We are big fans of everything Industry Nine and wanted to give you an inside look at how your Industry Nine wheels get built. Industry Nine offers a full range mountain bike and road wheelsets for nearly every industry standard. No matter if you are a novice or a professional rider, Industry Nine has a wheelset for you at a variety of different price points. All of Industry Nine's wheels are manufactured and hand built in Asheville, North Carolina. For more info on the machining process of all Industry Nine products, check out another one of our articles Inside Industry Nine. Follow along the life of the purchase order, from manufacturing, quality control, picking parts, to hubs and wheel assembly. There is so much that goes in to every single wheel that comes out of Industry Nine, and we are here to walk you through that process.
Before any parts make it on to the shelves ready to be assembled, all of i9's hubs, axles, end caps, system spokes, freehub bodies, and pawls are all manufactured right here at Industry Nine. Each of the different components are sent through a quality inspection to check roundness, bearing tolerances, surface finish, etc. before being sent to anodizing. This process is what ensures each of the different components that make up any of Industry Nine's wheels or stems are within spec. For example, if a bearing bore is slightly undersized, when that bearing is pressed in to place it may experience unnecessary bearing load causing it to fail prematurely. If an end cap is slightly out of round, it may not seal properly or cause the axle to bind. Industry Nine goes above and beyond to make sure each of their components are inspected thoroughly that way the end customer gets the best product possible.
Here the distance between the press fit bearing faces is being measured
Here each of the bearing bores on this front hub are being checked for roundness
15mm front end caps ready to be inspected
Before being anodized, each of the different parts are polished, giving you that gloss anodized finish in the end. Industry Nine has their own anodizing process right in house, which drastically cuts down on production time. This allows i9 to pump out product when there is a time crunch. All of System hubshells and all of the stems are polished by hand before being dunked in some color. Hard anodizing sees each component dunked in to a series of tanks for different amounts of time. In the simplest terms, anodizing can be broken down to three steps. Step 1 is a pre-treatment bath where the parts are cleaned and all metal residues are removed. Step 2 is an acid electrode bath where electric current runs through the parts. This is what allows the aluminum alloy to accept its color. Step 3 is color anodizing. Depending on the color, each of the components are submerged in a tank with a specifically controlled temperature of around 140°F for different amounts of time. For example, if black parts are left in the color tank for too long, they can only get more black. Pink for example is submerged in the color tank for only 5 to 10 seconds. Industry Nine spends a lot of time ensuring their colors stay consistent from one batch to another. After the parts get anodized, they get sent off for laser etching and then find their way to the shelves, ready to be picked and assembled.
15mm end caps being set in to their acid electrode bath
Black Sram freehub bodies being pulled out of their color ano tank
With so many different color and wheel spec configurations available, it's very important that each purchase order is looked over so that the right number of spokes in each length and color, the correct hubshell width, and the right end caps are all accounted for. Industry Nine offers 11 different anodized color options, and if you wanted to, each spoke could be any of those 11 different colors. With over 25 different wheel options for different types of riding, and different width and axle standards within each of those models, Industry Nine really does have everything covered. This is all the more reason these purchase orders get checked and double checked before parts get taken off of the shelves and wheels get built.
Look closely and you can see where this wheelset is going to!
Once the ticket has been looked over, parts are pulled off the shelf and placed in small individual bins. Now it's time for the hubs and freehub bodies to be assembled. From Legacy, Torch, and now Hydra, there are years of engineering and development that have gone in to manufacturing and assembling these high end wheels. Starting with the freehub body, usually Hydra freehub bodies for Sram, Shimano HG, and Shimano MicroSpline standards are preassembled so that when it's time to complete the hub assembly, everything is right in front of you and ready to go. First everything is laid out and two bearings are pressed in to the freehub body using a hand press. The dust seal then gets installed on the freehub followed by the pawls and springs that make up the drive mechanism. Specific oil and freehub grease is applied to the drive system to ensure the drive mechanism is running smooth. The preassembled freehub bodies as set to the side waiting to be paired up with their hubshell.
Freehub bearings prepped with grease ready to be pressed in
Freehub bearings being pressed in to place
The dust seal slides in to place and is there to help keep contaminants out of the drive mechanism
A dab of freehub oil for each pocket where the pawls fit in to place
Every pawl and leaf spring is loaded in to place by hand
Next the hubs are assembled and paired with the correct end caps, hub axle, and freehub body. Each of the 4 hub bearings and axles get pressed in to the front and rear hubs using a hand press. Each bearing is spun to make sure there is no binding or load on the bearing. Next the drive ring is threaded into the hubshell using a socket wrench and specifically designed installation tool. Finally the freehub body is slid on to the hub axle and the end caps are greased and pressed on. Every hub is then again spun to make sure they are spinning freely and nothing is out of the ordinary. It was amazing to see how much detail and attention goes in to assembling every one of these hubs.
Bearings, axles, end caps, and freehub bodies all in one place
Each hubshell bearing is pressed in to place by hand
Hydra drive ring and drive ring installation tool
Once the hubs get assembled, they are placed back in their individual bins with the ticket order and spokes pulled earlier. Now the wheel builder comes in. As orders trickle through this process, the wheel builder will grab a bin and go pull the appropriate rims off the shelf. Depending on the day, the team of wheel builders at i9 all rotate through different stations of the wheel building process. The first step is of course lacing the wheel before it gets sent to the wheel truing machine. One important step in the wheel lacing process is applying linseed oil to the threads of each spoke. Linseed oil comes from the flax plant and is advantageous to use on the spoke threads because of the oil's drying properties. Each of the one-piece spokes' threads on Industry Nine's System wheels are dipped in linseed oil before the wheel is laced together. When the linseed oil dries it acts almost like a thread locker helping your wheels stay tensioned and true. Do not use any Loctite or traditional thread locker on any of your spokes at home! The first wheel builder laces both the front and rear wheel up to the lowest tension possible, giving the wheel truing machine a good place to start.
Hubs assembled and spokes ready to paired with their rim
Once the wheel builder has the ticket order, they go and pick the rims
Spoke threads being dipped in linseed oil
One spoke at a time, the pile of wheel components start to take shape
As a wheel builder, having a repeatable process for lacing the wheels will make things easier down the line
Industry Nine is here to eliminate all of the negative stigma around wheels coming out of a wheel building machine. Not all trueing machines are created equal. Before their state of the art machine pumping out wheels now, the founder of Industry Nine, Clint Spiegel, developed his very own wheel truing machine to help cut down on assembly time. Both machines get used today and take in to account wheel true, spoke tension, and spoke windup. When the wheel first gets loaded in to the machine, it works each of the spokes up to set tension to measure true. The tension is increased all the way to spec and out comes a wheel that is trued and tensioned in a way to that gives you a stout wheel.
Plop a wheel in and out it comes trued and tensioned
Here you can see the wheel building machine measuring tension, working its way around the wheel
Here you can see Industry Nine's homemade wheel trueing machine
Accounting for spoke windup is something plenty of other building machines don't take in to consideration
Plenty of code keeps this machine running spot on
After the wheels come out of the wheel truing machine, they are again checked by hand in a truing stand. This is another quality check to make sure that each set of wheels going out the door is ready to take a beating. The "finish" wheel builders will go through the wheel checking tension and make any adjustments necessary. The wheel gets rim tape and a valve stem before being pre flexed. This flex test helps eliminate any spoke windup that still might exist. This is what keeps your wheels running true and tensioned for longer. Finally the wheels get hung up and ready to be put in a box. The head wheel builder Phil also runs his own quality check, pulling wheels down occasionally and documenting their tension and wheel true. These wheels are built with love and that's one of the many reasons we love Industry Nine.
The wheels are gone through by hand one more time, checking dish, tension, and true
These tensiometers have seen a lot of different wheels over the years
The flex test presses down on the hub while holding the rim to eliminate any spoke windup
Measuring wheel true and hop for one last quality check
Before the wheels get boxed up and sent out the door, they are wiped down to help get rid of any oil residue or fingerprints on the spokes and hubs, That way when you open up your wheels for the first time, they are perfectly shiny and clean. Thanks for following along. I hope you have enjoyed our inside look building wheels at Industry Nine!