These wheels were built with a rider’s Hope hubs, which are a good value. I supplied Pacenti SL23 rims fitted with Stan’s tape. DT Revolution spokes are used on the front and rear non-drive side to keep weight race-friendly (1600 grams). For strength DT Competition spokes are used on the rear drive side.
Voilà a PowerTap G3 wheelset I built with Pacenti SL23 rims and Sapim CX-Ray spokes. The front hub is the understated Alchemy ELF. PowerTap hub prices have dropped lately, making the acclaimed power system accessible to a lot more folks. This is a nice build that doesn’t break the bank.
This was a job to replace mis-matched and damaged spokes with Sapim CX-Rays and red alloy nipples. Rebuilding rims is more challenging than building with new but it’s nice to get the most out of our gear. Like Bad Religion sings, “it’s never really what you own but what you threw away.”
These Stan’s Crest 29er rims push the envelope on weight. If you imagine a comparable XC wheelset using the same DT Swiss 240S hubs and CX-Ray spokes with ENVE carbon rims, that combination would actually weigh 5 grams more. ENVE rims are stronger and stiffer but in another league pricewise.
This recent build is one I can get behind. It’s based on Shimano XT disc hubs and burly H Plus Son Archetype rims. The front hub is the new Shimano XT dynamo. It produces enough juice to power bright lights or charge your USB electronics (cycle computer, GPS, smartphone, etc). I loathe batteries so this resonates with me. Great for commuting, brevet riding and cycle touring.
In many cases race-oriented technologies don’t translate to the recreational market but wide rims offer benefits everyone can appreciate. You are less likely to experience pinch flats with wider rims; larger air volume allows for lower pressures, which can increase comfort; cornering is improved since tires experience less flop in response to lateral forces; and wide rims are typically stronger with better durability. There are downsides to consider too. You may require brake adjustment when switching between wide and narrow rims; and brake modulation may suffer.
For this project I dug up some NOS Shimano Dura-Ace 7900 hubs. I grabbed Stan’s Alpha 400 rims in 24/28h to match my hubs and put them together with Sapim CX-Ray spokes. The Stan’s rims built up very smoothly and total weight came to 1500g on the nose — plenty respectable. On top of that I installed two layers of Stan’s 21mm yellow tape and 44mm road valves.
Of course it’s all about the ride. My short test ride was very positive — I find the wheels extremely comfortable even with a skinny 23mm tire. Before blabbing too much I want to put more miles on these wheels and play with tire pressure.
Nipple lubrication and locking is a subject that arouses a little too much passion. Most methods have merit — after all wheels aren’t falling apart at every turn. In the past I’ve used linseed oil, different brands of anti-seize, grease, Wheelsmith SpokePrep, light oil, heavy oil and DT Spoke Freeze.
Products such as linseed oil and SpokePrep combine lubrication and thread locking in one. That’s convenient but I prefer to separate these functions. With an oil lubricant, I can add more during the build if I feel it’s needed. If you let the wheel tell you when it’s done, then some builds will take longer than others. And sometimes I have to leave a wheel and finish it later. With oil it’s no problem. My preference is for a heavy oil over a lighter one since heavy oil is more likely to stay where you put it. To ensure total lubrication I submerge my nipples oil, which is messy but effective.
In theory thread locking isn’t necessary but life is real and stuff happens. If you want low maintenance wheels that can handle a breadth of conditions, thread locking helps. I use DT Swiss Spoke Freeze, a product made in collaboration with Loctite. You might think Loctite acts like a permanent glue and without oil it does. But, combined with oil, Spoke Freeze locks nipples while leaving wheels serviceable. Soaking my nipples in oil ensures this outcome.
There are other thread locking strategies but I reject them for one reason or another. For example you can buy self-locking nipples. In some cases these have thread lock compound pre-applied. In other cases, such as the Sapim product, nipples are manufactured with deformed threads that cause friction and prevent unwinding. A neat idea but increasing friction can induce windup during the build.
Nipple seat lubrication
It’s also important to prepare the nipple seat for building. On a rim with eyelets I use a drop of light oil. On a rim without eyelets, which I prefer, I first deburr the nipple seat with a light touch from a handheld chamfer bit. Then I lubricate the area with a small amount of grease. These steps help nipples turn freely and reduce the possibility of damage from friction during wheelbuilding.
This was a job to salvage nice hubs and rebuild with fresh rims and spokes. Normally I would lace the rear wheel in a mirror image pattern but I follow the previous builder’s decision for rebuilds. This extends hub life. With renewed rims and spokes, these hubs are ready to roll again.
I’ve incorporated three digital tools in my process. First, I use a Park Tool truing stand with Mitutoyo digital gauges. The roller tip on the lateral truing gauge is made of teflon to prevent scratches. Second, I use a Park dishing tool with a digital gauge attached so dish is known quantitatively. The next best alternative is using feeler gauges but digital is much faster. Last, and just recently, I’ve been using the Wheel Fanatyk digital tensiometer.
Brandt is canon but may be too scientific for introductory purposes. If you’re new to wheelbuilding, I recommend Musson as a first resource — inexpensive, approachable and remarkably complete. I built my first wheels using written guides so I think it’s practical and realistic.