WHEELBUILDING NOTES
- Good practices about keeping record of correct spoke length, hub dimensions and rim choice -

Whether you are a seasoned wheel builder or a small bike shop mechanic that occasionally deals with taking measurements for wheelbuilding, keeping record of your work is a great practice of this trade. In this article, I would like to show how beneficial SpokeCalc can be when you turn ON the PRO mode and use its built-in feature of printing details about correct spoke length, spoke tension details and hub/rim choice.

»Documentation is like sex: when it is good, it is very, very good; and when it is bad, it is better than nothing«

DOCUMENTATION - THE WHY AND THE WHEN FACTOR

There is no such thing as too much information. Period. So why is keeping record about your wheelset's components choice so important?

Wheelbuilding documentation, save information about spoke length, hub details and rim choice
Great wheelbuilding documentation serves us for regular maintenance of a wheelset and for future improvements of our work.

Let’s face it, wheelbuilders constantly deal with custom projects that have almost nothing in common. There are endless variations of mixing and matching wheel’s components, spoke lacing patterns and other customizations. All to suite clients’ needs. In all this fuss, it is hard to keep track of what a particular wheelset was made from. What hubs did you use? What was the correct spoke length? What was the ERD of this particular rim? What type of spoke nipples did you use and were there also eyelets on this rim? By now you should get my point. These are all viable questions when very little or nothing regarding the wheelset is evidenced.

On the other hand, great documentation about the wheel’s components and spoke length calculations serves us as a great guiding point not only for regular servicing maintenance but also as a basis for improvement. On the long run, it undoubtedly makes our work easier, more time efficient and reliable in general.

The fact is that taking measurements of your hub or rim and using them later on as an input for a spoke calculator to get the correct spoke length is just as important part of the process just as building a wheel itself or taking care of spoke tension. And as always, when dealing with such data conundrum, it becomes wise to write things down for future use.

TIP: Consistency and feedback. It is nothing like being very organized at your work by keeping track with what you have used for your wheelbuilding project and writing comments about it in the process. Not always calculations are perfectly aligned with the reality. Or maybe you could have used different sized nipples. Make notes, it will help get better.

Ok, so when should you use such a rigorous process of documenting every component, measurement and spoke length calculation about the wheel?

Probably not on every wheel that needs some general maintenance in your workshop. I share your thoughts. But when dealing with newly built wheels or at least a complete overhaul (like changing all the spokes on one side) of an existing wheelset – when you have to completely disassemble the wheelset – then it probably becomes sensible thing to do. Then you can still decide to keep it to yourself or share it with your client as a certificate of quality hand work. It will save you time next time you get this particular wheel back on your workbench.

SPOKECALC DOCUMENTATION SHEET – PRO VERSION

When SpokeCalc was still work in progress, an idea came to my mind to include an advanced feature of printing out all the details about your wheelset. To make a print sheet of every component used, all the measurements and final spoke length calculation. Face it, getting measurements of your hub and rim and then converting calculations to the correct spoke length is not to be taken lightly. Nor does it always take a short amount of time. Therefor it makes sense to save all this precious data for later use – maintenance of a wheelset during its lifetime.

In such manner SpokeCalc spoke calculator offers two, yet completely free, versions. First one is a LITE version where you only get final spoke length calculations once you provided the spoke calculator with all the necessary input data. Make quick spoke length calculations on the fly.

pro lite version spokeCalc spoke calculator
Choose between LITE or PRO version of a spoke calculator before starting spoke calculating process.

The second variation of the same calculator is where it becomes interesting. The PRO version of SpokeCalc spoke calculator was designed to offer:

  1. Entering name of the hub / rim and spoke model
  2. Adding weights for all of the components. Total weight is then summed up for the wheel by adding the weight of the hub, the rim and multiplying spoke number with the weight of one piece of spoke.
  3. Adding a maximum rim tension for the purpose of spoke tension guidance for each side of a wheel.
  4. [AFTER CALCULATION] Viewing online sheet with every component’s dimensions, measurements and correct spoke length.
  5. [AFTER CALCULATION – NEW BROWSER WINDOW] Access to detailed print sheet of the wheel. In one place you can have all the hub’s dimensions, rim data, spoke tension details and spoke length calculations. Ready to print it and save it in paper version.
pro version spokeCalc spoke calculator
In PRO version of SpokeCalc spoke calculator, you will have an option to enter extra information about your wheel.

So, to start on, make sure you tick the PRO button at the top of the SpokeCalc spoke calculator on home page. Now start entering all the input fields with your wheelset’s components data. Above is the example for the rear wheel built with a classic hub. As a guidance you can use my article on this topic, Measurements for wheelbuilding - Taking your own measurements with confidence. Once you are done with it all and having calculated the correct spoke length, clicking on a “graph” icon at the bottom will trigger a popup window with online documentation sheet about your wheelbuilding project.

rear wheel spoke length and spoke tension details
The PRO version of SpokeCalc spoke calculator will offer you a comprehensive view of your wheelset setup.

In one place you will have all the data about your wheel, ready to be downloaded or printed. Below is the print sheet example. Just like in online version, well, now in A4 standard paper format, ready to be printed and then stored as an original documentation paper for you and your client. You can also write your own comments or notes at the bottom of the document before printing it.

wheelbuilding print sheet. Record of a hub and rim choice including spoke length calculation.
Wheelbuilding print sheet. Record of a hub and rim choice including a spoke length calculation.

TIP: when printing this wheelbuilding print sheet, make sure you enable printing of background colors in your browser’s print settings.

Such a print sheet includes all the details and dimensions about the hub, the rim and user spoke length. But when dealing with expensive wheelsets, a seasoned wheelbuilder would probably also use a radar chart for keeping record of spoke tension across the wheel like Park Tool’s app. All in all, it is a very useful tool during wheelbuilding process to help you and your client get broader feeling of spoke tension for the wheel.

Park Tool spoke tension app.
Park Tool's spoke tensioning app. Use it during wheelbuilding process to document spoke tension and deviation.

FINAL THOUGHTS

From wheelbuilding documentation example above, it is clear that being consistent and well organized by keeping record of your wheel components choice, dimensions and spoke calculations can make you a better wheelbuilder in general.

Make notes. Was the calculated spoke length correct? Even if most of your evidence print files won’t be applicable in general or shared with your clients, you can still make notes and comments about your work. Feedback is the key ingredient for future improvements. Either you make your own documentation forms or use the one from SpokeCalc spoke calculator. Just write it down and save it for later use. It will benefit your work, rest assure.

TIP: Make it easier on others. Probably you won’t be the only one using your own documentation. With a detailed print sheet, such as the one in SpokeCalc spoke calculator, all the components are named, measured and evidenced for the third party to act on regular maintenance when necessary.

Make further use of your record as suggested from SpokeCalc print file. You can easily evolve on this idea to keep record of all the maintenance of a wheel. Have a particular spoke been replaced during the wheel's lifetime? When is expected for the hub bearings to be changed? Plan and schedule the servicing of a wheelset to prolong its lifetime.

And last but not least, always keep your records and evidences about used spoke length and hub/rim choice up to date! Sometimes specs of certain wheel components slightly change. You can always double check your manual measurements with your documentation!