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Posts Tagged ‘bike restoration’

some great street art ...

some great street art …

This bike was briefly featured in my recent ‘chuck-out-a-thon’ post having been unceremoniously cast out minus the wheels, all oily-gritty and rusty.

protour crx100 62cm

protour crx100 62cm – as found

I was intrigued, as it has an “Australian Made Frame” decal on the seat stays. It is a large framed hybrid, ( 62cm seat tube C-C, 60cm top tube C-C ), and I haven’t found much on the web about ProTour except that they seem to have been made late 80s to early 90s by Southcotts in Adelaide.

Protour is one of those names that turn up a lot of unrelated rubbish when googled, as you can imagine ! Most of the information came from the cycling forums, with someone suggesting there was a tie in with Ricardo somewhere. South Australia seems to have had a lot of bicycle history happening in the 80s and 90s !

Being a hybrid it had flat bars, a riser stem, and I would assume once wore 27″ wheels, from the brake pad locations. The Suntour Accushift 6sp. thumb shifters are rather plasticky and won’t be re-used. Some band-on Suntour down tube shifters are shown below. Crankset was a fairly heavy steel ringed, alloy cranked ( and worn out ) Sugino “Proto” c.52/40T.

some of the yucky bits from the dismantle-a-thon

some of the yucky bits from the dismantle-a-thon ( and the ‘new’ shifters ).

Front Derailleur is a nondescript Suntour, the rear a medium / long cage Suntour XCM ( MTB ). Brake callipers are recessed ProStars in black. Seat pin is 26.4mm dia. and an italian Vetta saddle was fitted. None of this is of much consequence, as it’s the frame I’m most interested in, for it has the ‘feel’ of decent quality about it.

The tubing decal is missing from the seat tube, but I’m guessing from forum comments it may be Tange 5 plain gauge cr-mo or a higher grade Tange chromo steel. Some forums say Protour used Mangalloy steel, similar make-up to Reynolds 531, (?) I am only guessing here …

The frame would definitely benefit from better components. I see it as a comfortable longer distance ride, and will also set it up with some hill climbing ability in mind. The large frame on a bike like this means ( for me ) a comfortable riding position with higher bars due to a low relative saddle height. ‘Experts’ might tell me it’s too big, but from my experience with the refurbished Giant Boulder 550, I think it will be just fine even with the flat-footed stand-over residual height at zero.

Frame angles look on the steepish side so it should be responsive and yet it will have no toe overlap ( I checked ! ). Large frames like these don’t always make the most graceful looking bikes though.

ready and rolling !

ready and rolling !

Typically for a chuck-out it has 126mm rear dropouts (5/6/7 speed) and a 95mm front dropout width (damn that 5mm). At least they are forged/cast dropouts. The fork had the word ‘Falter’ stamped faintly on the stem. The serial number on the BB shell begins with ’90’ so I assume that’s its year of birth.

super vivid scene...

super vivid scene…

I fitted a new VP head set, re-tapped the BB threads and put in a Shimano UN-55 113mm cartridge BB. Cranks are now recycled Shimano – early105, ( FC-1050 ) 170mm. Chain rings are new, T.A. 49T + 38T, from Wiggle UK.

These are marked 9/10 speed and I wasn’t sure how they would go with a 7sp. Cluster and an 8sp. chain … luckily it’s friction shifting ! I had to fit thin spacers between the spider and the inner ring to stop the wider chain scraping on the outer ring. They now work well, but I won’t try this trick with index shifters !

34T on the back - that's mega alright !

34T on the back – that’s mega alright !

The freewheel cluster is a 14-34T Shimano 7sp. ‘Megarange’ but I can’t use the 14T at the moment, because it won’t let the chain clear the chainstay. To prevent this happening I adjusted the ‘H’ stop screw on the rear derailleur to end its travel at 16T, but this needs further investigation.

The 38T is about the smallest front ring that will fit a standard Shimano road 130mm BCD spider and combined with the 34T megarange rear gives a pretty low bottom gear ( at least for a double chain wheel ), albeit with the next lowest rear cog being 10T smaller at 24T. Shifters are Suntour band-on down tube, and sit on the little ‘heart’ where the cable stops once were.

49×16 is not a high top gear for a road bike, but they are 27″ wheels at least, so i’ll wait for a test ride to see whether it will spin out too easily down hills, etc.

I fitted some new Jagwire cables and borrowed the Genetic bar/stem from the Shogun Samurai with the Cane Creek levers – as that bike is due for a re-assessment. The two-tone paintwork had a lot of rust spots which I neutralised, and I did a bit of touch up spraying.

I confess, it’s a bit rough in places !

head tube & protour logo

head tube & protour logo

Instead of recycling and fitting the black Pro Star original callipers, I used some Tektro R539 dual pivot recessed that I happened to have – for a bit of shine ( and better stopping ). Wheels are the Araya 27″ anodised front one from the L.A. 84 and a Suzue sealed tech 126mm on the same type of Araya rim rear.

It’s getting harder to find decent 27″ tyres and at the moment these are reasonable Kendas, but I would prefer something like a 27″ Gatorskin pair ( I only have one of these right now ). If this bike goes really well then a lighter pair of wheels/tyres may be in order ! Lastly, I fitted some Metallic Blue fizik bar tape, before taking it for a spin …

yee-ha !

yee-ha !

I think it rides more smoothly than the Giant 550, and it’s very comfortable. Reckon I could ride this one all day with the B-17 under my bum !

Happy Retro Re-Cycling !

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as found

as found

This bike is an ideal candidate for refurbishment, showing clues to having been used little and parked carefully. The decals are in good condition and there is little paint scratching. It’s original and complete except for the missing seat post and saddle, and I’ve already dated it from the number ’84’ stamped onto the Sakae Custom-A crank set. Sadly by 1984 some nice Apollo details had been dropped, like the alloy head badge, which has been replaced by a metallic decal. The rims too are cheapish Kin Lins on Joytech hubs – Araya on Shimano would have been more likely a few years previous.

rims gone..

the rims & spokes are pretty well gone..

The main issue for the recyclist is the rust – which is to only be expected from the bike’s location. Swansea is low-lying and surrounded by salt water so the chromed steel rims have gone, the spokes and transmission are rusted up and the paintwork is affected by a few ugly rust spots – though they’re not terminal. The mudguard ( fender ) stays are very surface rust-y although the stainless guards themselves are almost unmarked. I don’t think the wheels had ever been removed, judging by the lack of burrs on the nuts.

crank extractor

the crank extractor

When dismantling a bike for overhaul I like to start with a releasing agent on all accessible threads before removing the pedals, followed by the taking off of vulnerable or clumsy parts like chain sets, rear derailleurs and guards. The guards are better removed after the wheels, and it’s also a good idea to slightly loosen the headset, bar clamp and head stem nuts before removing the wheels, to test that they’re not frozen up.

intersting shifter mount - suntour

interesting shifter mount – suntour friction

Often one of the worst trouble spots is the fixed bottom bracket cup, but that takes longer to get to and is probably best removed from a fairly bare frame to avoid damage to other components. Plastic crank axle bolt covers and steel pedal axles in alloy cranks are possible nightmares too. If the plastic cover breaks rather than unscrews, pick it out bit by bit with a small flat screwdriver. if a fixing has both a hex head and screw slots use the hex head if possible. Socket or ring spanners are preferable to open ended or shifting spanners for releasing tough bolts.

the suntour honor rear derailleur is heavy but reliable..

the suntour honor rear derailleur is heavy but reliable..

If you’re new to this, take photos as you go and keep related components together in separate containers. Replacing nuts and bolts back on removed assemblies can help identify where they go later. For paired components such as brake and shift levers. pedals, brake callipers etc. it’s a good idea to dismantle and overhaul one at a time so that there is always an assembled one on hand for cross reference. Concentric assemblies such as headsets can be kept together by threading onto thin wire and tying together in their order of assembly.
Even though i’ve done quite a few of these jobs it’s amazing how easy it is to lose things or to forget part sequences and more so if I am only working sporadically on a project which is why I like to keep organised.

When the chain is this rusty it’s perhaps easier to cut it off with bolt cutters and shout the poor steed a new one. The freewheel here is a classic Suntour 5-speed ‘Perfect’ 14-28T which has a lovely click to it when coasting. This one was frozen up, but it will free up with some oil. The surface rust is typical from lack of use and is relatively easily neutralised. More importantly, I check that the teeth are not chewed up by the chain. This freewheel is unworn on all cogs but a well used one with no rust could easily be worn out, typically on the middle or small cogs depending on the type of use it has had.

pie-plate and 2-prong suntour 'perfect' 5sp.

pie-plate and 2-prong suntour ‘perfect’ 5-spd.

Take the freewheel off before disassembling the back wheel – if you’re going that far that is ! The wheel rim is used as a lever with a 2-prong Suntour tool held in a bench vice and the wheel nut ( or Q.R. skewer ) tightened onto it. Like a steering wheel the rim is turned anti-clockwise until the threads just let go, then remove the nut ( or Q.R. ) and wind the tool and freewheel off by hand. I then disassembled these wheels by cutting the spokes with a bolt cutter for speed – though I usually remove good spokes carefully with a key for re-use if I am keeping the rims.

joytech hubs - the front is worth overhauling

joytech hubs – the front is worth overhauling

These are all the parts of these wheels that I will keep – the 95mm Joytech front hub, the freewheel and the 126mm rear Joytech hub.( I have better rear hubs so I may not be using this one ). The front will be overhauled and re-used as I have many needy sets of typically 95mm wide ‘ten-speed’ forks not to mention this bike’s !

crank axle complete & in good nick

crank axle assembly in reasonable nick

I was pleased to find a plastic shroud over the crank axle. How many old bikes don’t have these and then need a new BB because crud has fallen down the tubes and contaminated the bearings – OK, so no one services BBs, right ?

I’ve lost count … I mean, how much would it cost any maker to have fitted one of these sleeves ?

i'm still working...

i’m still working…now’s a good time to remove the BB.

P.S.  I’ve been enjoying the L.A. 84 single speed conversion lately – it’s so simple to ride !

yummm !

yummm !

To be continued …

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a genuine user, complete

a genuine user, complete

 

Say “Hi” to the Speedwell Classique 3.

We’re into the 1970s again and the days of Australian made Speedwells are over – but this one is a throwback to the days of the classic ladies’ 3-speed roadster. It’s a basic design that will never die, though in this case is influenced by the 70s era ten-speed boom in its frame design and angles, and with typical period 27″ wheels.

There are even modern 700c equivalents still being made, like the 3-speed versions of the Giant “Via” step-through, not to mention the many new ‘retro’ step-through bikes that are available these days.

This one was appealing to me because it’s in reasonable condition and complete with the original “Speedwell” sprung saddle, painted and lined mudguards, and matching painted chainguard.

shimano click-trigger

shimano click-trigger

It’s Taiwanese made, and the Shimano 3S hub with trigger shifter is the same that I bought new to “upgrade” my old Speedwell coaster braked roadster so many years ago.

shimano bellcrank and pushrod design

shimano 3S bellcrank and pushrod shift assy.

saddle in good nick is a big bonus - but there's lots of rust on the saddle frame

original saddle top in good nick is a big bonus – but there’s lots of rust on the saddle frame

There is an art to pre-visualising – or imagining in the mind’s eye how an old bike will look when refurbished and this one’s looking pretty good to me !

accessory lights even - lol

accessory lights even – lol

It does need a complete overhaul with special attention to the wheels and bottom bracket, and so hopefully will be interesting to follow as a project, especially if you are restoring something similar yourself . There will be decisions here on what to retain and what to replace, depending on condition, looks and performance.

Does it have to be strictly original or a modern (sometimes!) improvement ? Your choice.

In my case I would never consider repainting this frame – “it’s only original once” !

eek !

eek – omg !

Above is the butcher’s method to cotter pin removal, drilling into the pin’s head – but with care it works well. I use it when all other methods fail. I don’t have a pin press but use a hammer and punch and releasing agent first.

It’s very important to avoid damaging the crank or axle with the drill if you want to re-use them, and to support the crank on a notched block of wood while banging away at the pin, or the bearing surfaces may be ruined.

If you’re sure you are going to scrap them then it doesn’t matter, I guess.

success !

success !

In this case the heat of drilling must have loosened the rust bond as the pin tapped out without going all the way with the drill. I knew the bearings were no good from the initial feel of the rotation but it’s always better to be gentle in case they can be saved.

This job would have been much harder on the drive side as the chain wheel tends to foul the drill – but it tapped out OK.

ready for rust conversion

ready for rust conversion treatment

And this is what your complete overhaul ‘parts box’ might look like after the bike has been fully dismantled.

some cleaning and sorting jobs

some cleaning and sorting jobs ahead …

don't lose these parts, or the pushrod inside the axle either

don’t lose these parts, or the pushrod inside the axle either

And remember to take some time off between dirty jobs …

now relaxxxx ...

now relaxxxx …

See Ya !

 

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ahh, nostalgia !

ahh, nostalgia !

My first attempt at a Sturmey Archer AW hub rebuild has begun – with a spirit of adventure I’ve started stripping down the Elswick Cosmopolitan rear hub. Why ? Because first gear wasn’t working and the hub seemed very noisy on its maiden voyage. Since then I haven’t had time to look at it or use it.

The other reason is – ” because it’s there ! “.

Upon taking the hub apart I found it to be full of rusty oil and the low gear pawls were rusted and seized, otherwise the AW is in reasonable condition. Worth experimenting with at the very least.

The AW 3-speed has been around for nearly 80 years and there is quite a lot of info on the web about it, from Sheldon Brown to the forums. There are also parts available for it, if you search a bit …

classic 70s !

classic 70s !

I also used a wonderful book called “Fix Your Bicycle”, a Clymer publication from 1972 – this is the upgraded 1975 version. It’s the only book I have seen with comprehensive overhaul instructions for period Shimano ( 333, 3SC ) and Sturmey Archer AW, S3C coaster, FW four speed and S5 five speed all with exploded and labelled diagrams … outstanding !

Forget the web – you can’t beat a classic bike repair book for sheer recycling involvement …

inter-planetary poetry !

inter-planetary poetry !

Therefore, there’s not much point me going into too much technical detail about it here, but I would briefly say that the main things I’ve noted from opening this 1984 model are :

 

1) The hubs are not as complicated as might seem from the diagrams as long as you are methodical about keeping related parts aligned and together. Perhaps the hardest part is dealing with all the crud in so many nooks and crannies. There’s a lot of cleaning involved – in a neglected hub like this, anyway.

sub assemblies

cleaned up – the sub-assembly shells – driver, gear ring and planet cage

2) The bearings are pretty well protected with double metal labyrinth seals each side, but as also applies to most coaster hubs, the right hand outer driver bearings seem the most vulnerable to water and wear.

axle & clutch assy. with fixed sun gear

axle & clutch assy. with fixed sun gear

3) The 4 R-shaped pawl springs are incredibly fine and easily lost – if you need them, buy more than you need !

ye gods theyre tiny ! --- the pawls and springs -stored in oil

ye gods they’re tiny springs ! — low gear pawls, pins and springs – stored in oil

4) Most sources advise greasing the caged ball bearings only, and using 20W machine oil everywhere else inside. This means lower internal friction and no sticking of the pawls each end of the hub. I used a light white grease and Pressol oil for re-assembly.

the planet pinions and pinion pins

the planet pinions and pinion pins

5) The re-cyclical (!) nature of the hub means that cleanliness is required at all stages to stop abrasive bits grinding around and around inside after the rebuild – with obvious consequences. The upside is low maintenance – if regular oil top-ups are done as the hubs are pretty bulletproof otherwise.

r.h. ball ring and hub shell

r.h. ball ring and hub shell

This steel hub has the traditional lubricator hole, unlike later models, and the spoke count is 28 holes for the 20 x 1 & 3/8 Elswick rim ( 451mm BSD, not 406mm ). Oil can be applied to later hubs via the indicator rod hole through the right side of the axle, if needed.

dust seal spacer, sprocket, snap ring

Although I am also a fan of coaster hubs they do have more internal resistance because of the grease required for the brake. The earlier non-coaster S-A hubs like this that are oil lubricated tend to spin much more freely. They also have a lovely click sound on the freewheels.

There was a fair amount of surface rust inside the hub, and that’s never a good sign. I had to soak some parts in phosphoric rust converter which I quickly washed off with water after bathing ( this was to avoid the black residue that appears in air sometimes if the converter is left to dry on the part ). Also, to do a thorough job, I thought it best to remove the hub shell from the rim in order to clean the whole wheel up properly this time.

After visiting a few bike shops in Newcastle, I decided it wasn’t worth pursuing S-A parts locally. Abbotsford Cycles in Victoria stocks a range of small parts at reasonable prices – just another example of the advantages of online shopping, provided one knows what one needs. In this case I replaced the driver bearings and cone, the clutch spring, and the low gear pawl springs. Everything else was serviceable.

I may end up using this hub on another bike, as the rim braking is poor on the Elswick because of the deteriorated condition of the rims …

success - i hope !

success – i hope !

A lot of the younger salespeople in the local bike shops have never even heard of Sturmey-Archer. Well, I suppose Australia is more a Shimano kind of place these days, though even Nexus hubs are reasonably rare here.

We are still an under-developed country as far as broader cycling sophistication and understanding goes …. except perhaps for all that pertains to modern sports bikes – sigh …

lost & found

lost & found

Happy Re-cycling !

 

 

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another stray !

another stray !

I had to sleep on this one – but it was still there the next day, minus front wheel. A random chuck-out at a Newcastle beachside suburb, I think the metallic mauve colour called me back, for better or worse. Just to show myself  that I’m not too desperate I did leave the two rusty MTBs and a basic mens’ 10 speeder back on the footpath for the cowboys or the metal merchants…

neglected, as usual

neglected, as usual

So here’s the process of pulling it down, as bikes take up less (valuable) shed space as separate frame-sets and wheels until the decision is made to make something out of them :

not at all hopeless

not at all hopeless- i already have a new use for the stem

I might state again that my basic re-cycling philosophy ( read : rant ! ) these days is … if it has the original paint and decals – don’t paint it ! Nothing kills character like a new paint job, and new paint doesn’t sit well visually with old patina’d components either. But if it’s not an original finish, then do with it what you will.

nor fatal ...

not fatal … yet !

Anyhow, when dismantling a neglected bike like this, I have found a routine that suits me.  I put a penetrating agent on as many bolt threads as I can access. I prefer to leave the wheels, bars and saddle on until later, as they may assist in keeping the bike steady while it’s inverted. I go over the bike quickly and see which nuts can be loosened off easily – stem bolt, bar clamp bolt, wheel-nuts, brake lever fittings, bottom bracket lock-ring, steering head lock-nut, etc.

a basement sugino

a basement sugino

Getting the pedals off is done early. In this case steel pedals in steel cranks loosened easily, unlike those in neglected alloy cranks, which can be a nightmare.

Speaking of penetrating fluid, there’s one I discovered recently that isn’t cheap but works really well, and quickly ( available from Bunnings in a red, black & white spray can ) called “Reducteur H-72 Super Releasing Agent”  ( I am running out of my other favourite – called “PB Blaster” ).

I like to remove the cranks early on to prevent possible damage to the chainring teeth, and in this case was hindered by the perished plastic caps – these have allowed water into the threads and the caps can seize in place in time, yet they crumble if you try to twist them out. Carefully wedging out the remains with a small screwdriver helped here – but definitely avoid damaging the threads inside, especially on aluminium cranks !

stubborn so-and-so !

stubborn plastic so-and-so !

Being steel, these square taper cranks came off easily with the extractor without the threads crumbling.  The chain set is a base model pressed steel Sugino with the inner ring riveted on. The crank is swaged onto the outer ring and has developed a slight amount of loose movement between the two –  not really repairable, so it’s off to the metal recyclers for this one !

Removing the chain is necessary to take off the derailleur mechs, and I always renew chains on hard rubbish restorations so I don’t take much care ( or time ) removing the old ones with a chain-splitter. I guess even bolt cutters would do the job here – more recyclable metal scrap !

The brakes have to come off to remove the mudguards, and there isn’t much appeal to these guards or to the rusty ‘Star’ brand callipers, but the metal mudguard stays are always worth keeping even if the guards are well beyond it.

get in there with the silicone spray !

get in there with the silicone spray !

To remove stubborn plastic hand grips I lift them up carefully with a small flat screwdriver, watching the blade doesn’t scratch the bar, then spray in silicone lubricant through a tube-nozzle and simply twist them off  by hand – this always works, is safer than cutting them and the silicone will wash off without damaging the plastic if they are to be re-used. These grips were discoloured but came up whiter in a chlorine bleach bath.

The brake levers are attractive but non-adjustable “Lee Chi” – classic looking alloy jobs with road style mountings – I broke a good flat screwdriver tip getting one off though, as the concealed threads are vulnerable to corrosion and hard to free. Copper anti-seize on the threads is a good idea when re-fitting these. Handlebars are an “Oxford” style, pleasing in shape but they’ll need either some drastic de-rusting or an alternative bar.

some cleaned fittings

some cleaned fittings

The hub is not from this bike – I am recycling 95mm hubs with the narrow 5/16″ axles so I have enough to fit these old ten-speed forks. It’s fairly easy to lace up a front wheel on a good 36H rim (no dishing needed ) and solves the fork compatibility issues.

stripped !

stripped !

At this point the bike looks something like the above frameset and is now much easier to store, but in this case I removed the steering head cups and races for inspection. The bottom bracket was well greased and shiny inside and is very re-useable but the steering assembly might be better renewed. I always look for age clues on found bikes, and in this case the plastic saddle was embossed as 1987. The frame is a useful 55cm size too.

best to replace these ...

the headset – best to replace these …

new headset and rust neutralised - for now

new headset and rust neutralised – for now

The surface rust isn’t terminal either, so I’ll try a little rust converter treatment after degreasing … and voila – here is the frame-set with a new VP headset ( inexpensive ) and the overhauled bottom bracket. A polish and/or a clear coat will bring the shine up further.

a basic commuter ?

a future basic commuter ?

Now, then ..

cecil is looking sharp !

cecil is looking sharp !

Here is a pic of Sir Cecil Walker, in some temporary clothes,and having acquired a new stem and bars. I am testing the brake lever positions – so, no tape yet.

This bike seems to suit 700C wheels – I am trialling a temporary front one, and the steering seems more responsive. Don’t know what to do about the rear though. I’m still waiting for a good traditional lightweight wheel that takes a 5-speed cluster. In 700C ?

More patience required !

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retro thang

retro thang

Well, here it is finally – a sporty retro cruiser – and if that’s not an oxymoron, I don’t know what is !

It’s taken a while because I had to find the room to store it assembled.

It could be a poor person’s “Guv’nor”,  without the laid back frame angles, painted wheels or the front hub brake.

Or the price – but the Pashley “Guv’nor is a beautiful bike nonetheless … I’m not pretending this is as good.

valentine

valentine

Simple, lightweight and relatively low-cost – I know that some might not like the brazed on cable stays remaining, but you never know, I might want to convert it back to a ten speed one day !

There will be some further detailing to come – after some thoughtful test riding, as usual.

Anyhow, here are the parts I used ;

as found ...

as found …

Frame : Road Chief 10-speed steel – 54cm  —- ( O Ye of little faith ).

Headset:   A basic new  Dia-Compe gold alloy  – 1″ threaded

combined reflector and brake stay

combined reflector and brake stay

Bottom bracket / Chain set :       Miche Primato BB / Miche Xpress  forged alloy 170mm – 48x18T

The “X-press” chainset looks more traditional than the trendy “Advanced” model, as well as being significantly cheaper.  The resulting chain line worked out nicely though I had to use spacers to match the hub to the dropouts.

trad. chainset

trad. chainset

Pedals : Genetic gold alloy track with Wellgo clips and Urbanvelo brown leather straps

Seat post :   similar to original plain steel 25,8mm – ( up for revision later on ).

Saddle  :     Brooks B17N brown

Wheels :  Recycled – 36H Alesa 700c alloy rims, Hi-flange front steel hub, Falcon coaster rear.    My first recycled wheel rebuild ! Not perfectly true, but pretty close.

Stem :   Nitto Dynamic 10 cm quill

Bars  :  Inverted alloy ‘tourist” style with cardiff cork grips shellacked

inverted tourist generic bars

with inverted “tourist” bars

Front Brake  :  Dia comp DC750 long reach centre pull calliper, recycled Polygon alloy lever. The long reach calliper is for the change from 27″ (630mm) to 700c (622mm) wheels.

dc-750 calliper

useful dc-750 calliper

Tyres : Schwalbe Delta Cruiser 700x35c

Hub-shiners  :  made from a worn out leather belt ! I’m rather pleased with these.

the little bolt weighs it down on the hub

the little bolt weighs it down on the hub

and the rear with schwinn dome nuts

and the rear with schwinn domed wheel nuts

more fun to come !

more fun to come !

See Ya !

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with delta cruiser 700x35c tyres

with delta cruiser 700x35c tyres

I have been finding out first hand that wheel building is a time consuming activity, but not without its own satisfaction. Because I was building up completely different wheels from the originals I needed to measure the hubs and rims, and decide on the appropriate cross pattern in order to work out the new spoke lengths.

The online spoke calculator that I used has given me the wrong lengths, but I’m not sure why. I had also ordered those said wrong lengths which I only found out after completing a wheel.

I am going to have to find a reliable calculator, or at least one I can better understand.

Of course if you are rebuilding exactly the same wheel with new components then you only need to get the same length spokes again or re-use the old ones if they are in good condition … don’t forget to weigh up the cost of a similar pre-built new wheel, to see if it’s worth your time to do all this !

the front wheel radially spoked

the recycled front wheel, radially 36 spoked

The first wheel was the front one, and the ordered spokes were too long for 3-cross. I decided to use a full set of shorter spokes that I already had, which at 287mm were around the right length for radial spoking. Radially spoked wheels ( i.e. zero cross ) are pretty, but only suitable for front wheels because they lack torsional strength and are more stressful on the hub flanges. Hopefully this one can cope with rim braking but as the coaster rear will be the main brake I think they will be all right (touch wood) with some careful initial testing.

622x17 alesa alloy rim

recycled ETRTO 622×17 alesa alloy rim

Spoke crossing refers to the number of other spokes each spoke will cross between the hub and rim, with 3-cross wheels being the traditional norm. The last or outer cross is the opposite of the previous crosses e.g.. over-over-under or under-under-over for 3-cross. This is referred to as interlacing and helps give wheel strength.

The radial spokes turned out to be slightly long, so I had to file the ends down a couple of millimetres flush with the nipple ends so as not to puncture the rim tape and tube later on. The wheel was built with a little more tension than normal, as recommended by some sources for radial spoking, and I fitted eyelet washers under the nipple heads as an extra precaution against them pulling through the rim.

rear hub 4-cross

rear hub 4-cross

The rear wheel turned out to be loose, because the spokes were too long to fully tension for 3-cross. Frustrated, I re-tried for 4-cross and they worked a treat. 4-cross is supposedly the strongest pattern, though there is possibly no real advantage on this particular wheel over 3-cross, apart from using up the extra spoke length.

Also with 4-cross a spoke can interfere with the head of its adjacent partner unless the hub is small diameter, making them potentially harder to remove if broken.

I could have easily messed it up here, but if the lengths are only slightly wrong there is still a chance to line up a loose spoke against the built wheel and get a pretty good idea by eye whether the wheel will work with a different crossing.

I used the Lennard Zinn book – “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance” – to learn the basics of lacing, it is a fairly repetitive process once you have worked out the position of the initial spoke in each set.

Therapeutic even, as long as you remain calm, focussed, and are not time constrained … otherwise put the wheel down and finish it at some other point !

park tool tm-1

pretty blue park tool tm-1

The tools I used were a Park Tool SW-7  spoke tool, a screwdriver for the nipple ends and a Park Tool TM1 Spoke Tension Meter. The latter is easy to use, comes with charts and instructions, and takes a lot of the guesswork out of tensioning, though they do suggest contacting the component manufacturers for their correct tension specs. Having a wheel fail while riding is not something to take lightly …

For reasonably accurate final truing I think that a wheel truing jig is almost essential.

park tool sw-7 spoke key

park tool sw-7 spoke key

According to Park Tool, the spoke tensions on each side of the wheel should be within plus or minus 20 percent of the average tension of all those spokes for the wheel to remain stable under normal use. This is not easy to guess by hands alone unless you already have a lot of experience, which of course I don’t.

Even if the spoke tensions are all exactly equal the wheel still might not be true, so fine tuning is generally always required.

Doing one adjustment affects everything else because the wheel components are all interconnected under tension – that’s why wheel building is considered another of the bicycle black arts, and why it pays to go step-by-step and slowly !

It would probably be easier to begin with new (hopefully straight) components for your first build, but with good used parts I suppose there is more freedom to experiment.   Do plenty of research on the subject beforehand, of course.

Happy Cycling !

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