Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Wheel Truing Stand

I'm reasonably competent at bicycle mechanics and do virtually all my own maintenance, but there has always been one area I've left well alone - wheel building. I've always considered wheel building a bit of a black art, something that only the chosen few can perform, something that requires a lifetime of experience to get right...

My Homemade Wheel Truing Stand

My lack of experience also extends to wheel truing. I think I've only ever attempted to true one wheel. I was 19 years old and thought I'd have a go. Over about 30 minutes, I progressively turned a slightly out-of-true wheel into a pretzel. Eventually, I gave up and I had to walk the wheel 3 miles to the bike shop. Mal, the shop owner, sorted it out in about 3 minutes!

To be honest, I've not exactly missed having these skills. Despite riding lots of miles, I just don't seem to break wheels. In the intervening 25 years, I've only ever broken one spoke and perhaps got the LBS to true a wheel a handful of times.

Built to the design in Roger Musson's ebook

Once I'd dreamt up this Canada project, though, I knew I'd have to revisit this area, at least to know how to replace a spoke and true up the wheel by the roadside. But then I thought, why not conquer your fears and learn how to wheel build properly. Hey, that's a great idea!

I thought about going on a course, but they're a bit thin on the ground and I couldn't find one locally. So, I started looking for a self-teach method, something like a book or a video. After a bit of researching, this ebook was continually being recommended: Roger Musson's "The Professional Guide to Wheel Building".

Adjustable pillar (left) to cater for different hub widths

I downloaded the PDF for the princely sum of £9. I was immediately impressed. The book was extremely detailed covering components, tooling, building, repairing and wheel design. One of the first things I noticed was that Roger Musson recommended that you build your own truing stand and ancillary tools. The complete plans for his own wheel truing stand were included in the book. I thought I'd have a go at making one, as I like a good woodwork project...

As you can see, it all turned out rather well! The truing stand can be used to build a variety of wheels with different hub and rim sizes. The right pillar is adjustable, allowing the distance between the two pillars to be varied between 100mm (for a standard front hub) and 150mm (downhill MTB).

Close up of wheel truing stand dropouts

It was very cheap to make, just a small sheet of MDF, nuts and bolts (Stagonset is good for buying small quantities), white enamel paint and some black foam card. My brother made the metal dropouts for me, but these could be fashioned out of wood, if you've not got access to metal tooling (or a handy brother). There are some other nice fabrications of Mr Musson's design here and here.

So, I'm learning the theory and I've built the wheel truing stand. My first foray into wheel building will be to rebuild a pair of faithful and well used Campagnolo Record hubs into new training wheels. I wonder how I'll get on!

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