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, 2018 at 20:09
  • You've stated your dilemma. You have two choices: rebuild your wheel using existing parts and a new hub, which you don't want to do, or buy a new wheel, which you also don't want to do. You'll need to choose.
    – Adam Rice
    Sep 15, 2019 at 19:14

5 Answers 5


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, 2018 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.) Jun 23, 2018 at 1:43
  • That's not true if you have decent rims, for example carbon rims which will cost way more than the price of the hubs. Sep 15, 2019 at 15:55

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, 2018 at 22:54
  • 3
    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, 2018 at 8:30
  • How much experience did you have building or truing wheels before this project? Jun 23, 2018 at 12:57

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 may save more in terms of time than you can save in money by building yourself, and the bought wheel has less risk of failing quickly.

Of course, this economic consideration heavily depends on the price tags of the parts that you are trying to save. If your rim costs 500$, you better keep it, no matter how much time you need to invest into building the wheel. However, for a standard, off-the-shelf 20$ rim, buying a whole wheel is very likely the more economic option.

  • 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. Jun 23, 2018 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, 2018 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. Jun 23, 2018 at 9:16
  • 1
    It really depends on the price of every component. When you have high quality wheels, even if you use a professionnal to do so, it will be way cheaper for change the hub than change the whole wheel Sep 15, 2019 at 15:56
  • 1
    @thibautnoah Ok, rewording is done. Hope you like it. Sep 15, 2019 at 16:54

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, 2018 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, 2018 at 10:25
  • @ojs : If you do the work, ir's cheaper but if you pay to have it done...
    – Carel
    Jun 24, 2018 at 12:43

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.

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