Back in January, I reviewed Wheel Fanatyk's Tensiometer, a consistently accurate, easy-to-use and beautifully crafted digital spoke tension gauge. Just click the link to read all about it. At the time of that review, I was building wheels part-time for Praxis Works Bicycle Components. Today, I'm a full-time engineer at Praxis and in charge of our wheel department.
As the company wheelmeister, I’m learning lots about modern wheel production and trying more new tools that improve wheel building and wheel quality. I started this 2-part column before Thanksgiving, and I'm finishing it up today.
While you may not be interested in working on or building wheels, you might like to learn more about the things that are making wheels better. Because, after your frame, your wheelset has the most influence by far on your bicycle's ride.
Small things make big differences in wheel reliability and performance. For example, if a spoke is twisted excessively during tensioning (ideally, only the nipples are turned, not the spokes), it can weaken that spoke enough that it might break down the road. Or you might have a wheel that won’t stay true because the tension is either too loose or too tight (where tensionometers come into play). Attending to all the important small details like these is the reason we are now starting to see low-spoke-count wheels that actually hold up to real riding.
Wheel Fanatyk Wood Dishing Tool ($190-$280)
Wheels need to be centered in the frame and fork, or you may have handling or braking issues (with rim brakes). To achieve this when building wheels, you check that the rim is centered over the axle locknuts/end caps with what’s known as a dishing gauge. It has three points that touch the wheel. You know the rim is centered when all three points touch on both sides of the wheel.
Because you check centering many times for every wheel, the dishing tool gets lots of use. The easier and faster it is to use, the better. Enter Wheel Fanatyk’s Wood Dishing Tool, which has a quick-release plunger that instantly drops to rest on the end cap for super-fast use (other such tools thread or require loosening a nut, which takes time).
I also like that it’s 100% wood, which keeps it light and ensures you’ll never scratch a rim (like a metal tool might). It feels especially nice when checking carbon rim wheels.
P&K Lie Truing Stand ($1,660 - $1,980)
If you have the skill to build good wheels, you don't need much in the way of tools to true and tension. You can simply do it by putting them on a bicycle or in a pinch, borrow the wheel fork from a vehicle roof rack for the job.
But there are tools that can help ensure, whether you're a beginner or a pro, you end up with near-perfect wheels. And one of the most applauded is P&K Lie's Truing Stand (click for more info).
Constructed of machined brass and aluminum, and sporting giant 84mm-diameter Rolex-like dials, it's a stunner of a truing stand. What makes it unique is that it takes out the trial and error of truing that's required with almost all other truing stands.
It does this by simultaneously displaying on its two dials the lateral and radial runout of the rim. This shows you which is the correct spoke to turn to make lateral and radial corrections and ensures you don't turn the wrong spoke or turn a spoke the wrong way.
In contrast, most other stands require truing lateral and radial runout separately. This means going back and forth until both are right. Inevitably, you turn nipples too far and turn the wrong nipples, meaning more work for you and more stress on the spokes and nipples.
With the P&K, as soon as you start to turn the wrong spoke or the right spoke in the wrong direction, the needles on the gauge begin moving the wrong way so you can stop and make the right correction.
The P&K also allows centering the rim over the hub so you don't have to go back and forth there, either. When relying on a dishing gauge, you remove the wheel and keep checking and hope to not overshoot the rim centering. Because then you have to go back and loosen and tighten spokes to move the rim back where it needs to be. The sooner you can get the rim centered, the better, because it's less turning of the nipples and stressing of the spokes.
P&K's ingenious jig may be the world's most expensive truing stand, yet it's being used by some of the world's leading wheel makers because it's such a time-saver and guarantee of quality wheels. I’ve only touched on what I think is the best feature of this stand.
Jim Langley is RBR's Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He's the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his "cycling aficionado" website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim's streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim's full bio.