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Building Wheels With Used Rim (TT.7)

It used to be that most shops around had a blanket policy that they wouldn't build wheels using used rims. Some had a caveat that they'd lace up anything but couldn't guarantee the work and the build would be charged on an hourly rate using a stop-watch. It's a conversation that anyone on the tools has had a few times.


This has changed somewhat thanks to the mass adoption of carbon rims. In general terms, used carbon rims are either okay or garbage with a minutia of middle ground for rims that look okay from the outside but are about to implode horribly.

For the purpose of this edition of Tunnel Talk, I'm just talking about aluminum rims and the challenges that make your local shops, including ones with very adept and experienced wheel builders, waver or waiver.

I needed to sort out some 29+ rims for my V2 and they had to match. Queue the pair of Velocity Dually i39 rims I salvaged from my V1 build.

In my case, a locus of requirements led me to re-lace a truly abused pair of VelocityUSA rims I've been riding since before I discovered CushCore. First, I needed a replacement i40ish internal width rim for the back of my single-speed. It had to match the front. It had to be available ASAP. And heck, if it could save me a few bucks and re-use something I've hoarded - thereby justifying said hoard, then that's piling on the wins.


The front rim was in really good shape - round and true - minus one spot where I'd bottomed it hard enough on a rock on Executioner that my buddy Brian was inspired to yell out "YOU RANG?!?!". I'd pulled the dent out years ago but that's never a perfect fix.


The rear rim looked okay in my hands but once I started lacing it up the myriad of minor (already pulled) dents were noticeable. It was also quite clear that the rim would be described as almost round and straightish. I will say that silver aluminum rims, like silver aluminum pedals, hide their wounds very well.

I'm running i39 rims front & rear. The massive CushCore Plus in front with a 2.8" tire, and the smaller CushCore Pro in the back to get more air volume in the 2.6" tire.

In both cases, the builds became an exercise in deciding when to stop going around turning nipples for impossibly small gains. This was especially true with the rear wheel. It wanted desperately for me to commit to just one of the holy trinity of straight, round, and even spoke tension.


In the end, the front wheel didn't take me longer than usual - I'm a slow wheel builder - and I'm very happy with where it turned out it. If it was a customer's rim I'd be confident handing them back this wheel and taking their money.


The rear wheel is a bit different story. It took significantly longer to get it into a state where I was going to be happy riding it. I erred towards making certain it was tensioned properly and with two rides on it now - pavement, gravel, & trail on both - the tiny deflections in the truing stand aren't discernable in the real world.


For my personal use, this is fantastic, I'm jazzed with the outcome. But, I struggle to imagine being happy passing this result on to a customer and charging them extra, to cover the extra time, in the process. So here's a conversation starter if you really want a used rim laced up at your shop, and they have a bunch of (good) reasons they don't want to do it.

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