Editor’s Note: Grannygear files his last part on the wheelbuild he attempted.

Single Speed Wheel Build: Part II: by Grannygear

In the first article I talked about the choices I made in parts and the thoughts behind them. Now, it was time to learn a bit and then build the wheels. I did some searching on the internet on wheelbuilding sites. I read over the Sheldon Brown site and the one at Mike T’s site. As well, I read the fascinating book by Jobst Brandt. See the links at the bottom of the page for that info.

I also used three spoke calculator sources to get to a spoke length. All wheels do not use the same spoke length…different rim/spoke bed diameters (ERD), hub flange diameters and spacing, nipple lengths, and spoke patterns (cross 3, cross 4, etc). I used the specs from the hub and the rim maker and plugged the numbers into the DT Swiss Spoke Length Calculator that is linked from the DT Swiss home page and called out for a standard cross three pattern.

In my case, the hub flange info for the White Industries hubs were:

Front M-16 Disc – 60mm flange diameter, center to flange left is 21mm and C/F right is 33mm.
Rear Eno Disc – 60mm flange diameter, C/F left and right are 32.5mm (non-dished hub).

The ERD for the Flow rims is listed as 600mm and one pro wheel builder suggested using 601mm ERD as the number.

Using a 12mm nipple, I ended up with 291mm spokes for both rear sizes and 291mm on the long side (non disc side) of the front hub and 290mm on the short side. There was some rounding up where 289.9mm from the spoke calc became 290mm and etc.

As well, I gave those numbers to Guitar Ted and JeffJ (our resident Clydesdale tester who builds his own wheels) and they used the spoke calc methods they employ and gave me the resulting numbers. They agreed completely, so I felt good about the spoke length numbers. One mystery out of the way.

I also opted for alloy nipples. One, they are lighter. Two, I have never had any issues over a lot of years with hand built wheels and alloy nips. Three, they come in violet (purple). Oh yeah. Back to the 90s, baby.

Weights of the hubs were: rear – 323 grams with 10mm bolts. Front – 194 grams with no QR. The freewheel is listed as 177 grams ( I did not weigh it) and the Stan’s Flows are listed as 525 grams ea. As I said before, i could have trimmed weight with Arches and something like a Hope Pro II or DT Swiss 240 SS hub, but the extra grams were OK with me.

Now it was time to get to the building part of things, and I have to say that, if it were not for local support (and distant support), I would have felt intimidated. I enlisted El Jefe, JeffJ, to come over to my casa grande (I bribed him with chicken burritos) and he brought his kit for the task. I have a pro-type Park truing stand, but his budget model truing stand fit nicer with my furniture. We had some supplies at hand…anti sieze, grease, a toothpick, a specially ground phillips screwdriver, a good spoke wrench, and all the parts I purchased.

IMG_0638a-smOne of the hardest parts is knowing where to begin, and as this is not a primer on HOW to build wheels, but rather my experience in doing so, I will just comment on the process. The first spoke is key as it works from the area of the valve stem and sets the pattern for the build. JeffJ set the rim so that, when you peered through the hole and in towards the hub shell, you could see the logo on the hub. Swanky. He also noted that beginning the way he did, assured that the spokes do not cross over the valve stem, providing clear access to air up and such. Watching JeffJ begin the process and explain it to me set a tone for the night, one of patience and attention to detail.

From there, it was a matter of following the pattern and being very careful to not misplace a spoke (which is exactly what I did when it was my turn to lace wheel number two…duuuooohhh!). We prepped all the spoke threads with a quality copper based anti sieze that I have used for years on all kinds of fasteners and surfaces. We also lightly greased the face of the nipple where it sat on the rim edge. That was the job of the toothpick, that of applying a bit of grease. The specially ground screwdriver with the little flag of tape fit the back of the nipple precisely and the flag of tape allowed us to count revolutions of the screwdriver/nipple.

When all the spokes were in place, JeffJ began the task of getting to even tension on the spokes, and backed each nipple off completely with the special screwdriver then turned them an even count all the way around (watching the flag of tape), and around, and etc, until it was pretty close to tensioned. The man is an exacting technician and stressed to me the process needs to be that way to get the result we are looking for. From there, it was a dance of the spoke wrench to get the rim in true side to side, dished (centered on the hub), and with no ‘hop’ to it. Between plucking the spokes like a guitar and feeling the spokes, he was able to get the wheel looking pretty good. After final tension was achieved, he laid the wheel on its side, hub end against a towel set onto the carpet, and ‘set’ the spokes a bit by pressing down on the rim with both hands in several places.

41FV2x0yUJL._SL500_AA300_It was an interesting process. There are a lot of approaches to building a wheel; you can use a tension meter like this one and get the numbers that way and there are many ways to de-stress or relieve the spokes from wind-up or twist…all kinds of different ways to skin this cat. Part of the art of building a wheel is getting this done right, and while we may not have been pro at it, JeffJ is 260 lbs and 6’4″ of power on his 29er wheels and has not had any issues on the many wheelsets he has built. Works for me.

P5160129The Flows built up very sweetly and the anti-sieze and the grease made for a smooth feel to the final tension…no spoke twisting issues. The high quality spokes and nipples from DT Swiss had to be working for us here. The non-dished rear hub is really a great feature. Man, I wish I could do that for a geared bike (or a front hub, for that matter). Some folks run a 6 or even 7 speed ‘mini cluster’ on an SS hub to achieve this and I see the appeal, but the gearing range is iffy for me. Someday, internal geared hubs will be there and I will be all in.

I weighed the final wheels and then promptly lost the paper I wrote the numbers down on. But, I believe it was around 950g for the front and 1050 for the rear. Maybe…don’t quote me. However, I really only care what the final process gave me compared to the old set up. Weighed that way with tires, QRs/bolts, etc, I came up with a 90g savings on the rear combo and a 60g savings on the front….same tires, just tubeless. I think that actual bare wheels were almost the same as the older DT Swiss set. Not a huge weight savings, but I gained a stiffer rear wheel for sure, the ability to go to 15QR in the front, a wider footprint on the tire casing from the beefy Flow rim, obviously the tubeless-ness, and I have to say, a sweet looking wheelset.

I Stan’s yellow taped them and installed some tubes/tires overnight to set the tape. Then, I pulled the tubes and installed the Stan’s valve stems and sealant, converting to tubeless. I did need to pull the valve core and use an air compressor on the rear tire, a Continental Race King, but the front Specialized 2 Bliss Purgatory tire only needed a floor pump. I had to play around with getting the BB7 caliper over far enough outboard to work well without rubbing. I installed the Eno freewheel, making sure I anti-seized (and greased) the threads. Once that was done, I went riding.


I can feel the tubeless advantage for sure. So supple feeling. The rear wheel is quite stiff laterally and overall I believe I gained some steering precision from the better tire support and beefy Flow rims. I love the sound of the Eno freewheel. It is in between a DT Swiss hub and a Hope hub for noise level and I do feel the faster engagement over the old rear hub. And the White Industries hubs are just eye candy, all polished and such. Smooth too. Man, in the workstand those hubs spin like there is no tomorrow. They make all the other hubs I have spun lately feel like mud. I have never heard of anyone breaking an ENO freewheel…never. It is rebuildable too.

Flows, classic cartridge bearing hub, bomber freewheel, careful build….miles of smiles, I hope.


I like the result, the process, once quite a daunting mystery, is now pretty clear to me at least as far as the basics go, and I would do it again. It also gave me an appreciation of what a good wheelbuilder brings to the table. Beyond just lacing the parts together, they help you make the right decisions for what rim, hub, etc best meets your needs, then they hunch over the workbench for a bit, finally handing you a strong and balanced wheelset that could last for years to come. The science of it is understandable, but the artistry of it….making the parts into a perfect wheel…that is another thing altogether and that is the true magic in the wheelbuilders hands. Magic always costs and frankly, after having sat in the wizards chair for a bit, I think they are underpaid.