Wheelbuilding Services

Longleaf Bicycles started with me building wheels in my living room in my spare time. Wheelbuilding services remain at the core of my business and I take great pride in building the best possible wheels.

guarantee my wheelbuilds against spoke breakage for the life of the wheel. Follow the link for details.

  • Important Note: (August 29, 2016). After ten years of wheel building I'm taking a little break while I do an immersive course of study. I will only be building three wheels per week. Email me or leave a phone message if you want to know when I can deliver your wheel(s).

Handbuilt Means Nothing if it Isn't Handbuilt Well

"Handbuilt" is often used as shorthand for a well built wheel. And while there's a large overlap between handbuilt wheels and well built wheels, a wheel built by hand is no guarantee of quality.

The term "handbuilt" is loosely used for wheels that have had the final tension, truing, and stress relieving performed by hand. Often, handbuilt wheels from distribution houses are laced and initially tensioned by machine, then finished off by hand. The initial automation doesn't affect the quality of the final wheel as long as the rest of the wheelbuild is done properly. But often in such environments the pressure to build wheels quickly means the wheels are built less than perfectly. Many wheels built at local bike shops and distributors are improperly and/or unevenly tensioned, even though they're "built by hand." This is of special concern to riders who tend to break spokes, because under-tensioned spokes are the primary cause of spoke breakage. 

I build every wheel at Longleaf to my standards on my timeframe. Any wheel that I build will be evenly and properly tensioned. I thoroughly stress relieve all the wheels I build. The wheels should need minimal truing if they ever need to be trued at all.

If you have a hub or rim in mind you don't see listed on my site, please contact me. As long as the part is of sufficient quality, I will special order anything I don't stock. Since my wheelbuilding backlog generally hovers around a week to two weeks, special ordering a hub or rim will rarely delay delivery of your wheels. In most cases the part will arrive by the time your wheelbuild makes it to the front of the queue.

Ordering Handbuilt Wheels

To order online, find the hub you'd like for your wheel and tick the box at the bottom of the page that says "Add Hub to Wheel" and you'll be prompted to pick spokes and nipples for the wheel. After that, add the rim you what laced to the hub to your cart and you're done. Repeat as necessary. Mosey on over here if you'd like some guidance on choosing spokes.

Or, call the shop to order wheels over the phone: 603.242.3622.

Lacing Patterns

I build rear wheels with the number of crosses appropriate for the number of spoke holes, hub flange diameter, and effective rim diameter.  Front wheels can be built radial laced if the hub is approved for radial lacing--you'll find an option for front hub radial lacing in the wheelbuiding labor options. I don't build wheels with twisted spokes. I don't build wheels with elaborate cross patterns. Many of these patterns look interesting, and some of them are just as strong as traditional cross lacing. Some. But many aren't. I don't have time to thoroughly evaluate each proposed lacing pattern, and I have plenty of wheels to build as it is, so I stick with traditional cross and radial patterns.

Building with used hubs (yes), spokes, and rims (almost always no and no)

I will build wheels with used hubs provided by customers. I rarely build wheels with used rims or spokes. This isn't to say that good wheels can't be built with used rims or spokes. They can. But many times they can't and I can't tell by simply looking at a rim or spokes how much the material has been stressed and how close it might be to its fatigue limit. I don't want you to ever have a problem with any wheel I've built you, and the best way for me to ensure this is to always use new rims and spokes. The one exception is vintage restoration wheels, which may need to use rims no longer in production. If you need a wheelbuild with vintage rims for a restoration or show bike contact me via email or telephone.

If you are sending me hubs . . .

To build up hubs I need them to be reasonably clean and the bearings adjusted. If the bearings are too loose the rim will rock back and forth in the truing stand, and if they're too tight the wheel might not spin properly. Cleaning hub or adjusting the bearing is not included in the wheel building labor price, so if I have to do it, you'll owe a little extra. Hubs are much easier to adjust when laced into a wheel, so I'd suggest getting the adjustment sorted out before removing hubs from an old wheel to ship to me. If you don't want to mess with all that I'm happy to adjust hub and overhaul them as necessary. ($8 to adjust cones, $17 to overhaul a front hub, $20 to overhaul a rear hub).

And please, please--I don't need your quick release skewers. I know it seems like they go with your hub, but they aren't needed when building a wheel. They'll be okay without the hub for a while. If you ship skewers to me I just have to set them aside and remember to put them back in the box when the wheel goes out.

Lastly--remove all cassettes, cogs, freewheels, lockrings, etc. before unlacing your wheel. In some cases you need the leverage of the wheel to remove the drivetrain component. If you'd like me to reattach the drivetrain component after building your wheel, send it along with your hub. Just make sure they are separate when shipped.