Buchanan’s Spoke and Rim, Inc.

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Spoke nipples, and lots of ‘em.
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From left to right, Robert, Jim and Kennie Buchanan.
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Kenny Truong (above) trues a wheel against a probe.
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John Buchanan (Jim’s older brother) in the early 1970s with the rotary transfer machine he designed to machine the nipples.
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Jim Buchanan aboard his BSA ZB34A, sometime in the early 1950s.
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Kennie Buchanan shows off one of the company’s custom rims.
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Tuan Ly and the spoke header.
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One of the machines used to form aluminum extrusions into rims, it accuratey joins the ends of the rim and welds them together.

Ask any classic motorcycle restorer who built their wheels, and chances are they’ll mention Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim. Whether you’re building a set of custom wheels or simply getting your old wire wheels repaired, the Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim crew are the “go to” guys for all things wire wheel related.

Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim is a second-generation, family-run, southern California business with a global presence. Jim Buchanan started the business in 1958, and Jim’s two sons, Robert and Kennie, run the business today. Jim, an energetic 81-year-old, is still active in the business, while Robert is the general manager and Kennie, who started helping out around the shop 40 years ago (at age 6!) is the chief engineer.

Way back when
Jim Buchanan’s motorcycling career started shortly after World War II, when he bought a surplus Indian Scout and rode it around southern California. Soon, he upgraded to a 500cc single-cylinder BSA ZB34A, which he still owns. Jim also got into flat track racing on the BSA, and his machining, tuning and racing expertise landed him a job in 1952 with Louie Thomas Modern Cycles, a BSA dealer in East Los Angeles. Jim wanted to work on engines, but the only opening “Louie the Bandit” had was for a wheel and frame straightening man. That’s how Jim became a wheel expert.

Jim stayed at the BSA dealership, becoming an expert on all things related to wire wheels and motorcycle frame straightening. In 1958, after realizing he was a good wheel and frame man and that he liked the work, Jim and his wife Vernice opened their own wheel and frame straightening business in Monterey Park. Jim started small (the original shop was in the corner of a gas station), but the business quickly took off. By 1961 the business had grown enough that Jim bought land in Monterey Park for a new facility, and when the business grew beyond that, Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim moved to its current location in Azusa, Calif.

Parts and pieces
At first, Jim bought spokes and nipples from outside suppliers, but demand for Buchanan wheels eventually forced him to make his own. Buchanan used to buy spoke blanks from England, but by the late 1960s England was drying up as a manufacturing country and quality was suffering, with too much variability in spoke length. Jim started making his own spokes and nipples in 1971, and in the mid-1970s the company started selling packaged spoke kits to other wheel repair shops. Buchanan exited the frame straightening business in 1987 to focus exclusively on wheels.

Motorcycle Classics Magazine
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