This wheel is made of memories

Yesterday I made a wheel. As I sat on the couch last night reading Josie Dew's newest book, I'd occasionally pick it up and admire it. It's a good wheel. And yet all the parts on the are old in one way or another.

The rim came from the Mildenhall Rally last month. It's an old Mavic MTB rim, with a profile similar to an MA2, but a bit wider. It's the old pinned style: no machining here! It cost all of 3 quid. I got quite a few bargains at the Rally: some Shwalbe Marathon XR folding tires at 22 quid each (they're normally more than 30), some cheap Shimano MTB componentry, a book about women's cycling... I rode there from Cambridge on my fixed gear beater bike: after all, it's only 21 miles or so, and it's dead flat. It was an enjoyable day out. I know I'm a sad bike geek, but I can spend hours looking over stalls of cheap bike gear.

The hub (shiny silver Deore XT) came from the first wheel I ever made, way back in March 1998. The hub on the front wheel that came with my Trek MTB had died, and I was eager to try to building one. When the bike shop announced the old hub's demise, I responded with an eager "Oh, do I need a new wheel then?" and walked out with the requisite parts: the shiny hub, a Mavic 217 rim, and 32 double-butted spokes. Later I came back for some useful bits, like a spoke wrench, truing stand, and dishing tool.

I was mightily pleased with my new wheel, but in fact it wasn't all that well built. It was tighter than my existing MTB wheel, but still well below what it should have been. When I set out to do the South Down Way trip a couple weekends ago I noticed it needed some truing, and when I took the spoke wrench to it I discovered that due to its initial lack of tightness it has gotten quite loose over the years. I debated giving it a good tensioning and truing, but the sidewalls were well concave, so I decided that just replacing the rim was the best option. So I trued it up just enough to prevent problems with brakes and did that one last ride with it. Over the weekend I disassembled it, cleaning the mud off the hub to restore its shine.

To find the spokes we have to go back even further, to that wheel with the dead hub. The rim I was taking off (the Mavic 217) has a slightly aerodynmic profile: the spoke bed arches in a bit at the center. So I thought that the spokes would be too short to re-use on the new/old rim with its perfectly flat spoke bed. I thought of the old wheel with the dead hub. Did I ever get around to throwing that away? I had a look in the garage. There it was! The flanges of the dead hub were almost the same diameter as my nice XT hub, and the spoke bed was in the same place as it was on the new rim, so I figured that those spokes would work. Now these spokes aren't all that great: they're stainless, but are straight gauge instead of lighter and stronger double butted. But I'm trying to avoid spending too much on bike parts now, so I figured I'd use them. I took apart the wheel and cleaned up the spokes.

And yesterday I put it all together, making a much tighter wheel than my first one. This ought to serve me well. And despite being a new wheel, it already has lots of memories...

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