At Jet Bicycle Wheels we focus on quality. I often joke that we are the World's slowest wheel builders (not because we are going to drag our feet getting your order filled). It might be an exaggeration, but our process is pretty slow. Hand chamfering spoke holes in rims, tying and soldering spokes, hand oiling black spokes, etc.; it all takes time. And the wheel building only starts when we've succeeded in sourcing the finest wheel building products available.
Proper spoke tension is the key to a great wheel build. Selecting the best components for your wheels only pays off if the parts are assembled properly. Proper spoke tension is high, and even. How high? Generally with modern components, we'll see final tension from 1000Nm to 1200Nm on the drive side rear. How even? Well, it really depends, primarily on the consistency of the rim. Rims can have inconsistencies, particularly around seams and valve stem holes (thank goodness they do, or our services might not be needed). The judgments we make in resolving rim anomalies are focused first on achieving even spoke tension, all while striving for minimal radial and lateral runout. How even? We don't know. But we do know that even spoke tension is the essential to the longevity of your wheels, and we will never stop obsessing over it. It's why we employ two unique tensiometers while building wheels, one with good fidelity at relatively low spoke tensions (we use this on early in the process) and as tension increases we switch to a second which has better fidelity at higher tensions. We are only finished with a wheel when we can't make it any better.
Spokes and Nipples
Quality spokes and nipples are as important a choice as rims and hubs. Placing a premium on these two components pays dividends in wheel reliability and longevity.
Spokes and nipples are constantly moving as wheels cycle, so for both we prize long fatigue life. In our experience, we've found no better spoke than the DT Aerolite, and so it is featured in all of our curated wheels. While they are more costly than other similar spokes, we've simply experienced fewer broken spokes using DT Aerolites than with any other brand. Higher cost we can tolerate, broken spokes we cannot. Of course with custom builds we can offer just about any spoke you desire, and because Aerolites aren't ideal for every build, we may recommend alternatives to meet your needs.
Premium nipples are a must. For the alloy variety we build exclusively with nipples from Lilly's Precision Products, where Jason Lilly's small batch anodizing process produces the most durable, corrosion resistant nipples we've ever used. Jason also produces the unicorn of all nipples, black anodized aluminum internal nipples. While most wheels featuring internal nipples use brass, Jason's alloy internal nipples offer all the strength and corrosion resistance of brass but at a weight savings of about 10g / wheel. If you prefer brass nipples we will always recommend Wheelsmith Duristan nipples, with the longest lasting nickle plated finish available.
Wire tying and soldering spokes is relevant again... Hooray! Charles Wells has been a proponent of tied and soldered wheels for decades, while this technique has largely been forgotten, ignored or scoffed at by most wheel builders, never the less, he persisted.
It's relevant again for a couple of reasons. First, with the ever increasing number of cogs on cassettes, drive side flanges are being forced toward the hub's center. The result is relatively lower non-drive side spoke tension. And a very important second, the advent of disc brakes.
The efficacy of wire tied and soldered spokes on bicycles wheels has long been challenged, and rightfully so. Most of the evidence as to the practice's benefits are anecdotal, and static tests have revealed no discernible difference. But wheels, remember, are remarkably dynamic, and while we desire not to be purveyors of snake oil, there are some things we know to be true.
The primary reason we focus so intently on spoke tension is in an effort to reduce movement. More movement reduces fatigue life, while less movement extends fatigue life. One thing we are certain of is that tying and soldering spokes reduces their movement as a wheel cycles.
Non-drive side spokes on a rear wheel can benefit from tying and soldering because they are the lowest tension spokes in the wheel system. You may have experienced the noise a poorly built wheel can express as these relatively loose spokes move against one another. Because of their relatively low tension, these spokes also move more as a wheel cycles, and thus are the most common quadrant of a wheel to experience a broken spoke. Tie and solder work can help mitigate both issues.
Disc brakes induce torsional loads on both front and rear wheels. As the rotor stops the hub, all of the breaking force must transmit through the spokes to reach the rim and tire. This causes significantly more spoke movement, which can be mitigated to some degree by binding spokes together with good wire tie and solder work. Try a set of our beautifully tied and soldered wheels and you'll be a believer too.
Tied and Soldered
Just kidding, but seriously, we have no final thoughts when it comes to bicycle wheels. Wheel building is our favorite topic of conversation, so please give us a call or drop us an email. Ask us to elaborate, challenge us, ask any question. Short of building your dream wheels, there's nothing we'd rather do than talk wheels...