Wheel building time

This has been bugging me for a long time. Finally I splashed some money and dedicated some time to wheel building gear. Essentially I combined some DIY tools with more expensive bits. So far I managed to just try it, but looks like all will work great together.

At the moment I have a very basic truing stand from ParkTool (TS-8). Which does the job, but ultimately I want to make my own one (second covid lock down… stay tuned). The rest of the gear I’m pretty happy with and goes as follow:

The most expensive bit in my weaponry is from now on Hozan – spoke threading tool C-702-22 with heads for 13, 14 and 15 gauge spokes.

So far I can’t say anything about usage that much, as really I did some testing only, but quality looks second to none. I’m big fan of Japanese engineering, this is one of the finest example. I havd really a choice, between Weldtite (cyclo) threading tool, and Hozan, but after watching some photos and videos, I decided to splash some more money to have it from Hozan. Speaking of the purchase. I ordered it from a place called Plaza Japan and took 6 weeks to deliver it to UK. Not too bad as purchased during lockdown. The only annoying thing is the duty and other crap, like handling fee, etc I had to pay (fricking £69!). All in all the tool was 20 quid shy of £300. Bloody expensive, but I have what I wanted. As a bonus, the original box, came wrapped in Japanese newspapers, so we tested google lens. Amazing and exotic 😉

To that I finally added a DIY dishing tool. I was sick and tired of other methods (two beer cans and coins etc…). Really self explanatory how I made it, if you look at the photos. I had all the alloy pieces already (leftover from other projects). The job was really to cut with angle grinder slots for adjusting to different wheel sizes. I’m quite happy how it works.

Final bit, which makes the whole building procedure faster are nipple handling tools. After googling a bit I decided to go for IceToolz nipple pick. I bought two of them. One will be used as per original design – to pick up nipple and place it initially on the spoke. The second one I modified slightly to act as a nipple driver. Literally replaced the spring with a piece of wire (I had to drill slightly bigger hole). This way I can use it alone like that to turn a nipple (even without a handle) or put it on an electric screwdriver if I need to.

Future project (apart from truing stand) I’ll make a spoke tension calibration tool. I already have a digital scale up to 200kg. All I need to figure out is a frame and spoke/nipple clamping method. This way I can calibrate my cheap Chinese spoke tensiometer quite accurately without relying on the provided table, which (I got feeling) is not really precise 😉

Stay tuned, and keep’em rolling.

Alfine gear hub – oil additive

Covid lockdown made me try couple of things. One of the biggest (positive) surprises was test of an “oil additive” for Alfine hub.

So, a while ago I swapped (actually during first service) on my Alfine hub to Automatic Transmission Fluid (Castrol – £9.99) instead of expensive “you-must-be-fuckin-kidding-me” Shimano oil (£69). At the moment my hub milage is around 30000 km, and I can confirm, that I never had any issues with that solution. On each service I inspect the internals, and it all looks like new.

If you riding geared hub, you must know that the biggest difference, comparing with normal drivetrain, is internal friction. You can spin pedals backwards by hand and you’ll see the difference, so I’ve been looking for a solution to make the ride easier for a while.

A bit of diversion. Some time ago I joined dark side. I bought old 600cc Yamaha motorbike. I spent 500 quid on the bike, so as you expect, was plenty of wrenching at first (I think I put around 40h), to get the bike to useable state. A bit of story itself, but in process of doing it, I’ve been watching plenty of how to’s on youtube, and I discovered this guy – Allen Millyard. I must say, my first reaction was OMFG! The guy for example is adding two extra cylinders to Kawasaki bike making custom 6 cylinder engine, customizing crankshaft, customizing crank case, you name it. All in his garage converted to workshop. Amazing guy. So, Mr Millyard is using stuff called ZX1. It’s an oil additive, made my British company with the same name – zx1. It’s extremely hard to convince me to all mambo-jumbo-magic oil additives. I never used them, as almost all of them doing absolutely nothing to the engine. Similar way as taking diet supplements. Just absolute bollox in my humble opinion… Yeah, you guessed. I bought that stuff ;-). Mostly to test it on motorbike, but I’m quite reluctant to put into engine oil. The motorbike has “wet clutch”, which means the same oil is used to lubricate the clutch and the engine.  That might be a bit of a disaster, as clutch might slip. In the end, I tested it only adding to fuel. Nothing spectacular happened, apart from subjectively easier start (but I need to confirm that and do some miles on it).

Anyway, let’s get back to bicycles. (by the way, Mr Millyard making bicycles as well! check it out). I decided to put it inside my Alfine hub. So again, I didn’t use any scientific method to test it, but subjective feeling is that hub is running extremely efficient now. When pedals spined backwards they spinning effortlessly (almost like on my Willier with ceramic bearings inside BB and jockey wheels). So that’s the feelings and thoughts after first ride. Before you rush to buy it wait for some more tests. For example I discovered when zx1 is left outside (contact with air), it became milky, almost like brake fluid. Alfine hub is not by any means sealed system, but might be “sealed enough” to use it. My plan is put some miles and then test it again. So far all looks ok to me. Stay tunned.


We set off with Marcel on dad-son microadventure to New Forest. The highlight of the trip was visit to National Motor Museum. I must admit we were nicely surprised with the quality, but disappointed with ticket prices for me+child £29, even with 20% off for using a bicycle to get there.


After visit we dived into New Forest and setup small camp.

This was Marceli’s first time sleeping in a hammock so he was a bit wiggly whole night, but I think he will eventually like it. Amazing night without even slightest wind, so that added to whole excitement. You can clearly hear forest life, we even heard being robbed from our cashew nuts at some point, but too lazy to get out and check ;-).

I wanted to test Blackburn cargo cages, as some time ago I swapped my fork with fancy steel one with all possible mounts and nuts (on each leg I got 7 attachment points for different setups).

The cages/bags worked like expected, and whole sleeping system (hammock, tarp, underquilt, sleeping bag) can be carried in these two bags. This way I’m really accessing these on camp, and I can use more accessible rear panniers for other gear.

All in all, 100km covered and I used trains and small ferry to make whole trip more interesting (and split into “chunks”). Quality time with kids, to prevent them becoming just customers in the future.

Winter grind…

Gorgeous weather whole week, so I tried last week put new chain (3rd) on my bike, and suprise suprise. I had to order new cog.

Old cog vs new after grinding English mud for three winters 😉

Anyway I did hub maintenance, as well. After almost 1 year not looking inside my gear hub (Alfine 8 sp) everything look nice. Castrol ATF oil looks still a bit pinkish, so that’s good sign. This is my third year after switching to Castrol ATF, strongly recommended as Shimano oil is very expensive. I’ll post whole procedure (as I’m doing it) soon but basically I’m using plastic pet bottle and hub on cordless drill to “stir” the oil. Afterwards, again using centrifugal force I’m removing oil excess from the hub (rather than dipping and than leaving for 30 minutes – stupid, my whole procedure takes maybe 20minutes).

The other thing I noticed (which is quite annoying), that cone on non drive side was loose. I don’t know what people are doing to prevent this, but is right pain in the arse. God knows how many times I tighten that…

Happy pedaling spring is just around the corner

DIY Hammock Underquilt

Sooo, I finally made probably the most advanced sewing project so far – Underquilt.

I went for quite simple design. The outer layer is slightly wider than inner and also just tiny bit longer. What that does in theory (and I think is logical) is keeping close inner layer of fabric to hammock, in the same time outer layer is kept by baffles in desired distance and as is wider that prevents squishing insulation (goose down in this case). The dimensions are based on assumption that underneath hammock the uderquilt will be “U” shaped. So below I took the picture of what I done on a paper.

added at the and 7cm to overall dimension for hem and curvature of the baffles

final layout on the paper

Outer/inner Iayer is made of silnylon which sandwitched inside goose down. Baffles been made of untreated ripstop, which is like very fine mesh but less fiddly to work comparing with no-see-um mesh. For the edges (channels) I used grossgrain polyester ribbon 38mm. Plastic D-rings (10mm) on each corner. Suspension is made partially from bungee cord 3mm plus dyneema 2mm and two S-binners on each side.

The sewing is quite straight forward but laborious. I drawn lines on fabric (equal distance on inner fabric) sewn baffles to the inner. Then drawn lines on the other piece (spacing is not equal) and sewn baffles to outer shell. The baffles are made from ripstop as well buy untreated one (not waterproof) so the air is flowing freely. Next thing I’ve done I sew rolled hem on three edges leaving one end ready for filling.

Down filling. That’s when the fun begins (such a mess I can tell you). I found the cheapest down source as heavily reduced price down duvet (from £160 to £35). The bad side is I didn’t know filling power of the down, which is basically how many cubic inches down can fill from 1 ounce. As I didn’t know the filling power I calculated everything based on worst/best case scenario, translated it from cubic inches to metric (I’m metric person ;-)), checked, calculated again, measured and… wasn’t neither easy to weigh the down nor filling from the plastic bag which I used for weighing. So I’ve done simple thing. I watched to what level the down is filling first chamber, shook whole thing and filled rest of the chambers to the same level. I know, I know, some purists will probably moan at that point, but this way I probably saved at least an hour and a half. I probably quite overfilled the baffles, but I think that won’t be big problem, apart from overall weight and how packable it is.

some scrappy calculations I’ve done, gave me rough idea how much down I need

Methodology of filling. Probably best option is go into (dried) bath attach the quilt by duck tape to a wall and start filling. Is easier to pickup later what fell off. I’ve done mistake doing it in living room, so you can imagine the mess ;-).

I finished the whole thing sewing grossgrain tape channels on all four edges, plus d rings in all four corners. Maybe is not lightest option but dyneema is gliding nicely inside grossgrain channels comparing with silnylon.

Suspension is very simple. Two pieces of dyneema going through two channels. The dyneema act like rails and is really easy to move whole underquilt up and down, so to lock it in place I added loops with prusik knots on each corner. Dyneema is attached to pieces of bungee cord 3mm (each side), on one side is going through cord lock, two S-binners on both sides. To tighten both ends underneath hammock I’m using 2mm bungee cord inside top/bottom channels and simply I tied knots to D-rings both sides.

Packing nicely same size as my sleeping bag, I didn’t weigh it but I guess is probably around 400g. I hung it yesterday in my garden, feel like is extremely cosy and warm.

Some pictures:

DIY bonanza again

DIY bonanza continues, and again I recreated (almost) Alpkit bags. This time I made Mk2 of the frame bag I’ve got already. The bag is proven to be probably the most useful piece of kit, mostly for storing hardware like tent poles/pegs, pump, puncture kit, battery pack etc. The only change I’ve done this time is additional hole for cable on the side. Construction is simple not to say primitive. Two side panels on the left hole for cable
(corresponding with same hole in top tube bag) on the left (always dismounting on the left side) is zipper, and there’s no point to split the bag so it’s one large compartment. Polyester webbing around and stitched in places (Alpkit idea) to create attachment points for Velcro straps.
Top bag is a similar construction: two side panels, zipper in the middle, cable hole on the right. On front and bottom is piece of webbing sewn same way as on frame bag, to provide “loops” for velcro straps.
Both bags are made of Cordura type fabric which is quite stiff and thick, and probably better choice will be some kind of reinforced polyester or something. The problem with Cordura is when you sewing thick material like that it is real pain to make all tight corners nicely, but I wanted to make it on cheap from the stuff I already got. Anyway bags came out as expected, and despite the fact I’m not happy with quality of my stitching they should do the job. Below short story in pictures.

DIY – Dracula fuel bag

I’ve decided to make my own “snack bag” for the bike, basically used the idea from Alpkit Stem Cell (with my own dimensions) and make my first piece of gear with liner. Didn’t go as I expected, so at the end I had to cut some corners. Normally the easiest way is to sew the liner and then sew it to the outer shell, but the position of stitching needs to be carefully thought through. I made mistake and some of the stitching are inside. Minor detail next time I’ll do it properly. All in all the bag is doing the job as you can see.

diy camping air pump

It’s quite an old idea, not mine, you can google it or go here, here or here to see how other people doing it. Below my variation of same old trick. The biggest benefit IMHO is that the moisture is not building up inside air bed, and obviously is super quick. You can still splash £30 on Thermarest NeoAir Mini Pump if you like, but that’s couple bottles of wine or new Schwalbe Marathon (plus beer for fitting procedure), or 6 bags of coffee… all above better than another unnecessary gizmo.

I cut threaded part of bottleneck from PET bottle and make hole in the cap

from piece of plastic (ice cream box or sth) a circle has been cut same diameter as bottle neck with hole inside, which makes kinda washer

3 inch piece of road (18-25c) inner tube for nozzle

inserted plastic “washer” into inner tube

like so…

everything put back together

I made a hole in plastic bag and put nozzle through

to seal the connection, wrapped a piece of velcro ( might be a rubber band or something)

alternatively the bag can be trapped underneath cap, just screw the bottleneck in

now you can “grab” some air with the bag and squeeze it into sleeping mat. Once technique is mastered should be a bliss. On the picture is Big Agnes Air Core and took about a minute to inflate it. Basically 3 bags of air squeezed in, job done. The small rubber o-ring I added for extra grip on the valve.