Why are machine built wheels inferior?

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
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531colin
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Re: Why are machine built wheels inferior?

Postby 531colin » 28 Jun 2013, 4:36pm

To be clear, I'm specifically talking about Campag. and compatible rear cassette hubs, and the differential tension they impose on the R. vs. L. spokes.
This is much worse than Shimano road, maybe even worse than Shimano 130mm road cut down to 126mm (taking 4mm off the left axle spacers.)
The effect is that you cannot get a sensible tension on the spokes both sides of the wheel : either the left are too slack, or the right are too tight. The wheels are already laterally unstable in one direction (the driveside spokes are almost "flat", there is not much of a bracing angle) with slack left spokes they are laterally unstable in both directions.
Even if I say so myself, I used to be a pretty damn fine wheelbuilder, and the wheels I built generally stayed built, and didn't come screaming back to the shop.....even though they didn't come back, I used to hate sending out Campag. wheels......it seems to me to be what they call an "unforced error" in tennis etc.
Having said all that, some people break stuff, and some people don't. Mick can obviously ride his wheels with no problems, apart from man-eating potholes. I don't break stuff, I could ride them, I expect. On the other hand, a regular contributor has just been telling us about his second broken BB axle, and I can't recall how many broken touring frames.
I have never broken a BB axle....or even worn out a unit BB, or cracked a dropout, or broken a frame....but these things happen, and wheels do let folk down....I can't remember his exact signature, there was a bloke on here calling himself pizza_man or something like that....if you want a dreadful story of poor wheels letting somebody down, look him up. OK, he (is/was?) a big lad, but I've built lightweight wheels for big blokes, and had no complaints. Its just that Campag. spacing makes a difficult job into a worse one.

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Mick F
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Re: Why are machine built wheels inferior?

Postby Mick F » 28 Jun 2013, 4:45pm

Ta for that.

I too haven't broken anything, notwithstanding potholes. My wheels are as true now as when I built them, but who knows how long they'll be ok?

I have Sapim Strong plain 14g spokes on the RH side, and Sapim Race 14/16g double butted on the LH side laced 36h 3x.
Mick F. Cornwall

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531colin
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Re: Why are machine built wheels inferior?

Postby 531colin » 28 Jun 2013, 8:01pm

Sapim "strong" are single butted, 13g hub end down to 14g
"Race" are the double butted 14/16g, the plain 14g are called "leader"
With A light-ish rim I would build double butted and plain gauge

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Mick F
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Re: Why are machine built wheels inferior?

Postby Mick F » 28 Jun 2013, 9:24pm

I bow to your knowledge.
You are right, the Strongs are indeed 13/14g

This is from my receipt from Spa.
Screen shot 2013-06-28 at 21.20.40.png
Mick F. Cornwall

Gearoidmuar
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Re: Why are machine built wheels inferior?

Postby Gearoidmuar » 29 Jun 2013, 7:27am

531colin wrote:To be clear, I'm specifically talking about Campag. and compatible rear cassette hubs, and the differential tension they impose on the R. vs. L. spokes.
This is much worse than Shimano road, maybe even worse than Shimano 130mm road cut down to 126mm (taking 4mm off the left axle spacers.)
The effect is that you cannot get a sensible tension on the spokes both sides of the wheel : either the left are too slack, or the right are too tight. The wheels are already laterally unstable in one direction (the driveside spokes are almost "flat", there is not much of a bracing angle) with slack left spokes they are laterally unstable in both directions.
Even if I say so myself, I used to be a pretty damn fine wheelbuilder, and the wheels I built generally stayed built, and didn't come screaming back to the shop.....even though they didn't come back, I used to hate sending out Campag. wheels......it seems to me to be what they call an "unforced error" in tennis etc.
Having said all that, some people break stuff, and some people don't. Mick can obviously ride his wheels with no problems, apart from man-eating potholes. I don't break stuff, I could ride them, I expect. On the other hand, a regular contributor has just been telling us about his second broken BB axle, and I can't recall how many broken touring frames.
I have never broken a BB axle....or even worn out a unit BB, or cracked a dropout, or broken a frame....but these things happen, and wheels do let folk down....I can't remember his exact signature, there was a bloke on here calling himself pizza_man or something like that....if you want a dreadful story of poor wheels letting somebody down, look him up. OK, he (is/was?) a big lad, but I've built lightweight wheels for big blokes, and had no complaints. Its just that Campag. spacing makes a difficult job into a worse one.

I'm the twice down bottom bracket man. I've broken three right sided rear dropouts, one after 13 years in a Dawes Galaxy. I've broken about 4 frames, two above bottom bracket, one at front of top tube and one at head tube. I do cycle a lot (7000 miles/annum for 30 years) and ingredient x may be my weight. I'm 6.2 and have been from 13.4 to 15.12 in that period. I'm 14.7 at the moment. Another factor may be the terrain as I live in Cork and favour minor roads which are pretty hilly so I would stand up quite a lot. That plus weight is the recipe I imagine. My wife who has also cycled a lot is a delicate little thing and has never broken anything, except my heart... Well, not really. She's a little treasure!
An old friend of mine, a great racer who was unfortunately killed while cycling, used to break frames a lot. He was a powerful 14 st brute of a cyclist, a great racing cyclist.

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Mick F
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Re: Why are machine built wheels inferior?

Postby Mick F » 29 Jun 2013, 9:17am

I wonder that if you are heavy+powerful, bike frames and equipment aren't man enough?

I understand that safe maximum working loads for cranes and lifting equipment is less than half from what they can actually stand before even being stressed. Does this mean that bikes aren't strong enough? I doubt you are twice as strong as me, and you certainly are not twice my weight!
Mick F. Cornwall

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Re: Why are machine built wheels inferior?

Postby Brucey » 29 Jun 2013, 10:34am

people pedal very differently, even when putting out the same power. I estimate that this can make the peak loads (which determine fatigue loading) about x4 different when sitting in the saddle and more than this when honking.

Larger frames simply flex more in normal use ( a simple cantilevered part 20% longer will deflect at the end ~70% more for the same end load) so even with the same weight and power/style they may see more fatigue damage. Riding on rougher, hillier roads, using skinnier, higher pressure tyres also increases the loading on the frameset.

Having said this I've only ever seen broken RH dropouts when the rear axle has also been bent or broken. And I know which (barring a defective frame) happens first; it is the axle going every time IME; the frame sees unusual loads because of the defective axle and these loads then break it.

cheers
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Re: Why are machine built wheels inferior?

Postby ukdodger » 30 Jun 2013, 8:44pm

andrewk wrote:Having always been told that a good hand built wheel is better than machine built ones I have accepted this mantra and bought hand built wheels when replacing wheels.
BUT why are they better? In an era of automation and CNC machines which can fabricate a part with greater precision than any master craftsman why hasn't the assembly process of building a wheel been automated with greater precision in order to produce a perfect product? (I'm not referring to the cheap wheels supplied with BSOs.) Expensive ready built wheels sold as replacements or those fitted to high end bikes are I'm led to believe machine built and inferior to hand built ones. I can't understand why the job isn't done better by machine, surely its not impossible to set up the machines to achieve greater precision albeit at a lower rate of production.
Can anyone enlighten me?


I agree totally. Never understood why machine built isnt better in every way. The only answer I can think of is that to build a machine that can outperform a human works out too expensive.

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Re: Why are machine built wheels inferior?

Postby Brucey » 30 Jun 2013, 11:10pm

as has been many times pointed out before, components need to be selected carefully so they fit, spokes need to be set correctly, and perhaps most importantly, wheels need to be stressed and re-trued afterwards. IME nearly all machine built wheels have none of these things done. There are reports of wheel-building machines that will stress wheels, but they cost a fortune, and I very much doubt that they replicate all the operations and checks that a good wheelbuilder would carry out.

I have noticed that it tends to be people who don't fully understand what it takes to build really good wheels who believe that machines could do as good a job.

cheers
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Re: Why are machine built wheels inferior?

Postby ukdodger » 1 Jul 2013, 10:16am

Brucey wrote:as has been many times pointed out before, components need to be selected carefully so they fit, spokes need to be set correctly, and perhaps most importantly, wheels need to be stressed and re-trued afterwards. IME nearly all machine built wheels have none of these things done. There are reports of wheel-building machines that will stress wheels, but they cost a fortune, and I very much doubt that they replicate all the operations and checks that a good wheelbuilder would carry out.

I have noticed that it tends to be people who don't fully understand what it takes to build really good wheels who believe that machines could do as good a job.

cheers


Seriously I doubt that a machine could not accomplish all those tasks provided it was made for the job. And possibly that what makes it prohibitively expensive when there are so many wheel builders, amateurs included, about. When you consider what machines are capable of wheel building must be small beer.

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Re: Why are machine built wheels inferior?

Postby Brucey » 1 Jul 2013, 1:16pm

and yet even mass-produced 'machine-built' wheels are (AFAIK, happy to be proven wrong BTW) still assembled by hand....

if so, 'QED' I'd say.

But seriously, with a rim that isn't perfect (which is most of them), is a machine going to strike the right compromise between the exact wheel straightness and the spoke tension every time? I doubt it.

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Re: Why are machine built wheels inferior?

Postby foxyrider » 1 Jul 2013, 1:37pm

Brucey wrote:and yet even mass-produced 'machine-built' wheels are (AFAIK, happy to be proven wrong BTW) still assembled by hand....


I have seen - must be ten years ago now, a wheel assembly machine that you did just load the components into - hubs, spokes, nipples, rims and hey presto it chucked out assembled wheels. no idea how good they were/are, or if they needed hand finishing - I'm guessing yes to that but the quality of machine 'built' wheels has improved dramatically over the last 10 years. My commuter uses machine built wheels that still haven't seen a spoke key after 6 months.

My best wheels are all Campag hubbed, have been for over 30 years and i've never had any of the issues Brucey 'Campag basher' seems to have. If i have had hub issues its always been with Shimano - broken / bent axles, failure of cassette bodies etc. I'm no fly weight these days and my local roads are probably worse than most so its not like the hubs get an easy life! :D
Convention? what's that then?
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Re: Why are machine built wheels inferior?

Postby pete75 » 1 Jul 2013, 1:47pm

Brucey wrote:
I have noticed that it tends to be people who don't fully understand what it takes to build really good wheels who believe that machines could do as good a job.

cheers


Is that the ghost of a Luddite hand loom weaver I hear speaking?

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Re: Why are machine built wheels inferior?

Postby meic » 1 Jul 2013, 1:48pm

Arent the "best" tyres still hand made?
Yma o Hyd

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Re: Why are machine built wheels inferior?

Postby Brucey » 1 Jul 2013, 2:23pm

foxyrider wrote: ....My best wheels are all Campag hubbed, have been for over 30 years and i've never had any of the issues Brucey 'Campag basher' seems to have. If i have had hub issues its always been with Shimano - broken / bent axles, failure of cassette bodies etc. I'm no fly weight these days and my local roads are probably worse than most so its not like the hubs get an easy life! :D


I've owned and used many campag hubs and many hubs of other makers, including shimano, too. I'm not one of these implacable brand-hating-brand-knocking idiots, I just;
a) speak as I find, and
b) actually have some qualifications and experience that make my views re. materials selection and design founded on something other than ignorance and prejudice.

I've broken many campag axles for screw-on freewheels over the years which is very tiresome, especially since they are no longer so readily available. I've broken other screw on freewheel axles also; Campag ones might be slightly better than most ( of those with a 'skinny' design and no trapped bearings) but they are not exceptionally better or anything in this regard.

The campag cassette hubs I have used have had nice smooth bearings of adequate durability for their intended useage which appears not to include much wet weather. Some of the hubs have had contact seals on the hub cones, as well as vent holes in the dustcaps; madness! Water ingress into the pawl space seems inevitable with many of these hubs, and the axle in many designs is only marginally stronger than that of a screw-on freewheel. OK for unladen riding in fair weather.

The current Campag freehubs are a fair bit stronger and better sealed but are very expensive for what they are. At one time the availability of spare parts and long model life made up for the high initial purchase cost, but those days are now well and truly over, it seems. It seems crazy to me (anyone else...?) that I can buy a set of campag wheels for less than the cost of a single rear hub, but that is how it is.....

I've seen failed freehubs from shimano and campag. The shimano ones (not mine) mainly died (having given plenty of warning signs...)of neglect and lack of adjustment where some of the campag ones died (suddenly) despite copious maintenance.

I have never seen a broken shimano cassette hub axle, and furthermore I don't know anyone who has. It is just a stonger, better design in that regard.

Anytime I build a wheel with a campag freehub I am always fighting the heavy dish (invariably heavier than shimano/other brands for the same number of gears/rear spacing) and it annoys me that they have designed all their hubs so that they cannot have the dish adjusted for special frames.

I am at heart a pragmatist when it comes to bicycle equipment; it needs to be functional, reliable, repairable. If it looks nice too, that is a bonus, but that won't make up for a deficit in any other area. At one time campagnolo equipment scored very well vs alternatives in all areas, for many intended uses.

If it still did, I'd still buy it.

As it is, I think that it is a viable choice for a road bike and maybe an audax bike, but not, sadly, for much else. And even for those uses it is just one of several viable options. If it worked better, had better spares support, or had any special real advantage it would immediately go up in my estimations. But search as I can, I can't find anything like that, and the spares support seems to be getting worse as time goes on. It is in real danger of becoming another throw-away gruppo, doomed to the bin after a few years (just like a lot of other kit) through a combination of a lack of spare parts and built-in obsolescence.

I wish it were not so, but that is how it seems to me it is.

You can call me a campag knocker if you like, but if you don't see the way things are and the way they are going maybe you have blinkers on or something.

cheers
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