The MADE Show was fantastic. So glad to see so many inspired builders of frames and wheels!
September 29, 2019
The last part of this series covered these wheel building optional topics:
- Rim washers
Let's close out with three options that are as much paperwork as mechanical and one important point that is mostly strategic.
This week's list:
11. Tension, trueness mapping
12. Criteria for adopting new techniques
Prior to the 1970's it was nearly unknown for wheel makers to label their work. Shops put stickers on bikes they sold—a free advertisement but, unless a bike is labeled, how can the shop know it's origin for certain? There are expectations and responsibilities at stake so a shop sticker plays an important role. Same is true of a wheel.
There isn't much real estate on most wheels so builder stickers are usually found on the rim. Advertising, pride of craft, accountability depend on a legible mark.
As long as you label your wheels, take the small extra effort to add a serial number.
Custom labeling is a huge asset for building a reputation or for established builders maintaining their franchise. Of course, rims can be rebuilt so a sticker may no longer pertain. If you keep a log of numbers and specs, you'll likely be able to detect a rebuild.
Wheelsmith began labeled wheels in the '80's and people said "It's a Wheelsmith Wheel." Actually, we only built it but the perception was there. Our best rim supplier, Mavic, noticed and it wasn't long before they began offering complete wheels. Helium debuted in 1995 and the rest is history. Some call it the "dawn of the ready-made wheel market." Nonsense, it was the beginning of builders (small and large) putting pride and accountability into higher end builds.
Advice: have your own serial number stickers made. Use and log them. Don't compete with large rim graphics, keep the design discrete and simple.
Brand new wheels must be spotless. This their most studied moment and you want them to outshine expectations. It is easier to prevent smears and fingerprints than to clean them up afterwards—wearing light cotton gloves, keeping hands scrupulously clean, never grabbing the rim (hold a wheel by its spokes)—all effective means to build and deliver faster.
Even a rebuilt wheel should look restored. Back in the Campagnolo 1034 days, used hubs were regularly polished before rebuilding. Spokeless hubs are easy to shine and polished hubs resist corrosion much better. Customers will notice for a moment, and it only takes a moment to be impressed.
Advice: keep your wheels clean—hands, components, work area—so your customer gets a spotless build.
11. Tension and trueness mapping
Discussed here, data downloading for tension and trueness is possible like never before. The equipment is relatively cheap and many builders find it fun. A graphic representation of an excellent build is credit that only time will eventually confer. Motivated builders want evidence they're doing it right even though many customers don't ride hard enough to know the difference.
Study your success with such maps, learn what easy and hard wheels look like in chart form. Customers, however, usually have no real interest. As you sell or deliver a wheel, they'll show interest but followup reveals that most toss the chart soon after.
Advice: use tension and trueness mapping to help refine your building but don't put a lot of time and effort into handing your customer charts and tables. They may not really care—they're riders, not builders.
12. Criteria for adopting optional build techniques
It would be wrong to imply that these topics (1 through 11) are all bad or all good. Many have no place on wheels built, for instance, for low end generic replacement. The low end of cycling is crucial for many on tight budgets.
Take time to try and understand techniques you encounter. Only in the hand will you be able to judge their benefits. A long career may bring all of these your way but time is precious so consider going out of your way to test ride any tricks or tools that other builders use. In the end, you are building both great wheels and a career/hobby to suit your unique personality and circumstance.
Custom wheels are so cool. Custom wheels = custom livelihoods—may yours be the best!
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