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September 05, 2019
In part 1 of this series, we discussed a number of wheel building techniques that may be dispensable for some:
- Time spent matching components.
- Lacing fixtures.
- Punching spoke heads into hubs.
- Spoke windup control.
Let's cover four more.
5. Rim washers
Lacing a wheel with washers is tedious. Slowing down lacing is a cost someone must pay. Every time you drop a washer in the rim (inevitable!) and lose minutes retrieving it, one can’t help but wonder, why washers? Granted, in circumstances of inadequate design, where washers make a better wheel, use them. Please, however, always advocate for features to be incorporated into the 68 standard components of a wheel rather than adding 32 more!
Advice: try to avoid washers.
More time is spent unnecessarily pre-stressing wheels than perhaps any other building activity. Wheels need two forms of pre-stressing: a) setting the spoke line early in truing and, b) stress relieving spokes when they are at full tension. Doing these and nothing else should be fast. Set spoke line by levering spokes at low tension with a steel rod. One time sets the line. No need for massive hydraulic presses, bending rims on the floor. rolling wheels while leaning on the axle, or flexing the rim against your stomach with elbows and grip. These can cause wheel (and body) damage that takes time to repair.
Properly pre-stressing steel in spokes is accomplished by raising and then lowering their tension once the wheel is fully tight. Metallurgically, such relieved spokes are more fatigue resistant. It takes under 30 seconds to grab parallel sets and give them a firm squeeze. You can ignore most everything else suggested for pre-stressing. You'll be faster and your wheels optimal without.
Advice: most “pre-stressing” consumes time without benefit. Minimize yours.
Historically, rims were weaker and more flexible (or very heavy). Tying spoke crossings with wire and solder added stability—wood rim wheels especially benefitted. Today, its contribution is no longer needed except for restoration or aesthetics. Make sure you tie and solder like a jeweler, the finished tie should glow like liquid silver, not like hasty electronics soldering. Follow this method, do it rarely and for the right reasons.
Advice: Tying is for restoration and decoration, not 21st century strength.
All materials are elastic and change over time under the influence of gravity, temperature, and chemistry. It makes intuitive sense to let a new wheel, freshly invested with high tension, rest before seeing use. That intuition, however, is misguided. A wheel must be optimal and stable without aging—and it can be done. The needs of racing have been high incentive to make aging unnecessary. Your final pre-stressing steps will be the last time a wheel experiences elastic (permanent) deformation. Only trauma and fatigue can bother it. Except for rim cement, do not expect aging to improve your wheels. Such superstition is too expensive, even for psychological reasons!
Advice: Aging is unnecessary, you and riders should not be paying for it.
Four more wheel building techniques remain to conclude this discussion of questionable practices. Stay tuned!
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