I had a rather unique request for a set of WMD-c38′s I’m building for a customer in Ottawa. I was asked if I could match the decal to the zebra stripe bar tape used on their bike. Challenge accepted!If took a few attempts to get the right balance of stripe vs readability but it was a fun diversion from the norm.
Chris King will be offering a new color for a limited time. They’re calling it “Sour Apple” and it’ll be available Oct 1st. I’m going to bring in 5 or so sets after Oct so contact me if you’re interested in using them in a build.
I’m rebuilding a WMD-a270 front wheel this weekend for a customer who purchased it last spring. Normally, rebuilding a wheel 18 months after being purchased would be concerning, but this customer has over 16,000km on this front wheel. The wheel was in good shape, tension was good and it was still within 1mm of lateral true, but the braking surface was worn and I strongly suggested that it be replaced.16,000km in 18 months.
When local customers buy wheels from me, they learn that I offer free truing and inspections for as long as they own the wheels (WMD wheels and custom builds). Actually, any customer will get this service for free if they can deliver the wheels to me. I often have customers from Ontario and New Brunswick drop off their WMD’s, if they happen to be in Montreal. For me, this is a great opportunity to see how my builds and the components I build with hold up (even the material I use for decals is inspected). Everyone rides differently, some are aggressive but only put 2000km on a wheel set each season, some are gentle but ride 7000km each summer, while others are both aggressive and high km riders. Each of these riding styles affects components differently. I ride my wheels, or have selected riders ride my wheels and test all the components I build with, before it’s ever offered as a wheel set .
One of those riders is William Goodfellow. Last season I asked him to ride a set of WMD-c50 tubulars and he was happy to do so. I only wanted to see how they would hold up to Cyclo-Cross riding, but he’s used them for both CX and road races. Will has put them through any and all possible types of riding conditions over the past year. The wheels currently have over 12,000 hard kilometers on them and are holding up nicely.This race looks miserable. You CX people are an odd bunch!
William Goodfellow recently competed at Les Mardis Cyclistes sporting a set of WMD’s. A very talented photographer named Pasquale Stalteri captured the below pictures during the race.
Will rides for Silber Pro Cycling and is one of my sponsored riders. Over the last 2 seasons he’s been racing, testing and beating many pairs of WMD wheels. He also recently won stage 3 of the Tour of the Catskills in NY state.
Some of the folks at Solo Sport Systems based in Calgary Alberta decided to take advantage of my group buy discount. I also added their logo to the wheels. They recently participated in the Oliver Half Iron (in Oliver BC) and were kind enough to send me the below pictures.
I’ve had some blog issues that I just got cleared up tonight. I’m good at building wheels but complete crap at IT.
It’s getting late so I’m just going to post 2 pictures to make sure the blog is still working correctly
Stéphane Proulx won in Drummondville (Quebec) over the weekend, huge congrats!
The first set of Carbon mountain bike wheels are now being beaten. I’m looking to add a full selection of MTB wheels to the line up next year. I’ll have alloy 26, 27.5 and 29 inch rims plus tubeless and hookless 27.5 and 29 inch full carbon wheel sets.
I’ve been trying to finish this short blog post for over a week. Today I was in a local bike/sport store here in Montreal and saw a pair of 45mm carbon clincher, name brand road rims built onto a set of Chris King hubs/CX-Ray spokes for $3500 (plus tax) and felt compelled to finish the article tonight.
I get a lot of questions about my humble little wheel business/brand. One question I get asked most often is about my pricing. Apparently, many feel my prices are really good which means they’re either really happy they found my site or concerned about quality.
The quality concern is completely understandable. We’re all geared to believe that higher prices mean higher quality. In some cases this is true. The manufacturing process, raw material quality/cost, and R&D time varies between similar products and all factor into the end price.
There are a lot of other factors as well; distribution cost/mark up, advertising, staff wages, facility overhead, etc, etc, etc…. these are often the biggest cost for any product.
A few years ago the internet was born and in it’s relatively short life span it has made a dramatic change with how we shop, get news, enjoy entertainment (anyone been to a Block Buster lately?), meet people, etc… It’s probably made one of the biggest impacts in our daily lives since the wheel itself was invented.
Here’s some of the reasons WMD wheels are priced the way they are….
1) No middle man (distributors) needed with a direct to consumer business. If I had distributors, I would have to significantly raise prices. This is the single biggest reason you can buy a set of WMD-c60′s full carbon clinchers with Chris King hubs and CX-Ray bladed spokes for $1675 (tax included). Most products have multiple levels of distribution, each layer adds to the end cost. I looked into selling wheels directly through bike stores but in the end it added too much to the price tag. www.ridewmd.com is my store front/distribution center, it’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I don’t pay power, rent or insurance for this “store front”, no expensive fit out cost and I don’t need $100,000 in inventory, just a yearly hosting fee (under $200).
2) I advertise only with Google Ads (and word of mouth). This is an amazing tool and I encourage anyone to try it if you want to target a specific audience. I can control how much I spend per day and pick the region I want my ads to appear (only Canada). Google uses key word algorithms to place my ad on sites that are relevant to my product, it will even make ads appear to a user on non cycling related sites based on their search and browsing history. I can also track how often my ad has appeared and which sites it has appeared on most often. It’s not uncommon to have a WMD ad appear on 20,000 web pages on any given day. You can’t get that kind of exposure from ads in magazines.
3) I deal directly with manufacturers, as much as I can, to get components. Chris King, White Industries and WMD stickered hubs all come directly from the manufacturer. Again, by not dealing with a distributor, I save money. One down side to this is that I often buy product in US dollars making me vulnerable to currency fluctuations (today the CDN is sitting at 90 cents to the US dollar, last year it was on par).
4) I built and maintain www.ridewmd.com myself. One of my first priorities early on was designing and building a site that looked both professional and was easy to navigate. I had to learn PHP and CSS coding which took me 4 very frustrating months. Being able to change and update the site myself really helps to save money.
5) All photos on the site I take and edit myself. Like learning how to build a website I had to learn how to take a decent picture. I still don’t know how to take a decent picture, but I’ve been using Photoshop for over 10 years now so my editing skills are decent.
My direct to consumer business model is nothing new and is becoming more and more common as the years go by. The wheels I build are not cheap. They offer, I believe, more value for money (bang for buck).
I sincerely believe winter is never going to go away. With spring officially starting in less then 24 hours I still can’t see my BBQ on the back deck… I managed to find some inspiration and rebuilt my tri bike, my mountain bike is still in pieces awaiting some new Shimano XT parts to arrive. Both bikes are getting new wheels this year.
WMD-c60/88 for the faithful Tri bike.
The mountain bike will be getting both an alloy and carbon set of wheels to beat/test over the summer, if all goes well they’ll be added to the line up next season.
I finally got the new WMD-a220 tubulars up onto the site. They are a 23mm wide, 22mn deep alloy tubular rim. I’ll have the WMD-c50 tubulars up soon, I have the rims in stock i just need to get them photographed and finish up the website page.
The logo had to be done differently than my normal style because the rim doesn’t have much depth. This is the first time I’ve curved the logo on a road rim.
It’s calling for plus 5 tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to this winter ending.
I often get asked about how I build wheels, what my process is, how long does it take, etc… it’s a large question that I often answer with just a short paragraph and few details. I build every wheel set the same way whether it’s a $700 alloy or $1700 carbon; they will both get built with the same care. I often build wheels for customers that supply their own components and these too get the same treatment.
I don’t have any secret techniques and I’m constantly researching how others build their own wheels to help improve my own process. This won’t be a step by step “how to build a wheel guide” but more of an insight into my philosophy.
The very first thing I do when an order comes in is prep the needed spokes with Linseed oil. I’ve used every type of spoke prep out there and I still prefer it over everything else. One big reason is cost, I’ve had the bottle below for 2 years and it’s still half full. I also like it’s natural lubrication properties on spoke threads, plus it has the added bonus of not drying out when it sets.
Linseed oil sets into a gel like consistency. The oil that has spilled onto the bottle over the years is still malleable (see the below picture), not dried out or flaky. This is a fantastic characteristic for building wheels. When the oil is fresh the nipple will turn smoothly and easily, but once it sets, the gel like consistency helps keep the nipple from vibrating loose. PLUS (there’s more!), someday, when it comes time to true the wheels again, the nipples won’t be locked to the spoke threads, they’ll still turn smoothly. I recently trued up a front wheel I built for a customer that had 10,000km on it and the nipples still turned like butter.
The built up oil on the bottle is still squishy and not dried out.
I lace the wheels in no special fashion, one spoke at a time. If it’s a rear wheel, I set the spokes to follow a straight line to the nipple hole. I built myself a wheel building stand from PCP piping which I’ll be rebuilding this year from more sturdy materials. I got tired of lacing wheels in my lap, the stand makes lacing wheels far easier and faster. I also use it when it comes time to apply the decals.
I build all my wheels with 14mm Sapim Secure Lock brass nipples. Strong and reliable. The secure lock feature prevents nipples from coming loose.
If I’m building a wheel set with an alloy rim, I add a nipple washer (if the rim has no eyelets).
I use a “nippler” tool to insert the nipple into the rim. I love this tool! I purchased it from Alchemy Bicycle Works a few years ago. Like my wheel building stand, this tool makes lacing wheels fast and easy. It’s been well used.
Once the wheels are laced, I apply a drop of oil into each nipple hole on the rim and then turn each nipple until there are only 2 threads left showing on the spoke. I then add enough tension to the spokes to stop the rim from moving, usually about one or two full turns of each nipple. One of the most important aspects of building wheels is making sure the spoke tension is balanced. I start this process right from the beginning. At this stage of the build you’ll have spokes that are really tight and others that are still loose, even though you started with each nipple at the same position. The rim might also be laterally out by up to 10cm. Spokes, rims, nipples and hubs are all mass produced so each will have minor irregularities that need to be accounted for. I do my first round of turning by evening out the tight and loose spokes. It only takes a few minutes and once I’m done the rim will be within 2 or 3mm of lateral true.
With the rim spinning somewhat straight and a bit of tension added, I will now take all the residual bend out of all the spokes. I want to make the spoke line as straight as possible, as this is a very important step that will ensure the wheel will hold its tension and trueness for a very long time. I need to do this at the hub flange and where the spoke screws into the nipple.In the below picture I’m forming the spokes to the shape of the rear hub flange by applying pressure to the back of the heads out spokes and the fronts of the heads in spokes.
Once done the tension will have decreased so much that the spokes will all be loose but the rim will still be spinning straight. I’ll check the wheel’s dish, correct it if necessary and then start adding tension. While the spoke tension is still fairly low I’ll also do the first round of radial truing. Every round of increased tension is followed by stressing the spokes (grasping 2 spokes on each side and squeezing) and truing the wheel back to within 2 or 3mm of lateral true, if needed. From time to time during this process I’ll recheck the wheel’s dish and if it’s off I’ll correct it.
I build 95% of my wheels with bladed spokes. One great thing about bladed spokes is you can stop them from twisting during the build by using a bladed spoke holder.
When I build and true wheels, I pluck the spokes and listen to the sound they make. The higher the tension the higher the pitch of the plucked spoke. Every nipple adjustment is only done after I’ve plucked all surrounding spokes to compare their pitch, and then I’ll determine which nipple needs to be either tightened or loosened to make the rim laterally true and still maintain even spoke tension. This sounds like a lot of work but once you get used to it you can very rapidly ping 3 or 4 spokes (I sometimes feel like I’m playing a harp) and decide which best to adjust. This will ensure you have no surprises at the end of the build.
Once I think I’m at about 90% of the final spoke tension, I stop. At this stage I get out my tension meter…
and my chalk…
I true the wheel so it’s laterally within .5mm and do the final radial adjustments. I will not need to revisit the wheels radial trueness because most of the adjustments will now be small and shouldn’t affect the up and down of the rim. I’ll also give a final stress squeeze to all the spokes. I’ll now measure the tension on each spoke and write the tension on the rim with my chalk.Spoke tension on a front wheel. The number is converted into kgf from a chart provided with the tension meter.
This will very quickly give me a visual picture of the spoke tension balance. Because I take the time, throughout the whole build process, to pluck multiple spokes before deciding which nipple would be the best to adjust, I usually have a decently well balanced wheel, sometimes perfectly balanced. If I do have a few high or low spokes I’ll take the time now and even out their tension.
Carbon Rear Wheel Building Tip. If I’m building a rear carbon wheel (that isn’t being built with nipple washers), I’ll purposely over dish the rim by about 2cm to the drive side. When spoke tension increase, the nipple will get harder to turn because of the friction between it and the rim bed material. It’s not so bad with an alloy rim (just make sure you oil the nipple when you lace the wheel), but with a carbon rim the nipple can get really hard to turn when the tension starts getting over 100kgf (even when oiled). When the Drive Side spokes are around 80% of their final tension, I’ll balance the spoke tension on the Drive Side and bring the wheel to within .5mm true. The dish will still be about 2cm off which I’ll correct by giving the Non Drive Side nipples 3 to 4 full turns (checking lateral true between each full turn). Because the the Non Drive side tension is so low, the nipples are way easier to turn. As the rim starts moving back towards the center of the hub, the Drive Side tension will rise, and once the rim is at correct dish, the Drive Side should be at it’s final tension. Any lateral rim corrections at this point will only be made with Non Drive Side nipples, which are usually at 50% less tension then the Drive side, making them always easier to turn.
This is a fun trick that makes building a rear carbon wheel much easier and faster but it takes a bit of practice.
That’s it in a nut shell.
I’ve been doodling with a few t-shirt ideas over the winter. Hopefully by summer I’ll have 3 or 4 solid designs that I’ll offer on the site. Below is the cyclocross first concept. Tara, a very talented artist based in Melbourne Australia has been doing the concept drawings for me.