Reinventing the Wheel with Ryan Builds Wheels


In March, I had the opportunity to travel up to Bristol to meet Ryan, founder of independent wheel building company Ryan Builds Wheels. Their wheels are renowned for their durability and high quality, with their handcrafted nature meaning they can be perfectly tailored not only to the rider, but to the environment they are ridden on too.

Who are Ryan Builds Wheels?

Ryan began the company in 2014, starting as a passion project with the knowledge that better wheels make better bikes. Ryan Builds Wheels understands that every cyclist is unique, and so their wheels should be to, and like a pair of shoes or a formal suit should be tailored specifically to the individual and their needs. 

So you may be asking, what is best for me then? And why get wheels made custom from somewhere like Ryan Builds Wheels when they can so easily be bought from just about any bike shop?

Image from the Ryan Builds Wheels Workshop
Image from the Ryan Builds Wheels Workshop

Ryan has all the answers, plus so much more, which can be found in the May Issue of BIKE Magazine.

To find out more about just how a Ryan Builds Wheels wheel is made, check out the interview clips below!

Ryan then went on to show me the process of putting a wheel together. He started by weaving the spokes into the frame, creating a tension to later be adjusted. As he explained:

He then put the wheel into a Truing Stand, which he can use to measure and adjust tension in the spokes, with the intention of making the wheel true.

Once you’ve assembled the wheel, you get it into the Truing Stand to start adjusting tension. Spokes and nipples will always build up a degree of friction, so one of the important things is to always lubricate those part interfaces. 

The wheel jig then allows me to cheat, basically, and allows me to make the wheel as round and as true in all directions as possible. The Truing Stand is not a normal piece of kit, most people have seen something like the Park TS2 which is just two arms of metal with a lever on the side. But the PNK Lee that we have gets used by a lot of professional wheel builders, and it just does everything for us all at once, and gives me lots of information. 

A wheel being worked on at the Ryan Builds Wheels workshop.
A wheel being worked on working on at the Ryan Builds Wheels workshop.

The spokes can be drilled down to the same level with the aid of tools like an electric screwdriver. We got ours from our friends over at BSC Tools in Wales, if anyone wants to do their own wheel building I highly suggest checking them out. But yeah, this just allows me to drive all my spokes and nipples down to the same depth to start with. When you’re building as many wheels as a professional builder might each day, it’s important to find these little shortcuts.

Accuracy is key as well. I was quite lucky to be involved with the development of some of the BSC tools, and they’ve just got a small amount of additional detail that others on the market don’t have, just in terms of tolerances really. They’ve been spec’d for the serious builder. But they’re still well priced and simple enough that they’re not out of range of anyone who, for example, might want to build a home. 

So you said this whole thing is basically to make the wheel as round as it can be. How are you able to tell when it’s done?

With that, Ryan showed me the process of getting the correct tension across all 32 spokes, taking measurements and making adjustments as he went. It is a meticulous process, but one that is all worth it in the end, when a Ryan Builds Wheels wheel is complete. 


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