Normally I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but I’ll make an exception. Since I demonstrated how to not “do it” at the Sierra Point Super Prestige race (it was for the kids), I have been trying to find time to true the front wheel I mangled in the process. Yesterday I finally made my way over to the Bike Kitchen and rediscovered one inalienable truth: a bent rim is not meant to be straight. After more than an hour of pings, creaks, and other unspeakable noises at the truing stand, eventually one of the nipples got stripped due to insane spoke tension. Read the rest of this entry »
So it’s time to build up a bike, which means it’s time for some wheel design. For the rear, strength is still top priority, but I’ve heard some good things about a 3-cross drive side, 2-cross on the opposite. Supposedly it might minimize the tension difference between the two sides of the wheel. May as well give it a try…
For the front wheel, I’m not as concerned with strength, so a 32 spoke wheel is in order. Unfortunately the symmetry options aren’t quite as nice (no 3 fold symmetries and so on), but if I’m going to build it, it better be something unique. So I did a variation of the front wheel from the Gstar. Giddy up.
Still haven’t quite figured out the rim-hub combinations yet, but I’m thinking the front hub might be a 32h Surly that I bought with the intention of build it up for another bike (more on my other bikes to follow soon).
Why build bicycle wheels… Mostly pride, some necessity, but really mostly pride. When it comes down to it, why pay a professional to do it properly when you could screw it up yourself? Basically the motto of my life.
With lots of experience fixing a pair of finicky wheels on a bike kitchen salvaged bike (The Green Monster), eventually I decided it was time to just start from scratch. Which resulted in the first pair of wheels I (re)built. The result wasn’t great, but here’s my analogy: if even the greatest carpenter (Jesus) builds a house out of balsa wood, it’s probably still going to be pretty flimsy.
Learning to build wheels is pretty fun, if not challenging and infuriating at times. Sheldon Brown describes it all, although I’ve recently gotten my hands on Jobst Brandt’s “The Bicycle Wheel”, which is also a great reference. Between the two, lacing and building a “3-cross” wheel is a piece of cake. By piece of cake, I mean you will probably insert and remove the first and/or second rounds of spokes about 5 times until you actually do it the way it’s properly described.
Since the rear wheel will take the brunt of my brunt-filled bike riding, 3-cross makes the most sense, so I won’t go into details, other than to say – pretty:
And with that, onto the fun, where all the real action is – up front. Here’s what we want the final product to look like:
Standard protocol is to start with trailing spokes on the right side of the bike. The only thing you really care about at this point is getting the oil port on the hub (opposite the logo) on the side opposite the valve hole. From what I understand, traditionally this is for pro cyclists that lube their hubs with a lighter oil when they have an important race or are trying to set best times. This alignment helps keep oil from dripping all over the valve hole.
That means you want to align the first round of spokes like so:
Where the two dots correspond to the valve stem and oil port. Or in real life
Now onto the trailing spokes on the opposite side
It took a few attempts to figure out the which spokes should be crossed, but with moments later
And the finished front wheel
(apologies for the contrast difference, but the flash really brings out the lacing pattern)
Tensioning and Truing
One of the many following aspects I didn’t do a particularly good job documenting… mostly because nothing too interesting happens. I can only stress, nothing will teach you how to true wheels better than having a useless pair that continuously needs truing. Beyond the advice in Sheldon’s article, I can’t say I have too many secrets on this. Possibly more on this if the wheels are really good or bad at staying in true.
Which brings us to the fun part – lacing!
If you thought your shoes were fun, then you are in for a treat. After much contemplation, two wheels have emerged.
The Rear Wheel: standard issue 3-cross.
A well established, rock solid lacing pattern that should keep the rear wheel nice and true. I’ve built a couple of these, so I have some practice under my belt.
The Front Wheel: Ridiculousness.
For the front wheel, there’s no need to worry about torque like you do for the rear, so we may as well make some bad decisions. “Crow’s foot” and “3-leading; 3-trailing” lacing were both considered, but I came to the conclusion that this one right here would be the most unique option on the table. It’s a combo of 2-cross and 3-cross spokes and with 36 spokes, it ought to be strong enough. We’ll find out soon enough.
More to come once it’s wheel build time…
First point of concern? Hubs. I’m going to build up the wheels, so I’d like to have these a bit earlier. Since I want my wallet to properly hemorrhage money, I will attempt to get mostly period appropriate Campy components (ok, so I also want the bike to be gorgeous). That means C-Record. Enter these bad boys:
One advantage of getting period specific stuff – the spacings are correct, i.e. no cold setting required. The rims and spokes will be among a few modern components (likely Mavic Open Pros with DT Swiss or Wheelsmith butted spokes). Need to find those as some point, but that’s the least of my troubles.