Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Wheelbuilding Adventure, Part the First

My knees and a partially laced wheel.

Disclaimer: This article describes how I chose to do a particular task. It is presented as information, not recommendation - use your own discretion to decide whether my method suits you. If in doubt as to your capabilities, use your local bike shop.

Wheelbuilding is one of those tasks that makes people draw in breath through their teeth - as close to magic as anything in cycling, the mystique of the wheelbuilder is powerful indeed.

So can a small, slightly mechanically adept monkey turn his hand to this most occult of bicycle tasks?

The Specification.
The wheels are for a fat tyred road bike - in my case this means a rear hub with 135mm OLD (over locknut distance, or rear spacing), a fairly wide rim to accomodate tyres up to 45mm (unlikely that I'll run anything that fat, but it's a possibility, even with mudguards on the Surly Long Haul Trucker frame). The bike is intended to be a load hauler, commuter, and occasionally a tourer. In terms of wheels, for me this means high spoke count (36), traditionally (i.e. 3 cross) laced wheels. Wheel size is 700c.

The Components.
Mavic A319 rims (double eyeletted, 700c), tyre sizes 28mm to 47mm, 36 hole.

Shimano Deore M530 hubs (36 hole - irritatingly supplied mismatched (one silver, one black) - original supplier wouldn't respond, and it seems the silver is hard to get. Time is short on this build for reasons I won't go into, so my hubs will be mismatched. Oh well).

ACI Double butted Spokes - 36 x 294mm for front wheel, 18 x 290mm (drive side), 18 x 292mm (non-drive side). Edit: I think 292mm would be better for the front wheel (damn you, DT Swiss spoke calculator).

The Tools.
My truing stand is built from scrap timber (from kitchen cabinets, as it goes) according to the plans in Roger Musson's Wheelbuilding book (of which, more later).

I use a Spokey Red as a spoke wrench.

I lashed out on an adjustable nipple driver - Musson's book does have plans for making your own from a cheap philips head screwdriver. I don't have the means to grind one of these down, and quite liked the idea of the variable length pin on the Cyclus tool I bought - it has proved handy so far. The plus of using the nipple driver is that you get a guaranteed level of "screwed in-ness" of your spokes and spoke nipples. (This is becasue the central pin of the driver disengages at a given point, e.g. when the top of the spoke is 3mm below the top of the nipple). Some people do this by using the spoke wrench to tighten the nipples to a point where a given amount of thread is showing. Whichever method you use, screwing the nipples to a defined point should mean that, given a true, round rim, you start to take up tension and true from a point where your wheel begins true and round...

As a dishing guage, I use a piece of stiff cardboard (from a box that Chain Reaction cycles supplied some tyres in) and a steel ruler. Again, plans for this can be found in Roger Musson's book. I do intend to build the wooden guage also in the book at some point, but the cardboard one works just fine for now (and has the plus of being very quick to make).

Part Two - the method, information used & thoughts on the process itself.

1 comment:

Red Bike said...

Wheel building is a black art I was never able to get the hang of.

My biggest tip would be plenty of mugs of tea!

Best of luck.