05 Jul 2016

Naked bike check


In December I took delivery of a custom steel frame from Naked Bicycles. Sam and Andrea were great and the bike was delivered on schedule without issues. I would recommend them in a heartbeat. There are lots of ways to choose your builder but, for bikes and in general, I look for the smallest business that (i) is organized and (ii) values quality over quantity. That’s my mission as well.

Frames are difficult to review because the frame is not the bike but I can say a few things. It’s stiff enough for me — I don’t generate huge power but I can’t stand frames that are noodles in the bottom bracket area (and likewise can’t abide flexy cranks or chainrings). I’d rather a frame be too stiff since you can recover a lot of comfort by tuning wheels, tires and air pressure. My frame delivers in the stiffness department but it’s not overbuilt, which helps with weight — 18.5 pounds as pictured.

Ride character is designed to my specifications so I love it though it’s not for everyone. The chainstays are as short as possible while fitting 32mm tires or smaller tires with fenders. The front has trail numbers on the low end for a road bike. These features make the bike feel fast, which is fun.

I rode the bike all winter with fenders and it was the most productive off-season in recent memory. For the first time I lost weight during the winter and started spring in terrific fitness. With a few thousand kilometres on the odometer — including numerous century rides — I feel confident saying the bike is a winner. Visit Naked Bicycles to learn more about Sam’s work. See a previous blog for info on the wheelset (without a doubt custom frames deserve custom handbuilt wheels!).

25 Jun 2016

Zeroing the tensio


In a previous blog I demonstrated the spoke tension utility available on this site. It works with the Wheel Fanatyk digital tensiometer and data cable.

When you place the tensiometer on a spoke, it’s ideal if the tool reads zero but sometimes that doesn’t happen because of the spoke itself — they’re not perfectly round. If you don’t zero the tensiometer, you introduce error into your readings. Zeroing the tensiometer is easy but you experience a delay while it resets and it requires the use of both hands. In short it takes a bit more time.

With the introduction of the data cable I had the idea of skipping that step by doing the zeroing in post-processing instead. How does it work? Suppose you place the tensiometer on a spoke and it reads 0.01. Instead of zeroing the tensiometer, send that reading to the software by pressing the foot pedal or send button on the data cable. The software understands this to be a baseline reading so it pops up a dialog box with the initial value and prompts for the final reading, which you send in the same manner. Then the net value is calculated, the spoke tension graph is updated and you carry on with the next spoke. At no time do you touch the keyboard or mouse on your computer so the workflow is very smooth. I’ve built several wheels this way and it becomes second nature.

07 Jun 2016

Autograph tension


This is a video of the new Wheel Fanatyk tensiometer, equipped with a deluxe Mitutoyo gauge. The terrific thing about a top end digital gauge is the ability to connect to a computer (an optional connection kit is available from Wheel Fanatyk). So what do you do on the computer side? I improved my spoke tension utility to accept input directly from the tool without keyboard interaction. After each reading the software advances to the next cell automatically.

I also added a new software feature to eliminate the need for zeroing the tensiometer but it’s not shown in this video. Stay tuned for a future blog post explaining how it works.

15 May 2016

Asymmetric rims


This build used DT Competitions to lace Hope Pro4 hubs to WTB Asym rims, in this case a 650b (27.5″) wheelset. Asymmetric rims aren’t strictly new but the number and variety of models on the market is improving. The idea is simple — spokes land to one side of the rim instead of the centre. This counteracts the natural asymmetry in rear wheels, resulting in more even tension. I’m a fan.

01 May 2016

Straight gauge good


There’s straight pull spokes, which are to be avoided, and there’s straight gauge. Not the same.

In my day I’ve criticized straight gauge spokes once or twice. The main problem is they have less fatigue life than butted spokes. Does that really matter? If your rims last forever or you regularly break spokes or tour into the unknown, it might be a concern.

That said there’s a lot to like. Straight gauge spokes, like Sapim Leader, are an economical option and availability is usually better than specialty spokes. They’re the easiest round spoke to build bar none. Straight gauge spokes are stiffer than butted spokes, which can help if your rims are little soft or if you’re building with fewer spokes than might be ideal. A corollary is you can use straight gauge spokes to reduce your spoke count for fashion or aerodynamic reasons.