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MTB trials and tribulations, or how I learned to stop being a cheapskate.

by on 01/19/2015

Last year I got the ever so short sighted idea to build up a chinese knock off carbon fiber mountain bike. The bike wasn’t exactly cheap (without a shock), but it was cheaper than any other full suspension carbon fiber frame around. I’ve been dreaming of building up a bike like this for quite sometime, and I’ve also always wanted to build my own wheel set, ever since I was a wee lad about a bushel high. A guy at work said he’d done some wheel building so I used him as a resource and decided to dive all in.



I scoured the internet for a good deal on a pair of DT-Swiss 240 hubs and found the best price at bikebling.com. For rim I went with the DT-Swiss X 470, and DT-Swiss aerolite spokes. I used the DT-Swiss spoke calculator, and this is where my troubles began. Despite my best efforts to make sure I was calculatingthe best spoke length, searching forums up and down, asking people who have built wheels before, and trying multiple spoke calculators I had very little confidence in the correct spoke length. I called a bunch more shops, double checked my figured in the DT-Swiss spoke calculator and bought the spokes. The initial lacing up of the wheel went really well, and I started tensioning. The hubs were centered, but there was just too much slack in the spokes as I started tensioning them. My first guess was that I had too much length in the spoke. I took them to my co-worker who had a go at them, and we came out with a constructed wheel:



As much as one can tell how well a wheel is built from a picture on the internet, you’ll have to trust me that the tension was low. I decided to give them a go anyway, typical. One endo into a rock garden later (only about 10% the fault of the bike, see image at top).


And my confidence on the bike was wavering. So I did the only logical thing to do, I took it to Fruita and Moab for a two week bike trip! The trip went pretty well, although I did break a spoke on mile 1 of a 22 mile ride after being dropped off by a shuttle, welp. But despite drop offs, and high speed rock gardens the wheels held without any issues. (need to find my old phone for the pictures)

Upon arriving home I still couldn’t shake that something felt wrong with the wheels, the felt loose, sloppy, I noticed when landing jumps I could feel the suspension bottom out, and then the bike would feel like a wet noodle underneath me, it was terrifying! So I entered a CX race in Monterey, there’s no good or logical reason for this. I got the hole shot on the start, when the cable for my front derailleur snapped, so I was bottom gear Sally for the whole race; watch those pedals spin:

I had the wheels rebuilt professionally and ditched the knock off frame. Friends don’t let friends ride cheap carbon knock offs.

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