One of my goals with my Surly Moonlander is to build it for a harsh salty winter road environment. For this it was my choice to go with a Shimano Alfine 11-speed internal geared hub. This hub is new for Shimano and is an oil bath design similar to Rolhoff, but at a better price.
I ran across a great deal on a Silver 36 hole Shimano Alfine 11-speed hub and snagged it. Sheldon Brown recommends for the best compromise of wheel strength and weight to run a 36h rear hub with a 32h front hub. But little did I know how much this choice would impact my Moonlander build.
Snag one is that there are not many 36h Fat Bike rims out there. I wanted something lighter weight so I thought I would go with Chin Reaction Cycles FlatTop 100 only to find out that all the FlatTop 100′s that they had were already drilled 32h. Luckly they still had some FlatTop 80′s un-drilled so I decided to go with them. I plan on using this bike mainly on winter roads, hardpack snow, sand and gravel so the 80 rims are really are the recommended choice. But the allure of having the biggest rims will always be there. The best thing is if I ever want to go to 100′s I will just need to build a 32h set of a 100mm rims not buy a whole new bike.
Snag two was that I ordered the rims from my local 9:Zero:7 dealer and asked if their shop could size the spokes for me. They said no problem with confidence so I put my order in. This was my first and hopefully the last expensive mistake that I made with this bike build. My fear of math stopped me from doing something I should have done by my self, calculate spoke length! But at least this incident made me over come my fears and learn how to this important step myself. I can say if a bike shop ever calls you to pick up your order and mentions the spoke length they calculated is with in a couple of mm’s of size beware! They possibly could not have a clue of what they are doing, especially for Surly omniterra bike rims.
So you can probably guess by now I built up both my front and rear rims only to find out that both had spokes that were to long by a few mm’s. This caused me much frustration (being polite) and caused me to calculate spoke length my self. The result of this being that my calculations showed that the spokes were to long, and that the bike shop service manager that I bought the spokes from did not take the time to calculate the length properly. Not to dwell on this subject any further, it did give me more practice building wheels so that when I receive the correct spokes from Amazon.com my wheels will be built perfectly. Also I will share links to all the resources that I found so that you will not make the same mistakes. In the words of the Beastie Boys some bike shops do not have the “Skills to Pay the Bills” at least for Fat Bikes.
Another thing to watch for is a bike shop that “cuts” their own spokes. My wheel building guide by Roger Musson states they are inferior to the forged spoke treads that come from the spoke factory and will build wheels prone to early failure. My thoughts are if you are going thru all the trouble to build your own wheel you might as well order the best spokes.
One thing that is necessary to build Surly Moolander wheels is to have a truing stand that can take a 191mm hub which is very rare. I ended up ordering the Park Tool TS-2 EXT for my TS-2 stand and also ordered the caliper upgrade. Even with the TS-2 EXT you will need to modify them to work with the 191mm hub. I flipped them around and used a M6 taper bolt with a 1.5cm washer. This gave enough extension to fit the hub with Surly Moonlander wheel build tool that comes with the frame.
Another option is to use the frame as a truing stand. I did use this first with some success until I found out my spokes were to long and had to start over from scratch. A note is that the front wheel built up fine in my old TS-2 truing stand with out any mods again until I found out my spokes were to long and I had to start over.
Here is a picture of using the frame to build the rear wheel, note the creative use of the Surly wheel building tools.
Here is a picture of the Moonlaner wheel build offset tool (the Larger) vs. the Pugsley offset tool:
Links to great wheel building resources:
The best info I have found for wheel building, and the most accurate spoke calculator:
Sheldon Brown was my second reference, he has a great excel sheet for calculations:
This formula for calculating wheel offset for Fat Bikes was from Golden Bike Shop:
CTF = Center to Flange
I have to say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
And remember to always round down after calculating spoke length!
To be continued in the next post:
Purchase items from Amazon: