Where can I learn to build bike wheels in the bay area?
November 23, 2010 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Where can I learn to build bicycle wheels in the bay area?

...that is not the Bike Kitchen (seems like their wheel class happens sporadically and none of the volunteers have any idea when it'll happen again last few times I've been there).
posted by bradbane to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
You can learn in the privacy of your own home. Here's Jobst Brandt's book. Here's the late, great Sheldon Brown's article.
posted by adamrice at 7:28 AM on November 23, 2010

(kind of not an answer to the question that you actually asked, but...) if it's hard to find classes, it's definitely doable to teach yourself. sheldon brown has a good step by step instruction for building 3-cross laced wheels.

you can get some junker wheels, unbuild them, and rebuild them, but you run the risk of being frustrated by old or crappy parts that don't respond well. you can also build your own wheels - used rims (as long as they're straight), used hubs, new spokes and nipples - and if they're not meant to be fancy wheels, it's okay if they're not perfect. if you don't have a truing stand you can wrap some twist-ties around your fork blades or seatstays (so that they touch the rim) and use your whole bike as a truing stand.

that was pretty much my method - jump headfirst into building some everyday wheels for myself, offer to build a few for friends. i'm not great at it, but i'm good enough to get the job done.
posted by entropone at 7:31 AM on November 23, 2010

Yeah, I learned from that book that adamrice recommends, and by unlacing and relacing a junk wheel a few times until I got it right. The actual lacing is pretty straightforward.

The part that really requires skill is bringing the tension up smoothly, while keeping the wheel round, dished and true. This comes after the lacing, and to grok it you need experience truing wheels first. Jobst does a great job explaining that stuff, too, but if it doesn't take that's where you'd want a class.

One potential issue with that book is that it was written before disc brakes, so it doesn't cover the forces they put on the wheel.
posted by richyoung at 7:42 AM on November 23, 2010

I'm at the Bike Collective in Davis (also known as Bike Forth, formerly the Bike Church). That's a bit far for you, but if you're ever in the area on a Monday 1-5, we have a great wheel-building volunteer named Robbie who will be there and can teach you how to do it.

A more practical solution would be to go back to the Bike Kitchen and see if they have a Robbie-equivalent. That is, figure out who teaches the wheel-building class, and figure out when they're going to be volunteering at the shop. I haven't been to the Bike Kitchen in particular, but it is my experience that in general, bike collectives and co-ops often don't quite have the "customer service" thing down, and you just have to put yourself out there a little bit, because they really do want to help you, even if you're getting the wrong people or answers.

There's also Community Cycles in Oakland. You might try them. Good luck!
posted by aniola at 9:28 AM on November 23, 2010

Correction. Community Cycles is in Colorado. Anyway, in Oakland, there's the Bikery, which is part of Cycles of Change.
posted by aniola at 9:31 AM on November 23, 2010

Just figure it out yourself.
Start with Sheldon Brown's article. If you want a more exotic pattern you can google all kinds of lacing patterns.
Make your own truing stand with a fork and wheel that you know is straight and use a couple zip ties as the feelers.
Recycle in Berkeley (and probably plenty of other bike shops) will usually let you use their truing stand to fine tune it after you've got it done on your home stand.
posted by gally99 at 9:46 AM on November 23, 2010

A couple of times a year the Missing Link in Berkeley has a free series of classes on bike maintenance, including a wheels class... but the next time it'll happen doesn't seem to be scheduled yet.
posted by Zed at 11:06 AM on November 23, 2010

I learned at the Bike Kitchen from Brian Cavagnolo.

He's no longer at there but I have the really awesome PDF he made that walks through every step of the process (with pictures).

MeMail me an email address and I'll be happy to send it to you.
posted by dolface at 11:29 AM on November 23, 2010

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