In this article I go through of designing, making and applying custom wheel-decals for a road bike. You can download my design for free from below.
During winter 2019 I built myself a proper road bike, I first designed it on Photohop and then got some parts.
Problem with DT Swiss rims
DT Swiss wheels are black and boring. They are light and exceptional quality, they deliver what they promised but I wanted my bike to look a certain way. I had my mind on some Zipp wheels as I like their look.
Local bike-shop sold me these tubeless deep-section carbon wheels on a price so reasonable I could not pass the offer, so no funny-shaped Zipp wheels for me.
Design custom wheel decals
Creating the design was quite simple: I took some photos of the rims and some good measurements. After going through a few iterations of beding the DT Swiss logo on wheel template in Illustrator I had someting I liked, printed a few paper templates and tried them on. Perfect.
I like the design of Zipp Firecrest wheels with their manufacturer logo 120 ° apart so I went with similar design.
Here are some of my desing and color variations. I plan to add the reflector tapes at some point when I find the correct retroreflector sheet to cut them out of.
Cutting out the stickers
Can’t put paper stickers on the wheels, so stickers had to be cut from weather-proof plastic. One can cut these by hand using sharp scissors but for a set of wheels you need 12 stickers so I did not event try.
Luckily I live in Finland which nowadays has workshop section in quite a many libraries. One on my way to work has a vinyl cutter machine you can book for free. They even sold the materials there!
So, I took the Illustrator file on a USB-drive to the library, booked a time from the vinyl cutter, added my choise of plasic: half-matte white in to the machine, and basically clicked print. I made 15 of them so I had few for practise and repair of the decals get damaged. This took maybe 5 minutes to cut them all and hour for me to process them.
Processing the decals
After the cutting process the vinyl sheet is still in one piece, but the vinyl layer has the design cut into it. When the machine has done it’s job, you have to cut the single stickers out of the large sheet and remove the excess plastic so only the letters stay on the backing paper.
When this is done, you add transfer paper on top of the decal.
Applying the custom wheel decals
Clean the wheel surface properly with soap and water, and don’t leave residue. Try not to touch the surface on bare hands – clean surface is key to the adhesion of the decals!
Applying the decals is a straight forward process:
- Clean the surface with IPA aka. rubbing alcohol
- Measure 180 degrees from the valve stem, put helpful markers from tape
- Remove transfer-paper containing the decal from the backing paper
- Align the decal to the markers and push down the decal onto the wheel
- Rub the transfer paper with quire a lot of down-force to make the decals stick proper
- Remove transfer paper
You can probably use the spoke layout on your wheel to find out the spot every 120 degrees where you need to apply a decal. Rinse and repeat.
Serious looking bike, simple things as decals add a lot to it. Bike is turning heads if I go out with it. It cost me about 4 hours of work from designing to laying down the decals and 3,25 € in materials. Totally worth it.
Download the custom wheel decal design
You can get the vector file for the decals from here, you can print & cut by hand or use them on a proper vinyl cutter machine.