The hand-built wheel. One of the most exciting upgrades to any bike and without a doubt a right of passage for any true bike geek. With the ubiquity of factory spec'd wheels, the skill of a wheelbuilder is seen as a dying craft, but it is still deemed a benchmark of what makes a proper bike mechanic. While we cannot argue the quality of the top wheelsets currently available on the market today, we will always love and favor a set of custom, hand built wheels. Luckily, our head mechanic Michael is a true master of the art and today he lends us some insight into his inner passion for lacing up wheels as a mixed bag of consciousness that seems to flow as he works through the task.
… materials, components, manufacturers….
… rider weight, function, climber, commuter? 20, 24, 28 rear? 32, 36? no, no, not a tandem; 48’s were initially fun, knuckles and arthritis….
… alloy or Brass Nipples. Haven’t tried the new spline type much.
Calvin, Ric, Pilder, Lie, Brandt, Gerd, and Hadrann….
…what is a perfect wheel? Is it reminiscent of Sach’s seminal film Imperfection is Perfection? Is it as simple as Ric told me, that we’re merely putting the hub in the center of the rim?
18, 20, 24, 28…. 3x, 2x, Radial
…fine tuned to 25/1000th of a millimeter—is that even possible? Is it even noticeable? Does it even matter whence the tire is mounted?
15 - 17, doesn’t register. 115, 100, 85 kgfs….
Eliminating the imperfections of the materials… a little hop here… a little blip there….
Is it an obsession, is a compulsive drive required to strive for perfection? The highest quality tools get you there, but at some point, the sense of feeling when a wheel is complete that occurs, it is a sensation that is shared between the wheel’s components and the builder when the numbers read right and between their arms is a measurably straight, round, dished, and tensioned wheel.
Nice tools help… my friend Spokey and his mate the Aerolite bladed spoke holder. Twist Resist when needed. Personal tools.
… the human touch—do you even know who built your wheels? #doyouevencustombro
The stream of thoughts that flows while building a wheel can be somewhat overpowering as he begins to assemble the wheel. Focus and attention to detail trump the task at hand to produce a piece that is much more than a perfectly round disk meant to support the weight of the rider. Michael embodies the Above Category mindset; performance and function.