In late summer I decided to build a bicycle. I wanted to challenge myself. To risk failure. To learn.
The decision was partly motivated by a desire to craft a bike suited to my riding style, environment and aesthetics, and partly by frustration stemming from repeated flats that left me visiting the local bike shop when I would rather be riding. Soon a vintage Cannondale R600 frame arrived at the front door—a topic I'll cover in a later post.
I chose to lace my own wheels as the starting point for this project and spent a good amount of time online gathering information, but there's nothing like getting hands-on. My first attempt ended in delacing eight spokes as the drive side holes were not evident on the inside of the B43s. I had misplaced them. After a little more reading and video watching, I learned two key pieces of information: traditionally, rim logos are placed on the right side of the wheel and key spokes should be a trailing.
Sure enough, with the Velocity logo placed on the right side, the spokes laced from the hub to the proper side of the rim. When the hub was rotated to add tension the markings from the previous lacing pattern aligned and I began to think about the latent system of precision engineering and manufacturing that enables all of these components to coalesce. Wheel building as heuristic.
As I began to lace the remaining 8 spokes—under, under, over—using a feeder spoke to keep from losing hardware in the deep set rims, I worked the action on the driver a little. It didn’t seem all that useful. Then, as I held the spoke hardware in place, it became apparent that the tension now on the spokes made all the difference in how the tool functioned and I understood why it’s indispensable for wheel building.
As I completed the first side and paused to double-check the lacing the delicate pattern of the spokes in contrast to the heft of the rim emerged.
Art and engineering, held together by tension on the spokes.