“We’re the bakery for wheels,” says Sugar Wheels Works owner, Jude Gerace. “You can get a birthday cake at a grocery store and it’s pretty good. Or, you can go to the bakery. We [like a bakery] take the time to create specialized recipes, but for wheels.”
Started in 2009, Sugar Wheel Works (formerly Epic Wheel Works) was born of a love for handbuilt wheels and bicycling. In an era of mechanization, Gerace noticed that the number of wheelbuilders was dwindling. Already an experienced wheelbuilder herself, she applied her self-described “freakish curiosity” to perfecting this craft. From there, she set a goal of building 12 wheels for people she didn’t know in her first year. Instead, she built roughly 100.
It grew from there. Started in a 64 sq. foot studio, where customers had to wait in the hallway, Sugar Wheel Works is now a two-person operation based out of a shop on N Williams. In 2011, Jason Nolin joined the team. Together, they are Sugar Wheel Works. If you purchase a wheel from Sugar Wheel Works, you know it was built by either Gerace or Nolin.
But what exactly IS a handbuilt wheel? Gerace explains that it’s a wheel that, from start to finish, is built with you and the demands of your ride in mind, by hand. From determining spoke length and lacing design to the actual lacing, tensioning, truing, and concentricity of the wheel, it’s a wheel set precision tuned to your needs rather than mass produced. For Gerace, wheelbuilding is also about building a relationship. This means walking you through the process and helping you understand how to maintain your new wheels in order to ensure the best possible outcome.
Further down the road, handbuilt wheels can also mean greater ease with repairing or rebuilding your wheels. Which is why, in addition to wheelbuilding, Nolin and Gerace also maintain wheels: truing wheels, cleaning rims, replacing spokes, overhauling hubs, etc. They don’t stop there. They also teach folks how to build and maintain their own wheels through their series of classes, including “Wheel Building: Beginners Dream” and “The Wheel Maintenance Class”.
Handbuilding wheels, for Sugar Wheels Works at least, is also about making certain to have fun. How is this achieved? By naming everything in their shop. “It’s much more fun to say, ‘Where’s Frank?’ than ‘Where’s the tension meter?'” shares Gerace. Their favorite wheel pun? “Have a wheely great day!” Besides, when else do nipples so frequently come up in work conversation?
When renaming her business, Gerace wanted something that made people smile when they said it. Sugar came to mind. “I feel happy coming to work with that name,” Gerace shared. She definitely has us smiling.