EPO Mondays

So the time has come for a Cognoscenti Cycles weekly ride to be born. It's now September and cyclocross is right around the corner, so I've organised an Urban CX ride for Monday evenings. Next week on September 10th a number of us will be meeting at Bob's coffee shop which is on the corner of Christie & Davenport. Our departure time will be 6:00pm sharp as there's lots of ground to cover before the sun dips into the horizon. This is an unsanctioned ride and therefore is not sponsored by any particular cycling club. It's a "ride at your own risk" night. We'll be riding through several parks and ravine systems to get you comfortable on uneven ground and some dirt. A cross bike or a gravel bike would be your best choice for the evening, though a road bike with 28mm tires could work in a pinch. The pace will be quite civilised and the emphasis will be on navigating those paths and gravel sections with aplomb. Lights and helmets will be essential so charge those torches up to the max. We'll finish off the night in Forest Hill Village for ice cream at the Big Chill. Afterwards we can hit the Boxcar for beers on their lovely outdoor patio if you wish. I hope to see any and all who are up for a fantastic romp through some amazing ravines and parks. 

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Wheel Systems verses truly hand built wheels.

If you're in the market for a new set of wheels you may have heard a relatively new term bantered about. That term is "wheel systems". What on earth is a "wheel system" and why should you even care? If you are after an excellent set of wheels then read on. Wheel Systems is a phrase coined by the companies who invented this concept. You might see it in their literature or on the website of companies like Mavic, Campagnolo, DT Swiss and Shimano as they all have developed their own wheel systems. There are of course other companies with a similar approach.

The concept is essentially a simple one. The companies mentioned have decided it would be far more profitable to sell you a complete set of wheels than individual components that make up that wheel. For instance there was a time when the only wheel component that Campagnolo made were hubs. At that time Campagnolo was content with selling you their wonderful hubs and letting you choose rims and spokes from other different companies who specialised in making those items. During this era Mavic pretty much specialised in making only rims. This way of selling individual wheel components went on for many decades until someone thought it would be infinitely more profitable to sell you not only the hubs or rims but all the other items required for a complete wheel set. This was the birth of the "wheel system".  As their marketing departments went into overdrive new designs came out annually to help increase their market share. These new designs brought in extensive use of proprietary parts. This made it impossible for the consumer to use replacement parts from any other company except the one that designed and sold that particular model of wheel. So simply put, if you bought a Mavic wheel it was necessary that the replacement parts had to be supplied by Mavic as nothing else would fit properly. Now, this whole scenario might have been workable if one had ready access to the necessary replacement parts that every wheel eventually needs in it's lifetime. But often that is not the case. These companies seem to have little regard for making available their proprietary replacement parts to the buyer even as little as a season or two later. The end result is often the wheels are not repairable at all and they end up in landfill. Not what you'd expect after purchasing a pricey set of wheels from an internationally famous company. 

There is also one last fact that is often overlooked. That's the build quality that normally is associated with these wheel systems. Most of these large aforementioned companies have their own wheel factories where these wheels are built then boxed up and shipped out around the world. The typical "factory build" is rarely something to boast about. In fact, the amount of time that is taken to finish a wheel is astonishingly small! Some factories claim their wheel builders are turning out 6 wheels an hour. Now lets compare how much time I normally spend on a wheel. The average wheel that I build often takes over two hours. If you do the math this means on average I am spending 12 times as much time as a factory built wheel. They simply cannot be the same end product. By comparison a factory built wheel must cut so many corners to end up in a box in 12 minutes that it's not even funny! I think you get the picture.

So, is there an alternative to buying the hype and problems attached to all these new wheel systems from the big players. Thankfully there is! This is where your local custom wheel builder comes sharply into focus to save the day. Let me explain.

These days there are many small boutique companies making world class bicycle components. This is especially true in the world of wheels. Lots of fantastic hub & rim manufacturers turning out simply amazing quality stuff that anybody would be super stoked to ride. In fact, there has never been more choice than there is now. Names like Chris King, Onyx, White Industry, Project 321, Industry Nine, Phil Wood, Rohloff, Hadley, Extralite, Syntace, Hope, Royce, Gokiso, and those are just the hub companies! Tons of excellent rim options as well. There is absolutely no need to buy into this wheel system nonsense that completely lets you down when you happen to need a replacement rim or even something as simple as a few spokes and nipples to get you back on the road. The alternative is to avail yourself of the services of a custom wheel builder. He'll offer you far more real world options than any cookie cutter wheel system could hope to ever provide.  A professional wheel builder will design a set of wheels for you that will target your specific needs. Literally tailor made for your precise wants and desires. Choosing  the right hubs, from an array of lovely colours and the exact spoke count that matches your weight and cycling style. Choosing the rims that will make most sense for your needs as well as mating up perfectly with your favourite tire. Deciding on a spoke type and a lacing pattern that also will serve your specific cycling habits. You have absolutely none of these choices when buying a companies wheel system. None. Does that really make any sense? Of course not! With the help of an experienced wheel builder you'll be miles ahead with a custom designed set of wheels that accurately match your own actual real world needs. Also, those wheels have the potential to look quite striking in comparison to the run of the mill factory wheel set.

Cognoscenti Cycles uses absolutely no proprietary parts in any of our wheel designs. All our spokes and nipples are industry standard dimensions and won't disappear anytime soon, because they have been in common use for decades. We have partnered with the very best rim and hub manufacturers to provide a huge number of options, all that have readily available non proprietary parts. Exactly the way it should be. So, steer clear of all these wheel systems and save yourself some major disappointments when searching for something as simple as a replacement spoke that's no longer available that renders your wheel a useless paper weight. 

Enjoy the experience of putting together a killer custom wheel design that's all your own. It's the only way to fly. 

                                                                        Designed by a master wheel builder who's taking all your needs into careful consideration.

                                                                       Designed by a master wheel builder who's taking all your needs into careful consideration.

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My new gravel wheels

I recently bought a new titanium gravel bike. I must admit that I absolutely love it. I honestly had no idea whether or not I was going to fall for this new machine or not. The verdict is in and I couldn't really be much happier, with one exception, the wheels. This bike shipped with the new Ultegra R8000 group set which has been quite impressive, but it didn't ship with great wheels. So I sat down and designed what I think are the perfect gravel wheels. 

                                                   Aerospace grade 3.25 titanium double butted multi shaped tubes that absorb unwanted road shocks like nothing else. 

                                                  Aerospace grade 3.25 titanium double butted multi shaped tubes that absorb unwanted road shocks like nothing else. 

 

For some time I wanted to put my company name on an amazing set of hubs and I have found them. Onyx. You've seen me blog about them and I now own a pair to put thousands of miles on. Onyx did a fine job of laser etching Cognoscenti Cycles into the hub shells. A permanent record of my personal endorsement of these incredible USA made hubs. If you're familiar with these hubs you already know what makes them unique and special. A German made sprag clutch that offers instant engagement and runs silently. In my books silence is golden. They come stock with German made ceramic hybrid sealed bearings as well. A very nice touch! Onyx powder coated my hubs in a deep lustrous dark indigo colour. 

                                                                               Indigo coloured Onyx hubs mated up to ceramic coated AForce AI 33's. Perfect!

                                                                              Indigo coloured Onyx hubs mated up to ceramic coated AForce AI 33's. Perfect!

 

The next aspect of this wheel design were the rims of course. What to use? There's a lot to choose from these days and I had to think about it. My recent interest in ceramic coated rims led me to my eventual choice. The AForce AI 33 ceramic. It's shot peened surface covered flawlessly in ceramic is beautiful. The jet black finish with laser etched logos. The tubeless friendly design with aerodynamics paramount in mind. In fact, in independent tests at the A2 Wind-tunnel in the USA, it scored the highest of any alloy rim and challenged many carbon rims known for their aerodynamic qualities. So it not only offers a very durable finish but it's fast as well. The rim profile is 32.5mm deep, 26.2mm wide with an internal width of 19.6mm. The published weight of approximately 485 grams its definitely not a heavy rim at all. Their use of the proprietary AF9X T6 alloy is unique. I would like to know more about the make up of that particular metal.  AForce offer rims with either internal or external spoke nipples. I opted for the external nipples which enable very quick and easy truing when necessary. 

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                                                                               The AForce AI 33 Ceramic coated rim. Made from a proprietary AF9X T6 alloy. 

                                                                              The AForce AI 33 Ceramic coated rim. Made from a proprietary AF9X T6 alloy. 

The next consideration was a lacing pattern and the choice of spokes. Since these are disc wheels that will get heavily used on old farm roads that can be at times a little gnarly.  I figured that a tried a true 3 cross pattern was in order. It's been around for forever and lets face it, it delivers! I decided upon Sapim Race spokes which will prove to be ideal for a 32 hole rear wheel and a 28 hole front. A spoke that has plenty of strength on tap, even if I decide to mount some panniers and head off for a cycle tour. My go to spoke nipple of choice has been for many years the Alpina ABS 5.5 mm HEX head brass nipple. No other nipple can compare to this one. I bring them in from Holland especially because I refuse to use any other brass nipple. It ticks all the boxes and then some. The ABS plug at the top stops the spokes from vibrating lose and strengthens the bond between spoke and nipple. I love the 5.5 mm HEX head for adding some additional strength to the nipple as well as enabling easy truing from behind the rim. Alpina has stated that they use absolutely no mercury in the production of their nipples which is great from an environmental standpoint. Kudos to them for figuring out how to eliminate that toxic metal from the manufacturing process. 

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Lastly was the decision on what tires to use. The good thing is the fact that gravel riders are getting new tire options all the time as tire manufacturers are hip to just how popular gravel riding has become in the last few years. I thought I'd go with the Maxxis Refuse at 28 mm's wide. That's not a typical width for most gravel riders who often exploit much wider tires. I needed something that would work well for most hard pack roads in Ontario but could still be fast enough for a local club run on Toronto streets. So, the 28mm Refuse was the one. It's got a nice subtle diamond dimpled tread and the profile will work well with the AForce rim. I'll run them at about 100psi for club runs and less for farm roads. At a later date I'll probably start experimenting with some wider tires and maybe some more challenging roads along the way. 

 

 

 

 

 

Ceramic coated rims

Alloy rims with ceramic coatings are definitely more expensive, so why bother paying more for this exterior coating? Are they actually better than non coated rims? Valid questions when one considers that ceramic rims come at a premium price. They also require dedicated brake pads which is something else to think about when opting for a pair of wheels with this unique coating. 

The first ceramic coated rim that I got really excited about was the Boyd Altamont. On first examining it I was very impressed with how perfect the finish was. The brake track moved seamlessly into the rest of the rim. At a glance one might confuse it for a disc rim as the transition was flawless and almost invisible. The bead blasted surface was also executed perfectly. The finish is a very dark grey colour and it's definitely one of the nicest looking alloy rims on the market today. But looks aren't the whole story so I thought I would reserve judgment until I had built one up. The first pair went together beautifully. I was very impressed with the overall quality of the rim while under working tension. It offered the right amount of resistance to each additional volley of tension and when I was at full tension the rim exhibited no adverse reaction whatsoever.  This was a good sign of properly heat treated alloy. 

                                A custom set of gravel and cyclocross wheels that I built for a client. White Industry T11 road hubs with the Boyd Altamont ceramic rim. 

                               A custom set of gravel and cyclocross wheels that I built for a client. White Industry T11 road hubs with the Boyd Altamont ceramic rim. 

 

Boyd Cycling offers two versions of the Altamont. The regular at 495 grams and the "Lite" at 445 grams. Both rims were designed with a 25mm tire in mind, though it's certainly feasible to use tires from 23mm all the way up to cyclocross widths like 32mm. The internal width of the rim is 19.86mm. Both versions have welded rim joints which adds strength to the equation. 

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One of the advantages of a ceramic coating is improved wet weather braking. However, one must use the supplied SwissStop BXP brake pads to achieve that goal. 

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Boyd claim that their ceramic coating will not wear off. They are on the second generation of this coating and the newest version is of course the best yet. I noticed that the ceramic coating added an extra degree of overall stiffness and strength but without being brittle which is paramount.

What about spoke hole options. The Altamont is available in 20, 24, 28 and 32 holes. Enough options to satisfy everybody from racers to cycle tourists. 

This rim was designed without metal eyelets so I would highly recommend that you have them built up with Sapim HM spoke nipple washers. This will prevent any future cracks near the spoke holes. 

A nice touch was the decision to use water transfer decals that are baked into the rim. No chance of them coming off prematurely. 

Lastly is the assurance of a tubeless compatible set up. Boyd has altered the internal dimension and made this rim completely tubeless friendly. The new bead locking shape ensures that the tire won't burp whether you are running higher road pressures or very low pressures used by cyclocross riders. 

So if you're thinking of having a set of alloy wheels built up you should seriously consider the Altamonts. Though a bit more expensive, their level of quality and performance won't be easily matched with less expensive non coated alloy rims. 

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Sapim spokes

Sapim hails from Belgium. A spoke manufacturer founded by Herman Schoonhoven at the end of WW1 in 1918. 2018 marks a century of innovative production, and I am sure a lot of unique expertise has been gained over those many decades. So what is it that separates Sapim from it's competition. 

As an ISO 9001 certified company Sapim takes quality control very seriously. Its SCFT system (Sapim Advanced Cold Forging) produces spokes with a proprietary manufacturing process that enables  them to stand apart from the competition. It's no wonder that world champions and olympic athletes have stood on the podium thankful that they put their trust in Sapim's products. 

Their are a few spoke models that are perennial favourites with many wheel builders including myself. The most famous spoke would undoubtedly be the CX Ray. A bladed "aero" spoke that boasts a super light weight as well as being the strongest spoke that Sapim makes. This model is fairly ubiquitous in the pro peloton as the default ultimate racing spoke. The middle section of this spoke has a strength of 1600 N/mm2 which may not mean a lot to the uninitiated but believe me that's impressive! It's dimensions are 2.0 x 0.9 x 2.2mm.  It's weight is close to that of a titanium spoke which is also a notable achievement. Available in both a standard J bend and a straight pull version. Each Sapim spoke is stamped with the companies name, proudly displaying who made it.

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The Sapim Race is their meat and potatoes double butted spoke. I really like this particular spoke as it suits the needs of probably the most cyclists buying hand built wheels. It has excellent strength characteristics and is an ideal weight for most riders. A 14 gauge spoke with a 2.0 x 1.8 x 2.0mm dimension. A very respectable middle section strength of 1300 N/mm2. Available in both black or a silver finish in either straight pull or J bend. Perfect for a set of racing or training wheels. MTB riders could choose between these and CX Rays. 

                                                                           Sapim uses the best quality steel wire to ensure the greatest tensile strength.

                                                                          Sapim uses the best quality steel wire to ensure the greatest tensile strength.

 

The Sapim Force flies a little under the radar but it really shouldn't. It's actually a fave spoke of mine. It's very close to the dimensions of the Race model but has a slightly thicker section closest to the hub flange. This slight increase in size has a noticeable increase in overall strength. Perfect for slightly heavier riders or those who aren't exactly careful with their wheels. I use them to help beef up MTB or gravel wheels or even for light touring wheels. A great solution when just a little extra strength is desired, with next to no weight penalty. It has a dimension of 2.18 x 1.8 x 2.0mm. The centre section boasts 1400 N/mm2 in tensile strength. 

Sapim also manufacturers their own spoke nipples. I was happy to see them finally add a hexagonal nipple to the selection. I have used 5.5 mm hex head nipples almost exclusively for the last 5 years and therefore most of the old school slot head nipples hold no interest for me. The advantage of hex head nipples are twofold. The ability to work from behind the nipple affords the use of different kinds of tools to turn nipples, yet it still has the conventional 3.2mm square interface for normal spoke keys on the other side of the rim. It also has a taller head which means more of the threaded end of the spoke is held by the nipple. This strengthens this junction and gives the wheel builder a little bit of grace for the spoke length. If a spoke is a half millimetre too short it's no big deal.  

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The humble Sapim HM washer should not be forgotten. This little round washer cups most spoke nipples perfectly providing just the right amount of support for rims that have no eyelets. I have been using it for years now and i appreciate the protection it offers to alloy rims without eyelets. This helps to prevent rims from cracking, which is not uncommon for many modern alloy rims that have forgone the use of stainless steel eyelets. 

                                                                 The Sapim HM washer is the perfect solution for building with alloy rims that don't have eyelets. 

                                                                The Sapim HM washer is the perfect solution for building with alloy rims that don't have eyelets. 

Recently Sapim enlisted the help of the folks at P&K Lie, makers of the most desirable wheel truing stand in existence to design them a suitable spoke tension meter. This German company came up with a plier style design not that dissimilar from the well known DT Swiss Tensio 2. It's a good quality meter that comes with all the necessary paperwork to correlate actual spoke tension with the various Sapim spoke models. 

                     P&K Lie's spoke tension meter. 

                    P&K Lie's spoke tension meter. 

These days I am predominantly using Sapim spokes for most of my custom wheel builds. I have found the quality control to be quite excellent, which is essential for high end wheels. 

I certainly haven't discussed every single product that Sapim makes, so a trip to their website wouldn't be a bad idea if your curious about what else they make. 

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Enve SES AR Disc carbon rims

In the world of American hand made carbon rims Enve stands out as both a leader and innovator. Commanding top dollar for their rims means that not everybody will be riding a set. Having just built a pair of the Enve AR Disc rims I am reminded why people will seek out this company for their custom wheels. The set that I just built up were of exceptional quality, which you would certainly expect at this price point. There are features common to Enve that really help in arriving at a world class wheel. One would be the spoke holes which are not drilled as an after thought but are actually part of the molded design. This ensures that their placement is uniform through out the rim which helps to facilitate very even tension in the initial stages of the build. Details like this would only be recognised by a wheel builder, but are evidence that Enve understands the process intimately. The next thing that any wheel builder would immediately notice is how round and true the rim is when beginning the build at low tension. Both rims I recently built were quite round and flat which goes a long way in attaining a uniform finished tension. Once again, this is something that a buyer may not be aware of when just looking at a pair of completed wheels. The exterior finish of those AR Disc rims were impeccable. Again, something that would be demanded for sure at this level. Another design consideration is the depth of the front rim verses that of the rear one. Enve has decided upon a slightly deeper rear wheel which means the rim has a depth of 55mm while the front rim is 49mm deep. This will provide some additional stiffness in the rear wheel as well as certain aero benefits. 

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What about weight? The AR Disc has an ideal weight for it's intended use. These rims are for both road and gravel terrain which means they might be subjected to a bit of a beating now and again. The rear is 450 grams and the front is about 440 grams. This will build up a very light weight set of wheels, but not too light which might be of concern for some gravel riders. 

Enve has certainly participated in the trend toward wider rims and these were designed to exploit widths of 28 to 30mm tires. Perfect for light gravel excursions or a plush ride on the pavement. Both rims have an internal width of 25mm which will create a nice tire profile if your riding 28's or slightly wider tires. These rims are of course tubeless ready for those who wish to jettison themselves from tubes. 

                                                                                                                      The Enve SES AR Disc carbon rim. 

                                                                                                                     The Enve SES AR Disc carbon rim. 

 

Enve describes this rim as "conceptualised for the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix through their partnership with Team Dimension Data".  I am certain that the rims that were tested for that particular event were with tubular tires, yet I am convinced that all of those positive design attributes will also be realised on the very similar clincher version. 

These rims appeared to exhibit a great degree of intrinsic strength, as after I stress relieved them toward the end of the build, they barely went of of true at all. That's a really good sign!

So, if you are thinking of investing in some really nice carbon rims for your gravel machine these might be the answer. Light, strong, aero, and plenty of bragging rights in the peloton!

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Cognoscenti Cycles new spoke tension meter

It's been in development for some time, but I can now happily say that Cognoscenti Cycles has a brand new spoke tension meter that we are excited to be bringing to market. This effort was brought to life in collaboration with Filip Kralyevski who has been gaining a reputation over the last couple of years for producing high quality spoke tension meters with important unique innovations. I first acquired one of Filip's meters while I was living in Paris. I stumbled across his amazing work while sifting through a blog that had mentioned him. I was immediately interested to find someone who wanted to push the envelope in both overall quality and some innovative ideas. After an extensive dialogue with Filip and over a year of testing his meter I knew that he was the guy to collaborate with on a special meter for Cognoscenti Cycles. 

             The first prototype of the Cognoscenti Cycles spoke tension meter. This model has a delicately bevelled edge showing off some premium CNC workmanship. 

            The first prototype of the Cognoscenti Cycles spoke tension meter. This model has a delicately bevelled edge showing off some premium CNC workmanship. 

 

So, what is it that makes this new spoke tension meter unique? It's really the sum of it's very high quality parts. No expense was spared in the manufacturing of this tool. Filip is an expert in CNC machining and that is immediately evident when you examine the work on the 6082 alloy body. It is weight relieved with several carefully placed large cut outs that both give it a beautiful look and keep the weight down to a minimum without sacrificing any strength. It's anodised in a purple finish that shows off the fine detail wonderfully. The body corresponds perfectly to the shape of the Swiss made Atorn dial indicator. 

In an effort to reduce any friction when a reading is taken, Filip decided to incorporate a THK linear roller bearing. This linear bearing is an ultra precise piece comprised of over 50 distinct internal parts, and this is what separates our meter from any other meter in existence.  It not only alleviates unwanted friction but helps to enhance the accuracy of the dial indicator. 

 Underneath that 6082 alloy enclosure is the THK linear bearing. It incorporates 50 precision pieces to enable an almost completely friction free action. No other spoke tension meter made today utilises this unique design feature. 

Underneath that 6082 alloy enclosure is the THK linear bearing. It incorporates 50 precision pieces to enable an almost completely friction free action. No other spoke tension meter made today utilises this unique design feature. 

 

 

One other important addition was that of sealed bearings in the spoke path. I feel this feature helps in quickly placing the meter on a spoke and also works when zeroing out the meter when you are ready to take a measurement. The meter glides along the spoke effortlessly. To my knowledge, there are only a few other spoke tension meters that have incorporated this idea. 

After testing a few different springs Filip decided that a local custom spring maker could provide us with the exact spring we needed which is made from carbon steel. All the small details like this add up to a superior functioning meter. 

 The 6082 anodised alloy body achieves an ideal weight for this tool. 696 ZZ bearings facilitate easy movement in the spoke path, and the Atorn dial indicator provides perfect accuracy with each tension measurement. The ultimate spoke tension meter for those who insist upon the best. 

The 6082 anodised alloy body achieves an ideal weight for this tool. 696 ZZ bearings facilitate easy movement in the spoke path, and the Atorn dial indicator provides perfect accuracy with each tension measurement. The ultimate spoke tension meter for those who insist upon the best. 

 

Our meters design owes a debt to Jobst Brandt, author of "The Bicycle Wheel", who originally produced a spoke tension meter with this triangular shape. Several other companies have also exploited this design. It sits very nicely in your hand and is quite light weight which is especially important for any tool that might be used by a wheel builder for a better part of the day. 

I would be remiss if I didn't remark on the ultra high quality dial indicator that we have chosen. It could have been tempting to opt for a cheaper dial indicator, but our goals were centered around producing the finest meter possible so naturally we decided upon using an ultra high quality dial indicator. A single reading is all that is necessary to know that you have arrived at an accurate tension evaluation. With each meter we will include a small handy chart that provides the tension values for various spoke dimensions. Those numbers will give you corresponding information about the actual KGF (kilograms of force) of spoke tension. If one prefers to work in Newton Meters, simple online conversion tables will make that calculation for you. 

Our meter is put together with fine quality stainless steel screws and even our plunger handle is hand made. In the end we feel quite confident that we have not overlooked any detail in building the finest spoke tension meter available today. Not only does it hold its own against the competition, we feel that it stands alone as the first choice for those who insist on the highest quality tool available. If you are a serious wheel builder who thinks this should be part of your work flow, then please contact me for any additional information. Our meters are hand made one at a time for each individual customer. 

                                      All current Cognoscenti Cycles spoke tension meters will proudly bare the name of our company with an engraved brass plaque. 

                                     All current Cognoscenti Cycles spoke tension meters will proudly bare the name of our company with an engraved brass plaque. 

 

 

 

Santa Cruz Reserve

Santa Cruz has brought to market a new carbon rim that's making even the most jaded bike junkie sit up and take notice. Have they done the impossible? I'll let you decide. The "Reserve" is the name of this nearly indestructable carbon fibre rim. I first took notice of it after seeing a video of Danny MacAskill attempting to literally destroy this rim by riding up and down cement stairs at speed and eventually doing it with no tire on. It took quite an effort to finally kill that rim! 

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Santa Cruz is so confident in the hardiness of this rim that they are offering a lifetime warranty. When was the last time that you heard of a lifetime warranty on a carbon rim? So, what makes this rim so unique and so difficult to kill? Lets take a look at some of the design details that make this rim special. 

First off is the asymmetric spoke bed. A 3 to 5mm offset, depending on the rim model, helps to equalise spoke tension on both rear wheels as well as front disc wheels. This is a great idea that I wish was utilised by more rim designers. 

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The next noteworthy design consideration is the actual spoke nipple seat. This area has been beefed up considerably. This likely will guarantee that nipples will rarely ever pull through even under very high tension. 

                                                                                        The Reserve is available in only a 28 hole spoke count through all models. 

                                                                                       The Reserve is available in only a 28 hole spoke count through all models. 

Santa Cruz has entrusted the manufacturing of these rims to an Asian company that has not been disclosed. The fact that this rim is not made in the USA doesn't surprise me, as several Asian rim makers have extensive experience and have solid quality control. 

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Here's a cutaway photo of a Reserve rim and as you can see it has no bubbles or any other type of voids that are sometimes found inside carbon rims. All in all, very clean work. 

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So what different models are on offer. The Reserve is available in both 27.5 and 29er's in a few different widths. 

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Obviously these rims will be the domain of the MTB world but I certainly could see the Reserve 25 getting used by the gravel grinders out there. In fact it might be a really ideal carbon rim  at 390 grams for those looking for a compliant ride and near indestructibility. 

This brings me to my one beef about these incredible rims. At the moment I don't believe they are available to custom wheel builders like myself. Hopefully Santa Cruz will soften on this position and decide that only good can come by making them available to all those talented wheel builders out there who will pair them up with interesting hub choices. I would love to build up a set and thrash them on some of my fave gravel roads. 

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Bitex hubs

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Bitex is a Taiwanese company that manufacturers a wide selection of hubs that suit a number of cycling disciplines. They also have a few notable innovations that are patented, like their 'Anti-Bite' freehub. This uses 3 small stainless steel splines to stop the cogs from digging into the 7075 alloy and prematurely wearing this part. A great solution to an old problem!

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This gives you the best of both worlds, enabling the use of a light alloy freehub that shares some of the wear characteristics of a heavier steel freehub. For those who insist on the best material, Bitex also offers a complete titanium freehub as an upgrade. Personally I am a huge fan of titanium freehubs so I think this is a fantastic option!

                    A six pawl titanium freehub upgrade at a mere 107 grams! 

                   A six pawl titanium freehub upgrade at a mere 107 grams! 

So lets take a look at one of their popular road hubs, the RAR9. This hub comes stock with their Anti-Bite 7075 alloy 6 pawl freehub and is designed for standard J bend spokes. Shimano 10/11 speed, Campy and SRAM compatible. Two different lower spoke hole combinations are available,  24, 20, and their 7/14 and 8/16 combinations. This is a standard quick release hub in either 130 or 135mm axle lengths. 

                   The RAR9 road hub. Tipping the scales at 192 grams. 

                  The RAR9 road hub. Tipping the scales at 192 grams. 

                                             The devil is in the details. Here's the specs. 

                                            The devil is in the details. Here's the specs. 

So what do they have in the world of disc brake hubs? The BX106R comes immediately to mind. This hub offers a centerlock interface for the rotor and is a very respectable 230 grams. Axle lengths of 135/12, 142/12 and 135 QR are available. Spoke hole counts of 24, 28, and 32 should answer most needs. 

 The BX106R centerlock hub, comes stock with their 7075 alloy Anti-Bite freehub. 

The BX106R centerlock hub, comes stock with their 7075 alloy Anti-Bite freehub. 

Next up is a very cool looking straight pull hub, the BX311R. This hub is designed for a specific lacing pattern that uses 14 spokes on the drive side and 7 on the non drive side. There's also an option of 12/24. Weighing in at 217 grams. 

     The BX311R rear straight pull hub, with the 7/14 or 12/24 lacing pattern. 

    The BX311R rear straight pull hub, with the 7/14 or 12/24 lacing pattern. 

                 The BX311F matching front straight pull hub at 86 grams. 

                The BX311F matching front straight pull hub at 86 grams. 

Bitex has hardly forgotten the MTB crowd. Lots of different models are on offer. A trip to their website is a must do to see all that you have to choose from. You'll be pleasantly surprised!

Here's the BX210R for the boost hub riders. Comes with a 6 bolt disc interface and is available in both 28 and 32 spoke hole counts. A 148/12 mm axle configuration with their patented Anti-Bite 7075 alloy freehub. 

                      The Bitex BX210R MTB boost rear hub. 335 grams. 

                     The Bitex BX210R MTB boost rear hub. 335 grams. 

Cognoscenti Cycles is happy to add Bitex to our diverse selection of hub offerings. If you are in love with the colour black, and who isn't, then here's the chance to get some premo hubs for a very attractive price! 

Titanium

Appearing on the periodic table of elements at number 22 is the metal titanium. Discovered in 1791 by the Reverend Walter Gregor, it's name came from Martin Heinrich Klaproth who chose it from the Titan's of Greek mythology. Titanium is truly an amazing metal that is used in airplanes , aerospace & military technology, bodily implants as well as special medical tools and of course the bicycle world. 

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My first introduction to titanium in the realm of bicycles goes back to the early 70's. In 1973 two companies almost simultaneously came out with frames made of titanium. One from the USA, the Teledyne Titan and one from the UK,  the Speedwell Titalite, from the Speedwell Gear Case Company in Birmingham. At the time I happened to be working at a bike shop who had hired a fellow from England who did the initial testing on the Speedwell titanium frames. That season Luis Ocana rode several stages of the Tour de France on a Speedwell titanium frame. This was the very beginning of titanium in the pro peloton. A number of years passed before other frame builders began to exploit the amazing properties of titanium in racing frames. Today we see many titanium frame makers. The hottest new bike is definitely the "all road" or gravel bike and many of the best ones are made from titanium, exploiting the magic carpet ride that only Ti can provide. 

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Luis Ocana with his Speedwell titanium machine.

 

Frames are not the only place where titanium shows up. Numerous components are made from this metal. I'd like to highlight the area's where titanium crops up in the world of wheels. 

Hub makers have for some time used titanium successfully in several areas. Titanium axles have been used by Shimano in some of their Dura Ace hubs. They are lighter than steel yet super strong. Shimano has also used titanium for their Dura Ace freehubs. In my opinion there is no better material for a freehub. Hadley hubs from California offers a Ti freehub. Titanium has an ideal strength to weight ratio and will not rust or corrode and therefore surpasses in this area. 

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A Shimano Dura Ace titanium freehub. 

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Lightweight titanium quick release skewers.

Some of my favourite hub manufacturers have chosen titanium as their material of choice for not only for their freehubs, but several other parts as well. Titanium 6AI-4V quick release skewers are very popular and are both extremely strong and reliable. Companies like Royce in the UK and Gokiso in Japan have made hub models from solid titanium billets. These hubs are quite expensive but they are incredible and unique. 

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Gokiso titanium hubs from Japan. Made from solid billets of aero space grade Ti.  Undoubtedly the most expensive hubs on the planet. 

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Royce titanium hubs with a carbon fibre centre. 

Spoke manufacturers have not ignored titanium but their success's have remained somewhat elusive. DT Swiss once made a titanium spoke which is now discontinued. Today companies like Pillar of Taiwan are producing 3 titanium models at very light weights. These spokes are best left to very light riders who are looking to keep their wheel weights at an absolute minimum. 

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Pillar's X-TRA Lite Ti bladed spoke.  A 260mm spoke weighs an incredible 2.6 gr grams!

Cognoscenti Cycles has a new titanium spoke nipple that takes advantage of all the unique properties that titanium offers. Weighing less than a standard brass nipple and almost as light as an aluminium one, our Ti nipple is perfect for racing wheels and for those who demand the absolute best material for their custom wheels.

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Titanium 14 gauge spoke nipples. These utilise a standard 3.2mm square interface on one end and a dedicated Torx style tool that turns the other end. At 0.4 grams each, they are light!

 

Spoke calculators

The correct spoke length is absolutely essential for a properly built set of wheels. You would think this would go without saying, but I am never really surprised when I see expensive factory built wheels that don't have the correct spoke length. Either too short or too long, they are missing the mark of high quality workmanship. You would think that a factory which may be building thousands of the same model would get that right, but not always. This failure can lead to premature spoke breakage. 

                                                          A good quality stainless steel spoke ruler will enable you to measure to within a half millimetre. 

                                                        A good quality stainless steel spoke ruler will enable you to measure to within a half millimetre. 

So, how does a wheel builder arrive at the most ideal spoke length? Years ago before the era of handy online spoke calculators it was a much more challenging job. I used to have a little black book that recorded every wheel that I built with the hub model, rim model, lacing pattern and what the corresponding best spoke length for those parts was. We also had at our disposal the Sutherland Handbook for mechanics which had suggested spoke lengths. It generally was quite helpful but it didn't have every answer among its pages. 

Fast forward a few decades and companies like DT Swiss started to develop their own online spoke calculators. In many ways these were a God send for mechanics and wheel builders everywhere. Today there are several reliable online spoke calculators. 

How do they work? Initially someone had to develop some pretty sophisticated software to number crunch an infinite array of measurements to bring these to life.  For those actually using them, it's really just a matter of plugging in the correct numbers on hub dimensions and rim ERD and the program does all the hard math for you and spits out it's suggested spoke lengths. 

Are those suggested spoke lengths absolutely reliable? In most cases they are, but now and again I get a suggested length that isn't exactly ideal. Not a world away but a slightly different  length would have been better. I always keep my print outs and make notes for future builds. 

To ensure predictable accuracy its wise to take your own ERD measurements before beginning.  By the way, ERD stands for the "effective rim diameter" . These numbers are often supplied by rim manufactures but they are sometimes not accurate. This mistake can lead to the wrong spoke length being recommended. An investment in a pair of WheelSmith rim rods will give you a proper ERD measurement. 

A word or two on taking the hub measurements. Invest in a decent quality digital vernier calliper. It will pay for itself eventually. Hub measurements are often supplied by the manufacturer but double check that they haven't made an error in what they have published. It might save you having to get new spokes cut.

There are a number of online spoke calculators I'd like to mention. I have had reliable results from DT Swiss, prowheelbuilder.com and wheelpro.co.uk . 

                                            DT Swiss is a great online calculator, especially if you are building with their products. 

                                          DT Swiss is a great online calculator, especially if you are building with their products. 

 

I often will use more than one online calculator to check to see how close a recommendation they make. Sometimes they are almost identical and other times there may be a difference of a half millimetre or so. If there is a notable difference in recommendations I'll invoke the opinion of a third calculator. As you investigate various online calculators you'll become familiar with their strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies.

My new favourite calculator is an app that's on my Iphone. It was developed by Douglas Pepelko and it can be procured through the Itunes App store. It's called Quick Spoke and it's simply amazing! I would highly recommend this very handy spoke calculating app. It has a long list of hubs with all the measurements already there for you. It also has a comprehensive list of rims with their ERD's. There are also other features like the information relating to bracing angle of the spokes as well as the percentage of tension on each side of the wheel. It also enables you to save your calculations for future reference. For the wheel builder on the go, this is the best app out there. At $1.99 you can hardly go wrong. 

        Quick Spoke already supplies you with all your hub measurements. Handy!  

       Quick Spoke already supplies you with all your hub measurements. Handy!  

 Quick Spoke is very straight forward, and even a newbie will be comfortable with it. 

Quick Spoke is very straight forward, and even a newbie will be comfortable with it. 

There are several other online spoke calculating websites that are out there. I have had the best results with the ones I have mentioned. That's not to say you won't find a different one that's ideal for you. Whichever one you decide upon keep in mind that you are a thousand miles ahead of the days when nothing like this even existed. Keep a record of your various wheel builds so that you can reference them one day in the future. Most important, try to have some fun building those wheels!

Tools of the trade

Periodically I am asked what my favourite wheel building tools are. Sometimes by new aspiring builders and sometimes by very seasoned ones. Being a self confessed tool junkie I have accumulated a noteworthy collection of job specific tools for most every type of wheel work. 

                                                                             All the various tools needed to turn all the numerous nipple types available today. 

                                                                            All the various tools needed to turn all the numerous nipple types available today. 

As the years have passed I've had to keep pace with all the new tools needed to do my job.   For instance, with all the hubs currently available its no wonder that a sizeable collection of dedicated tools are required if you want to be able to service them all. Companies like Chris King make their own in house tools to service their hubs as well as several other manufacturers. The same could be said for the plethora of spoke wrenches and similar tools needed to just turn nipples, especially with the growing number of nipple interfaces available today.

      A 5.5mm Hex head spoke nipple driver, made in California by Bicycle Research. Also the "Mulfinger' made by Efficient Velo Tools. An invaluable tool for lacing up wheels. 

     A 5.5mm Hex head spoke nipple driver, made in California by Bicycle Research. Also the "Mulfinger' made by Efficient Velo Tools. An invaluable tool for lacing up wheels. 

Though a more significant investment in quality tools is needed for the modern wheel builder, it will definitely make the job easier. When I first started out building wheels I had only a handful of tools. A single VAR chrome vanadium spoke key, a 1950's Campagnolo wheel dishing tool and a cast iron Hozan wheel truing stand that had acquired a patena that made it look like it had been dredged up from the ocean floor off the Titanic. Though I started with just a few wheel building tools I managed to master the art with some time and dedication. I worked with what I had. That was over 4 decades ago and things have changed! These days my work bench is cluttered with too many tools to count. New ones seem to arrive every month and the cycle continues.

            A DT Swiss Tensio 2.  One of a few spoke tension meters that I employ to measure spoke tension and to evaluate the overall evenness of a wheels final tension.

           A DT Swiss Tensio 2.  One of a few spoke tension meters that I employ to measure spoke tension and to evaluate the overall evenness of a wheels final tension.

Spoke Tension

In the last few years builders have been paying more attention to a wheels precise spoke tension.  As tension meters have increased in accuracy and sensitivity its enabled us to evaluate our wheels more closely. At first I was definitely reluctant to embrace spoke tension meters, but eventually I began to explore their use. In the last few years I have completely embraced them in my workflow. I have come to realise how they can be exploited in the initial stages of the building process, not just as an afterthought to determine the final finished tension of a wheel. This has fundamentally changed the way that I now build wheels. That's been a huge change in methodology for me, but a welcome one. 

Recently I have been working with a friend to produce a high end spoke tension meter for Cognoscenti Cycles. Below is a photo of the prototype that has undergone extensive testing. 

 This is the prototype of the new Cognoscenti Cycles spoke tension meter for 2018. It comes with a Swiss made Atorn dial indicator, a CNC made 6082 alloy body and a THK linear roller bearing that enhances the accuracy and sensitivity of the meter. 

This is the prototype of the new Cognoscenti Cycles spoke tension meter for 2018. It comes with a Swiss made Atorn dial indicator, a CNC made 6082 alloy body and a THK linear roller bearing that enhances the accuracy and sensitivity of the meter. 

 The Truing stand

Certainly one of the most important tools for any wheel builder is their truing stand. There are several stands on the market these days and prices vary greatly as well as features. Since the late 1970's I have used a Park stand. It really hasn't changed that dramatically over the years. Yes, there have been a few notable additions but essentially the design remains much the same as the early days. As much as I have been tempted by a few new truing stands I have always returned to that Park stand. It basically does everything one needs and I guess that's all that matters. I briefly owned a DT Swiss truing stand. I quickly realised that even though it was incredibly well made, that old Park stand worked better for my work flow. I sent the DT Swiss stand back for a refund and re-embraced my Park stand. I went through a similar experience with the German made P&K Lie stand. For some builders this stand may be the ultimate, but not for me. There is a deep lesson to be learned here. You must use the tools that work well for YOU! In the end, you have to be both comfortable and confident with those tools. They shouldn't limit you in any way, but as long as you are able to turn out top quality wheels your tool choices are fine.  

                      A DT Swiss spoke key and their bladed spoke holder. Designed to work perfectly together, these are my fave tools for building with bladed spokes. 

                     A DT Swiss spoke key and their bladed spoke holder. Designed to work perfectly together, these are my fave tools for building with bladed spokes. 

             The Campagnolo dishing tool made it's debut in 1952. I have used this tool since day one, and I still use it every day. Perfection is hard to improve upon. 

            The Campagnolo dishing tool made it's debut in 1952. I have used this tool since day one, and I still use it every day. Perfection is hard to improve upon. 

I certainly haven't delved into every tool that one could possibly use while working on wheels. There are so many that if I did this article would turn into a small book. Suffice to say that there is a good tool for every task and investing in the best quality ones is wise. Knowing how to use them properly is of course the most important thing. There is no substitute for experience. 

 

 

 

 

 

DT Swiss hubs.

I first became aware of DT Swiss in the middle 1970's and started to use their high end spokes on a regular basis in the late 1970's. As the years ticked by I became aware that they made much more than just top quality Sandvik steel spokes. 

Today DT Swiss makes some of the most versatile and innovative hubs on the market. They look fairly simple but all their best kept secrets are just under the hood. 

Their flagship road hub is the 180 Carbon Ceramic. A very light hubset with top end ceramic bearings provided by Sinc Ceramic. Their Japanese made silicon nitride bearings (Si3N4) roll within steel cages to form a hybrid bearing. These proprietary bearings are made especially for the 180 hub to perform at the highest level. 

 Sinc Ceramic hybrid bearings keep the rolling resistance to a minimum on the DT Swiss 180 hub. Tour de France tested by top talent. 

Sinc Ceramic hybrid bearings keep the rolling resistance to a minimum on the DT Swiss 180 hub. Tour de France tested by top talent. 

   At only a 100 grams DT Swiss has kept the weight quite low as well as the rolling resistance. 

  At only a 100 grams DT Swiss has kept the weight quite low as well as the rolling resistance. 

Part of the weight savings is not immediately apparent, as this hub uses a carbon fibre centre shell to shave precious grams, mated with alloy flanges. 

 Tipping the scales at a mere 183 grams this hub certainly is one of the lightest hubs available. 

Tipping the scales at a mere 183 grams this hub certainly is one of the lightest hubs available. 

The 180 hub is also available with centre lock for disc brake users and ships with a 6 point adaptor in case you are using a 6 bolt rotor. 

 

Probably DT Swiss's most popular hub is the 240. A small step down from the 180 but certainly a hub that would please most any cyclist. The real difference is the lack of ceramic bearings and the absence of a carbon fibre shell. If you can live without those two exotic features you'll be more than happy with the 240. It has DT's famous star ratchet driven freehub and their easily convertible end caps. All the things that make a DT Swiss hub special. The 240 shows up as often on the road as it does on MTB bikes. They are durable and are relatively easy to service. 

 A thru axle version with a centre lock system for disc brakes. At 126 grams it's still a very light weight option. Available in 20, 24 and 28 hole options. 

A thru axle version with a centre lock system for disc brakes. At 126 grams it's still a very light weight option. Available in 20, 24 and 28 hole options. 

          If your preference is for a standard 6 bolt disc interface DT Swiss has you covered. 

         If your preference is for a standard 6 bolt disc interface DT Swiss has you covered. 

 A 142 X 12 thru axle rear 240 hub with a centre lock disc brake interface. Available in a lustrous black anodised finish.  

A 142 X 12 thru axle rear 240 hub with a centre lock disc brake interface. Available in a lustrous black anodised finish.  

The last hub worth looking at is DT Swiss's answer to a more affordable model with most of the features that make DT a choice for so many riders. In steps the 350. Made off shore to keep the price down, but you'd never know it by looking at it. It still has the fit and finish of it's more expensive older brother the 240. 

The 350 is perfect for a set of affordable training wheels or for some decent MTB wheels or even something that could grace your cyclocross/gravel grinder machine. 

          The 350 front hub weighs in at 149 grams. Its available in 20,28 and 32 spoke holes.

         The 350 front hub weighs in at 149 grams. Its available in 20,28 and 32 spoke holes.

 A glimpse inside a DT Swiss hub. This exploded view shows both the simplicity of design and easy serviceability of these fine hubs. 

A glimpse inside a DT Swiss hub. This exploded view shows both the simplicity of design and easy serviceability of these fine hubs. 

One of the unique features of DT Swiss hubs is the fact that they can be serviced to a large degree without tools. If you require a bearing change you will need some dedicated DT Swiss tools, but you can still remove the end caps and the freehub by hand. So a re-greasing of the star ratchet will require no tools whatsoever. Many YouTube videos will take you step by step through the process. It's a good idea to use DT's grease as it's the exact consistency for the job. Swapping out the end caps enables you to set the hub up for a different axle type or length.  

Cognoscenti Cycles is proudly carrying the entire line of DT Swiss hubs. If you feel that a pair of DT Swiss hubs might be an ideal choice for a custom wheel build I'd love to help you realise that dream. 

                                                                           

                                                                          

Gravel grinding wheels

So, you own a sweet road bike, a nice MTB bike, a cyclocross bike and you just popped for a Fat bike. What's next for your cycle stable? Well it seems we've rediscovered long forgotten rail trails and old farm roads and the new cool roads are not paved with gold but with gravel. Terms like "hard pack" have entered our road vocabulary. The new do all machines for these funky roads are affectionately known as a gravel grinders. 

 Seven Cycles offers up an ideal gravel machine with their Evergreen SLX , sporting robust disc wheels that can go the distance on all manner of terrain. 

Seven Cycles offers up an ideal gravel machine with their Evergreen SLX , sporting robust disc wheels that can go the distance on all manner of terrain. 

 

So, what kind of wheels should you be thinking of building for your new gravel machine? I have been getting more enquires of late about wheels suited to rough road riding than any other cycling discipline. The other night I was out on my Tuesday night club ride and I shared an in-depth conversation with a club mate about his new gravel bike and what kind of wheels would best suit his new machine. That chat begat this blog entry. 

 I'll start by sharing a few important aspects of a well designed gravel wheel set. Most gravel bikes take advantage of thru axle set ups much like MTB's. 142X12 thru axle rear hubs are quite common as well as 100X15 front thru axle hubs. The other common feature will most likely be disc brakes and therefore will demand rims that are properly suited with no rim brake surface. 

Since you'll likely be on some challenging terrain a higher spoke count will be the order of the day. 32 hole front and rear wheels will stand up to pretty much anything you will come across. I would highly recommend a 3 cross lacing pattern for optimum strength and resilience. This is especially important for wheels coping with the inherent stresses of disc brakes.

What about spokes? I would steer clear of ultra light spokes. These wheels are not where you should be trying to shave off a few grams. For most of my off road wheel builds I usually recommend Sapim Force spokes. They are triple butted and build up to very strong wheels. Their profile is 2.18mm X 1.8mm X 2.0mm. The strength of the middle section of that particular spoke is 1400 N/mm2. That's impressive. Another ultra strong Sapim spoke worthy of consideration is the CX-Ray. The CX-Ray is a bladed spoke often regarded for it's aerodynamic profile, but that's not it's only positive attribute. It's a great spoke for any application where extra strength is needed. It's middle section strength is even greater than the triple butted Sapim Force at 1600 N/mm2. 

Nipples? Definitely brass. Alloy nipples are quite light and come in a boat load of eye popping colours, but can be prone to corrosion so they shouldn't end up on your all road wheel set. Personally I prefer brass nipples with a dual interface, like the Alpina ABS2 5.5mm HEX head. There is no stronger nipple made, with the exception of titanium at 5 times the price. 

 The Alpina ABS 2  5.5mm HEX head spoke nipple in brass. 

The Alpina ABS 2  5.5mm HEX head spoke nipple in brass. 

 

Ok, so what hubs are major contenders for conquering gravel? Luckily there are a number of respectable choices. Your selection will be narrowed down to disc hubs with well sealed bearings and preferably a titanium or steel freehub for ultimate durability. An alloy freehub will save you a bit of weight but it can't match the bombproof nature of either steel or titanium.  Many of the hubs that are perennial favourites for the MTB crowd will work well for the gravel grinders out there. Some of my top recommendations would be Onyx, White Industries, Hope, Hadley, Project 321, Industry Nine, Trailmech, Syntace, Chris King and Stealth.  Admittedly that's quite a lot to choose from! All of these hubs unique features are dealt with in detail in my previous blog entries. 

The other consideration for any rear hub is it's engagement. The degree of hub engagement can very significantly and it's worth looking at each manufacturers specs. For instance Onyx hubs boast near instant engagement with their unique German made sprag clutch. 

 An Onyx rear hub featuring a thru axle with a centre lock disc brake interface. Running silently with their unique sprag clutch. Made from 7075 alloy with ceramic hybrid bearings. Comes with a 5 year limited warranty. Freehub available in stainless steel or alloy. 

An Onyx rear hub featuring a thru axle with a centre lock disc brake interface. Running silently with their unique sprag clutch. Made from 7075 alloy with ceramic hybrid bearings. Comes with a 5 year limited warranty. Freehub available in stainless steel or alloy. 

Another thing to think about is noise. Do you want your hub to growl, purr, or run silently. On a quiet farm road maybe you're looking forward to silence and you don't want your hub to speak it's mind.  A dead quiet Onyx hub might be your cup of tea. On the other end of the spectrum is a bee buzzing Chris King hub that announces itself to the world in a very loud and proud way. Something to contemplate before buying. 

What about rims. Should you be thinking classic alloy or carbon fibre? To be honest you could go either way and be happy. Since these wheels might be exposed to a bit more of a beating than your fancy carbon road machine, you might be perfectly happy with a set of nice alloy rims that won't break the bank should they suffer some unintentional damage from traversing  gnarly roads. If you have some extra cash set aside and you want a pair of uber cool carbon wheels you could also go that route. The carbon rims will provide some desirable compliance that will help smooth out those aggressive road surfaces and your disc brakes will ensure confident braking. . If you are confused on which way to jump we can talk about the pros and cons of both types of rims in detail. Whichever rim material you decide upon you'll want to choose a model that exploits a wider internal dimension to take advantage of all the new wider tires that are now on the market. This is where the fun begins on your new gravel bike. Running wide tubeless tires at reduced pressures for a completely different feel. More rubber on the road for added confidence and improved cornering. It's all good! 

 The all black disc version of the Pacenti Forza makes for a fine alloy rim. It has an asymmetrical spoke bed on the rear rim to help equalise tension between the drive side and non drive side spokes, further strengthening your wheel. 

The all black disc version of the Pacenti Forza makes for a fine alloy rim. It has an asymmetrical spoke bed on the rear rim to help equalise tension between the drive side and non drive side spokes, further strengthening your wheel. 

 

Tire choices are expanding all the time, and with the growing popularity of taking "the path less travelled", there will be even more in the future. Many of these new tires are tubeless friendly and that's likely the way you'll end up going. A myriad of widths and tread patterns abound so you are already spoiled for choice. Your gravel bike should have tire clearance for up to 44mm tires if you want the real deal experience.

                                                                  The Maxxis Re-Fuse is tubeless ready and is 40mm wide. Plenty of girth for the back roads. 

                                                                 The Maxxis Re-Fuse is tubeless ready and is 40mm wide. Plenty of girth for the back roads. 

 Panaracer gives us the Gravel King. A 700 X 32 mm tire that has a solid tread pattern for puncture free miles. 

Panaracer gives us the Gravel King. A 700 X 32 mm tire that has a solid tread pattern for puncture free miles. 

 Challenge tires offers up their Gravel Grinder, aptly named for haunting gnarly roads and lost paths. 700 X 36C wide and 260 threads per inch. 

Challenge tires offers up their Gravel Grinder, aptly named for haunting gnarly roads and lost paths. 700 X 36C wide and 260 threads per inch. 

 

The number of gravel grinding gran fondos and similar style events is growing exponentially. You might not be signing up for the Dirty Kanza 200 anytime soon, but gravel is the new frontier so dig in, get a little dirty and enjoy. If you think you might want a pair of hand built gravel wheels I'd be more than happy to design and build you something special. Give me a ring and we'll sweat the small details until you are proudly riding some killer gravel crushers. 

                  3 water bottles, snake anti-venom , compass, sun screen, fave tunes, spare tubes, CO2, last will and testament. 

                 3 water bottles, snake anti-venom , compass, sun screen, fave tunes, spare tubes, CO2, last will and testament. 

 

 

 

 

Wide is the new orange.

width |widTHwitTH| noun

the measurement or extent of something from side to side: the yard was about seven feet in width | the shoe comes in a variety of widths.• a piece of something at its full extent from side to side: a single width ofhardboard.• ORIGIN early 17th century: from wide + -th2, on the pattern of breadth (replacing wideness).

In the world of bicycles tires and rims, things are definitely getting wider. There seems to be a growing awareness that wide is somehow better. It's really not a new concept but a return to some previously held wisdom from a bygone era. 

Advocates like Jan Heine, editor of Bicycle Quarterly have published their findings on the benefits of wider tires running lower pressures. And it's not just cycle tourists and gravel riders who are adopting this new mindset. 

It begs the question as to when we might see wider tires in the pro peloton. For a long time now 25mm tires have been pretty much standard fair among pro road riders. But this may change in the near future as riders fears about going slower on comfy wide tries gets assuaged with the current testing that shows just the opposite. 

There has simultaneously been a trend among rim designers to go wider as well. These new designs compliment wider tire profiles perfectly and they also have the benefit of being stronger stiffer rims.  

This combination makes for a slightly stiffer wheel with enhanced comfort and only a tiny weight penalty that's offset by improved rolling resistance. This new thinking will challenge the obsession with both weight and aerodynamics as being the all important considerations. There are other factors at play that must be balanced to produce the fastest wheels out there. Stiffness, bearing friction and rolling resistance start to be equal concerns.  Maximising all these variables will eventually provide us with the fastest set of wheels known today. 

Wider tires have proven to decrease rolling resistance, making them a faster option. With a little less tire pressure they move over rough terrain much better and don't cause the bike to be bouncing excessively. Races like Paris Roubaix come to mind when contemplating the best wheel design to get you over big cobblestones with the greatest speed and comfort. 

All of this has made perfect sense to mountain bike riders for years now. Their varied terrain demanded wider tires with a much more forgiving and enjoyable ride. It's the realisation that road riders can now enjoy a more plush ride without paying a speed penalty, and scientific testing has confirmed this to be true. Frame designers will have to catch up to provide more room for wider rims and wider tires. 

All in all I see this as a great move forward that has been too long in coming. If I never see another 700X23mm tire again I'll be a happy man. 

                                                   For a super plush ride the Compass Snoqualmie tire. Measures 700 X 44mm!

                                                  For a super plush ride the Compass Snoqualmie tire. Measures 700 X 44mm!

                                                                    Compass tires has the Barlow Pass to keep things nice and comfortable. Measuring 700 X 38mm. 

                                                                   Compass tires has the Barlow Pass to keep things nice and comfortable. Measuring 700 X 38mm. 

 

 

 

Tandem wheels.

Tandems can be a lot of fun, especially if the two riders are quite compatible. But a tandem is a very specialised bike and it's subjected to significant and unique stresses. This demands a proper design and specific materials. Having worked in the past in a bike shop that hand made custom tandems, I am quite familiar with all this. It means a very special set of wheels are needed as well, especially if you plan to do extensive touring. Much higher spoke counts are required to keep those wheels true and capable of supporting the weight of two riders. The forces of hill climbing create very real demands on both wheels, and if the tandem has panniers loaded with lots of camping gear etc, then bomb proof wheels are a must!

The choice of rims, spokes and tires need to be made carefully to insure that they are up to the task. The hubs design must be made for tandem use and spacing. Disc brakes will probably be the order of the day for better braking, especially on long descents. 

What hub options are out there? At present there are a few excellent hub manufactures who have designed top end tandem hubs. From California, Phil Wood has a few different tandem hub options. They make a hub for standard disc brakes as well as one for the Aria drum brake. Zero dish can be obtained when using the 145mm or 160mm Arai brake. That offers much greater overall strength for the rear wheel. Spoke hole counts of 36, 40 and 48 hole are on offer. 135 and 145mm rear spacings are available with typical flange spacing and canting for tandem use. If you own a Santana tandem, Phil Wood has a special hub that enables the disc brake to engage properly. Santana, who have specialised in tandems for many years have enlisted the help of Hadley to make them a special tandem hub which uses a 160mm spacing. This unique spacing enables the wheel to be built up without any dish, therefore offering increased strength and reducing spoke fatigue dramatically. A great idea for a rear tandem wheel! This 160mm standard from Santana also provides plenty of space for 11 speeds and disc brakes. 

 Phil Wood tandem hubs with plenty of spoke holes to provide the necessary strength. Available in silver, black, white, red, blue, green, purple, pink and orange. Stainless steel freehub is possible.

Phil Wood tandem hubs with plenty of spoke holes to provide the necessary strength. Available in silver, black, white, red, blue, green, purple, pink and orange. Stainless steel freehub is possible.

Another company that steps up to the plate in the tandem world is Chris King. Their rear tandem hub comes in 3 widths, 140mm, 145mm and 160mm. There is also an option for a stainless steel freehub which may be recommended for heavy tandem use. The maximum spoke count is only 36 holes which may come up short for loaded tandem use. 

          Available with a stainless freehub and Chris King's legendary stainless steel bearings, made especially in house. Comes in 9 lovely colours! 

         Available with a stainless freehub and Chris King's legendary stainless steel bearings, made especially in house. Comes in 9 lovely colours! 

Another USA made hub to consider would be from White Industries. Their tandem rear hub is made from 6061 alloy with a 15mm cro mo axle for added strength.  They offer typical spoke hole counts of 36, 40 and 48 holes. One of the things that I love about their hubs is their titanium freehub.  A single width of 145mm is on offer. 

                             A 6 bolt disc interface with either 3 pawl / 24 point engagement or a 3 pawl / 48 point engagement. Available in silver or black anodised finish. 

                            A 6 bolt disc interface with either 3 pawl / 24 point engagement or a 3 pawl / 48 point engagement. Available in silver or black anodised finish. 

Another hub that provides several solutions for typical problems on tandems is a Rohloff Speedhub 500.  14 evenly spaced gears with no overlaps. A perfectly straight chain line and everything tucked away inside the hub that requires little if any maintenance. The ability to shift effortlessly under load and disc brake friendly. Certainly something to consider if you are thinking of a new tandem. 

  The Rohloff Speedhub 500 with 14 evenly spaced gears and disc brakes! A wheel that can be built up with no dish, providing a dramatic increase in strength and reliability. A perfect solution for many tandem riders!

 The Rohloff Speedhub 500 with 14 evenly spaced gears and disc brakes! A wheel that can be built up with no dish, providing a dramatic increase in strength and reliability. A perfect solution for many tandem riders!

 

What about spokes? With tandem loads often exceeding 300 lbs minimum, a tandem friendly spoke gauge is absolutely necessary! There are a few triple butted spokes that will do the job nicely if the spoke count is high enough. DT Swiss has the Alpine III which has a profile of 2.34mm/ 1.8mm/2.0mm. This would be suitable for a 48 hole rear wheel with an average weight rider.  Sapim makes the Force spoke which is also triple butted with a profile of 2.18mm/1.8mm/2.0mm, which would be great for the front wheel as long as it had a minimum of 36 spokes. Some wheel builders have opted for even heavier gauge spokes like the DT Swiss Champion with a 2.34mm continuous profile. These choices are dependant on the weight of the two riders and their intended use for the tandem. A robust brass spoke nipple like the Alpina ABS HEX head would be ideal for tandem use. 

Rims also need to be considered for the weight demands of tandem use. More robust and heavier models with stainless steel eyelets would be preferred. Their external and internal widths must be compatible with tires suitable for a typical tandem load and of course they need to be spec'd for higher spoke counts like 36 to 48 holes! Rim manufacturers like Velocity, Alex, and Mavic make such rims. 

Alex have the DH19 which is a robust triple box section alloy rim with 48 holes. The sidewalls are machined and have a wear indicator. 48 hole rear wheels offer real piece of mind when cycle touring on a tandem, especially if you are in remote areas where obtaining tandem parts is impossible. 

 The Alex DH19. A triple box section 48 hole alloy rim that should inspire confidence!

The Alex DH19. A triple box section 48 hole alloy rim that should inspire confidence!

Velocity offers the Chukker, which is available in 40 or 48 holes. It's 32mm deep and is 24mm wide. That deeper V shaped design increases its strength and durability. Available in a black or silver finish. 

       Velocity's Chukker.  40 or 48 hole disc rim. 

      Velocity's Chukker.  40 or 48 hole disc rim. 

 

 

Much can be said about the ultimate rear hub for a tandem but there are unique options for front hubs. Touring cyclists might consider a SON Dynamo front hub for the lighting options afforded by such a hub. The ability to charge other items like an Iphone are handy when on the road. 

SON offers two different hubs that could be a welcome addition to anyone's tandem. First off is their SON 28 Tandem front hub. It comes in either 40 or 48 hole versions which build up to an invincible front wheel! 

 The SON 28 Tandem hub. 40 or 48 hole versions in black or silver finish. The flange diameter is 15mm larger, making for a stiffer front wheel. 

The SON 28 Tandem hub. 40 or 48 hole versions in black or silver finish. The flange diameter is 15mm larger, making for a stiffer front wheel. 

The other SON hub worthy of consideration would be the Standard SON 28. It offers a 6 bolt disc brake interface and comes in spoke hole counts from 32 to 48 holes. 

 The Standard SON 28 with a 6 bolt disc brake interface. 

The Standard SON 28 with a 6 bolt disc brake interface. 

So, if you are planning to join the world of tandem riders you might be thinking of an appropriate set of wheels. As you can see there are more than a few options to consider. Give me a ring if you have some questions! 

                                                       A coin toss to see who ends up as the stoker. 

                                                      A coin toss to see who ends up as the stoker. 

 

 

 

"Born in the Black Forest, built to enjoy nature". You'll find this quote on the Tune website and it sums up their philosophy perfectly! In the small town of Buggingen Germany lies the Tune factory. So what are these guys up to that's so special? Well, it's obvious that they have a near fanatical commitment to building bomb proof and forward thinking components that will endure under the serious demands of off road riding. 

Though Tune is devoted to many different cycling products I'd like to concentrate on their wheel related ones, things like their amazing hubs and associated parts. 

With over 20 different hub models to choose from I think Tune has your back! I won't attempt to tackle each and every one as that would take quite a lot of time, but lets just say that a trip to their website will be a must do if you want to get hip to every last hub on offer. 

I'd like to talk about a few hubs that I think should be on your radar. First off is the "King", a MTB  hub that can be configured for QR, or 12/15mm thru axle. This hub is CNC milled from a solid billet of 7075 alloy for a tough as nails shell. The uber stiff 17mm axle accompanies very high quality double sealed bearings that keep the bad stuff out while on the trail. Comes with a standard 6 bolt interface for disc brakes.

 The King has not left the building! Tipping the scales at a svelte 115 grams and coming in either 24, 28 or 32 hole spoke counts. Made from best quality 7075 alloy. Available in Tunes 8 different bright anodised colours. Also available in a boost model. 

The King has not left the building! Tipping the scales at a svelte 115 grams and coming in either 24, 28 or 32 hole spoke counts. Made from best quality 7075 alloy. Available in Tunes 8 different bright anodised colours. Also available in a boost model. 

The next hub I'd like to look at is the Mag 170. It also sports a robust 17mm axle mating up with Tune's specially made sealed bearings. This road hub is available in either 130mm or a 135mm rear axle length, making it ideal for the roadie, the cyclocross man, or just about anyone running calliper brakes!

 The MAG 170, at a mere 178 grams of Tune goodness! Spoke counts of 16 holes all the way up to 36! In house made sealed bearings and 8 colours to ponder. 

The MAG 170, at a mere 178 grams of Tune goodness! Spoke counts of 16 holes all the way up to 36! In house made sealed bearings and 8 colours to ponder. 

 A sneak peek inside the Tune Mag 170 rear hub. A 7075 alloy hub shell enshrouding their proprietary sealed bearings. 

A sneak peek inside the Tune Mag 170 rear hub. A 7075 alloy hub shell enshrouding their proprietary sealed bearings. 

With the growing popularity of Fat Bikes I thought we'd examine Tune's Fat Kong. This hub comes in a few different versions. There is a QR model that is for 170mm/ 190mm. There is also a 12mm thru axle version for 177mm/190mm. Those should cover all the bases. At 240 grams this alloy hub should be ideal for your new Fat machine. It's available in a 32 hole count only and it boasts a symmetric flange design enabling a very strong build, necessary for the type of workout that most Fat bikes will throw at it. In the freehub they employed titanium teeth and pawls to drive this hub. A very good plan in my opinion. It's also equipped with Tune's in house top quality sealed bearings for almost maintenance free riding. 

                                                                                                         Tune's Fat Kong. Where wide is the new orange!                                                                                            Build an ultra strong rear wheel with symmetrical flange spacing. 

                                                                                                        Tune's Fat Kong. Where wide is the new orange!

                                                                                          Build an ultra strong rear wheel with symmetrical flange spacing. 

                                                                                                     A detailed graphic of all the various Fat Kong options.

                                                                                                    A detailed graphic of all the various Fat Kong options.

                            8 colour options are available for all of the different hubs that Tune makes. 

                           8 colour options are available for all of the different hubs that Tune makes. 

If Tune looks like an interesting hub option for your next set of wheels I'd invite you to take some time and explore their website. There's a lot to look at! If you need help in picking out the best hub please contact me. I'd be happy to help in choosing a perfect Tune solution!

The all new Mavic Open Pro rim.

Mavic brought us the very first alloy bicycle rim in 1926. In the 1934 Tour de France cyclist Antonin Magne secretly entered the race on the newly developed duraluminum rim that was actually banned by then race rules. The rim had to be painted to resemble a wooden rim. Magne secured the much coveted Yellow Jersey on his svelte 750 gram duraluminum rims and history was made. Well, much has happened since those very early days of Mavic's foray into the world of lightweight rim technology. This year Mavic has brewed up a brand new shape with the new Open Pro. The old version was a stalwart training rim that was well liked for the better part of a decade. The newest iteration gives us a very cool new shape and some subtle changes in rim width and surface treatments. 

                  The re-invisioned Mavic Open Pro with an option for the Exalith treatment. 

                 The re-invisioned Mavic Open Pro with an option for the Exalith treatment. 

From the photo you can see that Mavic has given us a very new look and one that has already generated a buzz even before the rims are commercially available. I anticipate seeing these new beauties around June or July. There are three different versions on offer. First off is the 420 gram tubeless compatible rim for regular rim brake callipers. Next is the much more expensive "Exalith" treated version coming in 24, 28, and 32 spoke hole counts. Lastly is the disc specific version that has a rear asymmetric spoke bed for an improved drive side/non drive side spoke tension balance. I applaud Mavic for adding this feature! The disc version is available in either 28 or 32 holes. The rim sports a 19mm internal width with a 23mm external width. Not as wide as some new rims, but wider than the old Open Pro. It appears to have regular eyelets and Mavic says it has a S.U.P welded joint. 

I'll keep you posted as to when you might see these available for custom wheel builds.  Can't wait!

HED Cycling Products

HED is not an acronym, but the last name of founder Steve Hed, who began his journey into the world of light carbon wheels in the mid 80's. Steve was a creative and innovative designer. Not content with merely elaborating on what came before, Steve charted new waters for some ground breaking designs in carbon wheels. 

He coined the phrase "True Speed" to encapsulate his philosophy of what goes into the fastest carbon wheels on the planet. For Steve it was never just an issue of some aerodynamic goals realised in wind tunnel testing. His approach included all aspects of wheel performance. Issues like drive train efficiency, stability in crosswinds, lateral stiffness, comfort, quality control, weight,  and carbon fibre manipulation all come into play in a HED designed wheel.  In the early days HED brought solid carbon wheels to the masses at affordable prices and also introduced the concept of deep carbon front wheels that dealt with the problems of stiff crosswinds. These innovations are ubiquitous in our modern day, but many of these ideas sprung from the mind of Steve Hed. 

 

So what's happening at the HED factory these days? Not content to rest on their laurels the HED team has been busy bringing us some clever innovations in rim technology. HED has waded into the world of FAT bike rims and has an amazing 500 gram carbon rim thats a 100mm wide. Aptly called "The Big Fat Deal", this rim pushes the boundaries of what can be done with ultra wide and ultra light Fat carbon wheels. For those of you that may have a leaner budget for your Fat Bike wheels, HED gives us the "The Big Aluminum Deal". The alloy counterpart that still gets you out on the trails riding HED rims but for a whole lot less!

                         The HED "Big Fat Deal". The BFD is a 100mm ultra wide carbon rim that weighs in at 500 grams! Hit the trails with a massive rubber foot print!

                        The HED "Big Fat Deal". The BFD is a 100mm ultra wide carbon rim that weighs in at 500 grams! Hit the trails with a massive rubber foot print!

For those who are seeking a rock solid training wheel many have chosen a perennial favourite, the Belgium or Belgium Plus. Essentially the same rim with slightly different widths, these rims answer the call for a bomb proof alloy rim that weighs around 465 grams. Choose between 23 or 25mm widths and spoke hole counts of 20 through 32. 

 The HED Belgium Plus employs a classic tear drop shape with a 24.5mm depth and a plush 25mm width for an improved tire profile and some additional comfort over those longs days in the saddle. 

The HED Belgium Plus employs a classic tear drop shape with a 24.5mm depth and a plush 25mm width for an improved tire profile and some additional comfort over those longs days in the saddle. 

Available in either a disc only version and one for classic rim brakes. The Belgium is a well made rim with ideal dimensions for improving the tire profile.  They smooth out your long training miles and are perfect on gnarly gravel strewn roads. Build up a set of killer cyclo cross wheels that require wider tires. There is also a disc rim for the tubular devotees. The Belgium's are what many wheel builders might call a "do all" rim. 

                                  A rim brake friendly version of the HED Belgium Plus rim. 465 grams. 

                                 A rim brake friendly version of the HED Belgium Plus rim. 465 grams. 

I haven't covered every last option so by all means take a peak at HED's website for all that they offer. Cognoscenti Cycles is very proud to be carrying HED's amazing products. We hope to be busy building up lots of wheels in 2017 equipped with HED rims. Give us a ring and we'll sort out a set of world class wheels for your next ride. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shutter Precision dynamo hubs.

Shutter Precision is a Taiwanese company that specialises in high quality dynamo hubs. They got their start in 2009 and promptly won an award for their hub at the Tapei Bicycle Show. With this auspicious start began their entry into the world market for light weight dynamo hubs. Through the years SP has refined their hubs and expanded their colour options as well. 

Their 8 Series Dynamo Hub offers numerous configurations. Spoke hole counts range from 20 up to standard 36 hole hubs. There are 3 versions depending on your braking choices. A hub for calliper brakes, and two different disc options, standard 6 bolt and centre lock. 

 The 8 Series Dynamo with ISO 6 bolt disc brake option in blue anodised finish. 100 mm OLD.

The 8 Series Dynamo with ISO 6 bolt disc brake option in blue anodised finish. 100 mm OLD.

The next model is the 8X Series Dynamo and this hub invites the thru axle crowd, with a 15 mm thru axle configuration. It also gives one the option of either a 6 bolt disc brake interface or centre lock if you choose. Some changes in design were realised with the new thru axle version. Increased bearing diameters and a wider spacing of the flanges for an increased wheel strength resulted. 

 The 8X Series Dynamo with a 15 mm thru axle. Available in either polished silver or black. 32 or 36 hole spoke counts only. 

The 8X Series Dynamo with a 15 mm thru axle. Available in either polished silver or black. 32 or 36 hole spoke counts only. 

Lastly in the Shutter Precision line is the 9 Series Dynamo hub. Its an Ultraslim version with the narrower 74 mm model weighing in at a mere 299 grams! Its available in spoke hole counts of 20 through 36 holes. Your colour choice are either black or polished silver alloy. 

 Shutter Precision's 9 Series Dynamo hub in black. Available in V brake and centre lock. 

Shutter Precision's 9 Series Dynamo hub in black. Available in V brake and centre lock. 

It appears that SP has left no stone unturned in their efforts to make a top end front dynamo hub in several models that should answer the call for everything from touring bikes to commuters bikes to the MTB world. All braking options have been considered and numerous spoke hole counts are on offer. Within the 8 Series there are 7 colour ways to choose from. Cognoscenti Cycles could build you a wonderful dynamo hub wheel for your next grand tour or for your trusty city machine. Call us.