Wheel Building Guidelines
Carbon rims are built to extremely tight tolerances and require a narrow tension and operating range to perform their best. Spokes, nipples and the amount of tension used all have a significant effect on the performance of the wheel. Using the incorrect parts, or using too much or too little tension will affect the durability of the wheel, and can lead to failure.
We build with Sapim Alloy nipples. Their unique alloy is harder than other brands and offers corrosion resistance making them exceptionally durable. Use of brass nipples is permitted, although we advise using extra diligence when tensioning the wheel, as brass nipples can be erratic.
Our standard process with wheel lacing is to build all of our 29” wheels 2 cross, and all of our 27.5” wheels 3 cross. The reasoning behind this is that a 29” wheel requires a little more lateral support than a 27.5” wheel due to the spoke bracing angles. A 2 cross-build can provide this. Conversely, the smaller diameter of a 27.5” wheel is stiffer and doesn’t require the added support of a 2 cross lacing pattern. That being said, the actual handling differences between the two lacing patterns are not discernable.
The Key Spoke. This is where it all begins.
Refer to the valve decal on the rim for orientation when wheel building. This is critical because the rims are asymmetrical. If you orient the valve hole up, then the 2nd spoke hole angles to the right. There is also an arrow on the center channel right beside this hole. This is the key spoke of a typical build, so you should not have to change your normal process.
Our Lacing Patterns
700c/29” 24-32h 2-cross, 650b 28-32h 3-cross, 650b 24h 2-cross
- Use a nipple shuffler to orient all of the nipples heads facing up.
- Locate the graphic on the hub and orient it so that it lines up with the valve hole when the wheel is completed. For 2-cross 29” wheels it’s generally about 60 degrees clockwise of the hub logo, or the 3rd hole from the logo. For 3-cross 650b it’s the 4rth hole or about 90 degrees clockwise of the hub logo.
- Lace the key spoke elbows in on the drive side, and insert it into the 2nd hole after the valve. There should be the valve hole, then one open nipple hole, and then the next one is for the “key” spoke. Make sure you have oriented the rim correctly if it has asymmetric drilling! The holes on the rim are drilled with left/right/left angles, but if you followed the previous instruction you can’t really mess this up.
- Sometimes it’s nice to do one spoke on the disc side just to get the pattern set up nicely. The spoke will go just to the right of the key spoke on the disc side of the wheel and into the open hole between the valve and the key spoke. The spoke should run in parallel to the key spoke.
- Use a pin vice (nipple picker-upper) to pluck a nipple, and then apply a speck of grease under the nipple head (where it will contact the rim’s nipple bed)
- Thread on the nipple 1-2 revolutions, just enough to keep it from unthreading right off.
- Once the drive side of the wheel is laced, lace the non-drive side, elbows in again. We prefer to build wheels for braking forces front and rear, however, if you prefer to build the drive side of the rear wheel for driving forces that’s fine too.
- The 3rd and 4th set of the spokes are elbows out. It doesn’t matter which side you do first.
- After the wheel is laced, double-check that the spokes alternate left/right/left on the rim, and elbows are in/out/in on the hub. There should be a large open parallel at the valve area so that a pump will go on no problem. Check the spoke crossings. When you look through the valve, you should see the hub logo. If the hub logo doesn’t line up, it just hurts the aesthetics and not the physical build, but it is the mark of a good wheel builder who pays attention to the finer details. If you are stuck with a hub logo that just won’t quite line up due to the placement, it might be best to orient the logo far away from the valve.
Before the Wheel Hits the Stand
- Use a tiny paintbrush to add a drop of wheel building oil to the threads of the spokes.
- Tighten all spokes to bury the threads. Be accurate! Use your fingernail to feel the threads.
- Wipe off any excess oil around the nipple area.
- Count your turns diligently, and add some tension to the wheel.
- Once the spokes are relatively tight, straighten out the bends at the base of the spoke. If the spokes are very loose, build a bit of tension first. A plastic tire lever can help to turn the nipples easier, don’t overdo it.
- Check the dish. You’ll probably need to only tighten the high tension side of the wheel to move the rim closer to center.
- Get the wheel to about 50-65% final tension before you even anything out
Tensioning Your WheelOn The Stand
- Start on the high tension side of the wheel, measure at least 6 spokes to get an average reading, and then even out the tension on that side of the wheel. Just get it reasonable. You should have to tighten some, and loosen others to get the tension closer to one another.
- Check your dish so you know where you’re at. If the low tension side of the wheel is still really low, then tighten up the wheel some more before you even up that side.
- Once both sides are reasonably even, make adjustments by loosening one side and tightening the other to get the rim spinning fairly straight.
- Fix the hops. Again, just get it reasonable, no need for perfection at this point.
- Exercise the spokes. Check the dish. Check the average tension. It’s nice to do a lap of tightening at this point. This way all of the spokes will be twisted up similarly and you’ll get a better feel for where things are really at.
- Even out spoke tension starting on the high tension side, then low tension side, then fix your hops again. Keep making adjustments until the wheel is really nice and everything is balanced.
- When the wheel is pretty mint but only at ~80% of final tension, it’s okay to move on and add tension. You’ll make smaller adjustments now because the high tension side of the wheel will start wanting to wind up more (with round spokes). Tighten the high tension side of the wheel first. You might only get away with a full revolution or even half a turn on each spokes. That’s okay. Once you’ve built a lot of wheels, you will be able to calculate things out so you tighten the high tension side of the wheel again and again until it’s done, then do the same on the low tension side, and the dish will correct itself. Save this for when you’re really experienced. Building this way is great because you’re not fighting with high tension spokes ever. You’re only twisting them up around 100kg/f or lower. Be sure to check your dish and lateral/vertical trueness periodically as you build up tension. You don’t want to fix a hop when at high tension as it’s difficult to account for the twist in the spokes at really high tension.
- Destress the wheel with a large plastic lever by flexing apart the spokes at their crossing.
- Check the tension and dish again. You want to bring the wheel up slightly over 130-135kg/f, then unwind the spokes a little so that they don’t have twist. Then destress the wheel again, and at this point the goal is to have the perfect final average tension.
- To make tiny adjustments at the end, we flex the spokes by hand. If that doesn’t solve it, unwind the spokes you need to unwind to solve the problem. Avoid tightening any spokes at this stage.