now is probably a very late time to mention the gran fondo bruichladdich, the annual one hundred mile ride round the ever disintegrating roads of islay. true to previous years, this will take place on the first sunday in august, which this year is the 1st of august. we'll leave from bruichladdich distillery at 10am in the morning and generally make it back around 4pm in the afternoon, or thereabouts, having passed bowmore distillery and visited ardbeg distillery en route. if you're interested in joining us, simply e-mail to let me know.
i told you he'd write about wheels again
in this case, i don't really make any apology for writing about wheels again, because it's not really the super duper wheels that they use in le tour, nor was i drooling about a set of hyperon ultras (well, ok, i was, but i'm not writing about it). no, this time we're on to real life, affordable situations.
much as is the case with many of the more remote locations in scotland at this time of year, islay is visited by a not inconsiderable number of touring cyclists, some of whom are practising credit card touring, and some of whom look as if they have made islay one stage of a world expedition. now i'm sure that there are hundreds of cyclists over here every year that i never get to meet, and even better, they never get to meet me. but some i do. and the bad thing about meeting me, apart from actually meeting me, is that this usually only transpires after some portion of their bicycles have ceased to behave in a satisfactory manner. such was last weekend, and hereby hangs a cautionary and preventable tale.
a largish gentleman, whom i have met in previous years, also by way of mechanical breakdown, contacted me from the neighbouring isle of jura to inform that he had broken a spoke in the rear wheel, and could i repair it? generally, since this is what i am here for, i replied in the affirmative and advised him to contact when he managed to arrive in bowmore.
this meeting transpired the following day, when i discovered that he had broken not one, but two spokes. and for reasons best known to the builder of said wheel, two of the remaining spokes had seen fit to pull not only the rivets, but also considerable portions of alloy from the rim surface. assuming that you are following all this as closely as you should be, you will realise that i am talking about a dead wheel, one that was about to cease to exist as a useful component of a bicycle, if, indeed, it had not already done so.
now i carry an adhoc collection of spares. i do have spokes to fit 700c rims (such as this one), mtb wheels, inner tubes, brake and gear cables, tyres and various other bits and pieces. what you do have to realise, if you plan on touring islay, or other far flung parts of the scottish islands and/or mainland, is that the native population is not an addictive consumer of fancy or even mundane bicycle parts. most of them have never heard of shimano, nor could care less that they have uprated the spec of last year's v brakes, or increased the standard cassette from eight speed to nine speed with an attendant thinning of chain. to illustrate the point, i still have a boxed pair of lemond drop-in bars from a couple of years after greg won le tour, and i have a campag nine speed chain, still in its packet, that i've had in stock for over a year.
and with the huge variation in bicycle components, including the number of sprockets on cassettes, as well as number of teeth on said sprockets, it simply isn't practical for me, or many other small repair shops throughout the highlands and islands, to stock everything that might conceivably break on modern bicycles.
in this case, the guy was very, very lucky. since i have to buy wheel rims in pairs, i had purchased a pair of drc double eyletted rims about a year ago to build a front wheel for a colleague. this left me with a 'spare' rim in the bike shed. now both my colnagos have 32 spoked wheels and i even have a pair of 28 hole mavic rims for a rainy day, when i can obtain a suitable pair of 28 hole campag hubs. so i rarely purchase 36 hole rims because nowadays i figure 32 is more than adequate on a road bike.
in order to have this gentleman on the road again (well, in fact, to enable him to leave the island under his own steam), i'd to cut the (36 hole) hub out of his trashed wheel and build a completely new wheel in the evening. since he is rather a big guy, carrying a not inconsiderable weight on the rear of the bike, i built it four-cross for added strength. effectively this means that spokes entering the rim on opposite sides are almost in a straight line.
having finished rebuilding that wheel, i received a phone call from another touring cyclist who had, surprise, surprise, broken two spokes in his back wheel. by this point i was virtually out of spokes (i don't get to build a whole lot of wheels, so i don't carry a serious amount of spokes. usually i only need them to replace an odd couple of broken ones in visiting wheels) for this size of wheel, though i managed to find a couple to effect the repair. however, the wheel had already suffered a previous breakage, noticeable by the fact that the original wheel had been built with so-called 'rustless' spokes, but one was stainless steel. four replacement spokes are the maximum i'm willing to consider in a wheel built with rustless spokes, unless there really is no alternative. all that tends to happen is that the new spokes start 'fighting' with the older spokes and the wheel goes into a sometimes rapid but terminal decline. and here begins the sermon.
if you're going touring, please consider purchasing a pair of wheels with stainless steel spokes. rustless spokes really aren't going to last the distance. i have yet to see a set of wheels built with rustless spokes that have anything other than a standard extruded rim, without even so much as single eyeletting. to be a wee bit technical for a minute, extruded rims are only a single thickness of alloy which, if you cut them in half would give a 'u' shaped cross section. the very least you require for safe touring are box section rims (cut in half, they look like the letter 'H' joined across the bottom) with at least single eyeletting.
the latter relieves the outer surface from taking all the strain of the spokes, but far, far better are double eyeletted rims, where the eyelet extends through to the crossbar of the H and allows for the strongest wheel type available. if you're having a pair of wheels built at your friendly local bike shop, tell them what kind of cycling you plan to do, and ask if you can have the wheels built four-cross. the collapsed rim referred to above probably wouldn't have collapsed in such a fashion if the builder had been told just exactly what the wheel was about to be subjected to (in an almost related story, the same gentleman returned a few days later having broken one of the rails on his saddle).
secondly, always, always get a cassette rear hub with a quick release. firstly it's a fact of physics that a tube is stronger than a solid bar. by using a quick release, the axle has to be hollow. the first step in a stronger rear wheel.
secondly, if you have a hub with a screw-on freewheel, as still seems to be the case more often than not, then the axle is supported only at the hub flanges - ie the portion of axle between the right flange and the dropout (where the freewheel fits) is unsupported in any way. i have had a considerable number of wheels in for repair over the years, where the axle has sheared at the inner cone face simply because of the twisting effect over the unsupported section. however, a cassette hub contains not only bearings at each hub flange, but also at the dropout end of the cassette itself. the axle is therefore supported, effectively, at both ends and in the middle (right hub flange). some higher end cassette hubs (such as hope hubs) contain four sets of cartridge bearings. naturally these don't break very often, if ever.
if you're wondering why i haven't mentioned the front wheel at all, it's because they don;t break very often. the hub is narrower, the axle is supported evenly, and it's not subjected to the same weight or stresses applied to the rear wheel.
but it still pays to get hold of the very best you can afford, because next time i might not have the right rim in stock, or the right spokes, or i might be away on holiday myself. if your bike breaks on islay, there is only me to attempt to fix it, and if i can't, then it probably cannot be fixed on the island at all. therefore, apart from the potential of a ruined cycling holiday, it could cost a lot more money to get owner and bike safely home. something that a decent set of wheels could have prevented. and i'm pretty darn sure that this situation isn't confined to to islay alone.
so there - a whole column about wheels, and i never mentioned carbon fibre once. oops.
this website got its name because scotland's graeme obree built his championship winning 'old faithful' using bits from a defunct washing machine.
on a slightly different note, my regular reader will have noted the addition of a 'colnago c40' rollover to the left. this contains a reprint of a recent article featured in cycle sport magazine, which they were very kind to let me present here (because i'm a colnago geek) there are also links to cycling weekly reviews of the colnago c50 and colnago dream b-stay. i have also found an excellent review of the colnago c40hp here
i have been asked to add the following link to the post by wheelygoodcause. they're a cycling club dedicated to arranging epic rides for charity and do not charge charities for the pleasure. They ride because they want to. here's the link.
Remember, you can still read the review of 'the dancing chain' the utterly excellent book on the history of the derailleur bicycle by clicking here
any of the books reviewed on the washing machine post can probably be purchased from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com
as always, if you have any comments on this nonsense, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.
this column almost never appears in the dead tree version of the ileach but appears, regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.
on a completely unrelated topic, ie nothing to do with bicycles, every aspect of the washing machine post was created on apple macintosh powerbook g4, and imac computers, using adobe golive cs and adobe photoshop cs. needless to say it is also best viewed on an apple macintosh computer.