So, a little while back, I did something that I'd been meaning to do for a while: I built some wheels. From scratch. The process of building wheels had always seemed a little bit like "magic" to me, but that only made me want to give it a shot even more.
I signed up for the fall wheelbuilding class at Wright Brothers Cycle Works, and had a great time getting to learn the mysterious art from Charles, the proprietor. He's quite a character, and has a lot of strong opinions and stories to tell, which for some reason seems par for the course among Seattle shop owners. Wright Brothers itself is also quite a shop, messy and chaotic, but very "homey". Plus, it's the only shop of any sort that I can think of that's heated by woodstove:
The class itself was great, and I'd heartily recommend it to anyone looking to try their hand at wheelbuilding under the guidance of someone who's built thousands of them. Charles does a great job of making sure that everyone is following what's going on, and not just speaking to the bike-literate members of the class. Over the course of the 4 evening sessions, I got my front wheel completely laced, tensioned, stress-relieved and trued, and got most of the same done on my rear wheel. I finished up the truing and dishing of the rear wheel at The Bikery, using their tools and assistance. (Sidenote: if you've never been to The Bikery, you should check it out. It's an all-volunteer run, non-profit shop/retail/educational space, and they provide a great service to the Seattle bike community.)
The specs on my new wheelset (shown below with some of my 'cross tires on, ready for racing):
- Mavic OpenPros, 32-hole (I've had really good luck with OpenPros on my other bikes)
- Shimano 105 hubs (virtually identical to Ultegra, but waaaaay cheaper)
- DT Swiss Competition 2.0-1.8 double-butted spokes, laced 3 cross
- DT brass nipples
I laced them up 3 cross, using the "double lacing" pattern that Charles is a big fan of. (He actually has an article on the technique here.) Basically, when lacing the spokes, instead of crossing each spoke using the traditional over-over-under pattern, double lacing uses an over-under-over pattern. This creates 2 points where overlapping spokes "connect" or touch, instead of one. Charles' position is that this creates a stronger wheel than conventional single lacing. I guess time will tell on this set.
So far, I've raced 3 or 4 cyclocross races on these wheels, plus some short rides in between, both on road, and some singletrack. They're still true as when I took them off the truing stand, and I'm actually incredibly, incredibly happy with them. It's amazing how much more satisifying it is to ride around on some equipment that you know you built yourself.
It's great to know that I can true these, or any other wheels up whenever I need to, and I can picture myself getting excited to build up some more wheelsets when the need presents itself.