Sunday, January 13, 2013

Building New Wheels

Tonight I'm starting another wheel building class at Broadway Bicycle School!

I took the class 2 1/2 years ago or so, and built a set of 650B wheels for Juliana's last bike.  It was a great experience, and it resulted in a great set of wheels for that bike.  But now I find myself in need of multiple sets of wheels, and unfortunately I don't really remember the details of how to build them well enough to get the job done.  For that matter, neither do I have the handful of specialized tools I should have to do so -- nipple driver, dishing tool, tension meter and wheel truing stand.  So I'm taking the class again, and am hoping to sneak two sets through the build process.  I'll augment that time renting a bench at Broadway to get the remaining wheels built.

Let me explain...

Juli's Tubulars
This is way overkill, I'll admit.  I mentioned that Juli seems to like going fast, and she loves that new Pinarello of hers.  I've initially set it up with a wheelset built from a set of Shimano 600 (6200) hubs (freewheel rear) and Matrix MA40 rims.  These are great wheels -- virtually unused.  But they're a little old, almost certainly machine built, and could probably use a re-lacing.  They're pretty stout, too, with 36 spokes, and those Mavic rims aren't the lightest things around.  Juli is pretty light, and being only 12, her leg strength isn't tremendous.  So I've been thinking that she would benefit from a lighter wheel/tire combination.  And by sheer coincidence, I've had this desire to play with tubulars sometime before I die (no announcement there, just a statement).  You know where this is headed.

I have a set of once-laced 6207 hubs on-hand from another bike, and found a set of unused old Ambrosio Formula 20 Chrono's on eBay for short money.  The rims are scary airy-light, and I'm going to build the wheels with butted spokes, to keep them light and quick.  With 36 spokes, they should be strong enough to deal with the weight and strength Juliana brings to the table, and they'll give me the opportunity to play with tubular wheels and tires on the cheap.  I'm excited!

Allyson's City Wheels
I haven't spent much time writing about the Puch I built for my friend Allyson to use around Cambridge, but I will at some point.  I built that bike with a 7-speed clincher wheelset, with the 105 (1050) hubs that came on my Shogun (upgraded a while ago with a Hyperglide freewheel body), and 32-hole Velocity Aerohead II rims.  Now, as old and obsolete as the hubs are (mid-1980's), these are a relatively light and fast wheelset, and they have no doubt contributed to the spritely feel of Allyson's new-to-her Puch mixte.  The thing is, though, that I don't really feel like I've given her a wheelset well-suited to the role that bike is intended to serve.  With 32 spokes and sporty rims, this wheelset doesn't seem at appropriate for city riding, trips to the grocery store, or things like that.

So I've been thinking for a while about a swap.  I picked up a 600 front hub (same as the other 600 hubs I have kicking around), and a Shimano Sante rear hub.  Sante was a short-lived groupset that slotted between 600 and Dura-Ace for a couple of years in the mid/late 1980's.  They were nice parts saddled with a poor/trendy choice of finish (pearl white), and they were not embraced by the market.  But the designs essentially evolved into Ultegra, which ultimately replaced both 600 and Sante.  Both of these hubs are 36-spoke, so they have the potential to be stronger than the otherwise similar 1050 parts already in place on that bike.  I'll be swapping the 7-speed Uniglide freehub body on the Sante hub for an unused Hyperglide body I've had on-hand for a few years, and lacing these to a set of sturdy Sun M13-II rims with butted spokes.  The rims have a nice polish, and a classic box shape, and will look better on the Puch than the v-profile black Aeroheads on there now.  They will likely have a bit more heft than the other set, but they'll be stronger, and that's the primary goal.  The bike wears 32mm Panaracers now, but if the spritely feel is diminished too much with these new wheels, I can mount a set of lighter tires to help offset that.

So those are the two wheelsets I'll be trying to build in class, or shortly thereafter.  The two wheelsets being replaced are slated to land on other bikes, at least temporarily, and possibly for longer.  So what's next?  Read on!

Tubulars for my Colnago
I don't have hubs for this project yet, but I do have a set of FiR tubular rims (36 hole) and my eyes on a set of nutted Shimano XT hubs from the late 1980's that would make a fabulous set of road hubs.  I'm pretty sure I could swap the Uniglide freehub body for an 8-speed Hyperglide, and the nutted axles for QR skewers.  In any case, I have the rims, and need to find some hubs, and will build myself a set of tubular wheels to play with on my Colnago.  There's no real rush, but I'm looking forward to playing with tubulars on my own bike, not just Juliana's.  I'll keep the clinchers I have on that bike around, just in case I'm not fond of the feel and upkeep for the tubulars.

Coaster Brake Wheel for my Motobecane
I'm in the process of rebuilding my retired Motobecane as a single-speed bike with a more upright posture than it had before.  It'll still be a mongrel, but it'll be a different mongrel than it's been to date.  I'll eventually need to settle on a wheelset for it, but I'll start with a 105SC/Mavic wheelset that once served on my retired Kestrel, fitted with a single-speed hub converter kit.  Later, once Juli has some experience with her tubulars, it may make sense for me to commandeer the 600/MA40 clinchers I mentioned above, and relace/respace the rear for a single speed freewheel.  But I don't want to do that until I'm sure tubulars are a good idea in her case, so I'll make do with the 105/Mavic wheels for now.

Whichever the wheelset, the Motobecane should be fast and fun as a single-speed.  To add to that fun, I'm planning to build a coaster brake rear wheel for it, too.  Coaster brakes aren't terribly efficient, but they're an absolute hoot to ride.  The last time I had one, I almost immediately put the bike into a pallet of cinderblocks, crushing the front fork.  But once the bike was fixed, I could be found regularly snapping the brake on at speed, leaving lengthy stripes on whichever street I happened to be on at the time.  Clearly, I need to have another.  So I've picked up a Bendix 76 rear hub with 36 spokes, and when I settle on a wheelset for the Motobecane, I'll look for a matching rim (Mavic MA40 or Matrix Open Pro) to lace the coaster brake hub into.  I'll keep the front and rear caliper brakes in place, regardless, but will have a second configuration to play with when the mood strikes.  The prospect of all this quite frankly makes me giggle!

There's a lot to do, here, but I'm looking forward to it -- hands-on work and experimentation alike!

All for now,



MontclairBobbyB said...


Regarding replacing a Uniglide freehub with Hyperglide, I followed Sheldon Brown's online instructions, and it was actually easier than I expected. I have another project in line for the same conversion; definitely worth the effort.

Bobby Birmingham

John Ellsworth said...

Thanks, Bobby!

I've never done it personally, but I had a shop do my old 105 (1050) rear hub years ago, and I've now got the tools I need. Good to get the confirmation -- thanks!

John Ellsworth said...

One freehub body swapped out. Once the Sante hub was laced into a rim, removing the old body was a piece of cake, as was installing the new one. Once the wheel is properly laced, I'll yank it off again and lube it with a freehub buddy, then, put it all back together with fresh balls and grease in the hub. But one step at a time...