Building A New Wheel Is A Nightmare

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Mazovia, Poland
The long story short.

My Vado 6.0 is now 3 years and 5 months old since the purchase, and it was built in 2017. The "total system weight" (e-bike, rider, and cargo) in my case approaches the e-bike limit of 130 kg (300 lbs). I often ride really fast in rough terrain. On recent rides, my mates could noticed the wheel became "untrue", I gave the wheel to the mechanic who trued it. Two weeks later the wheel got bent again. I had a serious talk with the mechanic who is an authorized DT Swiss dealer. He said: 'Your rear wheel is really worn out. It has become "plasticized", the spokes are weak, and the rim is clearly bent'.

We started talking. One of the option is to order a new rear wheel matching the Vado 6.0 with Specialized. It is a 622 (29") wheel with outer width of 35 mm and the inner width of 27 mm, and only 28 spokes (it is not too many given the total system weight). The issue is it is not easy for Specialized to find the identical wheel in the inventory. Not sure about the cost. I would gladly pay for it but the 28 spokes is not too many as for a heavy bike and rider for rough terrain.

Another option is to build a new, custom wheel. Alas! That is not easy either!
  • First, you need a good hub. Ordering a DT Swiss 350, 12x148 mm, IS (6 bolts) mount for disk brake rotor and a freehub for a 11-speed Shimano cassette was the easiest thing. Even the price I got was good!
  • Second, I needed the rim. Yes, DT Swiss make a 32-hole, 622 mm nominal, 150 kg system weight, ASTM 4 rated rim of the outer width of 35 mm and of inner width of 25 (not 27!) mm that could be found. Do you think it is easy to actually order such a rim? It is not.
  • Then, there are the spokes and the nipples. There are at least 3 different calculators for the spoke length, including the DT Swiss own. Having determined the correct spoke length (and knowing the model from the mechanic) as well as selecting the nipples in advance (!!!), I could start ordering spokes and nipples. What a bad surprise! DT Swiss sells spokes by one hundred pack, and as you need two different lengths, you need as many as two packs for a single wheel! (The cost is growing exponentially...) Sapim sells spokes in smaller quantities. Anyway, you need to become a spoke & nipple expert...
At the moment, my head is spinning. The mechanic advised me to stop any purchasing activity and see him for a longer discussion: he might relieve me from my purchasing efforts and do the work for me.

Don't you think wheel building, especially for e-bikes is a kind of nightmare? Your own experiences you would like to share?
 
I talked to the mechanic at my lbs and he said he's done a few, the more the easier of course. He made it sound pretty simple:) Also Park tools has a pretty good video on wheel building I found refreshing.
Were the world normal and all parts available, building a new wheel could be just a breeze. Or, the mechanic would have taken all the burden of ordering the parts and building the wheel himself, me coming to him with cash.

We do not live in a normal world. It looks the mechanic likes me and now respects me, and he is willing to take a lot of the burden on himself now. (We both are Strava followers, and he can see how much I'm riding; it was not so several years ago when he perceived me as a silly rookie) :)

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Don't you think wheel building, especially for e-bikes is a kind of nightmare? Your own experiences you would like to share?
Wheelbuilding is a piece of cake if you have the tools. Lots of good yourube videos

I started building wheels a few years ago and have about 10 under my belt. First wheelbuild took about 4 hours, now I can do it in about an hour.

Spoke calculators can be confusing and many things are not clear as well as rim ERD sometimes not being accurate. That being said, if you stick with DT swiss products, their calculator should be accurate.

You can order DT swiss spokes (any quantity) at wheelbuilder.com
 
Wheelbuilding is a piece of cake if you have the tools. Lots of good yourube videos

I started building wheels a few years ago and have about 10 under my belt. First wheelbuild took about 4 hours, now I can do it in about an hour.

Spoke calculators can be confusing and many things are not clear as well as rim ERD sometimes not being accurate. That being said, if you stick with DT swiss products, their calculator should be accurate.

You can order DT swiss spokes (any quantity) at wheelbuilder.com
Thank you lemming!
I can only hope my mechanic will relieve me from the purchasing thing. He seems to have realised by now purchasing bike components was not my favourite pastime. On the other hand, I have already taught him a calculation technique for his own hobby, something he was not great at :)
 
I am looking at one right now. I used a DT Swiss 350 hub. Alpine spokes and a DT Swiss 531 rim. It has an XD driver meaning that it can have a cassette cog with as few as 9-teeth. It is a huge pain to plan and carry thru. What is weird is that 1/2 of the driver is permanently attached to the XD cassette. The tires are SuperMoto X 70/584. The reason I am looking at it is that the cassette split in to two parts. Only 1-4 would turn the wheel. 5-7 just spun. It is an overpowered bike. It is all adding up. But the owner loves it. 120nm is too much. It is much easier to do something such as swap a hub on an existing wheel.
 
I can see how ordering the parts would be confusing. The lacing part is pretty easy.

But another question, if the shop doesn't do it, how are you going to tension, dish and true the wheel?
 
The process of acquiring spokes is indeed a pain, which began during Covid and remains.

I try and use DT products exclusively in my wheels. The 350 Hybrid is in all cases superior in terms of durability. It is a step up from a Classic 350 in several ways. But very difficult to get hold of. My last two wheel builds I have had to go with straight 350 Classics and then upgrade them to the steel cassette body myself. There are other things the 350 Hybrid beefs up but the big one is the cassette body. Another is the 24 pt ratchet vs. the stock 16.

Once I found a custom shop that sells cut spokes in any length and quantity I ask for, I stopped fighting that fight. I use Stoic Wheels in Oregon, and they pretty much keep only Sapim spokes in stock. I stick with Sapim Strongs as their E-Strong will not fit a DT hub thanks to the 2.6mm end. That shop will also supply me with brass nipples, which I stick with rather than the lighter alloy.

I have used DT Alpine spokes inthe before-times but found them to be no better than other DT spokes except they are colossally expensive. Even worse, the one wheelset I built using them is the only set I ended up breaking a spoke. Thanks to COVID I couldn't get another and I wound up having to restring the whole damn wheel as a result since only Stoic had spokes in stock at all.

Another good source for high quality spokes that can be bought in whatever quantity is needed is Phil Wood up in San Jose, CA. Very old-school company that most people will just recognize from the oil bottle. https://phil-wood-co.myshopify.com/

More expensive than Sapims and they went completely out of stock during Covid times.

During Covid... one of my 350 rear hubs had to come to me from Poland. A couple more came from the UK. They were totally nonexistent in the USA. So maybe ordering spokes from the USA isn't so crazy.
 
I had fantastic help and service from Brian at Stoic wheels when I needed to do my rear wheel.
I settled on Sapim e-strong (with DT Swiss nipples) as my bike is a high-power e-mtb and was able to order the exact quantity I wanted.
So far I am super happy with them.

And yes building a wheel is a process, but less dauting than it first seems once you get down to doing it :)
 
Worth mentioning is that Stoic Wheels is a 1-man, small shop who is reaching the whole internet thanks to the miracle of a web site. You get excellent personal service.

He has a minimum 32-spoke order but I typically order 40 for a 32-spoke wheel. Also my choice for a 29er wheel on an enduro was the DT FR-560 in 32H. ASTM 5. A downhill wheel but for a big rider on a mid drive its without parallel. I used them on my Apostate build in 26" and again on my recent Bullitt cargo bike build, also in 26"/32H. The widths are 35mm outer and 30mm inner. Looks like they have culled the 29er from their site so maybe I had better hope I never break one of mine.
 

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I had to get the only thru axle in the world for my build from the Czech Republic. It took 6-weeks last year. More follow-up info on the XD driver and cassette. I am not attempting to go astray, only deeper. Here are photos of the failed cassette. I colored the internal threads to highlight them. The removal tool is an FR-5.2. You can see the break and 9-teeth of high gear.
 

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yes real hard you go to a wheel smith tell them the width you need on the hub tor they can measure it how strong it needs to be and a price point and let them go for it. go pick the wheel up when done and all smiles.
now when I looked at getting a 40 spoke wheel for the tandem all smiles are gone it would cost me around 600.00 since only white industries really makes 40 spoke hubs and its 400.00
 
Worth mentioning is that Stoic Wheels is a 1-man, small shop who is reaching the whole internet thanks to the miracle of a web site. You get excellent personal service.

He has a minimum 32-spoke order but I typically order 40 for a 32-spoke wheel. Also my choice for a 29er wheel on an enduro was the DT FR-560 in 32H. A downhill wheel but for a big rider on a mid drive its without parallel. I used them on my Apostate build in 26" and again on my recent Bullitt cargo bike build, also in 26"/32H. The widths are 35mm outer and 30mm inner. Looks like they have culled the 29er from their site so maybe I had better hope I never break one of mine.
yep he is who builds my wheels.
 
ah found a source that has them in 32H/622. On my last wheel build I had to use this company to build my Bullitt wheel because I could not get the 350 hub *anywhere* and they had them in stock but were reserved only for wheel builds. Also used them for another project successfully. Also all-DT wheels with Sapim spokes.

 
The latest news:
  • The new hub is in shipment now
  • The new rim will be shipped soon
  • The shop will take care of ordering the spokes and nipples as well as of building the wheel.
That's pretty much the way it needs to be done. You need the new wheel and hub in hand to pull some pretty accurate dimensions from the wheel and the rim, enter those into a spoke length calculator (which takes things like wheel dish into consideration), THEN you order the spokes to that spec....

I would have insisted on 36h rim and hub for HD use, but just a rookie, so take that for what it's worth.....
 
I would have insisted on 36h rim and hub for HD use, but just a rookie, so take that for what it's worth.....
Strangely enough, the Polish DT Swiss distributor had no 36h rim in the Hybrid e-MTB category in their offer.
You need the new wheel and hub in hand to pull some pretty accurate dimensions from the wheel and the rim, enter those into a spoke length calculator (which takes things like wheel dish into consideration
As long as you choose DT components only, DT Swiss provides a comprehensive calculator for you.
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While -- after getting some guidance from the shop -- I could order the hub and the rim myself, I leave the rest to the shop :)
 
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