Thursday 4 January 2024

Goodbye 2023 and hello 2024!

Time flies! I still remember the beginning of 2023, and now, it's already over and we are entering 2024. 
It's a good moment to reflect on the past year and plan the next twelve months. 

Get ready, this will be a long post ;-)

Workshop in Poland

The workshop is settled, up & working, and welcoming all cyclists for good coffee and chat about wheels. 

Tools, workbenches, racks for rims, and paint booth for colored spokes - all done. The remaining details like photos and some memories from Switzerland will be done in the coming months. 

The work comfort that this shop provides to me is awesome. During the entire 2023, I built approximately 100+ sets of fully custom wheels. A lot? Don't know, but all I know is that they were 100% unique and were designed for the specific needs of my customers.

Due to the amount of work, I didn't have any time for this blog, therefore using this opportunity now, to share a few selected and nice builds with you.

Here we go:

Truly a high-end set. Weareonecomposites rims with Chris King hubs. Very nice gravel set with handmade rims from Canada. We are one composites is one of the first brands I know that started a small business by manufacturing carbon rims and they have grown in past years significantly. Today they make rims, frames, and handlebars. Nice to see such impressive progress and good products. Always very pleasant to build wheels with those rims.


This nice set was composed of Onyx red candy hubs, Boyd Altamont lite ceramic rims, and Pillar Wing 20/21/22 spokes tied and soldered on crosses. Onyx is one of its kind manufacturer using a specific bearing type instead of a typical ratchet. This gives instant engagement and soundless operation. They come in several colors and types. A bit heavier than traditional hubs, but if you like to stay quiet and enjoy mother nature sounds (ex. gravel in the forest) then those hubs are for you.  

Fatbike wheels with Titanium spokes. This was a truly outstanding project. Ultra-wide rims with insane Tune hubs where axles were so wide that I had to tune up my truing stand(!)

My first build with Titanium spokes. The tricky point was to calculate the exact spoke length as you can't shorten such spokes on spoke cutting machine. All in all, those went out very well and provided a lot of fun for the new owner. 

MCFK rims with Soul-Kozak hubs. The best thing for wheel builders is to get the opportunity to work with many brands and manufacturers so you can touch and feel different carbon rims, hubs, and spokes. The below is a good example of such an experience. MCFK rims went through my shop several times in 2023 and I rate them very high in terms of quality and build process. 

In terms of Soul-Kozak, their next-generation hubs (ver 2 and 3) are superior. Huge improvement vs the first versions. Today, the ratchet is a bit quieter, the bearings are sealed better and the overall finish is much improved. Made in Poland (!)

High-profile Duke Baccara rims with MACK hubs

Duke is one of my favorite brands in terms of carbon rims. They provide a very wide list of models for road, gravel, and MTB wheels. They release every year several new models which follow the newest trends (wider and lighter). At the same time the build process with those rims is a breeze and quality followed by customer service is top-notch. 

In this build, I used hubs manufactured by MACK. Not a very well-known brand, but one of the best manufacturers of hubs I know. Maciek - keep up your excellent work!

BERD spokes. Ok, this will be a longer one... let me first take you through a few top projects I made this year, and at the end, I'll share my thoughts about those spokes.

The first selected set: MCFK rims with DT180 hubs. Very light, high-quality rims and hubs. Black Berd spokes in straight pull version. The very tricky part in this build was to lace those spokes through DT Swiss hubs. You have to be very careful and not damage the spokes when pulling them through those hubs. The key is a proper angle which you need to take into account when pulling them through spoke holes. Luckily some brands started to offer already specific hubs for Berd spokes with hooked flanges. See Onyx or Erase from Belgium. Build process with such hubs is much easier!

The next set was really top in terms of weight and components - Schmolke rims with Carbon Ti hubs.

This is not the first time I have been building with Schmolke rims. The first set was built when I was still based in Switzerland and I must say I had mixed feelings about those rims. However, after speaking to my clients who were riding those wheels I changed my mind. Clearly different technology than typical carbon mold and also a different feeling from the ride itself. Pairing them with Berd spokes and carbon Ti hubs allowed me to build one of the lightest sets in 2023. 

Zipp 3zero Moto rims with white Berds. 

I can definitely rate this build as the most difficult build I ever made. Those rims are from different planet for sure. They react against the spoke pull completely differently than any traditional carbon rim. The fight to maintain lateral and radial truing was tough. In the end, they came out beautifully but it took me five days (yes, five days) to finish those ones. Build with Berds is one day, but then usually I keep wheels for the next four to five days and I'm increasing tension until they stop stretching. The difficulty here were the rims, which were losing roundness each day after Berds stretched.  

If we think about a bit less exotic rims, here is a good example of a "standard" build with Berds. Duke Runners 27R with CarbonTi hubs and 28/28 spokes. Good, strong, and very light set. 335g for a rim with the 3g per spokes gave an ultra light set. Very comfortable for gravel, light enough to climb on any steep hill or mountain. 

The number of spokes in all Berd builds is a key. Since I touched on this topic, let me move to my thoughts and conclusions...

Berd spokes conclusion

I started building with Berd spokes probably as one of the first companies that time in Swiss (see the post from 2019). Then, moving to Poland I continued such builds and till today I think I made easily 20-30 sets so probably I can say a little about those spokes. 

First of all, if you want to consider Berd spokes, you have to think about the reasons and what do you want to achieve in such a project. Clearly, Berds provide incredible riding comfort. Steel or Ti spokes won't give you that, not even close to it, so if comfort is a priority, then such spokes should be on your list.

Second, they are light. Some people say that rotating mass is not important. Myself, in those days when I was cycling a lot in Swiss, I did appreciate every single less gram I had in my wheels. 

Stiffness. This one is a tricky one and not easy to explain in a few words. Key in this equation is the number of spokes and tension. 

When wheels are freshly built and tensioned on a calibrated(!!!) tension meter to 90-100kgf, they will be stiff. However with time, no matter how much time you will spend on the build & quality, those spokes will stretch... unfortunately a lot, even up to 40% over a year time. I personally spend 4-5 days in building with Berd spokes. I do pre-stretch each spoke and after the build, every day, I add up the tension until the wheels are stable and the spokes stop stretching. But still, with time and some miles you'll ride, they will continue to stretch out and at the end, the stiff wheel will become not that stiff anymore. The good thing is, that compared to steel, such spoke won't break (at least not from the fact that it became loose). 

To minimize loss of stiffness you have to leave enough free threads in the nipple and you have to calculate spoke lengths a bit differently than in the Berd's calculator. If you do that by the book, after a year, when the wheels come back to you for service, you won't have any more threads in the spoke/nipple to add 30-40% of the tension. 

Now, in terms of the number of spokes. More spokes than better (yes, I know it's killing the idea of selecting light spokes to gain lower weight) but this is a reality. In fact, I do not recommend building with 24/24 Berds but start with at least 28/28 and move to 32/32 if necessary. When those spokes will stretch, then having 28/28 or 32/32 will compensate loss of stiffness to a great extent. 

So... all in all, Berd spokes for builds with 28/28 or 32/32 which naturally assigns them to gravel or mountain. But what if you're looking for light spokes for road 24/24 or gravel 28/28? My advice, start taking a look into carbon spokes which entered the market in 2022 and will become the top solution in 2024-2025.

Carbon Spokes and CarbonOne project

This was a key initiative and my plan for 2023. Ton of work and finally CarbonOne wheels have been released. 

Having a lot of experience in many custom builds using high-end carbon rims, hubs, and steel / Berd spokes, I wanted to combine the best of both worlds and make wheels that will be as comfortable as with Berds and at least as stiff as with steel spokes. 

Did I make it? Time and 2024 year will show. Currently, more and more riders and clients are riding CarbonOne's. Some of those guys are famous and very strong racers so they will be able to tell better. I'm personally riding those on my road bike and I'm fully satisfied regarding the performance, look, and quality of the ride. 

Overall, I believe carbon spokes will boom this and next year. Eurobike 2023 showed that clearly. Technology is there and it's ready. CN and TW booths were full of carbon spokes and most of the key players producing rims for big brands like DT Swiss were showing off with carbon spokes. Now it's time for big players to brand those spokes and start the marketing machine....

Spokes in colors!

This was my second main objective on the 2023 ToDo list. Very late, but I made it. Very proud of this and super excited to show you for the first time the custom spokes in colors: 

Right away, to answer your first question or comment - no, this is not powder coat :-). That would be too easy and to be honest, powder coat is not the right way to go.

This is a different technology. The coat is light, thin, and very resistant to scratches, stone chips, and UV. It ticks all the boxes and allows me to cover all types of steel and carbon spokes in any color you like. 

Having said that, we are entering 100% custom work. Finally, I can match not only the hub color to your frame but also use a few spokes in color to make your wheel even more appealing. Imagine one spoke in color (like Mavic is doing with one yellow) or two spokes in color next to the valve? Or maybe three spokes in color reflecting your flag (Italy, France, Germany... etc). Or maybe whole one side like on this project?

Sky is the limit... 

...and what if you'd like DT Swiss 350 in green? No problem, I can do that too!

Partnership with shops and events

2023 was the first year for me where I entered partnership mode with selected bike shops and event organizers.

Today I build wheels for a few top bike shops in Poland so if you're interested in such partnership model, just drop me an email. You'll get quality build with top components with a warranty that the job is done right.

In terms of events, I've got the opportunity to offer two vouchers with 50% discount for any selected wheelset in the Ultra cycling race called Ultra Lajkonik 

What is Lajkonik about? See it by yourself:

Direct link, in case YouTube embedded video won't work...

This year, in the 2024 Lajkonik edition, I'll be offering two 50% vouchers, plus if all goes well you'll see me in person there ;-)

Highly recommend subscribing to this event and take a chance to win a nice pair of wheels!

2024 PLANS

OK, so what's next and what are the plans for 2024? 
Well, my list is already quite packed:

1. Continue with custom builds
2. Look further into carbon spokes technology and new options
3. Colors, colors, colors - make your wheels unique!
4. Tools! Very important part! 

We manufactured this year a very large batch of spoke calibration jigs and will continue to do so in 2024. Moreover, expect new types of tools this year. Can't share anything more yet, but stay tuned!

5. Wheelbuilding on-site classes 

Yes, you heard well. I plan to offer wheel-buding classes and courses. I should have a plan and agenda by Q2 2024 so it can happen in Q3 2024. Classes will be among the small group of people, a maximum of 2-3 persons at a time. I want to make sure this is very personalized and tailored to your needs with quality and decent knowledge you'll gain. 

Stay tuned and meantime feel free to drop me a message with what would you like to learn.

...and that's all for now!
Congrats if you're still reading this. It was the longest entry on that blog ever. Hope you liked the context!

All the best in 2024 and feel free to drop me a message if you need wheels, spokes in colors, or any other technical advice. 


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