Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Dynohub Wheelbuild!

Last night I built my first wheel from scratch! And it just so happens to be a light-generating dynohub, so the outcome is extra-fun. It was basically two projects in one sitting:

1) build a 32-spoke, triple-crossed wheel on a Mavic OpenPro rim & the dynohub
2) mount & wire a Schmidt E6 lamp to the dynohub

Here's what I started with: 32 spokes/nipples, a rim, and a hub! Using Schraner's wheel-building book, and some advice from the LBS, I sat down on the living room floor and went to work. (A real workspace would be nice, but our apartment just doesn't have the room..)

A few minutes later, and the wheel is starting to take shape. This is an awkward part of the build, because the hub wants to flop all over the place, but you don't want to bend or stress the spokes. A vice-grip would have helped, but I managed.

After probably another 30 minutes, it'd definitely looks like a wheel, and even feels like one! It felt great to pick it up and have it feel sturdy, like a real wheel. Hell, it is a real wheel! This pic is with the right side done, just starting on the left side:

Ta da! Using a truing-stand that the LBS let me borrow, the 2nd part of the wheel-build commenced: truing. This part is actually harder than putting the wheel together, and I probably spent at least another 30 minutes fine-tuning it.

So once it was more or less true (still some radial "untrueness," e.g. the wheel isn't perfectly round, but it was about as good as I could get it), I just had to try it out! Previously I'd planned on taking it back to the LBS for a check-up, since I didn't totally trust my newly-found wheel building skills. But fuck it, all this work, you bet I'm gonna take it for a spin!

The finished product - A Schmidt E6 lamp attached to my shiny new wheel/hub!

When everything was all finished, it was 2 AM. So what do you do with a new dynohub/light setup at 2AM? Test it out! Once I started rolling I was so excited to see the dynohub in action, I didn't even realize it was the wheel I'd built that I was rolling on! It didn't explode or crumple, so I guess I did it decently well. I think I'll still take it into the LBS for some fine-tuning, just to be sure. Last thing I need is to be on a 200k Brevet and have a wheel blow up!

And the light, you ask? How's the actual lighting? Holy shit, the Schmidt E6 lamp is insane! I almost felt embarrassed rolling down Broadway with what probably looks like a scooter headlight strapped to my bike! It certainly lights up the road no problem. And the drag is minimal, you don't even feel it when rolling.

From a product description:

"The E6 has the most focused and brightest light pattern available. It's rectangular window keeps all the light on the road in front of the rider. There is no extraneous light. It is the only light that can cut through on-coming auto headlights to light the road."
For night-commutes and overnight Brevets, this thing will be perfect! No longer will I be squinting into the darkness to try to make out my weak LED's light on the ground. No longer will cars in the distance be wondering if they see a fire-fly up ahead. They'll know that this is some kind of moving vehicle - even from up to 1/4 mile away, from what I hear!

But at the same time, I don't want to turn into one of those people (you know who you are!) that ride with ultra-bright lights on the Burke-Gilman/I-90 trails and blind everyone! Point that shit down! I usually say something ("too bright!") when attacked by someone's lamp, so I'll be sure to not blind anyone myself.

Bring on the night!


Ted Diamond said...

Congratulations! You now know the secret handshake!

Yeah, wheel building can be such a blast. I find it the most relaxing thing I can do -- even more than sleep. And what's amazing is seeing a seasoned pro build, tension & true a wheel in 45 minutes. (I'll never be able to do that)

One suggestion -- I didn't see you mention use of a tension meter in your post, and I think it would be a good idea to 1) make sure the wheel is checked for spoke tension appropriate to the rim & spokes at your LBS, and 2) consider using a tension meter for your next build, so your can hone in on radial trueness, lateral trueness, and proper dish as you approach optimal tension.

Props, man!! I hope this is the first of many for you!

And a tip o' the hat to your LBS, which seems to be very cool about supporting you.

matt m said...

Thanks, it was indeed a blast. You're right about the tensionmeter, I should have used one, that'll probably be my next tool purchase.

I brought the wheel back to the LBS for inspection yesterday, and the spokes were definitely too loose, they said. Scary that I rode it like that! Lucky for me I didn't hit any potholes or do any bunny hops on it.

At the LBS they even let me set up the wheel on their fancy truing stand, and the owner (Lloyd) showed me how to true it correctly.

I'm definitely lucky to have such a nice LBS, and it helps that I've bought about four bikes from them over the last six years or so.

Thanks for the tips, I've definitely still got a ways to go as a wheel-builder, but at least I'm getting closer and closer to being a self-sufficient cyclist.