs, we need to know if they're Shimano's Centerlock, or the industry standard ISO with six bolts. We need to know the rear axle length. Modern "racing" style bikes have 130mm rear axles and mountain bikes have 135mm. Tandems are usually wider and older bikes are usually narrower. We need to know how many cogs are on the rear wheel. And we need to know what type of drive train you have. In other words, if you have Shimano or Campagnolo shifters, since their respective rear cogsets are incompatible, we need to know what you have. If we ship you a rear wheel that takes a Shimano cassette, and you have a Campagnolo equiped bike, you won't be happy. And here's something very important. If you have something goofy, or something obsolete like the old Maillard Helicomatic, and you don't tell us, I'll tell your mother on you.
Wheelbuilding Labor Charges
The labor charge is for labor. I mention the number of spokes not because the labor charge magically gets you some spokes, but because building a wheel with more spokes takes longer than building a wheel with fewer spokes. So the labor charge is higher for a wheel with 48 spokes than it is for a wheel with 28 spokes. But spokes cost what they cost. See below for spoke prices.
What I call a "rebuild" is me building a wheel for you with your hub. You can think of it as my standard wheelbuilding charge, and the "New wheel labor charge" as a discount you get if you're buying the hub, spokes and rim together from me. It makes no difference if the hub is new or used.
|New wheel labor charge; 24-28-32-36 spokes||$ 40.00|
|New wheel labor charge; 40-48 spokes||$ 45.00|
|Re-build a wheel; 24-28-32-36 spokes||$ 50.00|
|Re-build a wheel; 40-48 spokes||$ 55.00|
|Deep V section rims take longer to lace. The surcharge per wheel is:||$ 5.00|
Labor charges are all up to date.
All spoke prices include brass nipples. If you are ordering DB14 black spokes, I'll assume you want black plated brass nipples and use them when building your wheel. If you are ordering regular stainless unplated spokes I'll assume you want the regular nickel plated brass nipples. If you want black plated brass nipples with regular stainless spokes, or if you want nickel plated brass nipples with black plated DB14 spokes, you'll need to ask for them when placing your order. There is no additional charge. But I do need to know.
I've been asked to alternate black and nickel plated nipples on the same wheel. Sorry, but I just won't do it, or other things of that nature. I'm into function, not this week's latest fashion.
Wheelsmith DB 14 spokes are 2mm in diameter at the ends, and 1.7mm in the center. XL14 spokes are 2mm at the ends, and 1.5mm in the center. DH13 spokes are 2.3mm at the hub end, and 2mm all the way to the threads. The DB14 black are identical to the DB14 except for the black plating. The plating has no effect on the strength of the spoke, only on your wallet.
If you want aluminum nipples, I will now build with them. However, my lifetime warrantee does not apply to nipple failure of any sort. If your aluminum nipples crack or round off after you've been using the wheel and they need truing, the cost of replacing them will not be under warrantee. I only warrantee brass nipples!
I used to refuse to build with aluminum nipples because of these problems, but enough riders still want them and don't care about the warrantee that I figure well, if that's what they want, that's what they'll get. I build wheels with aluminum nipples to the same exacting standards as I build with brass nipples, so your wheels will remain true and round. And if they need truing, I'll true them at no charge, while you wait. It's just that if the nipples fail, they will need to be replaced, and you will have to pay for that. There's a small upcharge for aluminum nipples. And I only have them in silver and black. I don't use any colored nipples, and I won't special order them. There are limits, after all. ;-)
|Wheelsmith DB14 stainless steel spokes with brass nipples||$ 1.05|
|Wheelsmith DB14 black stainless steel spokes with brass nipples|
|Wheelsmith XL14 stainless steel spokes with brass nipples||
|Wheelsmith DH13 stainless steel spokes with brass nipples||$ 1.25|
Spoke prices are all up to date.
Please remember that we don't sell just spokes. These prices are for the spokes in a wheel that we build.
I don't build wheels with straight pull spokes. I don't build wheels using bizarre spoke patterns. I build normal, durable wheels for people who want light weight and reliable wheels for commuting, randoneuring, racing, touring, tandeming, and mountain biking.
24 and 28 spoke wheels are laced cross two. 32, 36 and sometimes 40 spokes are laced cross three. 40 spoke wheels are normally laced cross four. And 48 spoke wheels are always laced cross four. With 40 spokes, there's very little difference in the structure of the wheel between cross three and cross four. So the decision as to which to use often comes down to whether or not I have the correct spoke length in stock. The wheel will be stable either way. With more crosses and or fewer spokes, the spoke length increases. If the spoke is long enough, a right angle at the spoke head will cross the line of the hub axle behind the axle, and the result is less lateral bracing of the wheel. That's why I don't build 36 spoke wheels at cross four. With enough side load, the spoke tension can suddenly drop, and the wheel warps. Not a pretty sight.
If you're hoping to set a new world record in some event, I'm probably not the guy you want to have building your wheels. Not that I couldn't build you suitable wheels, but you're likely to be convinced already that you need some bizarre spoke pattern or only three spokes or some other silly thing you've seen advertised by Company Q to break the record in question. And, frankly, I don't have the time or the inclination to argue about it. Well, I do have the inclination, that's the problem. Time spent arguing is time not spent building wheels. :-)
People call me up every day because they've heard I'm such a great wheel builder and they want me to build them some fantastic new wheel design, just like what Company Q builds. When I tell them I don't want to do it they occasionally end up getting mad at me. But I just want to build good solid reliable and light weight wheels for my customers. And I'm just not all that interested in breaking records, or building wheels based on some new theory from some new company (that probably won't be in business in three years) about how wheels should be built.
So please, rather than get all angry with me because I won't build some wacky wheel for you, save us all the trouble and buy that wheel from someone who does it all the time. If Company Q does it that way, give them the business. And if it doesn't work out for you, you can still come to me later for a set of good old fashioned reliable wheels. I'm not suggesting that there aren't some new ideas about wheel building that have merit. Not at all. I am saying that I'm too busy building wheels the old fashioned way to learn some new way, and take the risk that after a few years of riding, this great new way turns out to be not so great. I prefer to stay with the old tried and true methods. That way I stay out of trouble.