Like this site? Help us to make it better.


Video: How hard is it to build a carbon disc-brake road wheelset?

Oh, how I wish I’d never tried to find out.

I have built a wheelset and I have come to the conclusion that building a wheel is easy, but building a one well is really hard.

This has been a challenge that I have been wanting to take on for some time, and I felt that it was the last thing that I should be able to do as a keen home mechanic.

The first thing that you’ll need when building a wheel are some wheel components. For rims, I went to Prime. Their Black Edition 60 DB carbon hoops fit my intentions to build a deep set of race wheels for my road bike. They’ve got a 19mm internal rim width, are tubeless-ready and don’t cost too much.

Hubs came from Tune. I wanted shiny silver so they sent their Kong and King Kong hubs in 24-hole drilling, complete with 12mm axle end caps and centre-lock disc brake mounts.

Spokes are where I ran into a little bit of a problem. Thanks to supply issues caused by the global pandemic, the rather short spokes that I needed were hard to come by. Thankfully, Sapim are able to cut their spokes to the length you require and they also sent over a pack of brass nipples. Naturally, both spokes and nipples matched the hubs.

There are also some pretty specific tools involved. You'll definitely be needing a spoke key that fits your nipples. The rest, you can apparently get away without. For me, a truing stand and spoke tension meter made the job much easier and helped to ensure that my wheels were safe to ride. A dishing tool would have been nice as the one I made wasn't great.

As you’ll see in the video, the building of the wheels was quite a process, with numerous pitfalls, most of which I fell into. But after quite a few hours, which some might call therapeutic, the wheels were built.

In the next video, I’ll give my (heavily biased) first ride review and Rob, our friendly professional wheel builder will be providing his feedback on my efforts. There was a lot to say.

Add new comment


geomannie 531 | 1 year ago

Love the high-tech wheel components, truing stand, spoke tension gauge etc, and then a home made dishing tool. Just what I might do🙂

iandusud | 3 years ago

Unlike in this video you should build the wheel with the valve hole lined up between two "parallel" (of course they're not really parallel) spokes from opposite sides of the hub. Apart from the fact that it looks better it also facilitates acces with a pump. This is particularly important with higher spoke counts. I don't know if this particular rim has offset holes but if it does it would common for the holes that he has used for the drive side to be the non-drive side. If the holes are correct then what he should have done when fitting the first set of non-drive side spokes was to turn the hub in the opposite direction and lace the spokes in the hole to the right. 

Edit: Looking at a set of Prime wheels on CRC using these rims it would appear that there is no obvious offset of the spoke holes in the rim. However it has been built correctly as I suggest above with regard to the alignment of the spokes.


matthewn5 | 3 years ago
1 like

I'd previously built and trued BMX wheels and rebuilt motorbike wheels and replaced rims on wheels when I was younger... and so over the Christmas lockdown I went about replacing the rim on a really nice lightweight Stan's wheelset. The existing rim was worn down to 1mm thick and that's the limit.

To cut a long story short, I found it much harder with a lightweight rim than my early experiences... you really have to be so much more progressive and careful and slow.

Yes use a spare spoke into the head of the nipple to push it through the rim, or you'll lose them inside and they're so hard to get out (and you feel like such a noob).

To give yourself a head start with tension, count the number of turns of every nipple on every spoke, so they're all at the same point (e.g. 5 turns exactly) when you start trying to bring up the tension. Turn each nipple an exact number of turns each time. It's much quicker to use a flat blade screwdriver or a specialist spoke key from outside the rim to start the nipples. A bit of masking tape like a flag on the shaft will help you count the rotations exactly.

Get the hoop right first and then work on the truing was the tip I remembered, I think from Sheldon Brown. By the time you get to detailed truing, you can be turning the nipple by half or a third of a turn at a time... so just be patient. If you don't have a tension meter, you can use the sound of the spokes pinging to gauge tension.

Final tip: if you don't have a truing stand, turn your bike frame upside down, and measure off the chainstays or forks to get the dishing right. Some use zip ties, or you can use a soft pencil, which will leave a mark where the wheel is out of true.

Mathemagician | 3 years ago
1 like

I decided to make wheel building my lockdown project last year. I started out building my wife a set with Hope RS4 hubs, DT Swiss 520db rims, Sapim Race spokes. After that I moved onto a fancy set for me: Carbon-Ti X Hub, Light Bicycle AR56 disc brake rims, and CX-Ray spokes. Since then I've made a few sets for friends...that's what lockdown boredom does for you. 

Couple of things watching the video:

There's a foolproof method for finding the right spoke hole on the hub for the key spoke. Look down the line of the hub, and find the first hole to the right of the logo (for trailing spokes- opposite for leading spokes). Call that the 0th hole, with the next hole clockwise being the 1st hole, etc. Your key spoke wants to be in the nth hole along, where n is the number of crosses. So the key spoke for a 2-cross wheel should go through the 2nd hole, etc.

Alternatively, just use straight pull hubs  4

I echo the previous comment about screwing the spoke into the top of the nipple and feeding it through the rim- no chance of losing it inside the rim. Your next challenge should be to build a wheel without holes on the rims bed!  

You used what looks like a spoke tension meter straight from Ali Express- no criticism, spoke tension meters are ridiculously expensive for what essentially is a pivot on a spring. But they can be wildly out. I set up a hanging scale in a frame to load up a spoke with a set tension, and then used my tension meter to see how far out it was (quite far). So I'd say by all means use the tension meter to check for even tension, but I wouldn't be confident about the absolute tensions being accurate. Most rims have a max tension rating, and I was nervous about going too high on carbon rims, so for me it was a worthwhile exercise. 

hawkinspeter | 3 years ago
1 like

I'm disappointed you didn't go for blade spokes with that.

Just recently got myself a Prime Black Edition 60 front wheel as I'd managed to break two nipples! on an older Prime RP50. Due to the cold weather, I haven't got further than replacing the nipples (and one spoke as I couldn't get the nipple undone so had to snip the spoke to get it free) to true it up yet. Never trued bladed spokes before and I don't know if my old truing stand takes Thru-axle wheels, so I might end up using my front forks and cable ties to finish the job.

hawkinspeter replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago

hawkinspeter wrote:

I'm disappointed you didn't go for blade spokes with that.

Just recently got myself a Prime Black Edition 60 front wheel as I'd managed to break two nipples! on an older Prime RP50. Due to the cold weather, I haven't got further than replacing the nipples (and one spoke as I couldn't get the nipple undone so had to snip the spoke to get it free) to true it up yet. Never trued bladed spokes before and I don't know if my old truing stand takes Thru-axle wheels, so I might end up using my front forks and cable ties to finish the job.

I'm tempted to follow your example and build up a Prime Black Edition 60 rear wheel. My current RP50 rear needs the bearings replaced and that seems like a good time to get the rear matching the front, but I haven't seen just the rear in stock for ages. They've got the rear hub and appropriate rim in stock, so just a matter of finding some suitable spokes (I think it's DT aerolite/aero comp on the prebuilt wheels).

I've only built a handful of wheels previously, but I'd guess that a deep rim would be easier to true as the rims are likely a lot more rigid than normal rims. Dropping nipples into the rim is going to be a much bigger problem though (I'd likely go for partly threading a spoke into the wrong side of a nipple and thus get the nipple safely into the hole before then threading the actual spoke into it - maybe I should actually watch the video to see if that's mentioned).

Liam Cahill | 3 years ago

Almost a year on and these are still perfectly true  4

kevvjj | 3 years ago
1 like

Nice video.

Any good spoke supplier can cut spokes to any length you want.

Hold the wheel flat across your lap not vertical - much easier to count holes and grab spokes that are always hanging vertically.

Your method of pulling the nipple through the rim is arse up and risks losing the nipple inside the rim. Put the 'nipple spoke' a couple of turns into the TOP of the nipple and push through the rim - you can then thread the 'wheel spoke' on without risk of accidentaly pushing the nipple inside the rim (which you almost did).

You seem to have a very expensive professional wheel truing stand and then use a home made dishing tool... your professional wheel truing stand should be able to do the dish for you! Otherwise spend the £20 and get a proper dishing tool - it will be a hundred times quicker than your method and much more accurate.

Oh, and we didn't see you improve the spoke line as they came out of the hub - probably not so important with modern hubs but your wheel cango out of true as they adjust and line up.

Suggetsed reading: The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt and this site

I look forward to seeing the next video.

Liam Cahill replied to kevvjj | 3 years ago
1 like

All very valid points there and great tip about threading the nipple through like that. It would have made things a lot easier as like you say, I did end up poking a few nipples into the rim, requiring a lot of wiggling to remove them.

I was only holding the rim like that to show the camera. And that tip about dishing. I learnt that after filming. Wish I'd known sooner! Like you say, it would have saved hours!

David9694 | 3 years ago
1 like

I've done 4 pairs over 3 years,  and kept it fairly simple. Troubleshooters is imho the best guidance, that and the Edd spoke length calculator.  
I wouldn't make my first build such exotic components as these. 

martybsays | 3 years ago

That was really good thanks, I'd consider giving that a go now, wouldn't have got my head around it at all before. Cheers

Latest Comments