6

I have a freewheel and I keep bending the axle, however the rim, spokes and tire are all fine, does anyone think it would be possible to unscrew the spokes, buy a new hub that has a freehub, install that with maybe new spokes and my previous rim? (And also buy a cassette) because I don't see the point in buying a whole new wheel just for the hub.

  • Okay so im getting the idea that there are 4 issues around this; that I lack the skills needed to do this, that i might not do it properly, its time consuming, and costs more than just buying a wheel. Too be honest i don't want to buy a new wheel because either the good ones are unnecessarily expensive for the type of riding that I do, or too cheap to the point where I question it's durability, i've been told that i could make my axle solid instead of hollow to make it slightly stronger but apparently this is a short term solution. Any ideas? – Jeffrey Jun 23 '18 at 20:09
6

Simple answer: yes, but it’s not worth doing.

Cost of hub, spokes, nipples and having wheel rebuilt will exceed the cost of a new wheel. Even if you re-use the spokes a new wheel will still be cheaper.

Wheel building requires special equipment, expertise and time to do correctly.

  • And if you manage to sell the current wheel, the price tag for getting the new wheel goes even lower. – Mike Jun 22 '18 at 14:07
  • 1
    Yeah, the time, from a skilled wheel builder, is the biggest cost. (Of course, you could build it yourself if you want to learn wheel building.) – Daniel R Hicks Jun 23 '18 at 1:43
6

Yes - I have personally done this, by installing an 8 speed cassette freehub into a wheel that had a 6 speed freewheel. The donor was a 26" MTB wheel, and the recipient was a 20" wheel for my folding bike

It was only worth doing because I had a donor wheel and I was able to reuse the 20" spokes well enough. I even reused the 8 speed cassette and chain.

My purpose was to get access to smaller and larger gears, because the freewheel was a 14-28 and I now have an 11-32.

The downsides were

  • Assembling used parts can be a bit fiddly, might need some finangling to get things lined up.
  • Used parts are dirty and less fun to assemble
  • Used parts will be worn and slightly closer to breakage than new parts.

It took several hours to assemble, and I messed up the location of the valve hole.

Upside, I have a perfectly working, true, QR-based, 8 speed 20" rear wheel and that bike has 2000 km on it now.

You'll need parts and some normal bike repair tools:

  • Spoke nipple tool and probably some spare nipples
  • Cassette removal tools - chain whip and lockring tool
  • Freewheel removal tools - a bench vise and a freewheel tool, OR a grinder with a cutting wheel (mine was a non-removable chinese thing hence power tools)
  • Chain tool
  • Lubes
  • Either a truing stand, or some way to use your bike frame/fork to true the wheel.

Feel free to ask further clarification questions.

  • I also needed a replacement 8 speed shifter and long cage derailleur, which was salvaged off a third bike. – Criggie Jun 22 '18 at 22:54
  • 2
    Note another upside: reuse instead of producing waste. Doesn't matter a thing wrt global waste production of course, but the mentality might count in the long end.. – stijn Jun 23 '18 at 8:30
  • How much experience did you have building or truing wheels before this project? – Argenti Apparatus Jun 23 '18 at 12:57
4

As the others have already stated: Yes, it is possible, but ...

However, I feel that the really important message has not been transported yet: Building a wheel is not easy for the uninitiated. Yes, it can be done. Yes, you will likely get something that looks like a true wheel. But you may easily end up with many broken spokes the weeks after.

The critical part about building a wheel is, that you need to apply even tension to the spokes. Fail to do so, and they may break very quickly. And with even tension, I really mean very even. It won't suffice that they feel evenly tensioned to the touch, the tolerances are surprisingly small. If you have a musical ear, that helps a lot, as you can just tune your spokes (that's what I do, at least). However, doing so takes time. Time that may be better spent on other pursuits. After all, when you adjust the tension of one spoke, 35 other spokes have their tensions changed slightly as well...

That said, building a rear-wheel with a cassette is an additional challenge, as you need to build it asymmetrically. Consequently, the spokes on one side need a much higher tension than on the other side. With the tuning approach, that's two different tones, the exact pitch of which depends on the geometry that you aim for.

So, if your goal is to get to know how your bike is built, go for it. You can learn it. But expect to pay for these skills with a significant amount of time, and likely broken spokes. If your goal is just to save a penny, think twice: buying a new wheel saves more in terms of time than you can save in money by building yourself, and the bought wheel has less risk of failing quickly.

  • There's no cost to be saved building the wheel yourself, the tools necessary to do so, especially a wheel building stand, will cost more that an entire wheel. – Argenti Apparatus Jun 23 '18 at 2:20
  • Experiences seems to vary, of all problems I head when learning to build wheels, spokes breaking was never one of them. Regarding even tension within small tolerances: the end goal is to get a true wheel, so imo it's better not too pay too much attention to the even tension because at one point or another you're going to have to choose between true or even tension. Achieving both is theoretically possible, but it would need the exact same material properties in each spoke and nipple and across the whole rim. Not something which happens often in practice. – stijn Jun 23 '18 at 8:28
  • @stijn Yes, experiences do seem to vary: For me, I would break about a spoke in 100km when I did not manage to even them out enough. For me, that was way too much as that's about the minimum I do per week. Also, I tend to apply significantly higher forces to my bike than other people do. However, once I fixed the uneven tension problem, the problem of breaking spokes disappeared entirely. So, maybe other people don't suffer as much from uneven tension as I did (less kilometers, less torque on the wheel), but the amount of stress a wheel can handle depends heavily on even tension. – cmaster Jun 23 '18 at 9:16
  • Maybe I got lucky because most wheels I built are 36 spokes, less for you perhaps? On the other hand I also ride bmx so force-wise that's hard to match. When building I do start with turning each nipple the exact same amounts though before doing actual trueing which I assume does assure a certain amount of evenness already. – stijn Jun 23 '18 at 13:18
  • @stijn Mine are 36 spokes as well. But the strongest force I apply is torque, which was beautifully visible in the pattern of spokes that broke: It were always the spokes that transfer the acceleration torque to the rim which broke. I don't know what forces your apply to a BMX bike, but I guess it's more of the shock-related kind when you jump. Anyway, I totally agree that tightening all nipples with the same amount of turns helps a lot to get a relatively even base tension, yet it's insufficient for the end result in my experience. It's just the starting point for the tuning. – cmaster Jun 23 '18 at 15:03
3

Of course it is possible, you're simply building a new wheel with some used and some new parts. Unless we are talking about carbon rims where the spokes are glued and the wheel is trued in the factory already.

When doing that take the following into consideration:

  • is the new hub as high as the old one (you have high flange hubs) - if not, new spokes will be needed
  • new hub (the one accepting a cassette) will be asymmetrical - spokes on the non-drive side will reach to the very outside of the whole assembly while the spokes on the drive side will reach to like 2/3 of the complete assembly width as there needs to be some room for the cassette. Most likely the spokes you have will be too long and will protrude through the nipples. Either you need to buy a new set of spokes or trim the existing ones
  • is your rim in good condition - when using rim brakes the rim should be replaced once it is worn out
  • if all the spokes and nipples can be reused - I hope you won't break any of those while disassembling
  • if you are using the nipple washers, you most likely need a new set
  • once the wheel is laced, it needs to be trued and dished - either you outsource it to someone with proper tools and expertise or you do it yourself (a truing stand is almost a must)

Good luck!

  • Better buy a new factory-built wheel. It isn't much more expensive than buying just the hub unless the hub you envision is something exotic. But this is like pulling a caravan with a Ferrari. – Carel Jun 22 '18 at 15:31
  • @Carel and all others who claim that entire wheel is cheaper: have you actually checked what a hub costs? – ojs Jun 23 '18 at 10:25
  • @ojs : If you do the work, ir's cheaper but if you pay to have it done... – Carel Jun 24 '18 at 12:43
3

Yes, one can do this. But you ask "Can I...?" (my emphasis) and the answer is "probably not, at least not right now." Please don't take this the wrong way, but building a wheel requires a lot of skill and equipment and the fact that you're asking the question suggests that you don't have those.

Unless you're dealing with a particularly high-end wheel, rebuilding it will be more expensive than just buying a complete wheel, especially once you factor in the value of your time. However, if you want to learn how to build wheels as a hobby project, then go for it.

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.