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Great Wheels: Why a quick build rarely delivers a fast wheel

Posted by The Dr. on

To mass produce wheels, like all the big name brands do, time allocated for production and assembly must be paired to a minimum. And to achieve this requires compromise at the component level which will sooner or later compromise both the performance and durability of your wheels.

A good example of such a compromise needed for efficient wheel mass production are those small holes found in hubs and rims through which the spokes must pass and locate with precision.

Make these holes tight and it’s possible to build tight, strong and long lasting wheels. But the machines that thread spokes automatically into hubs don’t work well with holes so tiny that each spoke must be pushed hard and wiggled about in order to get it through.

The ideal hole diameter for really tight, robust wheel is just about the same as the thread of the spoke you’re using. Any bigger and the spoke will only locate and bed loosely. Loose is not good: you can’t build stiff and precise with loose fit.

So hubs made primarily for mass produced wheels simply come with bigger sized holes so that machine fed spokes drop in easily in a matter of just a few seconds. 

And these oversized holes allow the spoke head to move radially each and every rotation whenever the wheel is under load. Like when you're riding. This movement equates to power loss through extra friction, and ultimately fatigue and failure of the spoke and hub.

By contrast, each and every wheel we lace takes around 20 or 30 minutes and is done entirely by hand. A lot of that time is spent wiggling those spokes around to thread them through our tiny hub holes. 

The result when the spoke locates in the hub flanges is a solid, tight fit. No movement, slop or slack is possible. 

And that's how the build of every supremely strong, durable, stiff and precise wheel must begin.  There is no other way.

In the next article find out what is the bike equivalent of a marriage made in heaven!

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