Kogswell Wheel Build

For quite some time I’ve been wanting to learn how to build a wheel. I think it was the fact that the Surly Long Haul Trucker ships with 2 spokes on the left chainstay. I always thought that it was such a cool little accessory, but I had no idea how to use them if I needed them. If you don’t know what do to with them, they are just for decoration. So for the Kogswell I spoke to Scott and Chris at Topanga Creek Bicycles about building the wheels, and hopefully learning to do it myself. They were willing to help out, so we ordered the parts and set a date/time for a wheelbuild session.

Specs wise, here’s the build. The front is a 36 hole Schmidt SON dyno hub and the rear will be a White Industries hub. Rims are from Vintage Bicycle Press (Bicycle Quarterly) and they are the 36 hole 650b. They will both be laced 3 cross. Only the front hub was ready so I worked on the front while Scott worked on another customers wheel.

First off was to cut the spokes using the Phil Wood machine. This thing is really cool, as it cuts the spoke and cuts threads into the metal in one smooth motion. Well, if you can operate it smoothly. It took me a while to get the timing down, but once I did it was pretty quick. Luckily I had 36 spokes to practice on. I think it took me 39 to get it right though, as a few didn’t come out with good threads. The machine is something right out of the industrial revolution. It’s a really cool machine.

After the spokes were cut and prep’d we started lacing them up. By the time I was done it looked like a real wheel! Like one that I might even ride someday! Only problem was that it was more oval than round. Probably a result of not getting the spokes cut close enough to length. We went over the truing quickly, but I have to admit that I didn’t really understand it. I’ve got a rear to do next though, so I’ll have another chance to practice. Hopefully this week I’ll be able to get back out there and work on it.


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  • That hub is intense! Wheel building is such an art form. Just truing a wheel takes serious practice. It is cool that you are learning to do this.

    • Yeah, that hub is so awesome looking Marcus. I think the rear is going to match it very well. It was pretty intimidating watching Scott true it in so quickly. I was able to untrue it faster though!

  • I read “The Bicycle Wheel” recently, and while I didn’t grasp all of the engineering concepts, it did help explain some of the “whys” involved in wheel building. Another great book for the “whys” with a different perspective than Brandt is Gerd Schraner’s “The Art of Wheelbuilding” (freely available as a PDF by the way: http://icelord.net/bike/ArtOfWheelbuilding.pdf).

    For the “hows” I think Sheldon’s guide is lucid and detailed: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/wheelbuild.html

    More good tips and links here: http://miketechinfo.com/new-tech-wheels-tires.htm

    It’s funny though, despite all this reading I’ve yet to attempt a wheel build of my own…

    • I was just re-reading “The Bicycle Wheel” last night. It makes much more sense now that I’ve attempted one. I still need much more prac, but that’s coming. Thanks for the other links. I’ll look into them today.

  • I like that hub. Very cool looking.

    Good for you that your giving wheel building a go. I had no idea you had to cut each spoke to length.

    I like what you’ve done to your blog. It’s looking good.

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