Forever projecting, forever tinkering, currently focused on #projectpink. Sometime in late winter/early spring I was trying to sell a set of Alchemy ELF/ORC hubs when I had the idea to do something special with them instead. Why let go of such an amazing set of hubs when I could build a set of custom wheels around them?
My wife’s Specialized Ruby came with a very utilitarian set of wheels, a set of DT Swiss 2.0 which weigh a ghastly 2200+grams. I’m sure the wheels are more than 50% of the total weight for the complete bike. We immediately took those off and she had been riding a pair of Dura Ace WH-7850 C24 wheels that I handed over, I wanted her to have something a little more special and specifically suited to her. I knew that while she loved the improvement the C24s had over her stock wheels, she would enjoy these even more.
So I contacted the only wheel builder I trust (@cheekywood) and started to scope out a custom build. Starting with the Alchemy ELF/ORC hubs we chose the following build specs to match my wife’s riding.
- Front hub: Alchemy ELF 28h
- Rim: Pacenti SL23 v2
- Spokes: Sapim CX Ray
- Lacing pattern: radial
- Rear hub: Alchemy ORC 28h
- Rim: Pacenti SL23 v2
- Spokes: Sapim CX Ray
- Lacing pattern: 2x
The rims were supplied by the good folks at Blacksmith Cycle and took about two weeks to arrive. We chose these rims for their more modern wide external and internal width for lower rolling resistance, low weight (~410gr per), and increased ride comfort. The spoke of choice was black Sapim CX Ray for their ideal strength to weight ratio. Corey chose the lacing patterns to provide the ideal ride feel and stiffness we were looking for.
We were all set to go but this is where the project took a turn for pink. I had the idea to custom paint one spoke to match the fuscia color of my wife’s bike frame. The custom pink spoke would highlight the wheel and be placed to align with the valve hole on each wheel. A great idea but how were we going to make this happen? Well luckily Toronto is home to one of the greatest custom frame painters in the business, Velocolour. They have a very active Instagram feed and following, check them out. So we put together the request and Corey contacted Noah and the folks at Velocolour to see if they would be up to the small project. Thankfully they said yes. Now let me say that it doesn’t escape me that the idea of such a small project may not be appealing so I’m genuinely thankful to Corey and Noah for making this happen. It really is the important detail that brings this all together into something truly personal and special.) To get the color match as close as possible, I pulled the fork off the bike and drove it over to VeloColour across town. This was a great excuse to see the shop and thank Noah in person.
Although we were only planning to use 1 spoke per wheel, we had 4 painted so that there would be spares to use in case something happened in the future. The spokes were painted in about two weeks as we caught them in the midst of a few bigger and important projects. Since we were in no hurry, we were happy to wait patiently.
With the spokes now back at Urbane Cycle, it was time to organize the actual build. Corey agreed to host me in the shop for a wheel building class (Urbane offers a personal wheel building class which I highly recommend) so I could learn to build a wheel myself while putting my wife’s wheels together. Figuring out a time that we could both get together to do the build took a really long time. Either we have horribly opposite schedules or Corey was trying to avoid me. Well we did finally get together and assembled the wheels and I made a short time-lapse video of the hour and half we spent in the workshop. Corey took me through the build step by step explaining every part and letting me work on the front wheel. Wheel building is as much of an art as I thought it to be but this was a really rad experience and I think makes the wheels that much more special. I learned a tonne and laughed a lot through the experience. Since we were drinking bourbon and taking pics we ran out of time so Corey had to finish them up later and add rim strips.
The final weights of the wheels are 640 grams for the front and 797 grams for the rear. That’s a total of ~1437 grams with rim strips. To put this into perspective that’s 100 grams lighter than the stock rear wheel alone and over 800grams saved in total. We’ve improved the riding experience for my wife’s bike and dropped ~1.75lbs in the process! The wheels have the Dura Ace 7850 12-28 cassette formerly on her WH7850 wheels as these are 10sp only hubs.
The weight savings on the wheels helped bring down the total weight of the bike from 19lbs 9oz to 17lb 11oz (as pictured). The stock saddle and seat post are boat anchors so I estimate I can get the bike down well into the 16lb range by replacing them and further by putting a carbon bar on. More importantly I expect that the lower weight and vibration damping will only help improve the ride quality.
So there you have it, the wheels are now complete and look amazing. Really can’t thank everyone enough for their help and involvement to making this project happen. Excited to get these out on the road.