The black art of wheel building!

Ok, so I wrote last month about my research and subsequent investment into Dynamo lighting, which I am pleased to announce, now the nights are drawing in and the mornings are getting darker, performs brilliantly. I am absolutely over the moon with them, and can’t wait for my Christmas bonus at the end of the year to fill the void they have created in my bank account!!

I did say I would go into a little more detail regarding the wheel build itself, which I actually completed last August, and being as I probably cover a minimum of 100 miles a week on it, up until the crash at the beginning of this month (Still off the bike by the way!) I have spun 900 miles on it and it is still round and I still have a face! So in my book, it’s a roaring success, although I am far from being a master wheel builder! So if you wish to know how I did it, read on…..

First, but yourself a copy of Roger Musson’s Wheel building guide, then read it, read it again, and then read it one more time! Did I stress how important it is that you read it!? Next, choose your rim and hub, then find a spoke length calculator, I used this one. If it doesn’t have the kit you plan to use in their database, then Google it, there are other on line calculators out there, but worst case scenario, Roger Musson’s guide will tell you how.

Now I’m only talking about building a front wheel, for a regular road bike, therefore no dish required and the easiest wheel to build. The guide talks at length about using jigs, and gives in depth instructions on how to make your own. It also talks about making tools, such as a truing guide and a dishing gauge. Like I said, I was only building a front wheel, so this was my jig:

And a zip tie was my truing guide! J Very high tech!! Anyway, it worked well…. Following the manual, something us blokes often struggle to do, is actually a breeze, and the basic assembly of the wheel is pretty straight forward, fiddly, but straightforward.

From parts to an assembled wheel ready for truing was less than half an hour, the clock began to tick over the truing stage. On reflection, I would recommend buying a decent nipple wrench, I have since picked up a Parks Tools wrench off eBay for any future work, but I struggled with a rather inferior wrench for this build, dunno where it came from (you can see it there on the bench!). Be warned though, wrenches come in different sizes.

I guess the distraction of a new born child perhaps didn’t help the build, but over the course of a week, half an hour here, an hour there I got something approaching a pretty darned true wheel. The last remaining question mark, spoke tension! I don’t know if you saw the documentary I posted last July; Ride of My Life: The Story of the Bicycle, but the wheel builder there dispels the myth of the old faithful ping test! Even Sheldon Brown talks about the ping of the spokes being likened to somesuch musical note…. This guy clearly demonstrates after using a spoke tension guage, that they all sound different! Ah well, mine feel like they are in the same realm as my other pro built wheels, and they haven’t come apart yet!

Go on, give it a go!

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