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Could I build a rear wheel using a front rim?


Edit: Follow-on question Spokes stick out of nipples when rebuilding wheel reusing spokes.

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    Welcome to the site. I think the answer is: it depends. The major difference will be spoke counts, how many spokes on the front and how many on the rear? Why do you need to use a front rim, is it just a spare you have around?
    – Swifty
    May 10 '19 at 7:41
  • Are the rear hub and spokes re-useable, and do the rims match in hole-count and manufacturer & model?
    – Swifty
    May 10 '19 at 8:05
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    Would not re-use spokes, you never really know what they have suffered during their life time.
    – Carel
    May 10 '19 at 10:08
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In the days before factory built wheelset, rims where produced without being specifically for front or rear wheels. On most general-use standard bicycles it is still that way. The only difference was the spoke-hole count.

But many rear wheel rims today are no longer symmetrical, meaning the right side is different from the left. This is mainly due to the fact that with 11 or even 12 speed cassettes the dish of the wheel is very unsymmetrical and the angle at which the spokes reach the rim makes the spokes puts a lot of pull on the rim. This is being countered by positioning the spoke holes differently for the drive or non-drive side.

Although 36 holes was and still is the normal count on most bicycles, you could build wheels with 32 or 28 spokes, those being mostly used on front wheels, mostly for weight saving or aerodynamics.

Nowadays many rims are specialised for their use and designed for front or rear wheels in mind, mostly for aerodynamic or load bearing abilities and often with different spoke counts. Although with the advent of disc brakes the spoke count on many front wheels is on the rise. Disc brakes put about the same stress on front wheel as the drive puts on the rear.

But if you use one of the many 'standard' rims that are still in production, you may build a rear or front wheel with any rim.

Side-note: In the old days also front wheels would be built with thinner often double-butted spokes (1.5-1.2-1.5mm), while rear wheels had thicker (2mm) straight spokes.

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Yes, with standard wheels the front and rear rims are identical. Just make sure the number of spoke holes of the rim matches your rear hub. Sometimes they use fewer spokes on the front. Some manufacturers offer asymmetric rims for the rear wheel (because a rear hub with cassette is inherently asymmetric) but you could still use a normal, symmetric rim.

Some proprietary wheel sets have other asymmetries and complex lacing patterns, but I assume you are not asking about one of those.

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Yes, but, it's a lot of work and you should consider whether it is cheaper/easier to buy a rear wheel already built.

Wheel building is a skilled job and does require tools most people don't own and or wouldn't be cost effective to purchase for a one off wheel build, which I can only assume this is. Not to mention the fact that if op does not know whether it is possible to build a wheel up as a front or rear shows they are not trained in wheel building. That's no big deal. Most people couldn't build a wheel myself included.

So basically don't get in to a specialised job if you lack basic knowledge. In simple terms wheels are available cheaply online, ready built by a trained specialist. This is a far easier and cost effective solution than buying all the tools and parts then learning to build a wheel.

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    This is more an opinion than an answer to the actual question. Further it is an uninformed opinion, as you admit you've never actually tried to build a wheel. Speaking as someone who has (after receiving uniform encouragement from others who have), it's an accomplishable and rewarding project, and does not actually require much in the way of equipment investment - all I actually bought for the project was a spoke wrench. And what you end up with is far better than a cheap machine built wheel. May 11 '19 at 16:50
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    Wheel building is a highly skilled job and does require specific tools most people don't own and or wouldn't be cost effective to purchase for a one off wheel build All you really need is a good spoke wrench. Truing stand? Hold the hub and spin it. You'll be able to tell if it's true. Proper dish? Lay flat on the floor, push the rim to the floor at one point. Note how high on a table leg/wall/etc the highest point of the rim is. Flip wheel over, repeat. When the height is the same from both sides, the wheel is properly dished. Done. May 11 '19 at 18:52
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    David your answer is fine, you don’t have to engage with commenters any further. They should know better that comments are to ask for more information or suggest improvements, not suggest you change the meaning of your answer. If people agree with your answer and think it is well written they will upvote it. If people don’t then they won’t. That’s how the system works after all.
    – Swifty
    May 11 '19 at 20:36
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    @swifty True, thanks for the advice. I am a newbie here after all. All good advice is appreciated and taken on board.
    – David
    May 11 '19 at 20:39
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    @Michael The problem is this answer is worded as a statement-of-fact: "Wheel building is a highly skilled job and does require specific tools ..." Ummm, no. "Highly skilled" is highly subjective, and I personally don't think wheelbuilding requires anything more than basic mechanical skills and patience. I posted my comment to point out that those "specific tools" are, quite simply, not required. May 13 '19 at 22:31
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Yes you can if the rims themselves are both symmetric.

And, give it a try. Don't listen to the nay-sayers. Some people are so risk averse, I'm surprised they leave their houses in the morning.

What's the worst that could happen? This isn't amputating your leg. It's just a wheel. Bust a spoke? $2/each. Have to buy a spoke wrench? $10 used. Over tighten/strip a spoke nipple $0.50 for a new one.

You have to really try to damage the hub, or the rim. If it doesn't work, then take it all apart and try again, or work it 90% of the way and then take it to the LBS and let them 'true' the wheel for $20. You'll have learned something. You'll be more confident when out on your bike. You'll know what to do if you're on the trail and a buddy has a loose spoke. All good things, now you know something more about this great hobby, and that makes it more fun.

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  • Hello, and welcome to bicycles.stackexchange. This question is almost two years old and has several answers that are essentially the same. There are plenty of newer and unanswered questions, perhaps you'd like to have a look at them.
    – ojs
    Feb 28 at 17:51

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