Friday, September 23, 2016

Re-shod the Steed

For a while I've wanted to build a new wheelset for my mountain bike. So far I've dabbled in the art of wheel building, and ever since I started playing around with it, I've wanted to scratch build a new wheelset.

For many bike mechanics, knowing how to build wheels is an important checkpoint in skills development, and for me, it's no different. The first time I did it was when I replaced the fork on my first full suspension mountain bike. The new fork had a different axle type, so I had to replace the front hub. I got it back together and it worked well.

The only thing holding me back was the wheels I had were working fine. But then, one day, they weren't. The rear hub bearings were shot and I wasn't able to get replacement parts for the OEM hub.

Pitted Races - No Good.

I went through several iterations of deciding what to do, including simply rebuilding the rear wheel with a new Shimano M525a hub. (That was my second wheel build and I considered it a practice for this build.)

At last I decided on a plan, ordered spokes, and waited for stuff to arrive. During that time I found some great deals on Shimano SLX hubs with centerlock brake rotors (which I prefer to 6-bolt mount). I was lured by the siren song and bought them. It was like  a Shimano Christmas. 

Alas, it was not to be. When they arrived I found I had made an important miscalculation. The hub flange diameter of the SLX hubs were much smaller than the hubs I was originally planning to use. Basically, this meant I would have to reorder spokes, and the spokes I had would not be usable.

So, facing extra expense, and worse, extra waste, I decided to send them back and return to my original plan.

Here's the setup.
Front Hub: Giant OEM (Reused), 15 mm thru, 32 hole, 6-bolt brake mount
Rear Hub: Shimano M525a, 135mm QR, 32 hole, 6-bolt brake mount
Rims: WTB ST i23 TCS, 27.5, 32 hole
Spokes: DT Swiss Competition Double Butted, 2.0/1.8 272 mm, 273 mm, 274 mm
Tires: Continental Trail King 2.2, Chili Compound with Protection sidewalls

Since I decided not to buy the fancier hubs, I had extra money for rubber. For a long time I've been a big fan of Continental Tires for bikes, especially the King series. Just before I sold my Trek, I put Trail Kings on it. My last mountain bike came with Maxxis Ikons, which I didn't care for. After a while I swapped those out for Mountain Kings. Now, my Giant came with Schwalbe Nobby Nics. I thought these worked well, so I wasn't in a big hurry to get new ones, but now I was at the intersection of new wheels and great end-of-season sales. I couldn't resist.

Passing the torch from the Schwalbes to the Continentals.

 And now for some gratuitous images.

I learned a lot by doing the build from the ground up. Spoke lengths have to be calculated very accurately and made to within a millimeter of the right length. I also made careful measurements on the wheels that I took apart and compared those with the spoke calculations to see what they did at the factory. Based on this there are a couple things I'll do different next time.

1. I'll order 14 mm nipples instead of 12 mm.
2. I'll add 1 mm or 2 mm to the calculated spoke length because it would provide a little better thread engagement with the nipple.
Having the extra length on the spokes might make item #1 less important, but we'll see.

I can't wait to get them out on the trail. That will be the true test. Will I have nipple breakage due to over tight spokes? Will I have rim cracks for the same reason? Is my spoke tension even enough? How long will I go without having to retrue? The answers to these questions will determine whether I got a passing grade or not.

The next step is to decide if I'm going to switch to tubeless.

Here's the reading and study list.
Master Wheel Building DVD by Bill Moulds
The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt
Sheldon Brown
Approximately One gajillion Youtube videos

Spoke Calculators
DT Swiss
Pro Wheel Builder

Market Forces

Yesterday I met with a contractor to investigate building a new house. The folks I met with were very nice. They are a well-known builder in the area that has been highly recognized as providing quality services. I was referred to them by someone who had used them to help build their house around 15 years ago. It surely was a different market then.

The meeting was highly informative on some aspects as well as deeply discouraging on others. I learned that my numbers for site development were very much inadequate where I had considered them well-padded. They repeated the mantra that 2-story is cheaper to build than ramblers.  They told me about the absurdity of the North Kitsap real estate market including instances of $400K-$500K houses being sold for cash without even making it to market because it was sold within whatever real estate office was listing it. And they told me about FHA 203K Rehab loans that I might be able to use for a renovation, if I chose that instead of a new build.

They also told me about the pitfalls of owner-building. The pitfalls they told me about were almost verbatim from what the several owner-building books that I've read had told me they would say. They said the main difficulty was finding subcontractors, and that was what was causing me the most heartache. They also told me (indirectly) they are not willing, under any circumstance, to give out subcontractor referrals. Again, in alignment with the reading.

All in all, very useful. Those guys are clearly talented builders, but talent only gets you so far. At the end of the month, you still have to know how to work the business. They sincerely wanted to open my eyes to the process and let me know what was in store, whether they built my project or not.

Being equal parts thick-headed and belligerent, I do not consider the project dead. Delayed, reconsidered, reshaped, but not dead.

My main problem is the market. The market is pretty silly right now. Again. See the aforementioned absurdity of the North Kitsap market. Things down in Port Orchard are not much better. In the meeting, they said one of the reasons that happens is people see the dollar signs when they find their house is worth a bunch and decide to sell. They are then successful pending the purchase of a new place. Now the pressure is on to get the new place. Figuring they are making out like a bandit on their old house, they are willing to plus up the offer a little to ensure success. Realtors will encourage this. After all, 6% of more is more than 6% of less.

Soon, the guy down the street sees the success of his neighbor (whether or not he knows that they ended up spending the extra them made to get into the new house) and decides he wants to realize the same benefit. Probably by this point, the talking heads on cable news or are saying that the market is great, and you should totes sell. Pretty soon things compound and you have a silly market. Personally, I view buying in a silly market to be a poor financial decision embarked by folks with more money than sense.

In all fairness, the vast majority of people have more money than sense, the only variable is exactly how much money we're talking about. It's just as stupid for a guy like me to buy a house for $700K as it would be for somebody with a much lower income to buy my house. The foreclosure would  be unavoidable either way. I mean, I still consider the timing and purchase price of my house to be the worst financial decision I've ever made. Even after seven years. When you think about it, though, when it comes to houses, most people just have more ability to contract debt than sense.

I guess that's what it really comes down to. For my next house, one of my absolutely non-negotiable requirements is that I don't have any mortgage insurance. I'd like it to be a 15 year mortgage, but that's not as important as no mortgage insurance. Right now, in this place, at this time, that's not likely to be possible.

I don't want to make a move in a silly market, but I can't ignore the fact that my family needs more space. As for now, it's more closet organizers and a few more trips to goodwill. One thing I have going for me is that I really do like this house.