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Fixed gear
Fixed gear
Theory & practice

Wheels with spokes

“what’s more simple than a wheel?”
Easy to say. You have to consider a few things.
The circle, just for starters; besides measurements in height, it has measurements in width too, therefore you will have to be careful with what to use with this and that type/measurement of tyres and pneumatic. So far so good.
Then the shape of the circle; If you have brake shoes, cantilevers, v brakes, the shape is always the same; if your breaks are rod breaks it’s something else. Not having brakes is better so you can mount whatever you find.

The circle get connected to the hub with spokes. The kind of hubs existent since the velocipede was first invented are infinite (and in the last few years you can add the ones with 16 and 18 spokes, that can be fitted vertically, but those are for racers), with measurements can vary quite significantly.
You have to take the hub and open a sort of white sheet where someone has placed all the variations possible through the years (not quite), lay the hub on a graded mask and from there calculate the number of spokes.

Spokes; can be in a variable number between 16 and 48. The commonest wheels have 36; they can also have 32, 28 and 24, in decreasing order of diffusion.
To connect the hub and the circle to the spokes is the work of an expert. The shapes can vary from the radial (no spokes crossing) to 1, 2, 3, X crosses; and you change evrytime the ways you will mount everything. There are also particular shapes like the foot of crow, but it’s seriously esoteric stuff.

I you manage to make the correct crossings you then need to centre the wheel, both sideways and in height, otherwise it will dance around and dangle. Only then can you set the right tension of the spokes, with methods that can go from using a tensometre to using the utensils used to tune string instruments. Normally you use ear and luck (the second is fondamental) .
This is the wheel with spokes.

And yet it’s simple, really.
And doing it yourself gives you immense satisfaction.

For who wants to try it out I can suggest the website of Sheldon brown, in English and The website of Guido Rubino, in Italian.

To calculate the length of spokes, here’s an excellent sheet done up by Rocco from the Stecca.

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