This year I’ve built two sets of Rolhoff wheels using different models of Surly fatbike rims. Coincidentally both wheelsets are headed for epic adventures in Australia: the first set is headed for Tasmania and the second to the Canning Stock Route in Western Australia.
This everyday wheelset mates classic-looking White Industries T11 hubs and Stan’s Alpha 400 rims. These rims build light wheels and offer the option of running tubeless or with tubes. With 28 DT Competition spokes per wheel and brass nipples, they’ll be rock solid for years.
A few times a year I get a query about the digital dishing tool I’ve shown online. It’s something I came up with myself though I’d be surprised if I was the first.
You’ll recognize the base tool as the standard Park Tool WAG-4. It’s a decent tool with sliding blocks that lets you check dish even with tires mounted. Checking dish with the analog indicator probe is fast and easy. The problem is it’s not quantitative. I record a ton of stats about every wheel including tension at every spoke and three kinds of alignment. To record dish alignment with a conventional tool you need feeler gauges and that’s a bit cumbersome.
I had a spare digital gauge in my toolbox so I mounted it up with no fuss. The lug back on the gauge can rotate 90° so I oriented it perpendicular to the shaft. I re-used the existing hole on the WAG-4 so no drilling required — I simply removed the existing screw and replaced it with a slightly longer one to accommodate the thickness of my gauge mount plus a washer. It’s a wood screw and I was able to find a longer one of the same diameter and thread pitch at Home Depot. That’s it.
The issue with my gauge is the throw of the indicator — the range isn’t appropriate for all axle lengths. I could find an indicator with more throw but this was a project done on the cheap (the cost of a screw if you discount the bits on hand). I deal with this problem by installing indicator contact points of different lengths, suitable to the axle in question. Actually I do gross dishing using the regular analog probe and then install the correct tip to record final dish. When using the regular probe it’s handy to remove the contact point altogether so the digital indicator is out of the way.
How does it work? Pretty well. Having the accuracy of a digital gauge makes you realize the limitations of the underlying tool. I balance the digital dishing tool over the wheel and hold it with the lightest touch otherwise the tool flexes and tilts, distorting values. This amount of distortion wouldn’t lead to bad wheels but it doesn’t hurt to sweat the small stuff if you’re bothering to measure.
The requirement for this build was a set of do-it-all road wheels for a very fit rider. That means training, some racing, gravel and whatever the day calls for. That means a preference for lightness without entering fragile territory. I put together this package of White Industries T11 hubs, H Plus Son Archetype rims and Sapim Laser spokes. The spoke count, 24 front and 28 rear, combined with a light butted spoke help keep weight down. It’s still enough spokes and uses a stiff enough rim that they’ll be plenty resilient. For style points, check out the blue hub and matching alloy nipples.
These wheels are built for stiffness and strength thanks to DT Swiss Competition spokes and a deep rim profile. They’re not light wheels but weight is often misunderstood. More weight means more energy is required to propel the bike forward, most noticeable when accelerating. But when cruising at high speed, heavier wheels have a flywheel character that makes the bike feel like it wants to keep going. Light wheels may climb best but heavier aerodynamic wheels improve descending.
Similar to a previous set but with Shimano XT hubs. Again with Center Lock rotor attachment, which I like for its relative ease of installation and removal. Typically CL hubs are a little lighter too. The rims are H Plus Son Archetypes in the premium grey finish. I’m not a fan of conspicuous branding — these rims may have the cleanest branding of any bicycle component.
I’ve become a big fan of dynamo hubs. For commuting it’s great to have bright lights without charging batteries. For touring I feel the same and rely on dynamo power to charge the gizmos I can’t live without. Apart from the weight penalty, hub dynamos are pretty terrific.
Check out this upgrade for a rider’s Surly Long Haul Trucker. This wheelset re-uses the stock Shimano XT rear hub and adds a new XT dynamo front. Since this LHT is ridden unloaded too, I’m mindful of weight and mitigated the dynamo’s added mass with lighter Mavic rims and butted spokes. Surly uses straight gauge spokes on their stock wheels, which targets price rather than function — butted spokes are a must for touring in my book.
Vintage styling is pretty trendy but I’m more concerned with parts that work well. These ideals don’t always go together but this wheelset says you can have both.
The polished TB14 rims from H Plus Son are very shiny and look great without stickers. Unlike traditional box section rims the TB14 has a modern 23mm width, which is a better fit for wider tires. The quality is really high, which you see in the weld area. Or rather you can’t see any trace of the weld, neither on the face of the rim nor inside the rim channel.
This is a photogenic singlespeed cyclocross wheelset. The design is tuned with a lot of coordinated choices specifically for the rider and his needs. Each wheel uses 28 DT Revolution spokes to deliver the desired stiffness at an attractive weight. Brass nipples expecting wet, dirty conditions. The rims are H Plus Son Archetypes, which are a nice width for cyclocross tires and strong enough for racing. Hubs are White Industries ENO, which are a basic sealed bearing design with bolt-on attachment and great finishing. The White freewheel is the pièce de résistance.