Sunday, 19 April 2009

Lacing, dishing, truing, tensioning...

(WARNING: This entry contains images of a graphic nature. If you are sensitive to what sort of pictures you see, do not read on. Have you been warned? Yes, you have.)

According to my 'highly'-accurate record-keeping I have built 93 wheels over the last five years or so. These include many rather tasty snowflake wheels, for example:

A single-twister

A double-twister

But I think by favourite spoking pattern has to be...


The '3-leading, 3-trailing' pattern which creates a very cool 'tri-spoke' effect near the hub and, as the spokes cross so near the hub, an almost radial effect nearer the rim. It's certainly not my favourite pattern to actually lace up, in fact, it's a real arse to lace with all sorts of tight crossings going on, but it just looks so damn cool. (Thanks to Rowland for inspiring me to build the two 3L3T wheels I've done so far.) I have no real idea about the longevity of a wheel laced like this, but I'm sure it'll be adequate to support my monstrous mass. The wheel pictured is currently doing commuting duty on the back of Ahimsa (more about that bike very shortly...) and seems to be holding up fine.

So, the BIG question: will I reach my century of wheel builds before my Evans career finally ends in a few short weeks time? Definitely maybe.

Ah yes, and so to my beloved GT Peace. In view of the model name and everything that cycling represents (saving the Earth, etc.) I decided to give him the name Ahimsa for its conotations with peace and being vegan, as well as my kindly upbringing. Ahimsa was a great name for the Peace - it's a purist singlespeed bike that's calming to ride and reminds one about all that is good and right in the world.

I fitted a new chain to him a few weeks ago and, as you can see, it's quite...


The funkiness of a half-link chain is that it creates a perfectly level surface around the sprockets and along the straights, compared to the relative 'bumpiness' of a normal chain. (For why a new and fatter chain was necessary, see below...)

Anyway, shininess aside, it seems that Ahimsa was perhaps not the best name I could have given this particular bike. Non-violence is implied in the bike's very purpose and name, but, it appears, not in its nature: I've managed to fall off it on three occasions in the short time I've owned it.

The first time was on a level, flat and thankfully empty piece of road near Ealing Common on the way to work, probably in January. The front tyre hit a patch of ice that was sheltered from the sun by houses and trees and down I went. I injured various bits of me, most visibly giving my knee a good bloodying, and obviously, as always, bruising a hip so it became a different shape to the other one.

The next fall came in mid-February when I was accelerating round a very nice corner away from some lights. I'm not sure if the front tyre hit a slidey bit of paint on the box-junction or, more likely, I stupidly struck the inside pedal on the ground whilst banking, but, either way, down we went. This was quite embarrassing as the people behind me in the car saw it all and must have had a good chuckle. Bless them though, they did ask if I was alright. I wasn't too bad, just one more (the same...) bloody knee and bruised hip. My shorts received two annoying holes, one of which was in the back pocket, caused by my keys as they hit the road with my arse on them. That could have been so much more nasty than it was. My knee-warmer also got a hole. My new pair of knee-warmers. To replace the last pair of knee-warmers which both had holes in from falling off, the last hole caused by the first fall above. Bollocks.

[Slightly disturbing images removed so as not to upset those of a sensitive disposition, i.e. the author.]

Why can't knee-warmers heal like knees can?

The latest crash, to complete the hat-trick, was the silliest and most embarrassing: I fell off going up a hill. Yes, actually up a hill. I was pedalling hard up the hill, thankfully on a cycle path next to the road and not on the road, when the chain decided it didn't want to be on the sprockets anymore and leapt off them. This resulted in me putting considerable force down on a pedal and meeting no resistance. So that angular momentum was conserved I then proceeded to fly gracelessly over the handlebars and onto the ground. The occupants of several cars driving by witnessed this, damnit, though I am pleased that my suffering should have brought amusement to brighten someone's day/

I managed to bruise and scrape all four of my limbs (a personal best), along with a shoulder, and then when those bits had had their turn I decided to use my face as a brake.

[Yet another painful-memory-evoking image removed by the author...]

No, a helmet wouldn't have helped here. And the puny chain responsible has been replaced.

For these reasons, along with the definitely non-non-violent thoughts I have about car drivers all-too regularly, lead me to conclude that Ahimsa is not the most appropriate name for this particular iron donkey. Hmm, now should I change it? Nah, course not: the bike is made of steel, which is basically iron, meaning it's quite an ironey kinda machine, fully deserving of a name filled with irony.