Doing it all the hard way...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Brotherhood of the Angry Bee

It is total magic that turns this into a killer wheel. A killer Bee Wheel to be exact...

Breaking something on a bike ride is the worst. Often, the only highlight is replacing it. In my mind’s eye, I take very good care of my equipment so I take it as a personal failure when something breaks. In the interest of brevity we shall just say the rear wheel on my steel rain bike died a loud and ugly death.

This is the bike (and the wheel) I planned to take on an upcoming multi-day epic. I stopped into 2020 Cycle on Capitol Hill (the coolest bike shop ever) and got some hardware on order. I wanted something bombproof and reliable. I didn’t need the latest bling; nor was I overly concerned about weight. Logic steered me to a Chris King Classic Cross hub and DT 465 rims. I would lace them with DT Swiss 14/15 gauge Double Butted spokes and of course any kind of nipples as long as they are brass. The DT rims are not the lightest, but neither is Evo. The CK hubs are a benchmark that my previous Campagnolo sponsorship prevented me from exploring.

The CK hubs are noteworthy for a number of reasons. The most noticeable cannot be seen. The hubs have a unique sound. They make that sound rather loudly. Most cycling freehub wheels make a clicking sound when they coast. The clicks correspond to the number of “engagement” opportunities. Campagnolo hubs have a very crisp click. DT Swiss hubs have a similar sharp sound, albeit in a different pitch. My dead Mavic hub had a soft click. The Mavic hubs have about twenty clicks per revolution. There are two pawls that pass the (approximately) twenty teeth on the freehub. The twenty clicks are really forty clicks, two at a time. The more engagement teeth, the more clicks per revolution. The more teeth you have the stronger the spring needs to be. The CK hubs have a 72 tooth ring running against a 72 tooth freehub. That is 72 clicks per rotation. But since there are 72 teeth passing 72 teeth per rotation there are really 5,184 clicks per rotation, 72 at a time. At eighteen miles an hour that is over 20,000 clicks per second. The result is a buzzing sound.

The work begun...
Chris King received a fabled letter from a Japanese cyclist named Akiyoshi Takamura, who reported on the hubs in his best English saying, "It rolls good with angry bee sound." The Angry Bee nickname stuck. Those who ride the hubs consider themselves part of the Brotherhood (or Sisterhood) of the Angry Bee.

That Angry Bee sound also means the hubs engage very quickly when you start to pedal. Though it may not be something you think about on your current bike, when you ride these, you notice it. In a road bike application it may not be any kind of performance increase, but you do notice it.

The parts arrived and Tuesday evening I built the wheel. It came together nicely and feel incredibly solid. The DT rims are tough. I put a nice high tension on the spokes and during the whole build and truing process the rim never got very argy bargy. The Classic Cross hub has a taller non drive side flange which is supposed to make a stouter wheel. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry, I have digressed into total bike geek speak.

Look ! Wires and metal becoming a wheel !

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