Lessons learned: Wheel building
Amidst Covid-19 restrictions and adjusted work-from-home policies I decided earlier this year that I needed a bike project to inspire me. I ended building a hardtail from scratch, including building the wheels. I thought that building the wheels would be by far the most difficult part of the process, but I was wrong. It turned out that deciding at what length to cut the forks steerer was way more difficult 😉. Don't get me wrong, building the wheels was quite a task. But it was also a very rewarding process and I thought I'd share with you some of the lessons I learned. (Below is a picture of my hard tail front wheel, the first bike wheel I ever built)
First, make sure you have a good instructor and a good guide. I chose to let Roger Musson guide me. Or to be more precise, I chose to be guided by Roger by following his instructions and advice in his excellent book "Professional Guide to Wheel Building". In it, he describes the needed preparations, tools and exact steps to take in order to build a good and strong set of wheels. I highly recommend it to anyone curious in building bike wheels. I also talked to a bike mechanic to clarify some issues and concepts that I was struggling to understand.
Second, do not underestimate the value of meticulous preparations. Make sure you have the right tools, the right components and a proper working area.
Third, make sure you have plenty of time, and accept the fact that you might partly need to rebuild your first wheel to get it properly adjusted. Do not rush.
Fourth, make sure you enjoy the process and try to understand not only how to build the wheel, but also what it is that makes it strong. Don't forget to take breaks, drink and eat. Blood sugar levels can get low when frustrations accumulate, and frustrations accumulate when blood sugar levels get low.
For the first time ever in my life I feel I know every single part of my wheels, how they were assembled, what components they consist of and how thorough the work was with each wheel and that is a very satisfactory and proud feeling.