Wheels are my favorite parts found on bicycles. They are my favorite bike part to repair. They are my favorite cycling component to build. They are always the first thing I look at when checking out a new ride that might stop by. These simple combinations of some wire, aluminum hubs and alloy hoops represent the best of the Man's attempts to master his domain. Without wheels, I would guess we would be but slugs riding fur covered beasts and still believing the world is flat. Science guys, history guys and Margaret Mead types all agree the Wheel is one of the top ten accomplishments that sped up the separation between us hairless bipeds and everything else.
I am still impressed with the engineering and Physics that allow a couple of two pound circles of metal and rubber to hold up successfully for many miles, a two hundred pound plus size guy like me. I often shake my head in wonderment over what a well built set of wheels will let a rider get away with. Drops of several or many feet. Bearing down some asphalt ribbon at 50 mph on tires not even one inch wide. Yes bicycle wheels are wonderful examples of just how smart our tech people are. And every year, the wheels available get lighter and stronger.
At first glance, bike wheels seem to be simply made and crude by today's standards of micro technology that has to be plugged into some power grid to work type gadgetry. Appreciation for what wheels really are comes from riding them for hours, months, years. But when one goes to build one, it is then the true beauty and genius of a spoked wheel comes out. Assembled using calculations and processes figured out hundreds of years ago, their basic construction has not changed. In my opinion there is no better representation of the perfect marriage of simplicity, aesthetics, and technology than a well laced and trued wheel.
Hard core cyclists often spend insane amounts of money for a new pair of wheels. Sometimes they think a new set will make them faster. And sometimes a new set does. But generally I think new bicycle wheels are just one of those bike parts some of us crazed riders can't have enough of. I have built or bought so many wheel sets over the years, I do not even know anymore how many I own. As I write I am scheming and dreaming about my next personal wheel build.
My next set will be different from any other set I have built up for myself. They will be 29" rims laced and twisted to some hub set I haven't decided on yet. I will use them as the first component I hang on my first 29er hardtail. And as it has happened before, I will enjoy every moment of inserting spokes and slowly, from a pile of dissimilar parts, a useful and beautiful component for my next bicycle will take shape. I can't wait.
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