Wheel Building at Bigpeaks (The Professionals)
The phrase 'greater than the sum of it's parts' is very appropriate in wheel building!
You can take the best hubs, spokes and rims in the world but if they're not assembled properly you'll end up with a rubbish wheel, outperformed by a mediocre wheel built well!
This is surely why the process of building a wheel can be seen as something of a black art!
Custom building is today seeing a resurgence going custom has great benefits;
- A pair of hand built wheels can last longer
- Hand builts will ride nicer
- Hand builts are about building individual wheels for individual customers
- Hand builts are built by a guy you can talk to face to face or over the phone
- You certainly get real advantages from this, such as a much tighter and better wheel often built to tension levels bespoked to the rider, for his/her weight and the kind of abuse they intend to put the wheel to!
It is important to remember that the spokes when built into a wheel are under tension. Each spoke is trying to pull the rim and hub closer together, but it can't because there are all the other spokes all the way around the wheel trying to do the same thing! So the whole thing stays in equilibrium and of course round.
The combined weight of rider and bike acts downwards on the axles, with the result that the spokes at the bottom of the wheel are slightly unloaded, but because they're all at high tension, they are not slack, just a little less taut.
Hundreds of wheels built by us per year!
As a consequence, the strength of the wheel is inextricably related to how much tension there is in the spokes (how tight the wheel is).
If spokes go slack they can work loose, cycles of taut and slack can cause spokes to gradually unwind, making the tension even lower. The wheel will drift out of true and, with slacker spokes, the same loads will have a proportionally greater effect, accelerating the process until the whole thing collapses, assuming the spokes don't break first.
Spokes whilst surprisingly strong, have two traditionally weak points, both resulting from the process of making a length of wire into a spoke! The first is the threads where the nipple screws on, as cutting threads normally takes material away , so weakening the end, the second is the work hardened end where the elbows are bent, this is where spokes invariably fail. At this end of the spoke a mushroom head is formed by a powerful press that squashes the the steel into the required shape and then the wire is bent or pulled sideways forming the elbow (FACT: at the Bigpeaks bike workshop we have over 10,000 spokes in stock)
It must be an advantage to have an expert wheel builder to put together your choice of hub, spoke and rim properly, it just so happens that our experts here at Bigpeaks literally build hundreds of wheels per year in our bike workshop. We have built wheels for World Travellers, End to Enders, XC Racers, Cyclocross champions and even a World Champion!