When I first started building wheels commercially I found myself answering certain questions regularly. This led me to write a number of articles on the subject of wheelbuilding, these can reassure people or educate people about my methods for building certain wheels. The list of articles grew and after a point I realised were approaching the length of a book.
The original version of this book was called ‘Bicycle Wheelbuilding: An Anthology of Articles’. After working on this version for some time I realised the book would be improved if the articles complemented each other and flowed together as a progressive volume. Most literature on wheelbuilding focuses only on building the wheels. Little attention is given to the finer details of the component parts. A wheel can only be good if it is built well. However, poor product selection could land you with an inappropriate set of wheels. This may be incompatible with your bicycle and it could cause the wheel to fail. Alternatively, it could simply cost more than necessary or the performance could be lower than possible. This book attempts to guide product selection to help you understand what goes into making a great wheel.
Wheels are absolutely fundamental to a bicycle. They have one of the greatest impacts on the way that a bicycle feels when you ride it, or what that bicycle is capable of doing. A trials or downhill rider incurs a serious safety risk if their wheels are weak. A trekking cyclist has to have reliability. A time trialist has to have aero-dynamics and a hill climber has to save weight. Understanding function is essential.
The majority of riders demand much less performance from their wheels than professionals, yet their wheel choice is still important. They need to work out what they are using the wheels for, how much they are looking to spend and where that money will be best spent. Custom wheels do not need to be expensive and can certainly offer excellent value for money.
Most importantly when it comes to product selection – be critical. Much of what you are told will be an attempt to sell products and most opinions are poorly researched. If you want quality, performance and value for money, you need to be critical. That includes criticism of what you are about to read. If you go away after having read this book with criticisms of my opinions I would consider my work to be a success. This is not a book of answers but a way of encouraging you to be more rigorous with your decisions and an attempt to objectify product selection. This combined with good building practice should help you repair wheels well, build them well and select the right set for you even if someone else builds them for you.
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