When I last left off, I had a pile of parts that contained the makings of two wheels for the Trek. Not one to miss an opportunity to over-analyze things, I took a good hard look at the hubs. The Shimano Acera rear hub had proven to be a sturdy workhorse and promised more years of the same, but the Joytech 95D up front was looking more and more outclassed. The spoke holes were kind of huge and made for a sloppy fit for my new spokes, which is a bad thing. Everything I read about wheelbuilding was stressing using top-quality components. The Joytech had never let me down, but it was definitely the weakest link in this pending wheelset. In the end, sturdiness trumped sentimentality.
Since I already had the spokes and nipples ready, I searched for a hub with the same dimensions as the original. I found a new discontinued 36 hole Shimano Ultegra hub on ebay that fit the bill nicely. A lower than "Buy it now" price offer was accepted, and it was at my door within a few days. Holding the replacement piece in my hands made me very happy about my decision to upgrade. Nice hub!
I did my homework, re-reading Sheldon Brown's article and Peter White's wonderful and knowledgeable rants on the subject many times over. I had sought a copy of the well-regarded book, "The Bicycle Wheel" by Jobst Brandt while visiting Harris Cyclery a while back but they were out of stock, so I picked up Gerd Schraner's "The Art of Wheelbuilding" instead. I was initially sort of disappointed by this pricey, somewhat thin booklet, but warmed up to it when I got to the easy-to-follow spoking diagram. All the other diagrams I had seen in the past were a side view with color-coding for each series of spokes. Schraner's 3/4 view diagrams were much more intuitive for me and a cinch to work with.
I started with the front wheel. This would be the easier of the wheels to build, featuring all-new parts and symmetrical dishing. My readings have suggested that building a wheel should take about an hour or less from start to finish. It easily took two or more, but I'm really happy with the outcome. I oiled the spoke threads to ease tighteneing the nipples up to the proper tension. I used my new tensiometer a lot. It was fun and addictive. The wheel came out nicely.
I really like wheelbuilding. It's like a happy little safe house for all of my O.C.D. tendencies. I actually finished the pictured wheel shortly before I left for Oregon several weeks ago. I had a lot of opportunities to practice wheelbuilding and ply more experienced wheel geeks for tips while I was out there. Next up will be the rear wheel. I am going to reuse that hub for sure, but it needs some attention first. Coming soon: hub overhaul and freehub replacement, or how to make one solid hub from three somewhat tired ones.