Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wooden It Be Nice?

One of the most enjoyable jobs I've been tasked with recently was one I've been looking forward to for a very long time. Malcolm brought in a pair of Cerchio Ghisallo wooden tubular rims for me to build up.

Handmade from aged Slovenian beech by the third generation of the same Italian family who have been making them since the 1940s, these beautiful hoops are similar to the prevalent rims used for racing until the new-fangled aluminium ones eventually took over. They are named for the famed Madonna del Ghisallo museum and shrine for cyclists. Cerchio simply means round and is the Italian word for rims.

The hubs I would be lacing them to were a story in themselves. A 1949 Sturmey-Archer 3 speed fixed hub is a hard concept to bend one's mind around, but it nonetheless exists. Aesthetically it pairs nicely with a high-flange Sturmey-Archer front hub. Both hubs seems to perfectly suit the retro feel of the Ghisallo rims. Before starting the build I followed Malcolm's advice and read up thoroughly on Ric Hjertberg's excellent and informative Wheel Fanatyk blog, gleaning as much information as I could in advance of commencing construction.

Using special 20mm long nipples and rim washers for the thick wooden rim, I also opted to use brass spoke washers for the rear flange to build them up a bit, prevent excess movement and premature spoke head fatigue.

The rear rim and hub were drilled for 40 spokes, which I built up in a standard 3-cross pattern.

The spoke washers in situ on the 3sp fixed hub.

Taking particular heed to Mr Hjertberg's advice on tension it was mildly disconcerting to end up with a wheel with so little tension on the spokes, but it seems generally expected that these wheels will be high maintenance as the wood beds in, and expands and contracts depending on heat and/or moisture. I'll be very interested to see how well they hold up over time. They certainly built up perfectly round and true with surprisingly little effort - they put to shame some aluminium and carbon rims I've seen from some of the big names in rims.

The rims are drilled so the spoke nipples - and spokes themselves - exit the rim at exactly the right angle for the trajectory of the spoke to the rim, and the wood cradles the nipple snugly.

The 32 hole front hub has aluminium flanges and a steel body. The flanges were thick enough that they didn't require the washers as the rear hub did.

It came to me with the axle removed and no balls, so I assiduously researched the specs using my old Sutherland's manual to determine what size balls it may need. It turned out that it was just the standard 3/16, so I installed some lovely Dura-Ace ones to keep it spinning for another 40-odd years. Note the cool drilled out wingnuts.

A shot of the rear hub showing the fixed cog, as well as the control chain for the three speed internal gears.

And done. These weren't easy builds, but they were super satisfying. To get them right needed plenty of research, time and care, as well as consciously adapting some of my usual habits and techniques. By the time I hung them up completed I was confident that I'd done a good job of building them, now it's just a matter of Malcolm road-testing them and seeing how much or how little post-build maintenance they require. I'll look forward to finding out. Just to put these wheels in some sort of context of rarity, the only wooden rims I've ever built up before were a pair of refurbished track wheels for a bike that was never going to ridden, and that was in about 1982! Thanks very much to Malcolm for the chance to build these new ones after all these years.

After such special work it's hard to slip back into the more mundane bike repairs that are the daily pabulum of the jobbing bicycle mechanic - luckily I was able stave such mundanity off by giving my dear friend John's sweet Colnago its first proper Oli-ing since he bought it from the fine fellows at Capital Cycles. Here is John pictured with our friend Ashley of the women's cycling group Revolve holding their respective 2nd place certificates from the recent NZ Single Speed Championships.

The first thing I wanted to do was to sneak my logo up in thurr to hopefully help Sifter find some inspiration when times are getting tough. Kia kaha, bro!

After servicing the bike as if I was building it from scratch it was ready to roll. This fine steed looks fast just sitting there, even if I made an appalling crank placement blunder for this particular shot of it.

Talking of good friends, my man Paul Larkin of Cycling Edge has been representing my global aspirations with a fine showing in the first round of Melbourne's Dirty Deeds Cyclo-Cross series.

Here's a link to a cool video of the Dirty Deeds race - pay particular attention for the first 22 seconds, as Paul shows the most effective way to cross the barriers.

Even though my derailleurs are always adjusted to the nth degree, I have oft been curious about the increasingly ubiquitous K-Edge chain catchers. WO Larkin heard the call and responded by sending over three of these trick devices for my own ineluctable edification, and if you look closely you can also see a pair of carbon cable adjusters he sent me as well. Cheers heaps, bro!

Easy to install and only adding 20g to the weight of my Bianchi (as if that matters to a bike that weighs over 9kg with a 100kg rider!) the K-Edge worked perfectly when I adjusted my front derailleur to overshift, and I see why the pro wrenches are commonly fitting them to their rider's bikes. Also, the ano blue looks pretty and coincidentally matches my Bike Pure headset spacer...

The next thing was to take the bike out for a test-ride, so I put on my best grimly determined face and set off down through Island Bay into a chilly southerly to try my best to throw the chain on the road...

I headed around the usual South Coast past the airport.

As I've stated many times before, there's always some new aspect of this ruggedly scenic coastline to grab my attention and make me whip out my camera.

I've never noticed this creatively placed seat before, but as soon as I did I've started to notice many more placed around the Wellington environs. I want to sit on them all over time, just to be still and try to take in the views as the seat creators intended.

I attacked the gruelling Pass of Branda in the big ring, such as it is. Taking photos while seated climbing at "speed" while you fight the urge to puke and your heart tried to burst out of your chest isn't quite as easy as you might think!

Matiu/Somes Island stands guard as yet another bitterly cold squall passes over it on it's way to Petone and on up the Hutt Valley.

Instead of just heading around Oriental Bay to home, I decided to climb Alexandra Road to the top of Mt Victoria.

One more quick shot of the view from the top before starting a great fun but very sketchy wet road descent back down Palliser Road to the Monastery. Swooping around the twisting turns on the very edge of adhesion to the slippery tarmac reminded me that I am alive, as well as giving me the morale-building knowledge that I'm still in possession of some of my old roadie DH faculties, despite my fitness having been consigned to distant memory.

The winter grime is starting to build up on the trusty steed, but I'm so enjoying riding again that the weather is utterly immaterial as far as bike and body is concerned.

Satisfied that the K-Edge was the answer to a problem I don't actually have, it was back home to the grindstone. There are lots of issues around being the house-husband that I didn't anticipate, but one I'm all too used to by now is the sick child quandary - what do you do if you've promised a job to be done before the customer flies overseas with his bike but you have a boy at home recovering from a nasty flu? The answer is to fire the shop heater up, rug the boy up, pile some books and toys into a bag and hope he can entertain himself for long enough to do the business. Lucky Bodhi is a good boy who knows the drill, and it was cool this particular day to see him really looking around and hear him describe the shop as "a bit of an Aladdin's Cave, isn't it Papa?"...choice.

On the 12th of June Tim Wilding had one of his good days on the bike, winning the prestigious first round of the popular N-Duro series at a canter. Great work, Tim! Here's a photo from the start line of a relaxed T-Rex about to throw down.

Photo by Helen Brumby

Tim's partner Tamsin had one of those awful wheels built with the infamous rotten spokes, so and to forestall further problems after a couple of recent breakages I rebuilt it using nice, new DT Competition spokes. Note the custom Roadworks hub...

My good friend Malcolm (no relation) and his partner Gabrielle are heading to France on an organised tour to ride some of the legendary mountain passes of the Pyrenees and, after some consultation, we decided to fit compact chainsets to both machines, along with the already required new chains and cassettes. This will help keep them relatively fresh for the vast menu of storied climbs they will be facing. Malcolm was running old Octalink cranks on his Scott so needed a new b/b too, but Gabrielle already had X-type bearings on her Trek, so it was simple to slip her old cranks out, install the news ones and adjust the front derailleur - this means she could as easily swap back to the old 53x39 set-up in the unlikely event she wants to revert.

Contrary to recent media reports, I haven't performed a hostile (or amiable, for that matter!) takeover of Revolution Bicycles quite yet...

...but Jonty still gets me to build wheels for him while he waits for the inevitable swallowing up of his business by the vast global enterprise that is Roadworks Bicycle Repairs. This pair of DT X430 rims were built up on a DT 340 front hub, and a Shimano Nexus rear hub. Nice.

Another day, another pair of pink Chris King hubs to be laced up. This pair is for Graham (as were the last pair of pink ones I built) that will eventually be going on his cool Cove STD. Beefy Mavic EX729 rims, black DT Comp spokes and Prolock nipples on the 20mm front and 150x10mm rear should be just the ticket for the freeridey STD.

And here's one of Graham's fleet of Coves getting a headset pressed, a cool Handjob XC the same as my "monster cross" frame.

After some time overseas David brought me his Condor for revival. It had some badly corroded nuts and bolts from storage, as well as sustaining some damage from shipping. Nothing a couple of hours in my stand couldn't work out...

I'll finish this post off with some photos from my first ride out to Eastbourne since early March. It's not really that far to ride in the scheme of things, but it's always a good reference point for me mentally to feel confident I'm fit enough to make it safely there and back, and when I'm feeling really good I'll TT one or even both(!) directions to get a small taste of the sweet pain of hard cycling. Today wasn't a day for hard efforts though, it was a day for simply cruising and enjoying my re-found ability to ride...

At the end of the road by the Eastbourne bus sheds, looking north back around the Eastern Bays towards the Hutt Valley and the Belmont hills.

The day was still and unseasonably warm for June, with the only sounds the calling of the gulls and the waves breaking on the stony shore.

Another of the seats with a view, this one on Eastbourne beach looks out over Makaro/Ward Island and across the harbour.

This boat has sat on the water in York Bay as long as I can remember. And I'm old.

My town.

I hardly ever usually use the rugged "bike path" that runs alongside the Hutt Road, but for some unknown reason today I did, and was pleasantly surprised to find it freshly swept. It was a very relaxing traffic-free cruise on what can be quite a stressful stretch of road. It will be so good when they finally connect this truncated bike way to the Petone foreshore, and I'm certain bicycle commuting will really explode once there's an easy and safe two-way route in and out of town.

Not that I should be worrying about the Hutt Road when this is the sort of sight that routinely occurs in my own street...

Until next time, stay safe. Cheers, Oli


Davo said...

Thanks Oli, great read.

Far superior to the Tuborg lager I supped which Mrs.A thought was a bargain at Pak n Save. I explained that for a bargain to exist the value derived had to exceed the price.

Loved the wooden rims. Never seen them outside penny farthings. Wicked.


sifter said...

Great blog Oli - so good to read about you out and about on the bikes.

Took the Colnago for a good hit out on Saturday morning. There seemed to be a small problem in the engine room (up Moonshine, bleurgh) but apart from that, it was HUMMING! Thanks bro!

I'm so glad you used that photo of Ash and I too! Classic (and not a hint of pink lycra!)

Anonymous said...

Hey Oli, When does The Tour de France coverage start. The public needs to know what the score is. Cheers man.