Back in my messenger days I worked with a guy who went by his last name, Mason. That was in Cleveland. We both live here now, though I long gave up a life of being soaked, pissed and drunk, and we see each other from time to time. I cannot for the life of me remember his first name, but I can vividly remember him telling me this:
“You aren’t a cyclist if you can’t build your own wheels”
I don’t remember how it came up, though I’m sure I was messing with my head set, which was perpetually loose. I knew less about how a bicycle worked back then, than I know now and I don’t know a hell of alot now. At the time I’m sure I responded with same quip I always used. Something about it being square. Which is of course impossible, but in saw myself as such a bonehead that I could manage to do just that, make a wheel that was incapable of rolling.
That is why I have always purchased machine built wheels. My lack of skills and perpetual cheapness kept me from even attempting such a feat. Which is also why I am constantly having problems with wheels. All of those
problems are the only reason I have any idea on how to true a wheel. Which I am thankful for but one can see the frustration that can be experienced when you have to true your wheels twice a week. I have had it with that.
So it was under the influence of my friend Justin, excellent posts like this, and the cost of my free time that I finally got the parts to build my own damn wheel. I decided to start with a set for my single speed, since the the rear wheel it was sporting wasn’t mine and I hated the front Mavic Ksyrium had purchased when I was in hurry after my first cross bike was stolen.
The rims, hubs, spokes and nipples were acquired, their quality is not important. What is important is that they would be mine. It was my plan to build both the front and the rear, but the going was slow and Justin started on the rear since it was my desire to roll them home that night. I think I had to start over four, but maybe five times. It would be many hours (including a stop for dinner and a beer ) before I had something that would roll forward. There were times when I wanted to throw the damn black park tool spoke wrench that was in my hand, but I’ll be damned if I haven’t already made plans to build a set of training wheels for the road bike.
I want to build more wheels for the same reason I wanted to keep racing cross: because I’m so damn bad at it.
From my limited experience I can tell that building heels requires patience, an eye for detail and focus. Traits I haven’t spent a lot of time developing. Skills indeed to make it through life. A place where the “fuck its” and “good enough” can lead to a me laying broken on the ground. Its those exact attitudes I need to eradicate from my life.