Re-shod the Steed
For a while I've wanted to build a new wheelset for my mountain bike. So far I've dabbled in the art of wheel building, and ever since I started playing around with it, I've wanted to scratch build a new wheelset.
For many bike mechanics, knowing how to build wheels is an important checkpoint in skills development, and for me, it's no different. The first time I did it was when I replaced the fork on my first full suspension mountain bike. The new fork had a different axle type, so I had to replace the front hub. I got it back together and it worked well.
The only thing holding me back was the wheels I had were working fine. But then, one day, they weren't. The rear hub bearings were shot and I wasn't able to get replacement parts for the OEM hub.
So I went through several iterations of deciding what to do, including simply rebuilding the rear wheel with a new Shimano M525a hub. (That was my second wheel build and I considered it a practice for this build.)
So I decided on a plan, ordered spokes, and waited for stuff to arrive. During that time I found some great deals on Shimano SLX hubs with centerlock brake rotors (which I prefer to 6-bolt mount). I was lured by the siren song and bought them. It was like a Shimano Christmas.
Alas, it was not to be. When they arrived I found I had made an important miscalculation. The hub flange diameter of the SLX hubs were much smaller than the hubs I was originally planning to use. Basically, this meant I would have to reorder spokes, and the spokes I had would not be usable.
So, facing extra expense, and worse, extra waste, I decided to send them back and return to my original plan.
So here's the setup.
Front Hub: Giant OEM (Reused), 15 mm thru, 32 hole, 6-bolt brake mount
Rear Hub: Shimano M525a, 135mm QR, 32 hole, 6-bolt brake mount
Rims: WTB ST i23 TCS, 27.5, 32 hole
Spokes: DT Swiss Competition Double Butted, 2.0/1.8 272 mm, 273 mm, 274 mm
Tires: Continental Trail King 2.2, Chili Compound with Protection sidewalls
Passing the torch from the Schwalbes to the Continentals.
And now for some gratuitous images.
I learned a lot by doing the build from the ground up. Spoke lengths have to be calculated very accurately and made to within a millimeter of the right length. I also made careful measurements on the wheels that I took apart and compared those with the spoke calculations to see what they did at the factory. Based on this there are a couple things I'll do different next time.
1. I'll order 14 mm nipples instead of 12 mm.
2. I'll add 1 mm or 2 mm to the calculated spoke length because it would provide a little better thread engagement with the nipple.
Having the extra length on the spokes might make item #1 less important, but we'll see.
I can't wait to get them out on the trail. That will be the true test. Will I have nipple breakage due to over tight spokes? Will I have rim cracks for the same reason? Is my spoke tension even enough? How long will I go without having to retrue? The answers to these questions will determine whether I got a passing grade or not.
Here's the reading and study list.
Master Wheel Building DVD by Bill Moulds
The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt
One gajillion Youtube videos
Pro Wheel Builder