Wheelbuilding: Who Knew You Could Just Do It?

I signed up for the Wheel Building class at Bikeworks, because it seemed like the perfect intersection of several hobbies of mine. It turns out that even the novice wheel builder can create a wheel every bit as worthy (and probably more so) than the average wheel created by factory machines.

The first week of class consisted of 3 hours of measuring, measuring, and more measuring. We used calipers to make sure we were precise down to the micrometer (1/10 of a millimeter). Normally, I don’t like the sensation of stress that this level of precision creates in me. However, I kept an open mind, and just went with the flow. I think everyone else was rather befuddled through the process, and the instructors were super-patient, so all went as planned.

The real fun occurred in the second class, which took place yesterday. I realized that building your own wheel is a satisfying combination of many other crafty pursuits, such as basketry, weaving, stringing an instrument, and….how about pitching a tent? I enjoyed it quite a bit, and especially because the patterns we were making just made sense to my brain. It was rather like knitting a hat in the round, in that you learn a series of motions, and keep doing them until the entire circle is complete.

Next week we get to actually true the wheel, (perfect the tension) so I’m sure there’s plenty more bumps in the road ahead. But yesterday’s class was pleasingly meditative.

Our assistant instructor, Homer, demonstrating one method of measuring the rim diameter.
It helps to lay out your two sets of spokes in different places, because they are a crucial 2mm apart in length.
The dancing alien stage of wheelbuilding just after you’ve dropped the first set of 9 spokes into the holes in the hub.
Our instructor, Steve.
Getting ready to thread the first spoke to the rim. Fun!
My wheel looks like a wheel!



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