Author Archives: jon

the master

  • An introduction to PowerTap hubs


    Power Tap G3 hub PowerTap G3 hub

    What is a PowerTap hub?

    SImply, a PowerTap hub works out the power you're producing to propel your bike along. It measures the torque being applied to the hub (how hard you're pressing on the pedals) and how fast the wheel's going round, and sends the data to your bike computer which can work out how much power you're producing. Power is what makes you go up hills.

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  • Fat bike wheels on the web

    Hope Fatsno hubs laced to Surly Darryl rims Hope Fatsno hubs laced to Surly Darryl rims

    Fat bike season is in full swing and the genre is growing rapidly. This year we've built many more fat bike wheels than every other year combined, mostly due to the cross-over from fat bikes being niche snow-surfing machines to being ridden year-round on any trails.

    Tyre choice and availability has improved dramatically with new treads from Surly and 45NRTH leading the way by adding deep, mud gripping tread patterns to their ranges. Perhaps more importantly, fat bike frames are appearing which are designed as trail riding bikes. The highest profile one has been Singular Cycles' Puffin kickstarter project which attracted enough funding to reach its goal, and then some, days before the project closed.

    We had already built wheels for 2 prototype Puffins and have now put our name down for one of the first production batch so we'll be able to see what all the fuss is about when it arrives in February. Until then we'll have to make do with a few words and some photos from Aidan Harding's prototype, with the Clown Shoe wheels:

    Aidan Hardings Singular Puffin Aidan Hardings Singular Puffin

    "The Puffin is great. A really fun bike to ride and I could never say that about my old (Surly) Pugsley. It really shines on very rooty or rocky stuff where it floats over the little bumps and gaps that can boss around a normal tyre. The geometry is nice and fun-oriented. Easier to manual and throw around than a (Singular) Swift, and good at overcoming the massive tyres' tendency to want to go straight.

    Aidan Hardings riding his Singular Puffin Aidan Hardings riding his Singular Puffin

    The only drag is the drag. Initially, it was less draggy than I expected. Now I've been on a load of rides with other people on normal bikes, I notice that I'm pedalling everywhere and they can freewheel more for the same speed."

    Surly Clown Shoe rims on Hope Fatsno hubs Aidans Surly Clown Shoe rims on Hope Fatsno hubs

    Read more about Aidans Idita Rod trip and preparation his blog>

    Another pair of our Fat wheels on another Puffin tester we noticed the distinctive orange rimstrips poking out of these wheels in movie.


  • Phil Wood spoke cutter

    The Phil Woods spoke cutter The Phil Wood spoke cutter

    The Phil Wood spoke cutting machine is widely regarded as the ultimate bike shop tool, and it's certainly one we've been after for a while. Mountain bike wheels are fairly limited in the spoke lengths needed because most are built with a traditional 32 spoke, 3-cross spoke pattern but as we built up our range of road wheels we found ourselves needing ever more spoke lengths to cope with deeper rim profiles, lower spoke counts and different lacing patterns. Sometimes the spokes are not available in the right lengths, more often the supplier has run out, and in any case it's inefficient ordering a pack of 100 unusual spokes if you only need 14 to complete a build.

    Phil Wood spoke machine - end view The Phil Wood spoke machine shown from the end.

    In the past we dealt with a need for unavailable spoke lengths by manually cutting, grinding and threading spokes to the right length, but even at top speed it took over a minute per spoke - meaning a set of 64 took at least an hour. It also took a lot of concentration to get perfectly cut spokes with the right amount of thread. So in late May we took the plunge and ordered our Phil Wood machine. With a single rotation of the handle, it first cuts the spoke to the perfect length, then passes it to a pair of dies, which roll a perfect professional quality thread of the correct length. The quality of the finish is in fact so good that Phil Wood have supplied machines to both DT Swiss and Sapim.

    I'm please to be able to report that it's working well. Not only can we now cut and roll a spoke thread in around 5 seconds (that set of 64 is now down to just over 5 minutes), we can cut to 0.5mm accuracy which improves the wheels and speeds build time. In our shop, we are now able to offer individual spokes for sale in 1mm increments (0.5mm precision is only really useful when we're building the same combination several times and have a record of the exact length which worked best).

    The only spokes we can't use in the Phil Wood machine are the Sapim D-Lights, which have the shortest butt possible in order to save weight - we can't cut them at all as the thread ends at the point where the spoke changes thickness. On the other hand "straight gauge" (same thickness over the whole length) spokes such as Sapim Leader or DT Champion can be cut to any length down to about 55mm - we only need to stock the longest ones we can lay our hands on, and recycle the offcuts!

    butted and straight gauge spokes Straight gauge, butted with butt showing and D-light spoke with thread up to butt

    As to the performance of the machine...well it took a bit of learning to get the setup right. Changing between spoke thicknesses (for example, 1.8mm thread to 2.0mm) involves loosening the 3 large bolts on the end of the machine, inserting a shim, and tightening the bolts again, and it took us a while to work out which part to hold to get perfect alignment. Also if you're not slick enough with the cutting action, some spokes tend to shift the spoke holder leading to changeable lengths. But now we've had some practice it performs flawlessly every time. No jamming, perfectly rolled threads, perfect accuracy on the length. Lower stock holding of spokes with improved availability means the Phil Wood spoke cutter is well worth every one of its considerable number of pennies.

  • H Plus Son rims - billet to rim in 3 minutes

    If you ever wondered what processes go into making rims this movie from H Plus Son should clear a few things up (except for a big black square where they seem to have censored something during the rim rolling section).

  • Sram XD compatible hubs (for Sram 11-speed XX1)

    DT Swiss 350 / 240 XD XX1 rotor conversion kit

    Sram XX1 is trickling out to a few lucky riders and we are regularly asked what hubs are compatible, or indeed which are upgradeable at a later date if you decide to splash out, or wait until Sram 11-speed trickles down to cheaper groupsets.

    The good news is that as far as we know, pretty much every rear cassette hub will be upgradeable with a freehub body change and a drive-side spacer - so no need for new wheels, unless you want to of course. As of mid-December 2012 when I wrote this, XD-driver (the official name for the freehubs) conversion kits are available now or in the near future for these hubs:

    American Classic Disk 225 (available now)
    Hope Pro 2 Evo (available now)
    DT Swiss 240 and 350 (available now)
    Industry Nine (available now)
    Stan's NoTubes ZTR 3.30 hubs (end of March 2013)

    At the time of writing, the latest unofficial word from Chris King is that they may make one in future but are too busy at the moment.

    We don't yet have them all listed on the website so if you need a wheel with an XD driver, or a conversion kit, please contact us and we'll get you one.

  • Industry Nine wheels are back

    The light, bright, stiff wheels from North Carolina are due back BACK NOW! in stock at JRA soon after 2 or 3 years away (that's why all our photos show old rims), sometime in December we hope now. As before we're building on Stan's NoTubes rims, with others to order if the spoke lengths match up.

    The first thing to notice about Industry Nine wheelsets is the bright colours and anodised aluminium spokes but there's a lot more to them than that. 120 engagement points in the hubs, unbelievable stiffness from the thick (but light) spokes, interchangeability between all the usual axle types...

    The wheels come in a few formats; Mountain bike wheels come with XC or Enduro hub options (details below), and 3 different spoke thicknesses. They are available in 26", 650b and 29er sizes, and with Shimano/Sram 9/10 speed or Sram XD (for XX1 11-speed) freehubs. Front hubs to fit the Cannondale Lefty forks are also available. Then there's a singlespeed rear hub too...basically there's an I9 hub to fit virtually any bike. Expected prices for standard colours (red, black, silver) is around £780 per pair of wheels, custom colours are extra (probably £60 - £80 per pair).

    I had a pair (the orange ones in the photos below) and loved riding them. The stiffness of the aluminium spokes and the Stan's Flow rims was like no other wheels I've ridden. They are strong too; I never broke a spoke or had the wheel go out of true even after a load of races and the Megavalanche.

    Then there are the "classic" hubs; same internals as the wheelsets but with conventional flanges for normal J-bend steel spokes.

    Finally the road hubs, these weren't available back when we first built Industry Nine wheels so we're still working out the options, but the hubs look every bit as good as the MTB hubs and come in at just 86g front, 240g rear with a 39(!) tooth drive ring and 3 pawls for low drag - road hubs just don't need the fast take-up of the MTB hubs.

  • Bombproof Enve wheels

    Probably the strongest 29er wheels we've built so far, with a few custom touches we thought they were worth putting up on the blog with a few words.

    The Enve AM 29er rim is one of the strongest around, and to complete the bombproof build they were specced with Chris King ISO disk hubs including a stainless steel drive shell (freehub body). Not that we've had any trouble with the aluminium ones.

    Most of our Enve builds use Sapim CX-Ray or DT Revolution spokes. The 2.0mm internal spoke nipples mean that DT Supercomps with their 1.8mm thread can't be used, however we needed extra strength for this build so Sapim's new D-Light spoke (2.0-1.65mm double butted) came to the rescue. Weight for 32 spokes in 288mm length comes to 170g.

    Wheel weights: Front 824g, rear 1009g

    The customer sent us a quick email after trying them out....

    "Just wanted to report back on my first ride on these wheels, they're amazing!  You were right, night and day [compared] with my previous wheels.

    Spent a few hours riding around Surrey, Pitch, Winterfold and Holmbury. Initially had to re-learn to ride downhill again, turn-in is so much quicker, cornering is incredibly precise. Only did one little drop (Judges Seat), the wheels feel very solid upon landing :-)"

  • Cyclocross wheels and tyres, updated for 2012.

    disk road or cross build - Hope Pro2 Evo laced to H Plus Son Archetype rim

    Hope Pro2 Evo laced to H Plus Son Archetype rim

    I first wrote this article in autumn 2011 but things have moved on a lot since then with a greater choice of wheel components and some products being discontinued. It's a long one so for a whistle-stop tour of our best cross components  keep reading after the "more" link.

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