Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Exercise in My Stupidity

Last time I built a wheel, it was very easy--- too easy. So easy that I didn't fully respect the scope of the project for my most recent wheel-- a rear Formula laced to a crazy purple Aerohead, courtesy of master wheelbuilder Lectron himself.

So I carefully measured everything and tossed it into some web-based spoke calculator. I jotted down the resultant spoke length required for the job. I went to Spinn and ordered 32 double-butted spokes. I questioned the shop guy's find after a lengthy wait as he hunted them down in the back room. He reassured me that they were double-butted. The resulting cost of 10NOK each was certainly expensive enough for top-end spokes--- that is over $50 for one wheel's spokes. Still, I was skeptical.

I started lacing them up that night. It wasn't until I started on the trailing spokes that I realized that I had made a grave miscalculation. I still had the web page up on the screen, and checked the dimensions. At this point I realized the java application had not refreshed itself with the current data. When I hit "enter" I was struck with a different spoke length. I unlaced the wheel as carefully as possible, but there is no way to unlace the trailing spokes without bending them. Actually, they were all slightly bent when I was done. There was no way the shop could resell these.

I didn't think too much of it until I swung by Lectrons's to purchase a wheelset that he kindly loaned me. I am quite sure it was a masterful marketing scheme to hook me on the wheels- but his offer was too good to pass up-- a set of tubulars, which I shall elaborate on at a later time. In addition to the agreed upon monetary remuneration, as a goodwill gesture I offered Lectron the pile of spokes, at which he commented, "I can't use those! Those are cheap, straight gauge. I will never use those." He had been sold double-butted spokes for less money-- top shelf. At the very least, I was ripped off. I vowed to attempt to return them.

The next day I stopped by Spinn after work with my sorry bag of bent spokes, a bunch of nipples in a greasy recycled bag, and a badly soiled receipt that was nearing 30 days in age. A hapless employee tried to help me as I explained my woeful tale. I showed him the receipt, the price paid per spoke, and told him that I had asked for double-butted spokes, but was sold straight gauge. He disappeared into the back of the shop, emerging with another straight gauge spoke, identical to mine. I re-explained my situation. He informed me that only bike frames were double-butted. I told him the same applies to bike spokes. He said they don't sell any spokes like that, and asked what brands are butted. I merely mentioned Wheelsmith, Sapim, and DT. He disappeared into the store, reappearing with a fist full of double-butted, black spokes. I showed him how they were thinner in the middle. He explained that straight gauge were better, because they were thicker. I made no attempt to educate him that butted spokes are actually stronger than straight gauge, despite being thinner, but rather asked for an in-store credit. After struggling with a poorly designed point-of-sale IT solution, he offered me the voucher for 320NOK- as I handed him the remainder of the bag, and explained that some of the spokes were bent. He said it was no problem. I think he was merely relieved that this transaction had reached its denouement. And I was out of there before he could change his mind. I could have had a cat in the bag for all he knew! Now I can afford that new pair of socks that I have had my eye on.

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