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On One Inbred (Geared)

Steel hardtail frame...

New project --> clicky link
Kona Kikapu Deluxe (2004) --> click for more.
Kikapu is a short travel (3.5") full suspension cross country bike. She cost about 1400 pounds new, but I've probably spent the same again on upgrades. Kikapu is quite a light bike, but not crazy light (Kona don't really do that sort of thing). Kikapu's seem quite rare in the UK. I've only ever seen one other kikapu.

Upgraded to Easton EA50 finishing kit, Shimano XT rear mech, Shimano LX shifters, Sram 990 cassette, Fox F100RLT forks, Richey Logic Comp SPD pedals, Fizik Gobi Titanium saddle, Mavic XC717 rims on Hope XC hubs with DT Competition spokes, Panaracer Fire XC Pro tyres, Goodridge brake hoses, FSA DH Pig Pro headset.

Kona Kikapu Deluxe 2004

Trek 4500 (2004) aka "Judy"

Dependable cross country hardtail mountain bike.

Upgrades: Many parts have trickled down from the Kikapu... Easton EA50 seatpost, Selle Italia Flite Titanium saddle, Shimano LX rear mech, Mavic XM317 rims on Shimano XT hubs with DT Champion spokes, Hayes FX9 XC hydraulic disc brakes, Richey Logic Comp pedals, Marzocchi MX Comp ETA forks, Hope seatpost clamp.
Trek 4500

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most spoked wheels are badly built. I paid for some really bad wheels from a well known online bike shop. I've also paid for some really poor wheel truing in bike shops around the UK. (One notable exception being Beyond Mountain Bikes at Smithbrook Kilns, near Cranleigh, who have built me some great wheels.)

So I decided to start learning about wheels. I bought the Jobst Brandt book (sadly hard to get hold of), Gerd Schraner (also good, though less empirical), Roger Musson (online for a small price).

I also got myself some tools. Now technically all you need is a spoke wrench since you can true a wheel in some upturned bike forks. I did buy myself a Minora jig, but it really wasn't that good - it just wasn't rigid enough and I eventually left a rear wheel in it long enought to bend the arms out of shape. I took a bit of advice from those wiser in the ways of wheels than me and eventually spent a stupid amount of money on the Park TS-2. It is so solid that I can true a wheel to 0.2mm accuracy. Having a solid jig is probably more important for novices like me.

I also use a Park TM-1 spoke tension meter. Again it was quite an investment, but I can now measure the tension on each spoke to make sure it is within the manufacturer's specification. I can also ensure that spoke tension is relatively even. To help with this I use a spreadsheet made available by Park. [NB This spreadsheet suggests plus/minus 20 percent as acceptable - I prefer to use a 10 percent (max) range.] The Park tool has its limitations but it has been a really valuable way of helping people like me to understand wheels.

In the UK most local bike shops will sell you spokes. However this can be quite expensive. Chain Reaction Cycles sell packs of 36 DT Swiss spokes in whatever length you specify for as little as a tenner (although for fifteen quid the double butted Competition spokes are the best option for most people). For more bespoke (ha!) options see Bikedock who also sell DT spokes, but do so individually. If you know of any other cheap sources please email me, I'd be really interested.

The best spoke wrench in my opinion is the Spokey / Spokey Pro both of which are available for under a fiver from Wiggle.
Park TS-2 Wheel jig