Reserve Wheelbuilder Interview David Oken-Foley

Reserve Wheelbuilder Interview David Oken-Foley

A wheel is composed of a slew of different components (spokes, hub, rim, nipples) all doing their part to ensure a smooth ride. Comparably, the wheel team here at Reserve is composed of a group of different people, each doing their part to ensure the rider has a rad experience on a set of our wheels. One such person is David Oken-Foley whose approach to wheelbuilding is somehow both meticulous & detail oriented, yet nonchalant & comfortable. Few people can pull off the ease with which David navigates the Wheel Department and, one would guess, that easiness extends to his endeavors outside of work. We sat down with David to get his take on wheel building and (frankly) because we were desperate to get some more exposure to his signature brand of wit and insight. 

Q: What’s your hometown?

A: I’m from the beautiful, nay, picturesque suburban beach town of Manhattan Beach, California. 

Do you have a nickname? If yes, how’d you get it? If not, make one up that suits your character.

My parents called me Dave for most of my childhood. Which, looking back, is kinda weird… Dave seems like such an adult name. I had a friend call me slime for a while because I had my hair dyed a gross neon green color. That one made more sense.

How long have you been at Reserve?

I've been working for Santa Cruz bicycles for five years. I got hired straight into Wheels and have never looked back! I’ve been working on the highly acclaimed Reserve brand for about four of those years and intend to keep it rollin!

How long have you been riding?

I’ve been riding bicycles for as long as I can remember! I’ve never had a driver’s license so bicycles have been both my means of transportation as well as recreation! 

How long have you been building wheels?

Aww shucks I said it so well the first time.

How many wheels do you estimate you’ve built since you’ve been at Reserve?

Oh man, in four years of high octane wheel building? If I saw it on paper I probably wouldn’t even believe it. (Editor’s note, roughly 18,000-David’s note, I don’t even believe it).

What brought you to wheel building?

A fellow bicyclist was working here at Santa Cruz Bicycles and couldn’t bear to see me not at least apply. After months of nagging encouragement, I gave in and applied and got hired right into the wheel department. 

Would you rather build a wheel by machine or by hand?

There’s an art to both. I think there’s something more intimate about hand building wheels, a little more intentional. With machine building there’s a lot more bizarre twirling of gears and robo-arms swinging around, and syncopated pneumatic bursts; not to mention a full 80s montage of computer screens for programming these otherworldly contraptions… which makes for more potential errors and troubleshooting. But when everything’s going smoothly and the settings are really dialed in, the machine really does sing. 

Tell us something about wheel building that most people wouldn’t know.

When building a wheel with a good rim and spokes spec’d properly, it really wants to build up straight and balanced. Ok, so the wheel is like an ever-moving puzzle; as you change the tension on one spoke the whole wheel--every single spoke--shifts in response to the structural change. As you build more and more wheels however, you can really feel  as the wheel comes up to tension that often the wheel adjusts easier towards the finished spec than away from it. 

What kind of riding do you typically do? Mountain, Gravel or Road?

I’m first and foremost a commuter biker. It’s how I get anywhere I’m going. I do love an occasional trip up the mountain however to make sure my adrenal glands are still pumpin’! 

What is your favorite trail or favorite place to ride?

Probably the jump track down at Harvey West Park (Santa Cruz, CA). It’s close enough to my house and I have SO much work to do when it comes to getting good jumps and fluid landings.

Garage-check, what are you currently riding? Which wheels? Who built them?

Currently I’m riding a District single speed belt drive for my around town riding. All stock, so nothing special. Trying to finesse my way into a set of 30SLs though, wish me luck!

What do you do when you are not building wheels?

You can catch me downtown grabbing drinks or food on occasion, but often I’m just at the house kicking it in the backyard or practicing the drums as loud as humanly possible, late into the night. The housemates love me.  I’m in a band S.A.M. (shameless plug) with a few fellow coworkers at Santa Cruz bikes, so I gotta keep up my chops!

Rapid Fire Questions

Beer, wine, cocktail or seltzer?


SRAM or Shimano?

Whichever one sponsors me 

Coffee, Tea or Red Bull?

Monster Zero Ultra (I got one right now!)

Thick or thin grips?


Burrito or hamburger or pizza?

Big ole Hamburger

RockShox or Fox?

Sponsor me

Seinfeld, Friends or Rick & Morty?

Rick Rick Rick Rick Rick Rick Rick

I9 or DT Swiss?

The ball is in their court. Just waiting for the call.

Editor's note: please send all sponsorship offers to

Puppies or kittens?

Puppies are so much work and destroy everything but kittens do all of their crazy hooligan stuff at night making it impossible to sleep. That’s tough! I’m a cat guy at the end of the day so kittens it is. 

Describe your perfect day.

I don’t think I can pin this one down to be honest. I like a bit of spontaneity and chaos so if I have it locked in it’s missing that key feature. I want to end up in a different state or with a dancing horse without having planned it.

What is your special power?

I think it’s interviews. I think I actually kill it when it comes to interviews. Have you seen this? Look how good I did! Print me out and set me on your coffee table, guaranteed conversation piece.

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