On a Wheelbuilding Roll

A nascent wheel.

A nascent wheel.

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.

Hozan Spoke Threader in action.

Hozan Spoke Threader in action.

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.

Almost a wheel!

Almost a wheel!

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.



Bikeworks North Update

As it’s been more than a year now since The Edmonton Bicycle Commuter’s Society opened a second location on Edmonton’s north side, I thought it overdue time for a quick update. Although EBC offers a variety of services, the two community, volunteers-run bike shops are at the heart of its mission to make cycling in Edmonton accessible to as many people as possible. I volunteer as a mechanic at the north location (conveniently located a few minute’s ride from my house).

This was a busy year for BWN. There were a lot of busy days with the shop crowded and volunteers bouncing back and forth pinball-like between the workstands, helping patrons. Lots, and lots of bikes were donated and many of these were quickly sold. In fact, we’ve been so busy that very little time has been available to tune up bikes or to strip parts off the junkers. The approaching seasonal winter slowdown will be a much appreciated chance to catch up on organizing to beat back the tide of bikes and parts.

I took this photo a few weeks ago. There are even more bike there now!

I took this photo a few weeks ago. There are even more bike there now!


Bikeworks North

Mostly the bikes in rougher shape are stored outside. Despite, the poor condition of these bikes there was an ongoing problem this with thieves cutting the fence. A project initiated to reinforce the fence with old wheels and frames was somewhat successful at reducing this issue.

The better bikes are stored indoors.

The better bikes are stored indoors.



Our greatly increased stock of used parts can be seen at the left side of this photo.

Our greatly increased stock of used parts can be seen at the left side of this photo.

A busy shop.

A busy shop.

Bikeworks North

New parts.

Mostly new parts.

Some of the nicer parts, both new and used, are kept in the glass cabinets.

Some of the nicer parts, both new and used, are kept in the glass cabinets.

We also produce a lot of scrap. We send a s much as possible for recycling. I think we're currently overdue to do this.

We also produce a lot of scrap. We send a s much as possible for recycling. I think we’re currently overdue to do this.

If you want to see what the shop looked like a year ago, check out my blog post from May, 2012.

In other news, the north shop will be the ONLY EBC shop running this winter. After at least decade at its current location, the south shop has to find a new home as the landlords have decided to not to renew EBC’s lease of the property. There’ll be a farewell party held at the shop on Oct. 25th and the shop will be closed at the end of the month. Also, prior to the move, there is a sale at the south shop on bikes and parts running until Oct.24th. Go score a deal, Edmontonians!

Hopefully, by spring we will have a new location up and running on the south side. Until, then come and visit us at the north shop!

The Raleigh 20 & The Society of Three Speeds

When I used to stop cycling during the winter I’d always keenly anticipate the first ride in spring. Getting back on the bike after the winter hiatus was always exhilarating.  Now that I cycle year round I miss having that first ride. On the other hand, I now get to look forward to the first ride of the year when I don’t have to use the winter bike. For the past few years my bike of choice for that ride was the 2008 Kona Jake CX bike, a happy blend of road bike and mountain bike. It’s a good choice for spring riding: zippy and rugged.

This year I had something else in mind for the first spring ride. Today I took my 70’s Raleigh 20 3-speed for a little trip to Bikeworks North to make a few changes to the ol’ folding bike. 3 speed bikes have been on my mind lately as I had recently received an enrollment in The Society of Three Speeds. Shawn Granton, the society’s self-appointed president for life, mailed me a membership package containing a number of buttons and stickers featuring his always great art. Receiving this bundle of goodies in the mail was a nice surprise that cheered me up on what had been a sort of lousy day (thanks Shawn!)

R20 &b the Society of Three Speeds

The three rules of the 3-speed society are:

  1. I will endeavor to promote three speeds as a viable means of transportation.
  2. I will not denigrate three speed bicycles and will not allow others to disparage these humble bicycles.
  3. I will ride my three speed bicycle with pride and immense enjoyment. If I have not yet procured a three speed bicycle, I will do my best to obtain one posthaste.

I can confidently state that I will uphold the rules of the society. I have two 3-speed bikes and have ridden many kilometers on them, both commuting and for the pure enjoyment of the ride. Readers of this blog may recall not only the Raleigh 20 already mentioned above, but also the 1965 CCM Continental. Both bikes are equipped with the Sturmey-Archer internally geared hubs that seem to tick along reliably doing their job for decades.

I picked up the R20 last year and spent some time in the early summer getting it road worthy and set up to my satisfaction. You can see my blog post showing its original condition here. Through the later part of the summer and early fall I put at least 500 km on the bike a lot of fun doing so.

The R20 had a number of peculiarities to consider when setting it up.

The bottom bracket is of unusual dimensions and requires heroic measures if you wish to set it up to accept a modern square taper crankset. Although  I have access to the tools to do this job I decided leave it unchanged as the original crankset was in perfect condition and featured a nifty heron design on the chainring. Unfortunately, this means having to deal with the crank cotters whenever I want to service the bottom bracket. Completing that chore for the first time was tough as one of the cotters was well seized in place and pretty mangled by the time I removed it.

The R20 has an unusual headset, a sort of combination of a threaded and threadless headset. It also lacks top ball bearings and instead has a plastic bushing. I had read that this results in stiffer steering,perhaps a deliberate choice of the designers who may have wanted to dampen the quick steering associated with many folding bikes. When I first tried the bike I found the steering to be unpleasantly stiff. There is modification that you can do to replace the original headset with a 1″ threadless headset, resulting in better steering. Before going to this extreme I tried simply greasing the bushing and lower ball bearings and correctly setting the compression. Afterwards,I found the steering to be much easier: quick and responsive. For my purposes, no headset modification was required.

The one major change I made was to replace the steel rims with alloy rims. This is a good upgrade for old bikes, resulting in a lighter wheelset and better braking. I ordered the replacement rims from ebay and laced them onto the original hubs. I used Sun CR18 presta rims and drilled out the valve hole to accept schraeder tubes. After buying the bike and paying for the rims I was feeling a little cheap so I reused the old spokes. This is generally considered a bad practice but in this case the old galvanized spokes seem to be holding up just fine so far. They were a bit too long for the new rim,but a few minutes with a die-grinder shortened them adequately.

I also made a number of smaller changes to the bike.

The original saddle was horrible, so last year I replaced it with a salvaged foamy “comfort” saddle. This was OK, but today I swapped that one for a Brooks B66S that I picked up back in December via a Kijiji ad. Much classier and quite comfortable so far.

I also replaced the tires today. The original tires were beyond use and the only replacements I could find at Bikeworks at first were a set of grey wheelchair tires.These were in pretty doubtful shape themselves,with the wire bead showing through the cracking rubber at several points. I rode these tires for hundreds of kilometers last year and though they let me get the bike on the road, I was always aware that they could fail at any time. The tires I put on today are NOS tires that I discussed in this blog post. They are in excellent condition and I like he looks of the black tires on the bike more than the grey ones.

I added a rack to the bike. I used an old Pletscher rack that I had on hand. A small modification was necessary as the rack was made for a larger wheeled bike and so I had to shorten the stays. I cut them to the correct length and pressed new flats on them using the hydraulic press at work. Then I drilled new holes and was it was ready to install. Pletscher racks aren’t suitable for carrying a lot of weight but I have used this one on successfully on numerous grocery runs so far.

Pletshcer rack modification

All in all, the bike has shaped up nicely. The brakes still need some attention as the stopping power is less than great. I almost ordered some Tektro dual pivot long reach calipers but decided that I will first try a few more basic measures first like replacing the cable housing and cables. Eventually. In the meantime, I’ll still keep racking up the kilometers on this trusty ol’ 3-speed folder..

Raleigh 20

Happy Spring Riding!

Errandonnee: Creeping Across The Finish Line.

Yes, I have finished the Errandonnee.This news will doubtless come as a relief to any non-utility cycling readers. Will my control card pass muster? Time will tell. My documentable errands had dropped off throughout the week and the last ones were completed over the course of a few days. There were a some trips that could have qualified but as in the case of shopping for my wife’s Valentine Day gift, I choose not to regard them as errands.

Thanks to MG for organizing the Errandonnee. It has put a bit of fun into the daily drudgery of chores.

ERRAND #9, Friday, Trip to the bank.

On the way home from work I detoured to downtown to deposit a cheque at the bank. The weather was so fantastically and unseasonably warm that I cycled home without a jacket, hat or gloves, just because I could. For those who doubt, I have photographic evidence.

Look Ma! No gloves!

Look Ma! No gloves!

Errandonnee #9

The Errandonnee rules state that participants must record an observation about each errand. In the Sherlock Holmes story ” A Scandal in Bohemia” Holmes points out that he is in the habit of observing his surroundings whereas  Watson is not. He illustrates this by asking if Watson knows how many steps there are in the stairs leading to the the Baker Street flat they have both walked up so many times. Watson of course does not know, whereas Holmes has the ready answer: 17 steps. In this spirit, I observed the number of steps leading up from the river valley to the Hotel MacDonald.

There are 201 steps.

There are 201 steps.

Errand completed!

Errand completed!

ERRAND #10: Sunday. Trip to the Post Office.

I made a rare trip the post office to mail a post card to the States. My neighbourhood office closed  a year or so ago and now I  usually use the one at Kingsway Mall. While there I observed that not the new LRT line under construction seems to be creeping towards completion. I imagine the winter slows things down somewhat.

A rare trip to the post office.

ERRAND #11: Monday, Trip to Bikeworks North to work on one of my bikes.

A significant perk that comes with being a regular volunteer at Bikeworks is access to the shop after hours. I could probably count this errand in the Bike Shop category but I think it’s better to use my wild card for this one.

Today I was finishing up my “Ravine Bike”. I found this abandoned bike when volunteering at a ravine clean-up last spring. It was missing many parts but over the months I managed to cobble enough together to resurrect it. Today’s mission was getting the brakes working properly. I had tried once before but it’s the first bike I’ve worked on with disc brakes and I didn’t quit get it right. I rode the nearly brakeless bike very slowly to the shop and had another crack at it. This time, partly due to truing the rotors I was able to nail it.

As of today this bike is complete and ready to ride. While riding to the shop I observed that the shocks work much better at -7ºC than in the -20ºC I last road this bike in. I’m not ready to reveal the bike itself yet, but will feature it in an upcoming blog post. You will find a small hint below.

Rotor truing.

Rotor truing.

Errand #11

ERRAND #12: Monday, Bargain hunting at a local thrift shop.

Once or twice a month I usually drop by one of the second-hand stores to look for bargains. Lately, I’ve been having a good run with the best finds being new or like-new merino wool clothing and gore-tex outerwear. The store I visited today seems to have been getting shipments of brand new clothing from a major work wear store, so I was hopeful.

I tried on a new pair of good quality steel toed work boots. They fit well but were heavily insulated and not suitable for my purposes so I left them for somebody else. The big find today turned out to be an Eddie Bauer Gore-Tex parka with goose down fill. This thing is so warm that it’ll have to be pretty cold out to use it. I certainly won’t be cycling in it. Wearing it, I felt a bit like George from Seinfeld. It was missing the hood, but for $30.00 I brought it home anyway.

Errand #12

EBC Winter Clunker Sale

Bikeworks North. Our yard runneth over with bikes.

Both Bikeworks locations have a surplus of nuthin’ fancy bikes so we’re having a sale. Specially marked bikes are priced at $10 to $50. All kids bikes are $5 unless otherwise marked. If you’re looking for a winter beater or a bike that most thieves wouldn’t look twice at come on by. These bikes have not been tuned up and are sold as is.


North Location  9305 111 Ave (SW corner of building)
Phone: 780.757.9100

South Location 10047 80 Ave (entrance in rear lane)
Phone: 780.433.2453

BikeWorks North

If you’ve been cycling in Edmonton for any length of time you likely already know about BikeWorks, the community bike shop operated by the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters’ Society. At BikeWorks  you can learn to fix your bike while having  access to a well equipped bike repair shop. There is a large supply of used parts and essential new parts for your repair projects. Volunteers are on hand to help you and classes on a variety of topics are offered. If that’s not enough for you, you can buy reconditioned bikes as well as rent bikes and trailers. And it’s a hub of Edmonton bike culture! What’s not to like?

This Winter there was good news for the cyclists living in the North of Edmonton: EBC was opening a second shop,this one on the North side. It was particularly good news for me as the new location is only a 5 minute bike ride from my house! A call went out for volunteers to help with the renos  and I was happy to get involved. I put in a few hours now and then and the following photos show the progress from empty shell to functioning bike shop.

February: The new shop before renovations. I shamelessly stole this photo from EBC and by viewing it you are likely some sort of accomplice.

February: This one too.

February: And this one.

March 19th: Renovations are well underway. Walls have been cleaned, patched, primed and partly painted. The floor has been cleaned, etched and painted.

March 19th: The mezzanine floor wasn’t very level. This shows the floor after the old subfloor was torn up and a new one installed. Each off those strips under the new floor panels was individually tapered to match the wavy floor. I glad there are volunteers involved that are more competent than I am.

March 29th: The mezzanine wall is now being built. Workbench construction has begun.

March 29th: The new wall will create a meeting room / office space with some sound isolation from the shop below. The wall has been framed to allow installation of salvaged vintage windows. A door will give will give access a walkway along the edge of the mezzanine that overlooks the shop. For now the door will stay closed until a railing can be installed. Pictured here is one of the masterminds and skilled workers behind the mezzanine reno.

April 6th: This is the day before the official opening.Not the GRAND opening,that hasn’t happened yet. Limited services are offered at this point.

April 6th: The bike hanger is…hanging.

April 6th: Unpacking boxes of shiny new bike tools was fun. Etching “EBC” on all the tools was somewhat less fun. This only represents a fraction of the tools.

April 6th: The small individual work benches are almost finished.

April 6th: The door and some of the mezzanine windows are in place.

April 6th: Looking a little like a bike shop!

April 7th: BikeWorks North is open for business!

April 7th: Soon there will actually be people here…

May 24th: There is a big jump in time here as I didn’t take any photos for almost two months. I’m a bad blogger. At this point BikeWorks North is open Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays and is offering a nearly full range of services. As you can see, the hanger is now populated with reconditioned bikes for sale and the floor has lots of bikes for overhauling.

May 24th: Mmmmmm, delicious bikes…..

May 24th: Used parts.

May 24th: A growing selection of new parts. More to come.

May 24th

May 24th: Tools!

May 24th: I haven’t tried the touch screens yet.

May 24th: Bike repair is happening!

Scrap Metal Challenge: DIY Bike Wheel Truing Stand

After the apparent success of my DIY wheel dishing tool I decided to take on the next obvious project: a wheel truing stand.  I currently have seven bikes. That makes 14 wheels to maintain not counting  the bikes of my other family members. I could do this at the local bike co-op but it is often not convenient for me to get down to that end of the city.  I’ve trued  wheels while they are on the bike but it isn’t as easy as using a stand. The commercially available stands I’ve seen start at about $80 for the cheaper ones and are more than $200.00 for  a good one. Naturally,  a DIY version appeals to my frugal soul.

The source of most of my materials.

As an exercise in re-purposing I  decided to build it as much as possible from scrap metal  parts I could salvage from the scrap bin at work. This proved to be something of a constraint during the design process but it was a fun and satisfying bit of problem solving.  You can really do a lot with materials that would otherwise end up at the scrapyard.

Salvaged goodies (These are actually the leftovers because I forgot to take a picture before I started)

The salvaged materials I used were a length of anodized aluminum channel, some slightly twisted steel shelving uprights, a short length of threaded rod and a few carriage bolts.  The nuts and 4 small bolts were  purchased or sourced from my own supply. To paint the stand I used surplus stock of a colour we no longer use at work.

I had a few false starts and had to rethink things more than once.  I would have done things differently if I were buying the materials instead of working with what was at hand, but I’m quite happy with the results.

While building this stand dusty childhood memories returned of playing with  odds and ends of meccano left over from one of my older siblings. The finished product does have a meccano-like quality, I believe.

DIY Wheel Truing Stand

Separate lateral and radial gauges

The radial gauge is a bit clunky looking but adjusts to diferent wheel diameters.

The stand is adjustable to accomodate different hub widths.

The shelving sections came with premade slots for the axles.

26" Mountain Bike Wheel

26" mountain bike wheel

27" road Bike wheel