August 30, 2012

Gravel Bike Build – Part 6

Return to Part 1 

It’s time for wheels and there is nothing showing up on Ebay, Craigs List, or the bike forums.  Well there have been a few, but they all involved some kind of compromises or another, so I always talked myself out of them.
Compromise is the word of the day when it comes to wheels.  When I started this build I figured I would throw on a set of cheap 29’er wheels and tires and call it good.  When the bike was together enough to do a trial fit I tried to install the wheels and tires from my Trek Superfly.  Not even close.  They are WAY too big to fit in the frame.  So I put my road bike wheels and tires on.  They fit fine with plenty of clearance left for bigger tires.  700 x 38c or 700 x 32c?
So maybe the place to start picking a wheel begins with the tires.  After reading a ton of reviews and tech specs and making some measurements.  I decided a tire between 32c and 35c was the best for my needs.  I also want tubeless.  ROCK racing has had awesome success with Schwalbe tires.  So I checked them first, and really like the looks of this Smart Sam CX tire: 

Since I am using between a 32c to 38c wide tire, the inner rim width of the wheel should be somewhere around 19mm wide.  The Sheldon Brown website has a great chart for tire sizes and rim widths here.

Most of the 29er wheels I looked at were 23mm wide, too wide for my use.   This made me start looking at road wheels.  Which seem to have a good diameter and rim width, but are almost impossible to find with a disc brake hub and nothing in a tubeless.  I also looked at a few wheels meant for comfort bikes, but they seemed too heavy, and again none were available as tubeless.
It was looking more and more like custom wheels was the only way to get what I wanted.  Custom wheels would totally blow my budget.  But just maybe with some careful shopping of clearance bins and on-line deals I could put something together.

So over the past couple of weeks I’ve found some deal and ordered:
(2) Stan’s Iron Cross rims – 32 holes.  I’ve had great luck with Stan’s wheels before, and I wanted tubeless for this build.  So it was perfect when I found these on sale with free shipping.  The rim width is 20mm and the profile and diameter are made just for CX tires.

(2) Shimano Centerlock XT disc hubs – 32 holes.  I read reviews and compared prices on a bunch of different hubs, Shimano seemed like the best compromise between price and quality.  I like the idea of the splined center-lock hubs more than the ISO 6 bolt hubs.  Here is a good list of the pluses and minuses of the centerlock design:  Link

(70) DT Swiss 12mm alloy spoke nipples.  I picked red, should go good with my frame.  I only need 64 spokes and nipples, but I thought if I screw one up or break one later, it would be good to have a couple of extras.

(70) DT Swiss double-butted spokes 2.0 / 1.8mm.  The double butted spokes are supposed to ride smoother, stay strong, and be a little lighter.  I ordered black.  It took a while to figure out spoke lengths but I finally found an Excel based spoke length calculator, that I used to get the lengths figured out:

So with everything ordered,  I am back to waiting for parts to arrive again.  Check back for Part 7 soon to see how many mistakes I make building my first set o wheels.

Part 5                                                                                                     Part 7

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