Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mundo Gordos

The stock wheels on my Yuba Mundo had served me well for the umpteen months I had been riding the bike full time, and I had not been particularly gentle on them. Experiments with very heavy loads and a few impromptu off-roading adventures had put them through more than their share of abuse. They hadn't required re-truing since they were new, but the sweet muse of rationalization assured me it was time for new wheels.

I did have a few minor complaints about the wheels, the first being that the single-wall rims made tire bead seating annoying (especially with the O.E. Schwalbe Big Apple tires, which had "relaxed fit" beads) and that the loose ball-bearing rear hub seemed to need attention more often than I would consider reasonable. Also, the original Quando front hub, while perfectly functional, caused prolonged loops of Englebert Humperdink to play in my head as the logo flashed repeatedly into view when I rode slowly.

The primary reason I wanted to build new wheels for the Yuba was my epiphany on dynamo hub lighting during the darkest hours of September's ill-conceived Coventry trip. As long as I was building a new dyno front wheel, it seemed like a good time to upgrade the rear wheel to a 7-speed freewheel (it was 6 speed! Why Yuba, why?) and cartridge-bearing hub like the "V-3" Mundos have (mine is a "V-2") I chose my components, waited for sales and coupons to come up and accumulated the necessary parts over the next few months.

The hub choices were easy. I wanted a disc-ready 36 hole dynamo hub for the front. There were two choices: Schmidt or Shimano. With Schmidt hubs retailing for $300+, there was really only one choice. I bought a black 36 hole Shimano Alfine hub from Harris Cyclery. A Hartford expat friend who works near Harris picked it up for me and brought it to the Real Ride, saving me the time and expense of shipping. The rear hub is a Modus-branded Yuba-specific anomoly: 48 holes, 135mm O.L.D. with a 14mm solid axle, cartridge bearings and old-school freewheel threading. Short of custom fabricating such a beast from bmx parts and unobtanium, Yuba was the only source. Luckily, it was reasonably priced. Yuba has since introduced a disc brake version of this hub for the disc-ready V-3 Mundos which would make for better dishing.

It seemed that I had two choices for a matching pair of rims. The only rim brake compatible 26" rims I could find in both 36 and 48 hole drillings were the Sun Rhyno Lite and the Salsa Gordo. I later learned that the Velocity Chukker and Psycho were both available in 36 and 48 hole as well, though at a 50+% price premium over the Salsa. I had been running a 36 hole Rhyno Lite (with a lackluster generic hub) up front on the Yuba ever since I converted it to a front disc brake. I went with the Gordos to try something new (I hadn't built any Salsa rims before) and because they were available in black in both drillings, which matches the hubs and tends to look more presentable while dirty than silver rims. Since these are the wheels most likely to be around when someone inquires about wheelbuilding, I like for them to look their best.

I assembled the wheels using DH13s, which are Wheelsmith's heavy-duty double-butted baaad muthashutyomouth spokes. The 13 gauge elbows were a nice, snug fit in the Alfine dynohub, but downright loose and jangly in the gaping holes of the Modus hub.

I found #4 brass washers at the ever-awesome Park Hardware and bought 50 of them, knowing that I would inevitably drop one or two of them and lose them under the stove. I placed them on a piece of wood and gave them each a good whack with a tapered punch. The resulting dished washers made for a perfect fit.

The front wheel was a great build. Everything quickly and efficiently came into uniform truth and tension. Beautiful! The rear wheel took disproportionally longer than its extra 12 spokes might have promised. It ended up sitting in the truing stand for a few days getting finished in a series of 15-minute sessions of miniscule corrections until the truth, tension and dish were optimal. My bedtime breaks with a cup of tea and a spoke wrench made for a nice winding-down ritual in December.

My new wheels were pressed into service at the very end of 2010. It was a fitting New England baptism of some of the harshest conditions we've seen in years. They have spent the past few months slinging salt, grit and slushy snow and conquering a bumper crop of fresh potholes. I'm thoroughly pleased with the wheels and positively delighted with the dynamo lighting. I sprung for a new set of tires while I was freshening up the rolling stock, but I'll save the tire review for another day (ditto the light).


Karma said...

I know there is nothing worse than getting new gear and then have someone point out an alternative that might not have been available but I wonder what your thoughts might be on this new 'switchable' dyno from the folks at Velo Orange...

The idea is sound and it is nice that it comes in 32h and 36h options, wonder how the reliability and durability will be.

Brendan said...

Here's a cheaper option: cheapest dynamo I've ever seen.

Damian said...

The important question to ask is, 'Is it bright enough to go spelunking for CHUDs?'

Interstatement said...

@Karma: I have been keeping an eye on that switchable VO hub since the first teasers on their blog. They also have a basic $50 model which is on sale for $35 right now, ( but all of the above are rim-brake only. Finding one with a disc mount was the greater challenge.

From what I've read, all dynamos have the same power output in their intended application. The difference between higher and lower end models is the rolling resistance. That Novatech would be great for a city bike, where a little extra drag wouldn't be the end of the world.

@Brendan: That is dead cheap for a disc dyno hub, let alone a built wheel. I hope the actual wheel weighs less than the 15 lb. shipping weight...

@damian: The Alfine-level Shimanos and all Schmidt hubs are DOT CHUD-approved.

Schleppi Longstocking said...

Does the DOT not approve anything? They seem to be a lot like the DEP...great in theory, but total lameasses in action.