Do you know how the first cycle wheels were created? Here we tell you!
Until a decade ago, the configuration of a wheel respected established canons from remote times, suffering very slight changes that, in the best of cases, modified the aesthetics or its aerodynamic capacity.
With the generalized use, since the end of the 80s, of lenticular wheels and sticks in time trials, more than one manufacturer began the production of models similar to those of competitions; the first stick wheels began to be mounted on “street” bicycles.
The starting gun was fired in a new era that would revolutionize the concept of a simple bicycle wheel.
The Timid Evolution
In the early 90s, all efforts seemed to be focused on the design and manufacture of aerodynamic wheels with exotic materials, leaving conventional spoke assemblies to be relegated to hand-made assemblies or large industrial production runs.
In 1996 some of the most important wheel and spokes manufacturers (Alpina, Mavic, Rigida…) decided to offer integral assemblies of high-end wheels, using the highest technology materials to carry out this project.
Mavic stood out from the rest with a totally new concept embodied in the first Cross-Link and Cross-Max “integral design” wheels conceived for mountain biking; after succeeding, only a few minimal mechanical changes were needed to market their famous Helium (a faithful copy of the Cross-Max).
Surrounded by the skepticism that characterizes new inventions, a modern generation of wheels was making its way into the market. The transgression of classicism was based on the reduction of the number of spokes, the use of new profiles for the construction of the rim rings, and the redesign of the hub running gears, in order to obtain the greatest rigidity and solidity in exchange for the least weight.
Although research continued on compact wheel models based on monocoque structures (Spinergy, Mavic, Zipp, Head…) the future seemed to be decided for the classic multi-spoke structures; their simplicity and versatility were their best arguments.
But the whole revolution that had emerged in this field has not been the result of empirical science and only with the help of computer-aided design (CAAD) experiments with new assemblies could be done.
Thousands of hours simulating different loads on computer screens were needed to confirm that the number of spokes could be reduced to a maximum, hubs could be slimmed down by 50% without losing efficiency, and the rims would fall below the 400-gram barrier while maintaining their reliability.
It was just a matter of respecting the function for which each part of a wheel had been designed: when a spoke works well, without any transverse traction, the rim has a balanced tightening on each of the nipples and the hub has a good quality bearing system, the weight can be reduced to the maximum without fear of losing reliability and solidity.
Images: External Sources
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