While doing my (almost) seasonal wheel truing I found an unwelcome guest: a harsh new crack in my wheel's rim, emerging from the spoke nipple. I drew the weight off of the offending spoke and re-enforced the neighbors: she still needs to get me to and from work for a week. Beside a bent spoke or two, a few worn out spoke nipples, and this new crack my wheel was still in pretty good shape. I found the exact rim for sale online for less than $20 and I proceeded to swap it out. Swapping rims is simpler than building a wheel outright as there is less to determine. This how I did it; and, how you can do it too.
Don't do it if:
The bent spokes I had were pretty minor. If you took a serious fall and a number of your spokes are damaged or if your hub is damaged then it is not worthwhile just replacing the rim; you are probably better off building/buying an entire new wheel.
Let's get started
The wheel I repaired is a rear 700c road wheel, but the principles here apply to the front as well as other styles and sizes. If it is front wheel you are repairing, try to ignore the emphasis on the drive versus non-drive sides, just make sure to switch sides when called for.
Step 1: Tools you'll need
If you have done any truing you should already have this one. If not, it is a solid investment, but for those who are starving college students you may be able to get by using a...
Flat head screwdriver
I personally found the screwdriver marginally useful for turning the spoke nipples from the outside the rim.
1 junk spoke
If your rim is deep and hallow, like mine, an extra spoke can make placing the spoke nipples a snap.
Infinitely useful during almost all repairs
Metal Marking Pencil
Optional, but I find it useful for marking notes on the wheel as well as determining trueness.
Cassette tool with (socket or monkey) wrench
If your drive-side spokes are all in good shape then you may get by without this.
If you cannot get the cassette off with just a rag, then you will need a chain whip to pull those pesky gears off. One can be fashioned from ten or so extra chain links, a narrow bolt with nut, and something that can serve as handle with a narrow eyelet on the end. (I used a fine file.) Run the bolt through the last link and through the eyelet and tie it pretty with the bolt. This will do the job and save you from buying this over specialized tool.