For high quality, close up images of the tool, please visit this previous post.
For high quality, close up images of the tool, please visit this previous post.
It’s so easy, these days, to establish the exact spoke length for any wheel. Just visit one of the Web’s many free calculation sites (DT’s, for example). But it wasn’t always so easy; in fact, the correct lengths were hard to discover, closely guarded secrets. For more than a century, wheel builders relied on charts and notebooks filled with observations. That’s the wheel world I entered in the early 1970’s, and here’s a glimpse.
For those of you who don’t build wheels, let me mention that the spoke length needs to be within a millimeter, less than 1/3 of one percent accurate. Otherwise you run the risk of too long (pops your tire) or too short (unsightly and weak) spokes. Compounding the task, manufacturing tolerances of rims, spokes, and hubs vary and they stretch and deform during building. With such a moving target, a tiny error in length calculation can become a time consuming failure. Here is the basic mathematical formula for spoke length determination: Read more →
If there’s one cycling debate that refuses to defuse, it’s the old “tubulars vs. clinchers” argument. Of less concern to MTB riders, it still manages to invade dirt discussions. Thomas Frischknecht, the great Swiss XC legend, terrorized his peers using 26” tubular tires late in his celebrated career.
For any newcomers, tubulars are the original pneumatic tires, the style that prevailed until well into the 20th century. With tubulars (also known as sewups) the inner tube is stitched into the casing and the combination glued onto the rim. A simpler concept than demountable tires, known as clinchers, they persist even today.
As a student of the wheel, my perspective begins with systems, not with one isolated element. Tubular tires shouldn’t be examined without considering the matching rims. Rim-tire, that’s the system. Lots of valuable time has been wasted arguing the advantages and disadvantages of tubulars vs. clinchers, without mention of the rims required to support each. Read more →
(1) Wood rims are drilled for a specific pattern. The holes are precisely aimed. The rims want a X3 pattern, you can stick a nipple into any hole and it will tell you unequivocally where the spoke needs to originate
Don’t worry about artistic and unique spoking patterns. Wood wheels deliver a knockout visual and the pattern really takes back seat.
Notice also, that the Cermenati’s are not obsessive about valve hole placement. That’s a mania from the modern era. Most of the time the hole will be placed between spokes that are angled away from it, affording maximum access to the valve. Sometimes, however, the valve won’t be in such a space. I know you might not prefer this, but let’s admit that valve access is still outstanding. It’s only a cosmetic issue. Pretend the Cermenati’s are your Zen wheel guides. Pretend they did this just to perturb you. Take a breath and relax. There you are. It’s 1925 and the road beckons. Don’t be distracted by valve hole drilling! Read more →
The latest issue of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News (BRAIN) carried a blurb about the FSA tension gauge. Generous credit was given to its designer, Jobst Brandt. How exciting that this unique tool and its interesting history receives some press! Thanks to BRAIN’s sage and inquisitive technical editor, Matt Wiebe.
Plenty of hoopla at this year’s trade shows. Some new products are recycled versions of previous ideas that are coming around on a fashion cycle. Nothing wrong with that, especially if the idea is good and prospective users examine the previous incarnation.
Some ideas are genuinely new technology. Usually crossing over from another industry, these include materials, processes, and alternative ways to do familiar things. In truth, we enjoy very few such arrivals each year. Like other consumer product scenes, cycling’s buzz is mostly static, clinking glasses and loud talking at the party.
The party we enjoy, sharing the excitement of cycling, is receptive to innovation, value, and cleverness. “Very clever” rates high on the “I want you at my next party” list. Few companies deserve the label “very clever” as well as Mavic. They bring a sense of style, timing, and an appreciation for the spectacle that’s positively, how shall we say…French.
This year’s R-Sys wheels represent another clever expression of their passion. Will this system show the promise of Ksyrium? Mavic certainly hopes so. But, in any case, R-Sys is a smooth evolution of the clever, alternative thinking that generated Ksyrium.
Three wheelbuilding tips that are often overlooked:
(1) Set spoke elbows
Spokes will give maximum service life and strength if the elbow is firmly set against the hub flange during building. If not, spokes may appear to “loosen up” and their fatigue life may decrease, resulting in premature breakage. When a spoke is set loosely into a hub, it should lie about 15 deg. above the angle directly to the target rim hole. That’s the amount that the spoke will need to be bent to conform to its position.
When designing a spoke there are two factors to consider: 1) strength, meaning reliability and fatigue life, and 2) hub fit. Unfortunately, some shapes that seem to improve hub fit can actually decrease strength and fatigue life. Therefore, there must be a compromise in the final spoke design to account for these two factors.
The spoke design is complicated by the fact that many hubs have different shapes and proportions. Read more →
The history of technology is sprinkled with seminal inventions. Some are actually useful devices, ends in themselves. Others are more so catalysts, enablers for developments to follow. The bicycle owes its existence to a number of clever 19th century ideas: the tensioned wheel, pneumatic tires, the roller chain, tubular steel, etc.
The last half of the 20th century witnessed a number of important improvements and additions to the bicycle. Advanced materials, suspension systems, aerodynamic improvements, and biomechanical refinements have added to the bicycle’s efficiency and usefulness. Yet, one important device has single handedly made possible most of the trends we associate with modern cycling. And, astonishingly, it remains virtually unknown. I’m speaking of the Phil Wood Spoke Machine.
Tubular, or sewup, tires provide the ultimate ride for a modern road racing bicycle. Because the tire is sewn together around the tube considerable weight is saved in the tire’s construction — no beads of sturdy wire or cord are needed to grip the rim, and in the rim — simplified because the tire is bonded by cement. Its use is critical to the reliability and performance of the system. Over 100 grams are usually saved per wheel between equivalent tubulars and demountable clincher wheels.
Because the tubular wheel system predates our era of user-friendly, danger-free engineering there are numerous idiosyncrasies related to their use that you might not expect.
There is no adequate way to “teach” all the important practices and exceptions that one needs to fully utilize tubular tires. However, we wish to state some of the more basic and obvious do’s and don’ts. Just remember, only a lengthy and detailed “apprenticeship” to a practicing expert in a club or team setting will cover the many considerations you should know.
Few technical skills in cycling will bring you so close to the experiences of our forefathers than mastering tubular tires. And little else in equipment can so transform and invigorate your riding. Read more →
Tying and soldering spokes at the last cross was once a common procedure, the mark of a well made wheel. Why has it disappeared? The conditions that made it so useful are gone:
(1) Rims of variable quality, often wood, that flexed and made noise, especially at spoke crossing contacts.
(2) Unpaved roads in every direction.
(3) Spokes that often broke and tried to become tangled in the drivetrain.
(4) A time when the cost of labor was low and craftsmanship was more highly valued.
OK, so it’s gone. No need to mourn. Let’s celebrate this old tradition by doing it in style. Make sure your ties are fit for the most immaculate restoration. Each of your ties should look like jewelry, not like crude electrical soldering. Here’s your guide: Read more →