QBP started offering hand-built wheels in the mid ’80s. Today, the Quality Wheels and Wheelhouse department at our headquarters in Bloomington has taken large-scale wheelbuilding to the highest level and gives shops every reason to leave wheelbuilding to us.
When Quality Wheels is running at full steam, it’s an impressive sight. “The department is staffed by 24 production employees, including custom wheelbuilders. We have three production lines that cover two shifts,” says Paul Ziegle, Quality Wheels brand manager.
Two of those production lines start with non-human wheelbuilders—in the form of Holland Mechanics lacing machines and truing robots. Custom wheel presses (built in-house) are utilized to stress-relieve wheels during multiple steps in the production process, all but eliminating any “settling” of spokes or loss of tension with inflated tires when they first hit the road. To meet the needs of the ever-growing fat bike category, Quality Wheels utilizes an Acra-feed nipple feeder for our fat wheel production line. “In 2014 we built over 71,000 wheels with approximately 11,000 of them used for assembly in QBP’s Bike Builder,” Ziegle says.
If you search “quality wheels” on qbp.com, you’ll see why it takes 24 employees working in two shifts to keep our inventory levels as high as they are. There is a wheel available for the vast majority of bikes coming through just about any service department. “Our 300 wheels cover popular sizes at many price levels. We carry top brands and work hard to bring dealers durable, long-lasting, and relevant, wheels at favorable pricing, ” says Quality Wheels product manager Aaron Pieplow.
Not On The Menu
For situations that call for something more unique, Quality Wheels offers custom builds that can solve everything from easy issues like silver components instead of black, to far more complex one-off builds. “We had an order for internally geared disc brake wheelchair wheels one time” says Anthony Kamstra, one of the Wheelhouse custom builders. Pieplow adds, “Wheelhouse custom builders can create anything customers can dream up! Whether it’s the ‘newest of the new,’ a sentimental favorite, or something awesomely unique, we deliver top quality in two days.”
Every once in awhile, a request will come in that seems a little weird, notes Kamstra, “but we’ll always call and ask if that’s what the customer really wanted rather than just go ahead and build it. We vet a fair amount of these requests because we are very in the know about what will and won’t work, whether it’s for a standard floor bike, or if it’s just a combination of parts we know are incompatible. For example, we can say for sure that a BionX hub laced three-cross on a 20" wheel will not work. We are full of friendly suggestions and happy to help.”
Quality Wheels also discovers interesting frame builders this way, Kamstra adds. “If it seems it’s something that shouldn’t work, we call, or check out the website, and find out that they are doing something new and unique. This has at times required us to design some of our own tools to accommodate these strange builds, but it’s an honor for us to make them possible for customers.”
Reduce Your Inventory
While wheel building is indeed a fun and noble craft that shops could take on in-house, the cons can easily outweigh the pros. Even as something to do in the slow season, it’s not really a profit-maker. It’s impossible to plan for those custom requests during the busy season when repair schedules are already booked, and maintaining an inventory of spokes, hubs, and rims ties up a lot of shops cash if you can’t turn them over quickly. For these reasons and more, Quality Wheels can makes a good argument for why shops should place custom orders with us:
- We have a massive selection of DT spokes to choose from and the expertise to know which ones will best suit your build
- We have a warranty policy. Can the shop afford to eat parts and labor?
- We have all the appropriate tools—tension meters, dishing gauges, bladed spoke holders, and any wrench needed
- Our turnaround time and wheel spec is among the best in the industry
- We can return defective product from the vendor immediately and obtain a replacement. Shops don’t lose time setting up a RA and sourcing a replacement