My rear hub is damaged. I have not yet inspected the source of the damage, but the wheel is moving sideways when rotating (a LOT), plus I rode it like this for about 35km. Therefore, I find it probable to soon need to replace the hub.

The rim and spokes are new (couple of months of commuting). I suppose I wouldn't be running in the "old spokes new hub" problem.

I know that rear wheels are dished. Also, I have trued rims, using V-brake as a guide.

I would like to do the repair (replace the hub) myself. However, I do not own a truing stand, neither a spoke tension wrench, and find those quite pricy to purchase just for this one job.

Here I found a gem of an explanation of how to do it. Here it is concluded that without the tools, this is impossible. Here it is mentioned that experience can substitute the tools (I have none, unfortunately).

My question is "is this doable". The wheel is the cheapest around, so ruining it won't be a big deal. The wheel will be tested on a commuter bike, and not for some off-road dangerous activities.


So I inspected the wheel and the hub is just fine. However, I have 4 broken spokes, manly loose ones, and the wheel is out of true. Sounds easy to fix!


Thanks for the discussion. I think I will purchase 24 cheap spokes and see what happens, for the learning experience. Maybe next month there will be a question around "how do I replace my rim".

Also, thanks for the references:

  • I'm not sure why a catastrophic wheel failure on a commuter bike would be any better than if you were off road..
    – 7thGalaxy
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 9:41
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    You can certainly do it. You can get an inexpensive truing stand for maybe $75, or you can use a bike fork, but in either case you need a separate "dishing tool" which is probably about $30. You also need a GOOD spoke wrench. And you need patience and a good description of the build process, including the lacing sequence. Commented May 9, 2014 at 11:37
  • 2
    (But I find your description of the failure confusing. If the bearings are bad they can often be fixed without replacing the hub. You should investigate more thoroughly before beginning.) Commented May 9, 2014 at 11:40
  • 1
    Buy decent quality (eg, DT) spokes. Cheap spokes are a false economy. Commented May 12, 2014 at 15:02
  • 1
    I use an old fork for a truing stand. Simply took off the freewheel and the outer locknuts, and the axle slips int a front fork fine. As a gauge I use my fingers to get close, then I use a thin scrap piece of light eluminium like a ruler, to identify high spots on each side and radially. Rebuilding a wheel is not hard, but its fiddly and time consuming.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 23:34

5 Answers 5


This is very doable!

I'm midway though building my fourth and fifth wheels for my own bikes from scratch with no more than an upside down bike, the internet and a spoke key (or screwdriver to begin with).

There are a number of different lacing patterns to choose from depending on your own preference and possibly the length of spoke available to you. There are also a number of websites which will tell you what length the spokes will need to be, though in this case you can just measure the existing ones.

Definitely don't by cheap spokes (unless they are good quality spokes for a great price). My third wheel lasted less than one day because two spokes snapped within 20 miles. It could be that this was down to a poor build but my first two wheels are still good after 500 miles with no adjustment required (using ACI plain guage spokes).

Once you start getting towards tension (you can pretty much feel how tight they should be from a built wheel) focus primarily on any vertical movement before lateral as this is much more difficult to correct when at full tension.

Put the wheel under tension before assuming its completed. When I think I'm true I squeeze the spokes together with my hands, and check true again. Then I attach the wheel to a bike and walk it around whilst applying some pressure to either the seat or handlebars depending on the wheel and check true again. THEN I go for a ride around a car park and, you guessed it! Check true again!

Its not a hugely difficult task to complete, but a very difficult one to perfect.

  • Yeah, those are essential steps. But of course you also need a good book or online reference for how to lace the spokes -- unless you're doing radial lacing (which I don't recommend) getting the spokes routed properly is a critical detail that is not intuitive. Commented May 19, 2014 at 11:29
  • And it's definitely a good idea to use a screwdriver (in the slot of the nipple) for initial adjustment, as square spoke nipples "round over" with amazing ease, and simply putting a spoke wrench on and off dozens of times is quite tedious. Commented May 19, 2014 at 11:31
  • @DanielRHicks I couldn't agree more with the lacing (I used various Youtube videos), but in this case I expect the existing pattern can be followed. If completely replacing it may also be worth noting that starting with the spokes which enter the hub from the outside is a lot easier at the end! Commented May 19, 2014 at 12:00
  • You can only follow the existing pattern if you carefully record it before disassembling the wheel or you replace spoke by spoke. The latter is quite inefficient and results in a lot of bent spokes. Besides, there are tricks to installing the spokes in a certain order, to make it simpler and build a more balanced wheel from the start. Commented May 19, 2014 at 12:04

It is doable without the extra tools, but it makes it more off a struggle. I found it a good practice to lay things aside when frustration rises. Another option would be to bring it to a bikeshop for the final fine tuning.


Basically it's doable, but as mentioned in comments to question, it's very hard to make it good. However there are tools that you can make yourself, see http://sheldonbrown.com/wheelbuild.html. There you have also a good guide to build a wheel.
I'd suggest to replace any damaged spoke.


Study sheldon brown's wheelbuilding site,sounds like this will be a learning experience for you,patience is the key as you learn to build wheels.When you are able to build and true your own wheels you will learn that a $100.00 bike with $1000.00 wheels is better than a $1000.00 bike with $100.00 wheels.


Getting the spoke tensions high & even is on of the most important things – balanced tension makes the wheel stable, high tension keeps the loads on the wheel structure fairly constant as it rolls which helps to prevent spoke breakage. You can get reasonably close by pitch and ear (pluck the spokes and listen to the pitch). If you have a ear that doesn't hear pitch there is a nice iPhone app called Spoke Tension Gauge that does the job for like $5 US.

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