17 Dec 2018

Industry Nine fat wheels

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Some parts of Canada call for a different approach to winter riding. These wheels are the full fat approach, marrying Industry Nine fat hubs to DT Swiss BR710 rims. The hubs are 142×15 in the front and 177×12 in the rear. These wheels are going to be rippers in the snow.

Spoke length

These rims are a good example of ERD issues discussed in my last blog. The DT Swiss rim decals include technical information stating ERD to be 549mm. I like that but it doesn’t change my process — I measured them anyway getting 547 on the front and 546 on the rear. To add intrigue the DT Swiss spoke length calculator lists 547 for this rim. Going my own way resulted in perfect penetration, a hair below the top of the nipple in each case. With single wall rims you want to be more fussy about spoke length, particularly avoiding penetration past the top of the nipple.

27 Nov 2018

ERD seriously

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Because spoke lengths depend on ERD, I always measure my rims. People tell me they’ve ordered spokes for use with XYZ rim and sometimes it leads to conversations like this:

Wheelbuilder: These spokes are for my build with XYZ rim.
SpokeService: Did you measure your XYZ rim?
Wheelbuilder: No I used numbers I found with Google.
SpokeService: Sorry your spoke lengths are wrong — Google is confused.

There are two ways ERD goes wrong.

First there are variances in rim manufacturing. Some manufacturers are better than others and to some extent you get what you pay for. But I always measure and frequently find rims out of spec or find differences between pairs of identical rims. If you know what you’re working with, variances are not a big deal. If you input correct dimensions, you’ll get correct spoke lengths.

The second issue is differing definitions of ERD. Typical definitions include penetration of the spoke into the nipple head, which is important for maximum strength. But how far the spoke extends beyond the nipple seat (into the rim) is unclear. It depends on nipple geometry and encodes some preference for how much penetration is ideal. In other words ERD is relative to an undisclosed nipple and opinions regarding its use.

Typically the magnitude of these errors is pretty small, maybe 0.5mm each. Additional error is introduced when you round spoke lengths to match availability (why buying spokes in 2mm increments is rough). Maybe these errors add up to a problem and maybe they cancel each other out.

This sounds like a pain but it’s not at all. You simply make your own tools and take your own measurements. The parts cost next to nothing, assembly takes 10 minutes and you’re left with tools you can use forever. Maybe it seems like a pain because you want your spokes and rims to arrive at the same time. That’s fair but getting it right the first time is always fastest. SpokeService is here to help with spokes in 1mm increments, shipped daily from Canadian soil often for free.

28 Oct 2018

Coaxial SON

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SON hubs and lights include normal spade connectors — trim wires to length, crimp on connectors and connect to your hub. Anyone can manage this system and it works well. As an upgrade, SON offers a coaxial version that I put together today. This system requires more effort to assemble (basic soldering required) but pays you back with a number of advantages.

The upgrade comes with an adapter that connects a coaxial plug to the hub spade connectors. The new plug interface is spring-retained, which is more refined than the friction fit of spade connectors. The coaxial plug is secure but can be fitted or removed with full-fingered gloves.

If you’d like the nitty gritty details, check out the manufacturer’s instructions seen on my workbench. If you’d like a SON dynamo hub/wheel with a SON light, get in touch for a quote.

25 Sep 2018

Universal nipple driver

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It’s ideal to use a depth-setting nipple driver specific to your nipple but sometimes you can’t. Sometimes a tool doesn’t exist or isn’t available but you can still do better than eyeballing. In a pinch you can make a tool for starting your nipples an equal number of turns all around.

To make a universal nipple driver I trim a thin butted spoke and roll threads in such a way that the threads cross the butting boundary. This lets a nipple thread all the way through without bottoming out. Then I attach an inverted nipple — one with a round bottom and no screwdriver slot — leaving a bit of spoke thread protruding. How much protrudes depends on how far you want the driver to work. I use some Loctite so the nipple doesn’t move. In the following example I inserted the tool into a pin vise but you could glue it into a cork, dowel, etc.

To use the tool thread it onto the back of your nipple. Insert the loaded tool into the rim and thread onto a waiting spoke. Sideload the spoke to hold the nipple, unthread the tool and repeat. This isn’t the fastest way to work but it gets the job done and costs very little. With all your nipples preloaded the same amount, you’re off to a clean start.

20 Aug 2018

Tensio support policy

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Did you ask about tensiometer support in the spoke tension utility? This post is for you.

In order to support a tensiometer in the software, it’s necessary to have one in the workshop. It gives me confidence the experience is good — regardless of being free I’m not interested in providing second-rate software. Sometimes changes arise from using a tool professionally. For example you can enter 25 and it autocorrects to 0.25 when using the Wheel Fanatyk (but doesn’t with the Park Tool). Little details like this tilt the balance between flow and tedium.

For digital tensiometers, it’s even more important to have one on hand. Direct digital download can involve quirks that must be accommodated in software. Some of the most interesting features on the roadmap are for digital tools but the testing is more intensive.

I purchased the Park and Wheel Fanatyk tools myself, the former to build my own wheels and the latter to boost my professionalism. And so I supported them in my software. Now with the workshop properly equipped, I’m less keen to purchase others. (For full disclosure Wheel Fanatyk donated three tensiometers after finding my software popular with their customers.)

So if you’d like to see another tensiometer supported in the software, it’s easy and not easy: ask your manufacturer to send one here. I make it easy by taking no fees, neither for initial support nor for ongoing maintenance. And promise new tools will be supported within 30 days of receipt. But in practice it’s not easy as users have reached out to DT Swiss, Sapim and Unior without success. If you plan to engage one of them, you may have better luck asking the rep for your geographical area or a connection on the inside. If your contact doesn’t build wheels, temper your expectations.

If you’re in the market for a new tensiometer — whether a basic tool or a premium one — this information may help you choose. Park Tool and Wheel Fanatyk are easy to recommend. Both are supported in my spoke tension utility, provided for free on this site since 2013.