Bill Woodul was a story teller for the ages. Does it take a thick Southern drawl to excel at this art? How much of his stories were true? If you ask me, in the greatest sense, they all were. He was among the first US mechanics to venture into the big world and he brought back enough stories and encouragement that, today, US mechanics are part of virtually every program on every continent. We heard about stage racing with Bedouins, gluing tires in monsoons, trading coffee for bike parts, sleeping with scorpions, and contests over jalapeno’s and tequila (or grappa or aquavit or vodka).
Once he showed us a truing stand he “traded” for some tires. This was during the Cold War, so bike mechanics were among the few who could ignore the Iron Curtain. This truing stand was unbelievable. It couldn’t be a one-of-a-kind. Yet, it was so painstakingly fashioned and detailed, they certainly weren’t mass produced. It came from the Russian National Team and, although that nation was a military super power, their cycling teams were poorly equipped. This stand was a work of inspiration by someone with little budget and lots of time.
Bill died tragically in 1996 of cancer that struck while he was doing Hurricane Mitch relief work. Shortly before he was hospitalized, I received the stand in the mail. Bill knew how much I love wheels and how this stand spoke to a passion for bike mechanics and tools. He trusted me, so I imagine, to share it with many. I’ve taken it to a bunch of Mechanic’s Program clinics and I think he’d be pleased.
Let’s take a look.
And here it is disassembled, as all useful team mechanic devices must be. It is made of steel but compact in the extreme.
The base is an extremely evolved structure. In the center is a roundness indicator that can retract fully into a half-moon shaped recess. On the right side is a brake shoe whose fixture can move up and down to match rim variations and can be driven in towards the wheel to straighten side bends. On the left side is a matching opening for the opposing part of that side bend tool.
Each upright arm is retained by a spring loaded pin in the base and then made solid with a long, knurled sleeve that threads down to anchor the arm. The retaining pins are lovely, as crisp and effective as any firearm part.
Each upright arm can face 2 directions and carries two dropouts. When both arms face one way, you have 120mm and 125mm spacing. Turn each 180deg, by loosening the knurled sleeves and retracting the pins, and you have front wheel spacing.
The lowest part of the arm is retained by the small slotted set screw you see facing up. The lowest part is drilled for the spring loaded pin of the base. The knurled sleeve, slipped up in this image, has a slip fit to the column that must be less than +/- 0.001″. It’s like a musical instrument.
Here is the clamp that secures the stand to a bench:
A pothole dent could be removed with this very clever clamp, slotted in case the dent was directly at a spoke.
For side bends, a rim shaped arc with moveable feet can be attached to the base left side. The arc moves left and right with a knurled knob. It is retained by deep grooves in the supporting rod that ride along two guides with slotted heads. When the slotted head guides are removed, the knurled knob can be fully unwound. Otherwise, the entire assembly cannot come apart. One piece, safe travels.
A roundness dent being taken out.
Now a side bend can be easily removed, or improved.
While it’s hard to imagine the number of years experience it took to design this tool and the countless hours to make it, we can certainly appreciate the devotion to bicycles and on-the-road mechanics. This hobby becomes passion becomes careers becomes legend.
Can someone help further illuminate this stand? How great to identify those responsible, the number made, years they were used, and maybe…just maybe…how Bill traded for it.