Steve 'Gravy' Gravenites - GravyWheels
Steve "Gravy" Gravenites
Master Wheel Builder
Wheels of a quality previously reserved only for the professionals


Wheel Build and Component Selection

GravyWheels offers top-of-the-line tire, rim, spoke and hub manufacturers to choose from to build the wheelset of your dreams. The permutations of components, manufacturers and measurement specifications is vast, which is why you need advice and expertise in choosing the best components that are custom tailored to factor in your riding style, weight, height, and riding conditions. The consideration of these critical factors will yield optimal synchronicity among wheelset components.

When looking at components, you should focus and spend your resources on the components that matter most. The quality and attributes of the rims, spokes and hubs will have the greatest impact on the performance of your bicycle. The depth of choice in components can be overwhelming for the bicycle enthusiast. Certain types of components by particular manufacturers can make a significant upgrade to the performance of your wheelset. For example, the selection of a quality hub is important to ensure better engagement, less friction, warranty protection and better wear. Machine built wheelsets are not only weaker and more susceptible to failure but they are generic and not specifically suited for the needs and purpose of the individual rider. Everyone's needs are unique and should not be compromised by the fashion of the day chosen by a wheel assembly line.

The most critical factor of a wheelset is the actual build itself.
It takes the art and science of wheel building to meld these components together to produce the optimal wheelset.
That is the magic of GravyWheels!
Only the build can ensure strength and an efficient energy transfer from the hub to the rim to the road.

The three most important aspects are:
Spoke Configuration
The spoke configuration is basically the type of spoke used and the spoke count.
Lacing Pattern
The lacing pattern has to do with the number of crosses between the rim and hub.
Equilibrium of Tension
The tensioning of spokes should be between 3% to 4% of each other.

The spokes of our hand-built wheels are never over-tensioned. This helps preserve the integrity of the hub flange and rim eyelets. It also ensures spoke strength when tension is equally distributed.

GravyWheels can obtain any component available to target your needs for use and performance. Gravy mixes and matches elements to build the perfect wheelset for you. Gravy starts by determining the specifications to fit your needs and then select the best manufacturer in your price range. GravyWheels will build the best wheelset for your riding needs.

Radial Lacing, Low Spoke Count and Machine-Built Wheels
Gravy doesn't typically recommend radial lacing, low spoke count or machine-built wheels, unless there is some special circumstance that needs to be taken under consideration. When Gravy builds wheels, he considers strength and ride in addition to weight. Our customers are consistently amazed at his ability to achieve a lightweight wheel without sacrificing durability or performance. By using a mix of the latest in spoke, rim and hub technology he can provide a wheel that competes in weight and cost to any of those machine-built offerings but that rides better and lasts longer.
Radial Lacing

Radial lacing refers to a lacing pattern where the spokes go straight from the hub to the rim without crossing. Recently, this has become popular with custom and machine-built wheels because of the "look" and the supposed weight savings. Shorter spokes = less weight. Weight is important, but there are some problems inherent to radial lacing.

Rear wheel spokes have to transfer drive torque from the hub to the rim. To do this efficiently, some of the spokes need to be angled nearly tangent to the hub. If all of the rear-wheel spokes go straight out to the rim radially, they allow the hub to twist quite far before they catch up and drive the bike. Disc brakes use the spokes to transfer torque as well, so they also need to have at least some spokes angled out to the rim. Some believe that non-drive, non-disc wheels don't need to transfer torque so they can be radial, and some of the spokes on a drive or disc wheel can of course be radial, in theory. However, Gravy contends that all wheels under braking transfer load via spokes.

Radial lacing allows shorter, lighter, stiffer (because they are shorter) spokes, making for a lighter and stiffer wheel, but those stiffer spokes are more likely to break. They also impose higher stresses on the hub flange because radial lacing puts the greatest load on the place where there is the least material. Shimano has banned radial lacing on its hubs and several hub manufacturers have developed radial-specific hubs to answer the current demand.

All sorts of mixtures of radial and cross lacing options are possible, but they save only a little weight over good-ole cross lacing, and make life quite a bit harder on the hub and spokes.

Although low spoke-count, radially laced wheels are light and look cool, we've found that a bike handles much better with traditional three-cross, 32 spoke wheels. In the front especially, radially laced wheels seem to wander and don't hold their line as well. Put on a well-built three cross wheel and suddenly the front end responds faster and is more precise.

Gravy builds wheels to optimize strength and reduce stress on the wheel. Radial lacing puts the spoke doing the most work directly in the load path, which increases the stress/load on both the spoke and the hub. Building with crossings (tangent) puts the spoke doing the most work well past and ahead of the load path, saving all parts of the wheels from undue fatigue. An additional benefit to building two or three, or even four cross wheels, compared to radial, is the protection from chain suck. For example, if you throw your chain into the spokes, our "outside pulling" pattern will help your chain not to get sucked into your wheel.

A Note on Crossing Pattern Selection

In Gravy's experience, two cross spokes will be on average 10mm shorter and might save you 30 grams for the entire wheelset when compared to three cross. However a two cross pattern on a 32-hole rim has decreased trianglization compared to a three-cross pattern. The trianglization occurs where the spokes meets the hub flange. The smaller the triangle, the less stability at the hub. Spoke count also contributes to the trianglization. More spokes means less trianglization, while less spokes means more trianglization. Optimum tranglization occurs at the 9:00 o'clock and 3 o'clock spoke position, the widest base triangle. A 36-hole 4 cross, 32-hole 3 cross and 28-hole 2 cross all roughly have the same trianglization. If you want to save some weight and it makes sense for your build and style of riding, a 28 hole, 2 cross wheel makes much more sense than a 32 hole radial one.

Low Spoke Count
There are a number of machine-built wheels on the market that achieve weight savings through minimizing the number of spokes in the wheel. Less spokes = less weight.

The problem is simple. The fewer the spokes, the more load each spoke must bear. This results in a wheel with tremendous load on the spokes that can't be trued if you knock it out of whack and that will have a tendency to fail completely if you break a spoke. Ask anybody who has ever tried to true one and they will tell you.
Machine-built Wheels
The vast majority of wheels on the market today are machine-built, from low-end OEM wheels to expensive lightweight offerings from a variety of manufacturers. We all know who they are. Machine-built = cost savings to the manufacturer.

Although technology has come a long way, we do not believe you can replace the care that goes into a professionally hand-built wheel with a machine.

Machines bring the wheel up to tension very quickly, which sacrifices strength. Spoke tension is everything when it comes to bicycle wheels. To achieve a durable wheel, each spoke must have the appropriate amount of tension and all spokes must have the same tension. Gravy consistently sees even the high-end products come to him with inappropriate and/or unequal spoke tension. Rounded off nipples and wheels that are out of true are very common, right out of the box.

The final thing to consider if you are going to buy one of those funky-looking, radial, hardly a spoke to be found, all my friends have them, pre-built wheel sets, keep serviceability in mind. If you break a spoke or ding the rim, does your local shop stock the required spoke or rim for a rebuild? Does the wheel have to go back to the manufacturer and will this take a long time? Can it be repaired at all or will you need to replace the wheel?