Not Everyone Understands Capitalism


So a ChainLinker posts information about a business he is getting off the ground:

Hand Built Wheels by Well Spoked

I am offering wheel building services. Bring any hub and wheel combos (as long as the number of spokes holes is the same) then tell me what type of spokes you want. I determine the spoke length and build the wheels. Builds offered are as follows:

Basic build: the spoke threads are preped, the nipples seats are preped with antiseeze. Then the wheels are built and trued to within +/- .25mm of lateral and radial true (for used rims tolerances may be greater). Spokes are also pre seated and stressed. All spokes are tensioned within +\- 15% of the average for the wheel.

Premium build: same as the basic build but wheels are trued to within +/- .08mm of lateral and radial true and all spokes are tensioned to within +\- 10% of the average (again with used rims tolerances are greater). This tight tollerance of spoke tension combined with the pre seating of spokes mass the wheels extremely strong and maximizes the time in between wheel trues

I also offer upgades to grade 25 stainless bearings with Phil Wood grease for loose ball hubs.

Prices are as follows

Basic built wheel: $50 plus the cost of spokes
Basic built wheelset: $90 plus the cost of spokes
Premium built wheel: $100 plus the cost of spokes
Premium built wheelset: $175 plus the cost of spokes
Loose ball hub upgrade: $30
Loose ball hubset upgrade: $50

Please feel free to send me an email with any questions at

Seems pretty straightforward to me. You judge your costs and how much it would take to make a profit and you wait and see what the market will bear. Anybody got a problem with that? You bet!

Now it would seem that an individual representing a competitor takes umbrage with the pricing. It is too high for his tastes! Check this out:

Reply by notoriousDUG yesterday

You are charging more than a bike shop for pretty much the same service they provide…
What kind of wheel building experience do you have, what is the turn around time and what form of warranty do you offer on your wheel builds?

Our Clueless Leader?
© Rapid Transit Bike Shop

Now where I come from the fact that your competition is charging more for a service than I do is a cause for celebration, not complaint. But you gotta love the fact that some folks are simply clueless. So what you do is alert the competition that he is overcharging, right?

Not where I come from. What you do instead is make an offer of your own that is lower (if that is possible). Think back for a moment to the recent Walmart commercials where you are encouraged to bring in your receipts for purchases and see if you can’t beat them there.

But you certainly would not expect Walmart to alert a specific vendor that their prices are too high. You simply let the consumer make that determination.

But it gets better. The silly thing that happens next is that he follows up his claim regarding the too high prices with a request to know his bona fides. Talk about leading with your chin.

You really want this guy to tell you how capable he is, Right?

Reply by Patrick Doherty 23 hours ago

In my experience I have only been to one bike shop that has had the same price as me (none lower) and that shop did not use gauges to measure the radial and lateral true of the wheel nor did they balance the spoke tension.

As for experience I have been building wheels since I was 14 and working at a bike shop since I was 16. I have had classes with Christopher Wallace about wheel building and I have an interview set up with Rolf Dietrich (founder and former owner or Rolf prima) to pick his brain about wheel building. And for the last 3 years I have been the head mechanic at a bike shop on the south side.

Turn around time depends on if the spokes needed are in stock. If they are turn around time is 3 days. If they arnt turn around time is 10 days.

I have no official warranty policy but if there are any problems and it seems they happened under normal riding conditions I will repair the wheels free of charge.

Wait this has to be a setup job. I allow my competitor to lay out his background (which might in fact be better than mine) and tell him into the bargain that he needs to lower his prices to be competitive? Geez, this knucklehead needs to apply for a job as a campaign director. That way he can alert the competition that their plans for the economy are a bit off and while they are at it could they take a few minutes to tell the voters why they should get elected.

Note how nicely the original poster (OP) lays out his background. He drops the right names and gives a bit of additional information that I as a customer would kill for. My wallet is already crying out for a chance to fell this guys cash register.

Now because our hapless bikeshop worker opened the door we get unsolicited comments that would never have come up otherwise:

Reply by ilter 23 hours ago

Is there a bike shop standard for lateral & radial tolerances?
Here is a nice short video about a somewhat famous wheel builder. Apparently he builds to .002mm lateral & .1mm radial tolerances.

And the OP makes the best of it with two successive replies:

Reply by Patrick Doherty 23 hours ago

.25mm is about at good as you can get by eye. And many bikes shops don’t use gauges so that is pretty standard. I am currently helping to create a national mechanic certification though the NBDA and Illinois board of education and the test to become certified would involve using gauges to true a wheel to .08mm of true.

For some reason I can’t view the video right now but .002 mm seems like a typo I have never seen wheel gauges with that much definition. .02mm is more likely and easily achivable with a new rim, it just takes a lot of time and .1mm radial is easy to achieve even with a used rim.

Reply by Patrick Doherty 23 hours ago

Also there are no standard for anything in bike shops. Except in Oregon and Colorado there are state certifications avaliable for mechanics. But hopefully there will be a national certification and set of standards in a few years, there may even be an Illinois certification in the next year.

Reply by ilter 22 hours ago

Sorry, two corrections:

  • please try this link (the last digit was missing earlier):
  • .002mm is crazy, and was wrong, I misheard.. He says “five hundredth`s of a mm” for lateral tolerance, so it is .05mm.

Arrgh! Now you have gone and created Fear, Uncertainly and Doubt in the minds of folks who would never have had a clue about the necessity to do wheel builds that meet certain specifications. And gosh darn you have already gone and admitted that you only do things by “eyeball”.

And now the narrative gets completely out of your control:

Reply by Patrick Doherty 21 hours ago

That worked, I have never heard of this particular wheel builder but He seems to know what he is doing, I have a little bit of a problem with his pre stressing methods though, they arnt measurable or accurate. But that’s how most build are, he also uses oil and loc-tite for the nipples a combo that’s better than nothing but not something I agree with. But his prices seem very good most shops that I have seen in Chicago charge $75 plus the cost of spokes for what I am calling a basic build.

Also for my premium build I often get the wheel laterally true to within +\- .03ish mm I just say .08mm to accommodate for any abnormalities in the rim. Often wheels bulge slightly around the seam which is something that can’t be trued out.

Ok. Let’s make a bad situation worse. Let’s allow other knowledgeable folks to “weigh in” on this conversation:

Reply by notoriousDUG 21 hours ago

I cannot think of any shop that charges $75 for a wheel build; most are around $60 for a single wheel.

Reply by James BlackHeron 20 hours ago

Wheel-building “deals,” from shop to shop and from builder to builder, often depends a lot on the price of their parts.

Either they get you for the labor or they add extra mark-up onto the parts.


Reply by notoriousDUG 20 hours ago


I cannot speak for other shops but our mark up is exactly the same no matter what the wheel build labor is. In fact when we do wheel build specials in the winter the labor is cheaper and there is a discount on the parts. I know enough people in the reputable shops in the area that I would feel secure in saying that nobody out there worth patronizing is going to gouge you on the parts to make up for cheaper labor.

Talk about showing up with a knife at a gun fight. Yikes! Why would you ever allow yourself to be the first one to scrape the bottom of the barrel with a profane response?

You simply gotta love these ChainLink-types. They are so eager to appear aggressive and all for the cause that they have this crap drip over into their business practices. Something tells me that folks are watching way too much Jerry Springer at lunch time.

Now we have to listen as other knowledgeable writer “weigh in” on pricing:

Reply by mike w. 19 hours ago

i’ve observed that wheel building is as much or even more so an art as it is a science. Wheel building is a lot like religion- as many beliefs about how and why to put a wheel together as there are about what is Truth.

Reply by mike w. 19 hours ago

Also, the prices mentioned here seem pretty much in line with what the market will bear.

Ouch. That last one hurts. And if you thought things could not get worse, here you go:

Reply by Patrick Doherty 18 hours ago
just out of curiosity what shop do you work for, also what tolerances do you true and tension your wheels to?

Reply by notoriousDUG 3 hours ago

I work at Rapid Transit north. We only true by eye so probably within 1-2mm of true which I feel is fine for 9o% of the riders out there.

What shop do you manage?

Reply by Patrick Doherty 44 minutes ago

I am the head mechanic at Beverly Bike and Ski on the south side but my wheel building is completely seperate from the shop we don’t even do wheel builds in house.

So I guess I’m catering to the 10% of riders who actually care about quality. but it’s good to know that you think that 90% of your customers don’t deserve quality.

And that folks is how you allow your competition to kick you in the teeth and pay for the privilege. Quick somebody write this all down and get a copy over to the Kellogg School of Management. They need some real world examples of how not to let sleeping dogs lie.