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The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt



Welcome return of a seminal work on wheels and wheelbuilding
Classic title available again
Nothing has been updated
540g Recommends

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The choice of worthwhile technical books about bicycle wheels is limited, but the one with the most obvious title, The Bicycle Wheel, by Jobst Brandt, was always one of the best. This reprint makes it available to a whole new audience. Some aspects may be less relevant today, but overall it is still an informative and useful offering.

Not many out-of-print cycling books warrant a return to the market after being unavailable for a few years; The Rider by Tim Krabbé is one that made the grade recently, and now The Bicycle Wheel is another.

> Buy now: The Bicycle Wheel for £27 from Isola Press

It can still make a valid claim to be 'the definitive text on wheel-building' for those with an interest in the subject, even if the increasing dominance of factory-built 'wheel systems' mean that fewer high-end conventional wheels are actually being built.

If you are part of the small group of people who want to learn how to build a conventionally spoked wheel, but only want to learn from a book – then this is a good choice. Speaking as someone who is the proud owner of no fewer than four other books dedicated to the subject, this has certainly guided me more than any other.

2023 The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt - 3.jpg

If you want to do the job properly, you need more information than is typically provided in a general maintenance manual – and this provides enough to satisfy most people.

However, I suspect there is another audience out there of those who just want to understand the principles of conventional wheel construction – without necessarily feeling the need to build one. For that there is probably none better. It's fairly technical in places, such as with some advanced equations – but you can still understand the concepts without having to master the algebra.

From its first appearance in September 1981 until the last reprint in 2003, The Bicycle Wheel explained Brandt's strongly held views about wheelbuilding. This is a 'facsimile re-edition' of the third and final edition – and it is an exact copy, right down to the blank 'notes' pages at the back.

It is great to see the iconic technical illustrations by Sherry Sheffield again, confirming that good line drawings normally beat photographs for clarity – which is why they were used by Lennard Zinn in the excellent Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance.

> 42 of the best cycling books — check out the books every cyclist should own

Not content with being an authority on wheels, Brandt also joined forces with the legendary Sheldon Brown on his eponymous website to lay down the law on many other aspects of cycling.

Be warned, if you start looking around that site you will find numerous time-consuming avenues to explore. You will also find that some thoughts have aged better than others – just as is the case within the book.

For example, Brandt may have been justified in railing against the early 'disk and other streamlined wheels [that] have been allowed in bicycle racing', but I like to think that he would be more impressed by the performance of some of today's offerings.

Or take the idea that 'experienced riders usually choose 36 spokes for durability'; it was true at one time, but has now been made virtually impossible by the withdrawal of that option by most hub and rim manufacturers.

I remember the furore at launch when Brandt explained that 'the wheel stands on its spokes', meaning that 'the bottom spokes support the wheel'. In case it wasn't clear, we were assured that 'the concept that the hub hangs from the upper spokes contradicts all measured and computed behaviour of bicycle wheels'.

If nothing was going to convince you, Brandt asserts that 'this misconception is similar to the belief ... that the sun rotates around the earth'. This one idea has led to heated (and often ill-informed) debate ever since, and no doubt the book's reappearance will re-ignite it. It's all good publicity, I suppose.

Unfortunately, Brandt never got around to updating the book for a fourth edition before he died (in 2015), so things like carbon rims, which are commonplace today, are barely mentioned. That's a pity, because it would be good to have his authoritative commentary on later developments.


Welcome return of a seminal work on wheels and wheelbuilding test report

Make and model: The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt

Size tested: 160pp

Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

From the publisher:

We are offering a very limited-edition reprint of Jobst's classic text THE BICYCLE WHEEL, according to Sheldon Brown, 'The near-definitive text on the theory and practice of building spoked bicycle wheels."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Title: The Bicycle Wheel

Author: Jobst Brandt

Publisher: Isola Press

Date: 15/9/23

Format: Hardback

Pages: 150

ISBN: 9781739126735

Price: £27

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes, if I hadn't already bought an earlier edition.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes – selectively.

Use this box to explain your overall score

If I had scored earlier incarnations of the book at the time, it would have been 10; however, some parts are a bit dated now, which reduces its usefulness slightly.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 60  Height:   Weight:

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,

Add new comment


yupiteru | 9 months ago

I have three wheel building books:


The Bicycle Wheel: Jobst Brant


The Art of Wheelbuilding: Gerd Shraner


The Professional Guide to Wheelbuilding: Roger Musson


They all bring something to the table and I have successfully built wheels that have just worked, by following the guidance contained within.


Good to see a reprint of 'The Bicycle Wheel' as the second hand prices were getting a bit out of hand at one point.

Richard Peploe replied to yupiteru | 9 months ago

All good books, and they are part of the other 4 that I mentioned in the review; to those I can add:

- The Spoking Word by Leonard Goldberg: rather fanatical and extreme, but thought provoking

- Building Bicycle Wheels by Robert Wright: not much to it, so only really covers the act of wheel-building

Can there be many other books exclusively about wheel-building?

Richard Peploe replied to yupiteru | 9 months ago

Sorry, duplicated post, so deleted this one.

David9694 | 9 months ago
1 like

My go to site for the several wheels I've built for myself is:

supplemented by Sheldon Brown and the Edd spoke length calculator

Edd lets you input makes/models of prospective rims and hubs, rather than require you to know or determine your ERD, your hub's C2C measurement and flange diameter.  Not sure how up to date EDD is these days.

I've generally stuck with Miche Primato Race hubs (available in up to 36h pairs.) I think this vendor knows his stuff. E.g.

I've tended to use Ebay for spokes - I stick with butted Sapim Race and Sapim Strong. I need 32 Race for the front and 16 Strong and 16 Race for the back, plus a couple of spares. I stick with 3x. 

The guidance linked above makes in my view rather too much of navigating polarised rims and hubs, which where present can limit your spoking pattern options. I think I've met just the one polarised rear rim. 

As he (and SB) says, it's the first couple of spokes that set the pattern for all the rest. Your hub can rattle around, twist and untwist itself until you're nearly half way in to the four stage spoking process (drive side, leading, trailing, non-drive).

He doesn't make enough of the amount of rotational twist (allowing any side to side twist can get you confused and lost) you need - let the fact that the spoke next to the valve hole must lean away from (certainly not sit across) the hole be your guide.  

it's very satisfying bringing up the spoke tension at the start and nice to know several years after my first build that I must have done something right. I'll leave it to Jobst Brant to explain how. 

marmotte27 | 9 months ago
1 like

Have no interest in carbon wheels and whatnots. So Jobst's book (I got a secondhand copy a while ago) is perfectly up to date for me.

Lozcan | 9 months ago

It's a reprint, the chance to get it done came through crowd funding. We wanted this to compliment the amazing book by Max Leonard on Jobst Brandt. Max should be immensely proud for the publication he created, it's phenomenal, waiting longer for the improved images was definitely worth it. Peploe should really view them together.

Richard Peploe replied to Lozcan | 9 months ago

I agree that the new Jobst Brandt book is amazing: review coming soon - and the pictures really were worth the wait: appreciate the effort by all involved.

Whilst the two books are part of the same project, each deserves its own review - and of course may appeal to a different audience.

Miller | 9 months ago
1 like

It's a good book, I have a copy from long ago. I still use it on the infrequent occasions I build wheels to remind me of the best sequence for lacing them up. But it is quite dated now, as noted not dealing with carbon rims which quite change the game for wheel building.
By all accounts Jobst could be a difficult character and he went a bit conspiracist before he died but no doubt that he was a solid engineer up till then. Frankly I think he would have hated modern wheels. I can remember when he was a regular noter on the early bike internet ( and he held his opinions very firmly indeed. Not a man to move with the times.
He did long Alpine journeys every summer and I think his lengthy accounts of those are still accessible somewhere. They're a good read. He did big climbs and big mileages and all without the benefit of a bike helmet. Somehow he survived.

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