The Wheel Builder

'Slow Season' A Great Time to Check Your Wheels

This time of year – winter for us in the northern hemisphere – is a great time to check out our wheels in preparation for next season. If you're like me, your winter wheels are now on the bike or it could be that your bike is not used (at least as much as normal) until spring arrives. No matter, as now is the ideal time to check your wheels; you have lots of time to make any necessary adjustments or repairs during this "slow season."

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Small Toolkit and Parts Supply All You Need

Probably the best reason to learn to maintain your own hoops is the ability to evaluate the condition of your wheels and to perform emergency repairs so that your planned rides are not ruined while you wait for the bike shop to fix your problem for you. With a carefully assembled small wheel-maintenance tool kit and a minimal supply of emergency parts, we can all be totally self-sufficient and able to react in minutes to most problems that can derail our precious rides.

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Tubeless Revisited

My column of two weeks ago titled "Tubeless, or Not Tubeless? That is the Question" generated more Comments than any of my previous columns, pretty well all of them from roadies who ride – and very much like – tubeless tires. I appreciate your reasons for embracing tubeless technology (I’ll get to those in a moment), but for most of us, tubeless remains a cycling-related “solution looking for a problem.” Before the Comments section lights up again, let me explain that.

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Tubeless, or Not Tubeless? That is the Question.

The sporting bicycle rider, when it comes to wheels and tires, is faced with this decision. And like many bike-related decisions, this one also seems to have been foisted on us by the bicycle industry. It doesn't take much of a skeptic to realize that the bike industry's needs don’t always align with the needs of cyclists. But like most dilemmas, if we arm ourselves with knowledge and think for ourselves, we can choose what is best for us.

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Introducing: The Wheel Builder

I've been given the honor of sharing with my fellow RBR readers knowledge about home wheel maintenance and wheel building. I have found that most cyclists just need a little reassurance that wheel building and maintenance is doable; it isn't the black art that they thought it was! Most just need the push, the support, the encouragement. I’m here to offer all of those, and more.

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Essential Tools for the Job

Over the years I’ve found that a beginner’s stumbling block to home wheel building and maintenance is often the lack of equipment, and the expense of that equipment. Really, though, these “issues” are more perception than reality. In short, it’s possible to effectively work on wheels with a minimum of special tools.

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Why Bother Building and Maintaining Our Own Wheels?

Why should we even bother with wheel tinkering at all? Why not just take them to the local shop for a fix when needed? And with so many factory pre-built wheelsets on the market, why would we go to the trouble of building wheels ourselves? After all, isn't wheel building the most difficult and complicated thing a bike owner can do, next to building their own frame?

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Basic Concepts of Wheel Building and Maintenance, Part 1

To properly build wheels, we need to understand basic concepts of mechanics and how they relate to our bike wheels. We need to have a firm grasp on how screw threads work in relation to nipples and spokes; we need to know how to combat friction, and the mechanics of what it takes for a wheel work, and to keep working for an acceptable period of time. For this Wheel Builder column I'm going to go over some standard wheel building and general workshop practices that are crucial to our goal of well-built, and well-maintained, wheels.

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