Graham's Blog

The Knowledge

12.21.09 | 2 Comments

BMFW wades in the murky waters of wheel building, and like an ad campaign for Viagra, asks “how hard can it be?”


Clicky, clicky, clicky – my love of the uber-clicky freewheel is well-known amongst my riding chums.  To me, clicky equates to mechanical & the noise is a celebration of the art of the engineer who makes something that you can hear working.  The last blog post documented the timeline of my exploding Bontrager hub which, after a bit of searching, seems to have been a common complaint for the particular model of hub with which Trek chose to outfit the Fuel EX-8.  Having bought a factory XT hub and Mavic rim combination, I was never happy that I had a perfectly good rim hanging up in the garage with a dodgy hub.  In retrospect, I can’t even remember my decision-making process when buying the new wheel although I’m sure that time pressures, along with my LBS’s inability to get any repair done within the decade, played a part.

The previously recounted spoke-related shenanigans of my front wheel got me thinking again about attempting to build a wheel.  A quiet afternoon at work saw me trawling the web for wheel-building resources, of which there are many.  I settled on the e-book The Professional Guide to Wheel Building by Roger Musson.  Despite the number of free resources, reading the reviews of this book and seeing some of the extracts convinced me that it would be £9 well spent – and so it proved.  I was so happy with the book that I forwarded it to our chums at The Velocast as a Pick of the Week & was delighted to hear it mentioned.


And so to the choice of hub.  As alluded to at the start, it had to be clicky (if that makes me shallow, I offer no apology).  There seems little doubt that Chris King make some of the tastiest componentry out there but there seems to be a very hefty price to pay for this reputation.  As I recently discovered after having to replace the Trek’s headset, Hope offer a very good alternative to the high-value Chris King stuff and it seems to be generally regarded as very well-made kit.  I was certainly very pleased with the Hope headset & the innovative Head-Doctor alternative to the star nut.  So, given that a Chris King hub was going to set me back north of £300, I uttered a hearty “feck that” and decided to go for the much more reasonable Hope Pro2.  Duly armed with e-book, hub, rim, spokes & nipples (quiet at the back, there!) I donned my magicians cloak, sacrificed a couple of goats to the gods of wheel building and set about the challenge at hand.


The first round of drive-side spokes was installed, making sure to align the manufacturers name on the hub body with the valve hole on the rim (preparation, preparation, preparation, as Don would say!).  Following the book closely, the remainder of the spokes were laced up to an even tension within a couple of hours at most.  A DT Swiss nipple driver (I said quiet, you boys at the back!) saw the tension brought up evenly to a point where I was confident to start final tensioning & truing.


IMGP2021Before this could take place, however, it was time to test my rudimentary joinery skills.  The e-book comes with instructions for a home-made truing stand & after raking through the contents of the man-cave salvage yard, the jigsaw & drill were pressed into service & no-one was more surprised than me with the result – a highly useful stand which I am sure will come in handy many times in the future.  The truing took a few hours one evening to get to a point that I was more than happy to mount the tyre & ride the wheel & despite that fact that the e-book suggests that you should not require to re-true or tweek well-built wheels I suspect, more for my own peace of mind than anything, that I will re-check the wheel at some point soon.

So, the wheel has been ridden a couple of times, nothing too strenuous, but it seems to be supporting my ever-increasing winter weight without too much hassle.  Proper testing should take place soon, with a couple of Glentress opportunities arising, including Owen P’s post-Christmas Tweet-up.  This was a thoroughly enjoyable project which followed my ethos which says if you buy the tools and learn how to do the job you will save money the next time you have to do it!

Brought to you by Rock’n’Roll Doctor by Little Feat


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