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Education We Like to Ride Bicycles

Discussion in 'General' started by RTT, 8 May 2008.

  1. Malvolio

    Malvolio .

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    This = true. Almost.

    The why is rather complicated and multifaceted though, so I'll explain as best I can. First though, lets go through the few key elements that make up a good, high quality wheel build. Those primary elements that any good builder will incorporate are: tension, balance, retention. Tension is just how "tight" a spoke is; balance is not just how evenly the spokes are tensioned, but how they're tensioned as well; retention is utilization of various preventative measures to keep the nipples from loosening off over time, causing loss of tension and thus balance. These three elements are above all else what makes a wheel solid, or as we say in the industry: true.

    With that out of the way let's look at a machine built wheel. This has the potential to be a rather technically impressive thing, but factors like improper calibration, a damaged tool, quality issues with materials, operator error, or just dumb luck tend to throw this potential out the window, onto the street - shivering, cold, alone. Should none of these factors come into play however, one must still keep in mind that nearly every machine built wheel is still missing any sort of well practised or applied retention element - there just isn't anything in place that a professional wheel builder would classify as a nipple retention mechanism. Even having said all this though, giving the manufacturers as much credit as possible, one cannot ignore the mechanics perspective: nearly every machine built wheel I encounter on a daily basis (20-30 in a day) has balance issues that are far deeper than can be ironed out in a ten minute session on the wheel truing stand.

    Which is the crux of the issue: supplier, manufacturer, assembler, shipper, builder, salesman - they're all pressed for time, they're all expected, required to sell as much as possible. Not a single person during this chain from raw material to the customers hand has the time, can afford to give a wheel the time it needs to be the impressive high-tension device it should be. The supplier has a certain quantity to ship out in a day, only allocating a certain percentage to any sort of quality checking (even then there is a certain window of allowable defectiveness within a batch). The manufacturer does smaller numbers spread across more people, more machines, but a single individual is still required to produce 20-100 wheels in a day with only the most obvious of defects being caught. Assemblers get it easy, only ever having to slap wheels into frames which then just get put into boxes - if a wheel even gets spun at this stage it's only briefly. For shipping... don't even get me started on shipping. Most of the time I'm amazed the pallet hasn't arrived on fire, caked in bat corpses. Though varied in role and pay by shop, the builder rarely puts much effort into ironing out issues with tension or balance - either through lack of skill or lack of time - particularly given that these people are expected to unbox, unpackage, assemble, tune, finish, enter into the computer, and record eight to thirty full bicycles in one, eight-hour shift. Finally we have the salesman, the last chain before a bicycle is handed to a customer, which is unfortunate as these people typically have limited mechanical knowledge but vast talking skill, masking any real issues with the bicycle - no matter how glaring.

    Where in this chain do you see an issue? Where do you see more effort could have been made? The answer: all of everything. These are the corners that the industry cuts to get more out more quickly more cheaply, and much the same could be said for most any part of the bicycle, but rarely does a customer see it unfold quite as starkly as can be seen with a poorly built wheel.

    So a machine built wheel is rushed, rarely checked for quality, and handled by underpaid hacks who just want to go home and drink beer, how is this different to a hand built wheel?

    In all honesty: it isn't. A bad builder, an inexperienced builder, a rushed builder will all produce bad builds with the exact same issues as outlined above, albeit with a much higher price. It takes quite a lot of skill, time and appropriate tools to do a wheel correctly, but rarely are these things found together.

    As an example lets take the following common situation: Joe is a well trained mechanic, has attended UBI, taken all the courses available, personally owns a spoke tensiometer, and just started at the shop he works at - a modestly sized, high-end focused store with a limited accessories isle. The wheel gets handed to him, measured up, spokes checked and prepared with one of the premier retention compounds on the market, then built up using one of the techniques he's been taught. Tension is applied exclusively using a tool.

    What goes wrong with this situation? Reliance upon a tool for tension, though admirable, will always result in a tension pattern which does not take into account the minor little variances in how a hoop is formed - soft spots, deformed spots. This will also cause issues with checking for dish, as quite often this type of person will only focus on tension, getting everything even, rather than making sure the wheel is actually centred on the hub. More often than not I also see this person having issues with lateral true issues which they physically cannot remedy, so they're ignored. This is effectively the same as a machine built wheel, just two times the price.

    The next situation sees us with Jimmy, an overachiever but most certainly a self-made man, learned everything he knows on site, on his own, works at a shop - smaller in size, more focused on niche riding styles but still tries to compete with the "big boys" - and has been there since he was a grom and absolutely follows everything the other people at the shop do mechanically. The wheel is handed to him, measured up using an ancient wall chart, spokes are grabbed from a pile of roughly the right length, and the wheel is built and tensioned purely by feel alone until it's "Good Enough!" as they like to exclaim.

    What are the pitfalls? The entirely enclosed ecosystem of mechanics will only ever be a breeding ground for bad ideas and dangerous practises - there just simply isn't a sounding board or large enough group to account for individual confirmation bias. What one will typically see in this situation is the omitting of key procedures - retention mechanisms for example - or practises which directly damage the wheel requiring compensation in tension before it even goes out the door - certain "de-tensioning" or "anti-windup" procedures will deform the hoop so badly that, to an experienced hand, the wheel feels like it's been folded in half at some point in it's life. Though not as bad as the first example insofar as the initial "trueness" of the wheel, the omissions or pre-stressing can be bad news bears. Again, this is effectively the same as a machine built wheel.

    There are many other types of builders out there, and nearly a limitless number of combinations of procedures, but the above two stereotypes I've personally found to be the most common encountered within a bike shop which I list here only as a way to say that sweeping generalisations of "Hand Built is Better" are ill-founded. And yes, I do realise just how defeatist it is to use stereotypes to defeat a sweeping generalisation, but it gets my point across.

    So what should you take away from this? Trust your wheel builder, give them time, inspect their work thoroughly, ask questions if you feel uncomfortable with what they're doing or how experienced they are, and be highly suspicious of any hand built wheel that looses tension, deforms, unbalances, or doesn't sit straight within a short amount of time. A good wheel builder is very difficult to find, they don't come cheap, and are rather typically quite old.

    One thing I personally enjoy doing to new people I work with is finding a wheel they've built and guessing how many wheels they've done, what their style is, what technique they used, then asking them and seeing how close I was. Rarely am I wrong on any of this, which is simply because quality will show so easily through a wheel. Though I must say I do get a bit of a kick out of people who claim to have built "lots!" of wheels excitedly, but when pressed can only admit to a dozen or two at most. These wheels are typically terrifying.




    TL;DR - find a wheel builder that is at least 60, or just buy a machine built wheel and be done with it.



    P.S. I do have some funny stories to share about wheels and building them, but I feel this is already so long that nobody is going to read much any of it. To all one of you that'll read this: let me know if you want some fun stories on this subject and I'll happily jot some down in this thread for ya.
     
    legoman and dullonien like this.
  2. dullonien

    dullonien Master of the unfinished.

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    Wow, as always a hugely informative and good read Malvolio +rep.

    The main reason I asked is due to the personal (or close to) experience I've had with both. When I was originally serious into biking over 10 years ago there were very few off the shelf, pre-built wheels available, Mavic Crossmax's were the ones I remember, but there may well have been earlier examples, and of course pre-built bikes probably came with machine-built ones. But my experiences have almost entirely been with hand-built ones.

    The ones on my Kona AA were built by my then lbs some 13 years ago, and they have never required any maintenance, and are still just about perfect now. Of course the rear was re-built as I mentioned, but that was only due to me buckling the original after a hefty crash.

    In comparison, a friend purchased a new bike a few years back, a stumpjumper (roughly £1000 worth), and the machine-built wheels on that were atrocious. He suffered about 4 broken spokes within a couple of months, along with numerous loosening. The lbs of course replaced and broken spokes and re-trued the wheels free of charge, but I was just amazed at how many problems he encountered. Neither of us had ever suffered a broken spoke in the numerous years of mtbing, and both felt that the standards in this department had slipped. The owner of the lbs (the same owner who had to put up with us going in store every lunch break at school when we were in our teens and asking to see everything he stocked 10 times over) had a lengthy chat about his experiences, and his opinion was along the same lines.

    Edit. I also imagine that building a wheel is a little like building a piece of fine wood furniture, the materials used can vary slightly, and as such hand-building and being able to account for this would make a difference. As you said in your post Malvolio, rims vary slightly from rim to rim, and I'm sure each spoke will stretch a different amount, even if only very slightly. I wonder if the machines used can genuinely account for this like a person can by feeling this difference (well experience builders anyway), or are each spoke simply tensioned to the same torque and that's it?
     
    Last edited: 27 May 2013
  3. Cookie Monster

    Cookie Monster Well-Known Member

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    I could have sworn I replied to the hand build / machine built question myself last night, no need to now.

    I had a pair built by a lad I worked with (we no longer work together due to him falling out with the new owners of the business and leaving, I stayed therefor I am the devil), but he was fantastic at building wheels. He built me a pair of Mavic 717's onto Hope Pro II hubs maybe 6 years ago and they have never had a spoke key near them.

    I totally agree with this rule in many areas of life, if you can find the oldest most grumpiest person (i'm talking people in trades not generic shop workers), they have usually been doing the job for years and if you can strike up a decent conversation with them and show them you are passionate about the subject, they will do a fantastic job.
     
  4. legoman

    legoman breaker of things

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    Very informative Malvolio and i for one would love some of the stories!

    I dropped my wheels into my LBS today. They did a quick spin and confirmed they were out front was a tiny amount out but the spokes were loose the rear was terrible wobble an loose spokes.

    Ironically ive lobbed my old wheels on which are a good ten years old from Halfords of all places (known for being rubbish with bike setup and maintenance. OK the rear is heavier than my whole new set of rims but they are true and have never let me down. Goes to show how some of the older kit was built.
     
  5. 13eightyfour

    13eightyfour Formerly Titanium Angel

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    has anybody got any experience of YT industries? Im seriously considering ordering the Wicked Pro. The spec is awesome, the price is great but actual opinions/reviews are few and far between!
     
  6. Malvolio

    Malvolio .

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    Wood is a poor example I feel, simply because a wheel isn't as malleable nor is it a substrate in the most desperate of ways. Rather I've always felt the idea of a well tensioned and tuned percussion or stringed instrument was a good corollary. Even a poorly tuned guitar or drum can still be played, and certain people require their instruments tuned certain ways, but it takes a good ear and a careful touch to get the most out of the materials on hand.

    As far as tensioning goes: you were correct. An experienced builder will not focus on the individual spoke their manipulating, but on how the wheel reacts as a whole, which parts deform under certain tension applications, which parts feel "soft" or "hard". The act of turning a loose nipple isn't because it is loose, it is because the rest of the system requires it to be of a certain tightness. This is the mindset of a good wheelbuilder: top down, system first. This is what machines struggle with the most and why a spoke tensiometer isn't an often used tool, because a singular spoke will not tell you how the rest of the wheel will react.

    The most direct example I can give would be: imagine the deformation in a wheel while building is actually a "thing", an ethereal body of malleable dough, which reacts in unpredictable ways to what you do. At the point of the deformation - where this dough is causing a wobble - should a singular spoke be manipulated this dough will react, moving along the wheel, growing or shrinking, lengthening or shortening, causing other areas of the wheel to be directly effected by what you've just done. Every action you do has an effect, but not everything you do will be beneficial, so the knowledge of how a particular hoop under a certain amount of pressure from certain tension loads will react, will deform will tell you where you need to move next in the wheel to address this mobile mass of "dough".

    Most make the mistake in this situation of resorting to the raw application of tension to this one area, attempting to force to get rid of the issue, but this just results in a wheel with an uneven tension pattern and here there be monsters.

    Not really sure where else to go with that, or what I was really getting at. I'm tired and I may be getting a little bit pretentious with these silly metaphors.

    TL;DR - wheels have dough in them that cannot be beaten out with ham-fisted tension.

    I'm glad you and everybody else liked it - was very spur of the moment on my part.

    Anyways, I'm tired at the moment so stories will wait for another time, but I hope to make up for my lack of stories with some pictures.

    [​IMG]
    Grabbed this one on the way home from work today. The solid bit of clouds at the bottom of the sky are a rather nasty rain storm that just moved through, leaving us with some rather amazing blue sky.

    [​IMG]
    I'll just leave this here. 60cm Trek. 9" hand span.

    Yeah, it's a big, ugly bike.

    Also: this is NOT my bench - I wouldn't ever work in such filth or disorder. Plus my nickname isn't "T-Bone".
     
    Last edited: 28 May 2013
  7. Picarro

    Picarro New Member

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    Managed to do hit the curb with my pedal yesterday and somehow dislodge one side of my crankcase. Had to bike 14 kilometers to work this morning becaue I was staying at a friends place and he had no tools to fix it. Have 2 km's home today and I hope to god that it was just tightened badly and that I have not stripped the threads. If I HAVE stripped them, I need to buy a new frame :-(

    This bike had probably cost me in excess of 6000 DKK which is about 700 pounds. The good thing is though that I have learned alot.

    Though I am now wondering whether I should buy something a bit more touring styled for commuting, something with panniers, and then just convert my racing frame into a single speed bike. Though that would probably be another 10k DKK for a new touringbike and the singlespeed conversion.

    Hmm, decisions decisions.
     
  8. Margo Baggins

    Margo Baggins I'm good at Soldering Super Moderator

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    [​IMG]

    today I put one of these magic RRP devices on my fork. Now I no longer will have to eat all the mud. I am also trying some 680 bars at the moment, as my other bars are 740.
     
  9. sniperdude

    sniperdude Active Member

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    my gears are broken on my bike and the more i fix them the worse they get lol


    I really don't have a clue what i am doing
     
  10. Picarro

    Picarro New Member

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    Post a couple of pictures and describe the problem - we might be able to help you out.


    If we're not able to help, we'll just point and laugh.
     
  11. sniperdude

    sniperdude Active Member

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    LOL you would have laughed if you seen me riding home from the gym today
    when the gears slipped and I almost fell off.


    I just watched a few videos on how to set them up I will give it another go tomorrow.
     
  12. legoman

    legoman breaker of things

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    If your still having problems lob some photos up with the symptoms most problems are easy to fix.

    I fitted a chain guide earlier not the usual sort either as it fits my 3X9 setup, first impressions are good theres no noticeable noise unless i back pedal but ive noticed far less chain slap so far from it real test will be tomorrow on the trails.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. sniperdude

    sniperdude Active Member

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    I have just had another go at it, seems like I have fixed it but I have been out on it yet.

    I also noticed the spoke protector was snapped so cut it off :)
     
  14. Xlog

    Xlog Active Member

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    70 km trip, 4 punctures, jammed chain and one spoke came loose at some point. Kinda glad that I was carrying whole bike repair kit with me :lol:. Also, managed to brake my pump :wallbash:.
     
  15. Digi

    Digi The not-so-funny Cockney

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    Spent a good few hours trying to save my beat-up daily steed. The chain was basically done for after all the salt of a Danish winter but I went at it with steel brush and then soaked it in some petrol for a bit. It's much, much better but still a little stiff - I think it's had it's day.

    Cleaned out the all the muck on the gears, cassette, derailleur etc. Adjusted the breaks so the 1mm of pad I have left comes within half a foot of the rim when brake is operated and laughed at my still broken crank bearing. (I REALLY need to replace this asap, it's gonna sheer off entirely sooner or later)

    The only reason I got any of this done at all was seasonally good whether at last and Internet being down for 3 days.. :)
     
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  16. Da_Rude_Baboon

    Da_Rude_Baboon What the?

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    I keep on looking at the big old hill behind wear I live, wondering if I could get cycle onto the top of it. It has become something of a preoccupation as Google earth suggests it should be possible and there is a path marked on the OS map but I have been unable to find it. My mum's a keen hill walker and her walking group have tired several times to find the missing path all with out success, but, despite her insistence that the path no longer existed I went up a few weeks ago to see what I could find. Unfortunately I didn't find much. There was what looked to be a clear path through the heather and I followed it as far as I could but it eventually just fades out in a sea of knee deep heather.

    [​IMG]
    This picture shows quite well how it looks when your up there. I didn't have my OS map with me and with little phone signal to look at Google maps I turned back home. This Saturday the weather was good and I had nothing to do so I went up on foot to have a scout around and where the path shown on the OS map should have been there was just a faint dip in the heather. What the hell, I had come this far so I pressed on to see if I could find anything and after 20 minutes of heavy going through deep heather up the steep hill a clear path suddenly emerged! I had found it! I followed it up to the top of the hill where it then joins onto a landrover track which dissapeared off along the flat plain at the top. Retracing my steps back down the hill the path faded out into nothing about ten meters from where I had joined it. Annoyingly I was only about 20 to 30 meters away from where the photo above was taken but with the terrain if you go a couple of meters of the path it dissapears completely from site. Well I knew what I was doing on Sunday! :naughty:

    [​IMG]

    This shows the path at one of its wider sections and you can see how narrow it is. Unfortunately it's not ride-able IMO on the way up as its very steep, muddy and so narrow that the heather catches in your pedals. A fitter more experienced rider might be able to do it but I had to put the bike on my back and hike'a'bike for about a kilometer.

    [​IMG]

    Looking back down the hill you can see how narrow and overgrown it is. I am beggining to get some decent height here too.

    Near the top the path widened and was ride-able but muddy and quite draggy with my tyres. I joined the landrover track which was farely overgrown and followed it over the crest of the hill where it then joined a much better landrover track was an awesome, swooping series of bends, dips and climbs along the top of the hill. It really was excellent biking and I covered some serious distance with a massive grin on my face.

    [​IMG]

    My camera phones rubbish so you cant really make much out here but I could see Aberdeen and the sea which is roughly 20 miles from where I was.

    [​IMG]

    Looking back the way you can see the path I had come up dissapearing off over the hill and how flat the top is. There is still some snow on the hills in the distance which again would be about 20 miles away. I turned around at this point and headed back the way I came as it was pretty exposed and I was on my own.

    [​IMG]

    Looking back down the hill and "the path" again. The light coloured spot at the edge of the trees is where I'm heading for and where I had been looking for the path. It took about 30-40 minutes to carry the bike up the hill and about 5 to get to the bottom. :hehe: I fell off near the bottom too as there was a tree branch over hanging the trail and I gambled that it would bend and let me past. I lost that bet! I guess trees growing on an exposed hillside are pretty damn strong as it hardly moved at all took me off my bike like a jousting match. :blush:

    It was a cracking day though. One of my biking ambitions met and the discovery of some great new routes on my doorstep. :thumb:
     
  17. Da_Rude_Baboon

    Da_Rude_Baboon What the?

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    It's a double post but its worth it. :D


    Embed vimeo video​


    When I did my days guided ride with Andy McKenna he said he was taking the Santa Cruz guys up to Torridon for a weeks riding and to film a top secret video with Steve Pete. The Video was released at the weekend to reveal their new bike, the Solo. If you think those trails look awesome Andy does week long tours and "dirty weekends" up there and else where in Scotland. Andy is an utter legend and a complete nutter (in a good way) and I couldn't think of a better person to go riding with.
     
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  18. Digi

    Digi The not-so-funny Cockney

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    Awesome stuff Baboon! Thanks for sharing, that's mouth-watering countryside right there, lucky bast! :thumb:
     
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  19. 13eightyfour

    13eightyfour Formerly Titanium Angel

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    I've been looking to get my missus a hydration pack, and whilst I was walking through tesco earlier noticed that they sell a 6Ltr rucksack complete with a 1.5Ltr bladder for £8.25.

    I've been using one of their standard rucksacks for just over a year now, It's comfortable when fully loaded and it's taken everything I've put it through so thought I grab the hydropack and see if it was any good.

    No Long term test obviously but first impressions are really good, the bite valve feels better than my deuter and its got plenty of space for carrying all the essentials. I'm considering getting another to use for myself, as my deuter is only big enough for the bladder, phone and pump at a squeeze.
     
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  20. Lance

    Lance Ender of discussions.

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    Finished Cycle with #cyclemeter, on a new route, time 57:35, 15.08 miles, see http://t.co/BrBmPNFFlv, average 15.72.

    Just done a nice little ride after my kickboxing class as a sort of 'tired cycling' simulator. Was a really nice evening for the ride and I had lovely clear sky's and roads the whole way round.

    Hope all your rides are going sweet in the nice weather.

    Will have to get some pics to show you what my bike looks like these days.

    Also regarding water bladders. My osprey one is amazing as it has a nice stiff back which means it never goes wobbly.
     

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