Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Wheels I

The bicycle wheel is in and of itself a wonderful thing. Beyond the marvel of skill, of which the properly-built wheel is a manifestation, the wheel is a circle, the symbolic importance of which is well-known to all students of psychology, religion, and art. Carl Jung says: "The most powerful religious symbol is the circle. It is one of the great primordial images of mankind. In considering the symbol of the circle, we are analyzing the self."

Though it seems retrograde and contrarian, the esthetic pleasure of a chrome, narrow-guage hub laced onto a chrome rim with chrome spokes is one of the beauties of the bicycle. Their formal realization and glistening polish warm the cockles of my cycling heart.

Beyond the handsomeness of a shiny wheel, the 32-spoke wheel is formally perfect. Any experienced mechanic can lift one up and tell right away how many spokes there are. How? The symmetry of the parallel spokes going up and down - spoke pairs on a 36-spoke wheel have more the shape of a peace symbol.

I enjoy these wheels so much that I recently built up some mid-90's Deore DX hubs as my mountain bike wheels. Not only was the overhauling of the hubs themselves a pleasure (I have, of course, as a mechanic, overhauled countless hubs that have given me no pleasure at all; but then again, they weren't mine.), but building my own wheels myself is tremendously rewarding. Every cyclist should build his own set of wheels at least once. There is a connective meditation that takes place when you lace it up, and besides, you haven't lived until you've tried rounding a wheel during a build.

Image: patentpending.blogs.com

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