Monday, January 14, 2013

Small Wheels Keep on Turnin'

 Have you been wondering what Erich has been up to during his winter sabbitical? Yeah, me too. Here you go:

Hi all! It's been weeks now since I've seen your smiling faces, and you are no doubt curious about what I've been up to during our Hub Bicycle Winter Sabbatical 2012\2013™. Well, prepare your hair for imminent shock-induced whitening, for the answer may well rattle you to the very foundations of your being.

I have been working on bikes.

Still with me? Good. Most importantly, I have been working on my own bikes, something that I rarely accomplish when I'm busy fixing bikes for all of you kind folk. I took some time this week to pay a visit to a good friend's shop and finally build some new wheels for my mountain bike. I've had all of the parts sitting around for four months now, so this is pretty much right on schedule for me. They are high on the list of my dream wheels, Mavic XM819 disc rims laced to a DT Swiss 240 rear and a Hope Pro Evo2 front. For the non bike jargon speakers out there, they are the bike world equivalent of a champion boxer: quick, burly and able to be hit over and over again with few ill effects. This serves me well as I'm a chubby dude who ascribes to the style of mountain biking commonly reffered to as "monster trucking." However, I'm getting ahead of myself here.

In my years in the bike industry I have noticed that many people view wheel-building as a dark art akin to alchemy, pastry making or economics. Thankfully, it requires fewer rare elements, data sets or pounds of high-quality butter than any of those. In fact, the base materials are  pretty straightforward, as evidenced below.

Not pictured is the secret ingredient, love. Just kidding, the secret ingredient is a rigorous adherence to proper technique. I mean, really, who needs love anyway...right? (*sobs quietly in corner*). Wheel building is not an art, it is a science that can be, and has been, quantified and reduced to a duplicable technique. As with any science, there is a learning curve and a bonus for previous experience. My first wheel build took me four hours for only a rear wheel, ten years later I can now build a pair in just over half that time and Emily is even faster than I.

Having addressed the scientific side of things, i would be remiss if I didn't mention the real reason I like building wheels, the meditative aspect. Unlike many hard sciences where one sets up an experiment and lets it run, often for hours, wheel building requires active attention from start to finish. Those of you who have seen my work space at Hub will not be shocked to discover that I struggle with ADD and the disorganization that can come with it. Wheel building provides me the ability to hyper-focus on one thing for hours on end, a welcome change of pace. Plus, when I'm finished, I've got, hopefully, a sweet new set of wheels a lucky client or I to beat up. Photographic proof backs me up here.

My initial ride confirms my suspicions, these are some fine wheels. My previous wheels spun quickly and smoothly, but were built around a lower number of spokes and relatively flexible rims. They would be great for lighter riders or dedicated XC racers, but I needed something sturdier. These have noticeably less flex under acceleration and hard cornering. As a bonus, they are tubeless ready with nothing more than the included valves required. It is a great payout for just an afternoon's worth of work and I look forward to getting in some more rides if winter stays this mild.

I hope everyone's been having a great 2013. As I've already beat my number of posts from 2012, I hope to stay on a roll and yammer at you all more often. Stay safe out there.

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