Spokerite Custom Built Wheels
By Rob Rudman at Cyclo Pro
"THE ART OF WHEEL BUILDING TRULY LIES WITHIN THE CORRECT TENSIONING OF THE BEST SOURCED QUALITY COMPONENTS CUSTOM BUILT TO SUIT EACH RIDER’S INDIVIDUAL NEEDS." ~ Rob Rudman
Rob started building wheels over 30 years ago and has constantly kept up with developing trends. His philosophy has been translated into hundred’s of wheels custom built for both the pleasure and racing cyclist.
The basic theory of a successful wheelbuild is to keep the hub as the central weighted area whereas the rim should contain the lightest possible components. Eg one might buy lightweight titanium spokes, but brass nipples will have to be used which will add weight to the outer rim, a factor one must avoid.
An interesting time line
Long, long ago…British wheelbuilders in particular favoured a 32 spoke front wheel with a 40spoke rear wheel while other countries preferred 36 spokes on both wheels. Racing wheels, however, tended to use 32 spokes front and rear.
As time went by…It became “fashionable” to build all wheels with 32 spokes. All kinds of trends set in, from twisting spokes “for extra stiffness” to the using the flattened aero dynamic spokes.
And nowadays…Spokes are either straight gauge, double butted or triple butted ,the butted spokes having a certain amount of elasticity when built into a correctly tensioned wheel. This prevents rims from cracking and ensures maximum durability. Although the 32/32 spoke combination has become the industrial standard, wheels are also built with a lesser number of spokes. The fewer the spokes, the stronger the rim needs to be.
A large variety of materials is used in spoke making, some do have their draw backs.
- Mild steel – A cheaper, heavier option prone to rust
- Carbon Fibre – Tends to be brittle
- Aluminium – Prone to corrosion
- Titanium – Needs brass nipples which adds un- needed weight to your outer circumference
- Stainless Steel – High quality spokes which are a proven favourite on light weight wheels. The elasticity provided by butted spokes adds reliability to correctly tensioned wheels. These spokes can cause a “spoke wind ” wherein lies the skill and patience of an experienced wheel builder to minimize this effect.
Loose spokes allows the hub to twist inside the wheel & the tightest spokes tend to break.
Consider the following:
- You, the rider, add mass to your cycle when you sit on it. How much mass is added is determined by you!
- The light weight cycle you purchase might not have strong enough wheels to cater for the purpose for which you bought it. Eg stage racing requires stronger wheels than a pleasure rider ambling along gravel roads or for cross-country racing.
- Muddy hubs exposed to a hose pipe or high pressure hose daily during a stage race would favour the old fashioned cone and ball bearing type hub while a one day cross country event would favour the lightweight options.
- Ideally wheels should be within 10% torque variance per side.
- The dish of the cluster side of a rear wheel will compromise its strength. An experienced wheel builder aims to increase longevity of these wheels by taking this into account.
- The lighter the rotating mass, the quicker it is to build up speed on your cycle BUT your wheel needs to be built to be able to withstand the challenges it will face.
- Butted stainless steel spokes are lighter and therefore more responsive during acceleration
- Hubs and bearings need to be considered and chosen according to the intended use of the rider eg different components will be needed for stage racing versus a shorter distance ride. The strength is sacrificed with incorrect tensioning. Factory wheels are built by computerized machines. A straight wheel is not necessarily a well tensioned wheel.
- Under- tensioned spokes require constant trueing , while over tensioned spokes will reach a point of unreliability and your rim might eventually crack.
- It is important to be fully acquainted with the manufacturer’s torque specifications if available