Every Autumn, there is always one perfect trail ride. This was it. The river valley was in full seasonal splendor, the weather was perfect and the paths were gloriously illuminated by the morning sun through the golden leaves. As an added bonus I even rode the trails far better than I usually do, managing ride the Cambodia / Pipedream route eastbound mostly without having to walk the bike. On days like this, I almost think that if I’d started seriously mountain biking a couple of decades earlier I might be skilled by now.
I don’t think there’s much reason for most cyclists to learn how to build a wheel. In general, new factory-made wheels are reasonably priced and not much (if any) money is saved in comparison if you have to buy a rim, hub and spokes for a build. In my case, I also have ready access to very affordable used wheels at Bikeworks, our local community bike shop, which gives me even less reason to build a wheel from scratch.
On the other hand, if you have an interest in bike maintenance, wheel building is a fun and satisfying skill in its own right. Also, if you are the frugal sort and have a stockpile of used rims, spokes and hubs salvaged from dead wheels, then building one can be quite economical. Finally, depending on what sort of bikes you find yourself riding there may not be suitable wheels readily available to purchase. For this, my 6th wheel build, all those factors were at play, most especially the last one – 16″ wheels with Sturmey Archer 3-speed hubs aren’t that common.
I had the rim and the hub. I didn’t have the right length of spoke for such a tiny wheel but I did have lots of salvaged straight gauge DT spokes. Since Bikeworks has a spoke threader, I thought I’d have a go at cutting the spokes to the right length and threading them myself.
I’ve never used this machine before, but online instructions made it seem simple enough. In practice it was a simple, though very tedious job. It was made more time consuming by the fact that the thread rolling heads seem to be somewhat worn. After cutting and threading the required 28 spokes, I was hoping that I had calculated the required length correctly, because if they turned out to be too short I might have have to sit down and have a good cry.
Happily, the wheel seems to have come together nicely. I still have to bring it back to the shop so I can dish and true it, but it looks like everything will work out.
Any readers who can correctly guess what sort of bike this wheel is going on will receive a real bicycle-related prize of dubious value, mailed in a more or less prompt fashion. You’ll need to identify at least the brand and also model or approximate era of the bike. People with a knowledge of the contents of my garage are prohibited from entering the contest. E-mail your answer to tuckamoredew at gmail dot com.
I’m the sort person that sometimes rides around with my commuting bike in much worse operating condition than I would recommend to anybody I was helping at Bikeworks to maintain their own machine. Maybe once a person has a certain familiarity with bike maintenance they know how to push components just to the edge of failure before replacing them. Or maybe my DNA would be a perfect source for scientists to finally identify the elusive procrastination gene. Either way, I have recently had a close call with a Just Riding Along sort of catastrophic bike failure. As in “Gosh, I don’t know what happened! I was just riding along when for no reason at all my rear wheel disintegrated into a twisted mass of spokes and rim fragments”.
A few weeks ago I had my winter bike in the stand for a little cleaning and lubrication, when I noticed that the rear wheel seemed to have a hairline crack running along a lengthy portion of the rim. If I noticed that with the bike of a patron at Bikeworks I would recommend that they replace the wheel at once, before riding it any further. In fact, I would be quite insistent. Of course, I did no such thing myself. Instead, I rode my bike to and from work over bumpy, rutted, icy winter roads while slowly getting around to building a new wheel (all the while conspicuously not keeping a close eye on how my old wheel was holding up).
When I finally completed and installed the new wheel, I took a close look at the now shudder-worthy failing wheel. There is a very good chance that even one more trip with the old wheel would have resulted in an “exciting” mechanical failure.
So, don’t do that folks – it’s just stupid. Please replace your wheel promptly. Luckily, my story ended happily, with no accident, and a spiffy new rear wheel installed.
Summer has passed, leaves are falling and cool autumn weather has arrived. Rather than looking ahead to the approach of winter, I’m consoling myself by retreating into memories of this summer’s rides. Since I was a terrible blogger during those months, you can come along for the review.
I did pretty good job of showing all the bikes some attention (I love you ALL, my bikes. I really do). Today’s post looks at my late 70s Raleigh20 3-speed folding bike. The R20 is a really fun little city bike. It’s sturdy, maneuverable and (with the stock gearing) surprisingly fast. This year, I treated the bike to a set of MKS Lambda pedals that came in as a donation at BWN and rolled those 20″, 451 wheels through many kilometers.
The low height of the Pletscher rack on the R20 makes the bike stable even when carrying a fairly heavy load and I loaded it up on a number of shopping trips. The rack only has two supports, not as sturdy as most current racks, and it swayed a bit under the heaviest loads. I may have been skirting the edge of destructive testing on a few occasions.
Back in June, the R20 had as chance to spend an evening in the company of its peers. The Raving Bike Fiend organized a group ride on folding bikes and there were 4 people riding Raleigh 20s of assorted ages. In fact, as nobody at all showed up on a modern folding bike, it turned out to be a vintage bike ride as well.
There were two 80s era Dahon V bikes, as well. I have one of these in the garage at home, but I rarely ride it. Although they do fold up into a considerably small and tidy package, I was never fond of the ride quality and the general creakiness of the folding connections. The steering is twitchy enough that I was sometimes nervous to take one hand off the bars to signal a turn. By contrast, the R20 is very solid and feels much like a regular sized bike.
There were three other old folders, each with interesting features.
My camera stopped working just after we started riding, so I don’t have any pics from then on. We cruised around the edge of the river valley, stopped at a pub for a beer (where the manager asked the RBF to remove his folded Dahon from the table), stopped at my favourite local playground in Borden Park where we enjoyed a spectacular sunset, and finally did a bit of parkade exploration downtown.
I’d say my R20 has no reason to complain of lack of attention this summer. We commuted and rode recreationally, through fair weather and foul, by night and day. I will include one parting photo, taken on the soon-to-be-replaced downtown pedestrian bridge on the way home from a friend’s birthday party. In the instrument case is my resonator mandolin.
I’ve had little motivation to write or read blogs this summer, but I’ve been riding my bikes all the while – mostly commuting with a few recreational rides squeezed in. In the coming weeks I hope to catch up on my own blog as well as the activities of all my fine blogging correspondents. I hope you’ve all had a fine summer and have a great autumn to come. Here in Edmonton, we’ve already had dismayingly early snowfall on Sept. 8th.