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Friday, March 09, 2012

The Wayfarer gets a new wheel!

Remember all the problems I've been having with the rear wheel of my Raleigh Wayfarer? While the front wheel is a newly built one, the rear is original to the bike, one of the few things that's been kept original. It's a beefy old steel 40 spoke 26" x 1 3/8", built to last the ages. Apparently the ages is approximately 40 years. The wheel started to give me grief before the Cross-Con Tour when I broke a spoke. I simply had the offending spoke removed and the wheel trued as good as it could. When the Raving Bike Fiend was in town in January he replaced the spoke.

Things were good. For about two weeks.
Then I broke another spoke. Spoke replaced, wheel trued. I hoped it would hold for awhile, but it didn't. It all went kablooey again on the Battle Ground Lake trip during the beginning of February. I knew that this wheel was toast. I could keep on replacing spokes, but I would most likely be doing that at a rate of once a week, and it wouldn't stop until all the spokes got replaced.

But remember the poster I did for A Better Cycle for their sale? Well, I got commissioned to do this the Friday before Battle Ground Lake. For payment I would be getting credit for the shop. At first I wondered what I could get done. Maybe a new drivetrain on the Long Haul Trucker? It needs it. When the wheel on the Wayfarer gave me issues en route to Battle Ground, I knew what I was going to get: a rebuilt wheel!

So the dudes at the shop managed to find what was needed for the rebuild: a 40 hole CR18 rim. The CR18 is one of the few, if not only, rims made in the olden 26" x 1 3/8" (aka 650A, 590mm, or E.A.) wheel size--the standard size of most old British three-speeds and some American bikes of the mid-century. Finding a CR18 can be tough as they are in and out of stock, but they got one! The big advantage to the CR18 rim vs. the old steel one on the Raleigh is it is aluminum which is not only lighter but has superior braking power when wet.

I dropped off the bike on Monday and Wednesday I picked it up. And now I have a nice new rear wheel!
The Sturmey-Archer hub, of course, is from the old wheel. Can't give that up!

There's been a few other minor tweaks, like a new chain and a stabilizer plate for the rack mount so it would stop sliding downward into the brakes.

I really love this bike, and now I have a wheel that should last the ages. And the bike is near perfection for my needs. There's a few things I'd still like to do, like get a better front light and maybe treat myself to one of those Linus racks. But otherwise this baby is "dialed in."


  1. It's exciting when you get to fix something on your bike. With many bikes in your stable, I presume the list is long. While all three of my bikes are functional, there are some cosmetic alterations like handlebar changes that I'd like to do to make positioning more comfortable. As cyclists whose needs are always changing there is always something we "need" to transform on our bicycles, right?

    1. My list is not as long as it could be, though the list of bikes I want can get long!

      Right now there are some tweaks that need to be done to the Rudge, but nothing major at this point without seriously investing time/energy. For the Cycle Truck I've wavered on whether I should get a drum brake front wheel. Don't know for sure.

      The big one that needs work though is the Long Haul Trucker. Not much in the cosmetic realm, but more a full overhaul. And would love a stronger front light.

  2. I look forward to learning empirically what "the ages" is equal to for aluminum rims.

    1. Good question! One reason why the original rear wheel can last so long besides the high spoke count is the steel rim. They just don't wear away. Alloy rims, however, do. The benefit is the "wearing away" is what makes the brakes work better. The drawback is with constant use within a few years that rim is going to get worn down. Alas.

  3. Nice. I have done that before.

  4. Cool beans on the new digs,my friend!Now that classic bit o' steel should be even more fun and rewarding to ride :)

    The Disabled Cyclist

  5. This is the one that I did.

  6. OK, I'm confused. Is "CR18" yet another designation for 590mm, aka EA3, aka 650A (the latter being an old French system from what I understand from Sheldon Brown, may he live forever in his website)?

    Other than the French "650A", what is the origin of all these different sizing systems (EA3 vs. CR18)? Is EA3 typically used for tires and CR18 for the rims when referred to individually?

    My question is somewhat prompted by the fact that I'm looking to source a new aluminum/alloy front wheel for my old Norco 5-speed. I called a local bike shop and they thought I wanted a 650B, but doing some homework they were a bit off, so want to understand whay I'm asking for.

    I didn't know about aluminum rims wearing down so much faster compared to steel, that is interesting. How does one know when to garbage the aluminum rim (ideally just before a catastrophic failure to maximize lifespan, of course)?

    1. PV, CR18 is a model of rim manufactured by SunRims. It has nothing to do with wheel size, as I've had CR18 rims for my Long Haul Trucker (700C wheel size.) As noted in the post, the CR18 is one of the few, if only rim currently manufactured in the 650A/26" x 1 3/8" size.

      EA3 is either a Raleigh specific or British-general designation for the particular wheel size. EA1 was for 27" x 1 1/4", aka 650, aka 597mm. The EA1/597mm size is also the same as the Schwinn 26" x 1 3/8" size, which is also a S-7, as Schwinn also had specific codes for their wheel sizes/tires. Confusing, no? That's why I keep this Sheldon Brown page bookmarked:

      With regards to the bike shop, I shall be frank. Most bike shops know jack shit about wheel sizes unless they are standard 26 inch (meaning mountain bike, cruiser, etc) or 700C (road). They'll also have some passing knowledge on 27" for old road bikes and 20" for BMX/"juvenile" bikes. Beyond that, forget it. That Sheldon Brown page I mentioned should be printed out and handed to bike shop employees when you mention things like 650A or B.

      650B is becoming the hot odd-sized wheel of the moment, due in no part to its promotion by people like Grant Peterson (Rivendell) and Jan Heine (Bicycle Quarterly). And I've heard that many of the major bike manufacturers will be introducing 650B mountain bikes soon, so the availability of 650B wheels/tires/tubes will get better.

      But I am pretty sure what you have is 650A/590mm/EA3/26" x 1 3/8" wheels. They ain't the same size as 650B. It may be possible to use 650B as it is a smaller rim diameter (584mm). Brakes would need to be adjusted. But I have never found a 650B wheelset that was "inexpensive".

      As for alloy/aluminum rim wearout, generally the more concave the rim surface becomes, the more worn out it will be.

    2. PV, I'd also encourage you to check out Bike Bike in Calgary, as they would probably be the best shop to help you with your wheel size.

  7. My previous question leads to another: The main reason I'm considering changing the front wheel on my Norco 5-Speed is because the original steel rims are corrugated, supposedly to add braking power when wet. However, the brake pads grip the surface excessively when dry (most of the time here), causing the brake caliper to vibrate excessively, and the caliper bolt eventually snapped off (yes, while going down a hill, thankfully without a hairpin turn or traffic at bottom). This essentially makes the front brakes useless.

    There is nothing else wrong with the rim (for now).

    Which leads me to wonder if there might be a firmer brake pad that may be compatible with such a rim? Have you heard of such a scenario?

    I'll check around to see what's available. Perhaps this is just a case of a good design idea turning out a failure in the real world.

  8. I would say the "best" brake pad to use would be the Kool Stop "Continentals", which are salmon colored. But if this was my bike, I'd probably opt for a set of rebuilt wheels on CR18 rims.

  9. Thanks for the info, that helps a lot. I'm leaning toward a new rim, and will likely call BikeBike. The challenge with BikeBike is it is more than twice the distance from my house, thus four times the time to cycle there and back (I avoid using my car like the plague).

    1. Yeah, I realize that BikeBike will be a little far for you (and even further for me ;-) ) but sometimes you just make a special trip to the shop that "knows" rather than dither around with any old shop.

      Certainly there are shops out there that are willing to learn new things, and may be receptive to you going on about all the different 26 inch wheel sizes. (There are bike nerds in shops!) But the trick is to know what kind of shop would be into that. Otherwise you'll get glazed-over eyes.

  10. Correction: Twice distance = twice time, not four times. It's early.


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