How to find a reliable bicycle wheelbuilder
May 8, 2006 8:03 AM   Subscribe

How do I go about finding someone, preferably local to Minneapolis, to build a new rear wheel for my bicycle?

I have a horrible habit of breaking spokes on my current rear wheel. It tends to happen at the furthest point from home. I break a spoke at a rate of about 1 per 100 miles, which is ridiculous. My riding partner has convinced me that if I had a custom-built rear wheel I would never have this problem again.

I'd like to find someone to build a sturdy, reliable wheel for me. If possible, I'd like to find someone local to Mpls/St Paul. Anyone have pointers? Specific or general recommendations are both welcome.

If it helps, I ride a Marin Sausalito hybridish thing. The wheel has 700c rims and road tires, mountain hub, 7-speed cassette.
posted by mcstayinskool to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total)
Hiawatha Cyclery. New shop, but Jim is a good guy and he will give you good advice and a quality product.
posted by fixedgear at 8:12 AM on May 8, 2006

Response by poster: Wow...I can't believe I didn't know Hiawatha existed. Do you know if they build wheels?
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:20 AM on May 8, 2006

You could also check out One on One on Washington. A friend that bikes nearly everywhere swears by them. And you can get a cup of coffee.
posted by fantastic at 8:42 AM on May 8, 2006

Flanders Brothers Cycles on Lyndale (26th and Lyndale? 27th?) has a rep for being a very expensive store, but they've been very reasonable with prices for any mechanical work I've had them do.

I'm guessing that, really, most of the local shops would build you a wheel. My hunch is the smaller ones will treat you better than the Penn or Erik's behemoths, but that could just be my prejudice talking.
posted by COBRA! at 9:08 AM on May 8, 2006

This may or may not apply to bicycle wheels, but I will put it out there. I made a living building motorcyle wheels for a while. What I saw was that spokes broke when they became loose. Being loose subjected the spokes to repeated cycles of tension and release, which caused metal fatigue. Once a wheel had more than a few broken spokes, it was pointless to replace just the broken ones, because they were all fatigued. If a customer insisted that I just replace the five broken ones, the rest would start to break when I tightened them. This was not because the threads were siezed; the nipples would turn, but when the spokes got tight, they would snap. After a while, I just refused to replace less than the whole set, if four or more were broken.

It's normal for spokes and their attaching points to deform, causing the spokes to loosen. If they are tightened before fatigue occurs, the spokes will not fail.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:27 AM on May 8, 2006

Response by poster: Kirth, I think you are probably spot on with what has happened to my wheel. No doubt the fatigue that you speak of has been exacerbated by the fact that I have had to ride 10-12 miles (to get home) without a spoke each of the 5 times this has happened.

Fantastic, nice recommend with OneOnOne. That's the type of shop I'm looking for. I'll give them and Hiawatha a call and see where to go from there.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:36 AM on May 8, 2006

Otherwise, try Hollywood Cycles in Minneapolis. If anyone can fix you up, it'll be Jay at Hollywood.
posted by Yeomans at 10:08 AM on May 8, 2006

My bicycle-fanatic friend won't go anywhere but Freewheel Bike. I can't vouch for them personally, but she has 6 bikes, so I'm guessing she knows what she's talking about.
posted by hsoltz at 10:38 AM on May 8, 2006

Don't ride around with a broken spoke if you can help it. Get a FiberFix and use it until you can replace the spoke yourself or get to a shop. Best ten bucks you can spend.

Machine built wheels - found on most mass produced bikes - fail like Kirth said. One spoke gets loose, the others get fatigued and that's it for the wheel. We had a tandem with 26" wheels (40 spokes) which was slowly dying like this. Break one, replace one, etc. Replaced with a handbuilt wheel using the same hub and lasted for 10K miles.
posted by fixedgear at 1:48 PM on May 8, 2006

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