*Sam Humpheson* *– London*
The wheel builder
It was learning from older and more experienced guys that I did my first bits of wheel building. It takes someone to show you the basics of how to build a wheel, how to lace a wheel, how to put it together, and then from that point it’s a case of doing as many as you can, really. There’s no substitute for building a couple of hundred wheels.
And over the years that’s something I came to really enjoy. I suppose it’s that little obsessive quality and eye for detail. You also need to have the patience to keep going back to it until you’re satisfied you can’t do anymore with it. It’s a bit like knitting – not that I’ve ever knitted – in that you’re almost on autopilot when you’re lacing and tensioning. You’re doing something quite complicated but still able to chat. It’s like a form of meditation, I guess. It’s not difficult to build a really good wheel, so long as you keep going back at it.
There are legendary wheel builders out there. It’s a funny business and a lot of mythology comes into it. There are big names like Harry Rowland and Monty Young, who built wheels for Condor. They were just very good wheel builders and I don’t know if there are any modern wheel builders with that kind of status. Real craftsmen don’t measure themselves against anybody else in particular – they’re happy when they are happy. If you assemble 10 people who have been building wheels for 10 years and ask them each to build a wheel, they’ll all do it slightly differently.
The stuff that we’re using for this project is the best, and it complements the whole handbuilt theme. We’ve talked to the riders about what they wanted and I’m really pleased we haven’t compromised on the bits and pieces because I’m sure that the frame builders haven’t compromised. The hubs, rims and spokes are as good as you can get. I always like to see my wheels in two years, when they’ve been given a hard time and they’re still doing their job without complaint.