Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Blonde Builds a Wheel

I had a "blonde moment." Yeah, I know, it's hard to believe. But it happened.

Let me back-up a bit, so as to provide context... A few years ago, I wore through my first bike part. It was a chain. I had no idea you could wear through bike parts. After all, bike parts are made of metal! They are strong! They will last forever! My bad; I was wrong. Metal eventually breaks down. Especially after miles of Sarah-abuse.

Over the last few years, as I've added more-and-more miles to my bike, I've worn through more-and-more bike parts. Case in point: the rim on my back wheel is starting to dish, fairly significantly. Rather than suffer a blow-out, I wanted to replace the rim. Entirely focused on replacing the rim, I recently placed an order for a new rim. This was, unbeknownst-to-me-at-the-time, a blonde moment.

This is what a rim looks like...

I didn't realize my blonde-ism until earlier today, when I went to pick up the rim. My plan was to pick up the rim, quickly swap over the cassette from the old wheel to the new, and then throw the new wheel on my bicycle. Ta da! I'd be able to cross "replace rim" off my to-do list. 

How does that saying go -- "the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray?" Alas, when I went to pick up the rim, it dawned on me that the rim was just "the circle" part of the wheel. The spokes and hub were missing! I knew this, of course, at an intellectual level. (As hard as it may be to believe, there is a decent brain beneath that blonde halo of mine). But, oh, a big, fat duh! Obviously, I had intended to order a new wheel -- meaning a rim, complete with spokes and a hub!

...and this is what a wheel looks like.
(But you already knew that).

Ok, dumbass, what to do now? The quick'n'easy answer would be to start from scratch and order a new wheel. A longer, more entailed, and better answer would be to take advantage of my blonde-ism by learning how to build a wheel.

A few years ago, in an effort to become more bicycle saavy, I took two of three bicycle classes offered at Wright Brothers Cycle Works. These two classes were Basic Maintenance and Bearing Maintenance. The third class, which I didn't take, was Wheel Building. I didn't think it was worth taking the class until I needed to build a wheel.

I hadn't intended on using this worn-out-rim opportunity to learn to build a wheel. But, with hindsight's perfect vision, I clearly see that the blonde-ism was fate's way of saying, "Sarah, it's now your time to learn to build a wheel." Alrighty then, I will step up to that challenge!

I looked on the Wright Brothers website to see when the next Wheel Building class started. I wasn't hopeful, as the class is offered two or three times a year; I'd likely have to wait a few months for the next class. Here's what the website read:

Info on the Wheel Building class at Wright Brothers.

"Oh my," said I, glancing down at the watch on my wrist to learn of today's date. "Today is...August 9th! And the first class starts in five and a half hours!" How fortunate for those mice and men!

I immediately phoned Charles at Wright Brothers to confirm whether there were any openings in the class. Sure enough, there was an opening! (I do love Charles, as you may recall from Stomping On My Old Grounds.) I asked Charles to reserve a space for me.

And so it was that I unexpectedly found myself this evening at the first of four sessions of a wheel building class.

Charles used my rim as an example, showing how to lace the spokes. He crossed each lace four times on both the drive and non-drive sides of the wheel, and he double-laced the non-drive side. This is definitely a solid spoke pattern for a touring wheel -- I don't imagine I'll ever break a spoke!

Charles uses my wheel as the teaching model.

My wheel waits atop the truing stand for the next class.
(Yes, that is a nekkid woman in the background --
the signature poster that hangs on the wall of any
"true" bicycle shop.)

My cassette sits in a diesel bath overnight,
receiving a deep clean before it is mounted on the new wheel.

Yes, I can be a complete blonde at times. But, sometimes I find that being a blonde leads to good things, like finally learning how to build a bike wheel. I don't know how to order a wheel, but I'll soon know how to build a wheel. And that is a skill I'll use for life.

Update 8/17/2015My class is done! A wheel I have built!

Charles told me that I laced well and that my nipples were well-tensioned. It ain't often I receive that kind of feedback!

My wheel!

An amusing aside:

I sent Craig a quick text to let him know I was taking a wheel building class, and to let him know that the wheel I'd be riding in South America would be the wheel I was about to build. Craig's reply was: "Oh my god! If you ride a wheel you built, then I'm going to ride a frame I built. Going to be a fun trip." I foresee an adventurous (read "mishapful") trip in South America!


  1. OK I do have an illness! I was so intrigued with your rim becoming a wheel that I flat would not have seen the nekkidness if you hadnt told me about it!!

    Well done lady and I disagree. There aint a blonde hair on this head (lotsa gray!) and I woulda had the same plan you did!

    Ummm, didn't Craig build the bike that kinda fell apart on the peninsula? do you have room to double your duct tape?

  2. Ha! You're correct -- Craig's bike on the Peninsula ("Al Dente") was hand-built and yes, it "kinda fell apart." I think we'll both be buying stock in duct tape...and gorilla glue...and life insurance. :)

    1. and hose clamps, bungie cords, bobby pins and a swiss army knife or two! Now remember!! If cute cowboys show up. practice your helpless "Little ole me" look... Maybe an eye bat or two...

    2. All excellent points. Thanks! :)


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