WHO ARE WE?
Wheelbuilding in the family began in Grangemouth, Central Scotland. Derek's Great Grandfather started building frames between the wars, while his grandmother built the wheels and bikes up until the 60s. It's in the blood.
The passion for engineering and cycling continued in the family, brought up on proper racing wheels and repairable components. Derek started the Wheelsmith brand in 1986 whilst studying and trying to fund a difficult time in life when employment was scarce. He has been building and rebuilding wheels since the late 70s BMX days.
A lot has happened in cycling technology 80yrs but the philosophy still remains:
If you can't repair it, don't make it.
In the past 20yrs, technology has taken off and we have kept ahead of this with historic close relations with the trade and emerging markets in the far east. We moved to Larbert, near Stirling in 2006, became a limited company with a custom-built low-emission premises and set out to make handbuilt wheels for a burgeoning racing scene in the UK and Europe.
It could be said that the mainstay of the team is Olivia, who is a company Director, a part-time dance teacher and also a Doctor of Materials Science and Electrochemistry. She finds a natural home behind the scenes in dealing with customers, injecting some "realism" into the fold. Especially the tricky ones who for whatever reason, find it difficult to accept responsibility for breaking their own wheels!
Over the years we have always tried to keep a small number of dedicated wheel assembly staff who have the skills and patience required to stay focussed to keep it all together. Working out spoke lengths for new rims, prototyping and testing new designs and taking quality control samples from the microbrewery.
Derek & Olivia's two sons are starting to show an interest in the workings of Wheelsmith. They have already built their own wheels before they reached 10 and each have their own way of possibly slotting into things in a few years.
It is Derek's shoulders upon which the integrity of every pair of wheels here lies - and that is now tens of thousands of pairs. Every pair of wheels here has either been fully built or finalised by him. This limits output but ultimately, it ensures that there is no bias or loss of quality. The last thing you or we want is for something to go wrong which is attributed to poor workmanship. This has it's burdens but prevention is always better than cure!
There is a wide bandwidth of "typical" rider or racing cyclist nowadays and we have reached a stage where there are designs and component combinations that most people can benefit from without customisation. There are no wacky designs or spoke patterns or unobtainable components in our line-up, just dependable wheels that are proven race winners year after year. Colour combinations are a matter of personal taste however!
Through skill and determination we have weathered the brunt of mass-market wheels flooding the UK shores - aggressively marketed flamboyant designs with little or no expertise or backup behind them. It still amazes us that some of the huge brands still offer wheel designs that are little more than "disposable" when something goes badly wrong. There is undoubtedly some marketing strategy behind this. However their warranty teams seem to be as busy as their sales staff!
We have now supplied wheels to World Champions, European Champions, multiple British Champions and most recently to Jenny Graham, who circumnavigated the globe unassisted on a pair of 45mm deep carbon wheels built by Derek.
Forget the trends of "disposable" wheels - we build wheels that last and won't let you down and go more lightly on the planet!