When I started mountain biking all spokes were silver. It’s not as common these days but I think we should bring this look back. This is a set I did last month — they look great.
As mentioned before my spoke tension visualizer has two choices for the Wheel Fanatyk tensiometer. Now there’s a new model with an IPIC digital gauge. To clarify configuration I’ve done some renaming in the setup menu. One option is named Wheel Fanatyk Original and covers a single model as seen in the first basket. The other option is named Wheel Fanatyk 2015+, covering Mitutoyo and IPIC models as seen in the second basket.
Also note the conversion data for 2015+ tensiometers has been updated. If you notice a discrepancy with 1.5mm spokes, that’s the source. Ric revised the conversion table and his latest numbers are live in my utility. Contact Wheel Fanatyk for a PDF chart of the revised data. Superseded.
This is a set of XC MTB wheels using DT Swiss 240S hubs and Light-Bicycle carbon rims. The rims are asymmetric, which allows for more balanced tension between sides of each wheel. The package is put together with Sapim D-Light spokes and Sapim aluminum nipples to keep weight low — only 1464 grams for the set. Tubeless-ready using Stan’s tape and valves. Very nice wheels.
Pros measure the effective rim diameter (ERD) of every rim.
My tools are DIY, which is inexpensive. Here’s how I make them: take two black 310mm Sapim Leader spokes and cut off the elbow leaving a 300mm rod. Use bolt cutters or a hacksaw to get close, then creep up on 300mm exactly using a file or a grinder. Screw a silver nipple to each rod using a bit of Loctite so they never move. For my process I make sure the spoke penetrates the nipple until it’s flush with the bottom of the screwdriver flats — spokes stretch a little under tension so they’ll end up in a good place. That’s it. If you’re precision-minded, you can ensure nipple geometry isn’t a factor by making a new set of measuring rods any time you build with a new variety of nipple.
Usage is straightforward. Insert your measuring spokes into opposing spoke holes, counting them to make sure you’re not off by one. Pull the spokes tightly across a ruler. To make the process easier and more accurate, try raising the ruler with a shim so the spokes leave the rim closer to 90°. I suggest using a ruler with 0.5mm resolution (such as this one) but you can eyeball to the same. For most builds the spokes will overlap on the ruler, in which case you deduct the overlap length from 600mm. If the spokes don’t overlap, add the gap length to 600mm. Perform at least two measurements 90° apart and average the results to get ERD.
If you’re building with nipple washers, remember to increase spoke length to compensate. As an alternative, you can install nipple washers on your measuring spokes and build nipple washers right into your ERD. With this direct approach, no after-the-fact compensation is required.
Most spoke calculators will give you lengths to the tenth of a millimetre, which you’ll need to round to the nearest available length. Since measuring as above targets the bottom of the acceptable range, resist rounding down for low tension builds or on the low tension side of a wheel. When shopping here, you get to round to the nearest millimetre compared to traditional vendors that stock spokes in two millimetre increments. In a future blog I’ll expand on the topic of rounding, which matters more when available lengths aren’t as good.
Sometimes newbies ask about cheap rims to try wheelbuilding, which isn’t the right way to think about starting. Rim quality sets the stage so inexpensive rims may serve to frustrate more than anything. If you’re apprehensive about wheelbuilding, and there isn’t any reason to be, stay away from ultralight rims and low spoke count rims. Stay away from ultralight spokes (but don’t go nuts with heavyweight spokes either). Buy a quality rim with the attributes you want to ride and you’ll do fine.
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