Building wheels is an art, especially when you see someone like Reserve wheelbuilder Jesse Wilkinson doing the job. He has a certain casual finesse that seems to make this somewhat complicated task look abnormally easy. For our December interview issue, we sat down with Jesse to find out a little more about the person who just may have built the wheels you are riding now.
I was born and grew up in Felton, CA.
Do you have a nickname? If yes, how’d you get it? If not, make one up that suits your character.
I have a few nicknames but the original one is Messy. My mother gave me this name because when I was a kid I would smear my food all over my face and surrounding surfaces, and the name stuck. I’m actually a pretty clean person now.
How long have you been at Reserve?
I have been building Reserve Wheels for a little over 6 years now.
How long have you been riding?
I’ve been riding bikes since I was 3 but I got my first Santa Cruz mountain bike, a Bullit, about 18 years ago. It was a hand-me-down from my brother, rode it tough for 3-4 years. That bike is still in the family, my niece and nephew ride it now.
How long have you been building wheels?
I’ve been building wheels for 6 years professionally, but I dabbled in the dark art of wheel building before that.
How many wheels do you estimate you’ve built since you’ve been at Reserve?
What brought you to wheel building?
I enjoy working with my hands and I also like riding bikes. I liked the idea of having a more well-rounded (no pun intended) understanding of how to build and repair bikes.
Would you rather build a wheel by machine or by hand?
I prefer building wheels by hand.
Tell us something about wheel building that most people wouldn’t know.
Spoke lengths matter. A lot. There are various rim and hub sizes which will only fit together with the right spoke lengths.
What kind of riding do you typically do? Mountain, Gravel or Road?
I stay on the mountain as god intended but I’ve been contemplating getting into the gravel game for cardio purposes #heartbeatgainz.
I have really been enjoying a trail in Santa Cruz called Cobbler. I like it because it’s really diverse. It has drops, jumps and steeps. The guy who built it would wear these dress shoes when he built it and when he rode, it’s named in his honor.
Garage-check, what are you currently riding? Which wheels? Who built them?
I mostly ride my Santa Cruz Nomad 6 these days. It’s a downhill bike you can pedal. I built up some Reserve 30|HDs for it. These haven’t broken yet. Like any Reserve, they’re stiff and compliant all at the same time.
What do you do when you are not building wheels?
I either work out or ride the bike. Trail building is my main activity in the winter.
Rapid Fire Questions
Beer, wine, cocktail or seltzer?
SRAM or Shimano?
Coffee, tea or Red Bull?
Thick or thin grips?
Burrito, hamburger or pizza?
RockShox or Fox?
Seinfeld, Friends or Rick & Morty?
I9 or DT Swiss?
Puppies or kittens?
Describe your perfect day.
I wake up at the Whistler Bike Park. The rest is self-explanatory.