Monday, November 14, 2011

Building a Bicycle Wheel

I took advantage of a rare rainy Saturday (dark and stormy, even) to build a new rear wheel for the Bianchi project. I've built a few bicycle wheels over the last several years, but I'm amazed every time I do it. It's one of those things that I never thought much about, and then when I did think about it, assumed it was way out of my league. But using Sheldon Brown's instructions, it's not really that difficult. I would even say that it's fun.

Once you have the instructions, the majority of the task is essentially just putting pieces together. If you can assemble IKEA furniture, you can build a bicycle wheel. This is not to say that tensioning and truing and dishing (the last of which I've never done because I've never build a rear wheel with external gears) don't require skill, but they are skills that you can acquire with patience and attention to detail. Hell, I made it through grad school, so I have those in spades.

I took my time, enjoyed the physicality of building something, read the instructions carefully, had a cup of tea, and the whole very civilized process took a couple of hours, with another hour or so the next evening to work on the truing, which I did by mounting the wheel in the frame and using a ruler as a gauge. I probably could have done it faster if I had needed or wanted to, but there was no reason to hurry. 

Building bicycle wheels is one of those empowering tasks that you never thought you could do, but if you're willing to take a little leap and just jump in (keeping in mind that failure is always an option), it turns out to be a pretty rewarding experience. Of course, having said this, my wheel will probably explode the first time I ride it. Jinx.