Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wheel Building

I need a new pair of wheels.

I'm still thinking through the Columbia project, particularly with respect to rear brakes. But whether I get a set of cantilever posts brazed on or not, I'm still going to need a pair of wheels -- that defining trait of a bicycle.

It came to me with a pair, but they're not really what I want. The chromed steel rims don't have any braking surfaces, the hubs are not particularly smooth, and the coaster-brake rear hub has a ton of drag. I think they're probably 571 rims, rather than 559, but I still need to validate that.

I have parts to build a set of wheels up, now, as I think I've mentioned. A set of fat Sun rims in the 559 MTB standard, and a pair of SR hubs. The hubs probably started life years ago on a 10-speed, but the rear hub has been spaced for a single speed freewheel. These are 36-hole units, and the question is what to do with them.

For $200 or so, I could have a pair of wheels built at Wheelworks, and get something back that I'll likely never need to mess with. Or, for $200, I could go buy a wheel building stand plus a spoke tension gauge, plus maybe a copy of Jobst Brandt's wheelbuilding book. And then for still a little more, I can go buy a pile of spokes and nipples and set to work. My friend Steven, who gave me his Motobecane, knows how to build wheels. He may be able to help, even!

I've never built a wheel before, and nor have I had particular success attempting to true a wheel. I'm also not the most patient guy in the world, so I may not be an ideal candidate for wheel building. I'm sure they wouldn't be perfect, but it might be fun. And with any luck I'd have a skill to save me money long after this project is done. For instance, I could lace a set of 26" rims up to a set of road hubs to buy one more year out of Juli's Fuji, once she's grown a bit more. Or any number of other things.

Any advice from others who've tried it?

Looking beyond the wheels, I'm pretty close to having all the parts I need for that build. I bought a trio of Wald baskets, new and old (a new small front basket and a pair of NOS side baskets like Juli's for the rear). I have racks to hold up the baskets and brakes, but should buy new brake levers. I have a new Wald seatpost, and a new and wider Wald handlebar, too. The fork and headset and stem are covered. I haven't yet bought a new crank, bottom bracket, chainring or chain, but I have some ideas, there. I also bought a new set of pedals with half-inch quills. Once I get through the holidays, I'll tear it down and start to build it back up. I'd toyed with the idea of a repaint, again, but it's just too expensive to be worth it. And after all, its mission in life is to be a highly functional clunker.

All for now,



Matteo said...

Did you end up building those wheels? I definitely recommend doing it if you haven't. I've built two sets for my bikes, and it is very satisfying acquiring the skill and riding on your own work.


John said...

Not yet, no. I'd like to, and bought both hubs and rims to do it. I still have my friend lined up to help, and am hoping to get to it soon. A lot to sort through right now, though...


K-dub said...

I can whole heartedly reccomend building up a set of wheels for yourself. You won't save any money, but you'll get a real sense of accomplishment and empowerment from it. There is always a certain joy in using something you have made with your own skills.
I just stumbled upon your blog and want to say thanks for taking the time to write what (I believe) many of us think about. I especially enjoyed some 12010 entries-"Thinning the Herd", "Letting Go" and "Growth".
I'll scroll through more threads as I have time.
Ride Well, Kurt

John said...

Thank you, Kurt -- I'd like to get to wheel building for sure. I don't have the tools, but I've got access to them.

And thank you for the kind words. I'm enjoying the outlet, and it's nice to hear from someone who's getting something out of the effort -- besides myself, of course.