Building a Bicycle: Part One: The Wheels

The bicycle is the noblest invention of mankind. ~ William Saroyan

From A. Kuehn

Not to sound lazy, but I must admit I never thought I would ever put together a bicycle from scratch. I know my fair share about bicycles (having numerous ones of your own somewhat goes hand-in-hand with a small amount of bicycle knowledge). Flat tire? No problem- I’m a pro at changing tubes. Need your seat adjusted, or aerobars put on? Let me get my Allen key. I know the difference between Sram double tap shifters and thumb shifters. Needless to say, I am not a bicycle expert at all, and compared to other bicycle enthusiasts, my knowledge is actually next to nothing. I mean, that is what bicycle shops are for, right? I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve driven to the shop with (one of) my bike, or a part of my bike, charging into the local bicycle shop with a pressing issue. “Hi C, how’s it going? Listen, I have a question…..” or “Hey B! Yeah, I think something is wrong…” Not only do I have no problem heading to the shop with a question, but I always figured they’re the ones who can be trusted to put a bike together after you order it…And if you have ever met me in real life, you know that I’m known to order new bikes.  (I had no idea putting a bike together after it comes in one of those ginormous boxes is actually somewhat easy to do).

It all started one evening a couple of months ago after eyeing a Bridgestone X0-4 dark blue, small frame in my friend’s house, when I decided I wanted to build a bike from scratch.**Note: by build, I mean assemble. All the parts, and frame, were readily available. And it just so happens, my friend’s basement is filled with boxes of random bicycle parts, and he assembles/builds almost all of the bikes he owns. Furthermore, I decided I wanted him to teach me how to do it. I asked nicely, of course. 

Finally, after weeks of waiting for the missing parts to arrive, it was time to build my first ever bicycle. And, as I go on this journey of grease, I decided to document it, and share what I’ve learned. So that incase readers ever decide to assemble a bike, they can!

Parts before assembly

More Parts before assembly

Bicycle parts used in Part One, aka Specs

  • Schwalbe “Big Apple” Tyres, 26 x 2.0 (x2)
  • Kenda Tubes (x2)
  • Fond De Jante Rim Tape (x2)
  • Shimano 7 speed cassette
  • Quill Stem (Stock)
  • Velo Orange Porteur Handlebar
  • Seat Post (Stock)
  • Bridgestone X0-4 Royal Blue bike frame

Tools (and grease) used

It is also of some importance that there is also classic Reggae playing in the background, and beers readily available prior to starting.

And so, let us begin assembling a bike! In this segment I’ll be talking about assembling the wheels.

First, it’s easiest for you to place the frame of the bike in a bike stand holder, and if you prefer to work sitting down, have a seat available.  Take the wheels and look for the small hole in which you put the inner tube’s valve through–Kenda brand tubes usually have Presta valves (really just a fancy name for a type of valve). When you find the hole, then take the Rim Tape and match the hole of the rim tape to the hole in the wheel. While holding the end of the tape (as it might rip away if you do not use pressure on it) continue to feed the tape along the inner part of the wheel, trying to keep the tape as much in the middle as you can. The purpose of the tape is to protect the tube from the ends of the spokes which are threaded through the wheel. When you reach the valve hole, cut the tape. Then, run your finger along the middle of the rim to make sure the tape is secure and will not move.

Aerial view of the rim tape

2. Take a tyre and place it so one edge is in the middle of the wheel rim. Some wheels have “Drive ←” which tells you the direction the tyre needs to face. If you want to be like a bicycle fanatic, you can match up the tyre name with the valve hole. This actually helps locate where the valve is quicker.

3. Take a tube, and unscrew the cap, then open the built-in valve cap (looks like a tiny piece that you screw off). Then, inflate the tube using a bike pump just enough so that it looks like a circle–enough to get the kinks out if you just removed it from a box.** Make sure to screw the built in valve back, or else you’ll loose air. 

Once there is enough air, place the valve into the valve hole in the rim of the wheel, and place the tube under the tyre. If you have ever changed a flat before, this step is basically the same as changing a flat. You can use tyre levers if you need to, to help putting the sides of the tyre into the rim, or you can use both hands working away from each other, pulling the tyre into the rim. **This can be difficult, but it’s possible to do. Just give it time. And breathe….While swearing under your breath.

Fastening the valve

Putting the tube under the tyre

Sometimes it's easier to stand up for this part

It's easier if you are strong...

Once the tyre is completely in the rim (my lack of upper body strength lengthened the process of pulling the tyre on), inflate the tube to the appropriate pressure–I inflated my tube to about 20 PSI. Next step: repeat the same thing with your other wheel!! And yes, if you were wondering, my tyres have reflective stripes on them. 🙂

Yes, inflating is fun fun!

4. Now, it’s cassette time, and I don’t mean those cassette’s that used to play in Walkmans (am I dating myself with that attempt at a joke?). A cassette has different parts to it. Once you take the cassette out of the package (if you were lucky enough like me to get a new cassette), unscrew the top part (Lock Ring, to be correct).

I should model for Shimano...and shower before photo sessions

If you notice inside the cassette, there are different groves which match up to the Splines of the rear bicycle hub. Find where the groves match, and slide the cassette on. Then, tighten the lock ring onto the cassette.

With a lock ring tool (which fits right into the middle of the cassette), stand the wheel up, as that will give you more leverage when further tightening the lock ring in place.

Tighten, tighten, tighten!

5. When you feel the cassette is in place, take the quick release and feed it back through the hub.

6. Now, you are ready to put the wheel on the bike! Sometimes it helps to have another hand, but this is do-able solo. With the frame of the bike in the stand, take the wheel with the cassette on your right side and slide the wheel so that parts of the quick release slide into the rear drop-out. **The drop out is the part of the frame with little groves that hold the quick releases. When it is in the drop-out, tighten the quick release so that the wheel stays in place.

7. Now, do the same thing with the front wheel. Et, voila! Your wheels are now a part of your bike! (Yes, I received help holding the front wheel in place.)

In the next installment of my mini series on how to put together a bike, I’ll go into how to put the stem and post on!**My apologies to you hardcore bike enthusiasts if I’ve mistaken some bike tools. I’ve never done this task before, so am still learning myself. 

My teacher

Please stop by soon for more information on assembling a bicycle…Or to see me trying not to make a complete fool out of myself.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dave
    Sep 17, 2012 @ 01:36:47

    I am curious how the rest of the bike build went. Specifically, I wanted to know how clearance was for the big apple tires at the front fork. I was thinking about doing this with my xo-4, but the front fork is just over 2 inches. have you had any issues?

    Thanks, and well done on the triathlon.


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January 2012

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