Who am I?
How did I start building wheels?
How's the business going?
Who is Arup?
My name is Arup Sen (pronounced aaroop) and I live in Sydenham, SE London. I teach yoga and create websites. Here is a photo of me in Sweden rebuilding my Henry Gregson bike having taken it on the plane.
The other one just so you can see what I look like. If you want to know more about me then take a look at my blog. There are a few fixed gear articles in there, the wheel log but mostly other topics.
At my holiday home in Sweden (left)
Out in the countryside in Kent (right)
How I started building wheels
In March 2004 I built my first fixed gear bicycle. For 2 years prior to that I had been reading about it. I had never actually tried it because I did not have access to such a bike not being a member of a club nor knowing any friends that had a fixed gear. The only way to try was to either buy one or make one. Having read so much over those 2 years, mainly online, I was quite sold on the idea. But how would it really feel?
I had all the basic skills to put a bike together, except building a wheel. Everything I read called it “the dark art”. I still haven’t figured out why they called it that. I guess everyone was just quoting everyone else.
There are plenty of resources online, especially Sheldon Brown’s site, which has step by step diagrams which I cross referenced with a book I have. It took me ages! I looked at the wheel, then the screen, then back at the wheel. All in my front room of course, which was gradually becoming a workshop, and a mess. But I loved it and wanted to make more of them. So I put an ad in ebay stating my very basic experience and I got a few orders. You can’t live off selling a couple of wheels a month, but they are good fun.
Along with building wheels from scratch, I also did some repairs and rebuilds. And it was the rebuilding of a wheel that helped me to develop my pre-cross method. I was replacing a rim and tied up all the crossed spokes with wire bag ties. It gave me another perspective on the wheel building process and I realised that I could build a new wheel in the same way.
Here’s my first fix arup’s gregson on the fixed gear gallery site. It doesn't quite look like that any more as I have added and taken things away. But it’s faster, cheaper, easier to maintain, has a higher coolness factor, but most of all the pleasure is indescribable. You have to try it.
In summer 2005 I rode London to Brighton on it. (Not the official London to Brighton ride, just me on my own.) I wouldn't have attempted that on a geared bike. I did it again in summer 2006.
That bike is now at my holiday cottage in Sweden. Riding in Sweden is even better as the road surfaces are much smoother, there is close to zero traffic out in the country and not much wind either.
Here is my latest bike, built in July 2006. If you are still thinking about going fixed gear, now is the time to stop thinking about it and have a go.
The wheel building “business”
As for the wheel building, they seem to come in batches, a bit like busses. I can get lots of interest but no orders and then suddenly lots of orders.
Most people want information on sourcing parts and a quote for a wheel including parts. I don't charge any extra for sourcing parts or ordering them for you. The best prices seem to be online, but then you have to pay postage as well. That's why I have included a resources section now. Of course going via the post takes time and I can’t order the spokes until I have the parts in order to measure them accurately and calculate the spoke lengths.
And this is why the whole process can take up to 10 days; from the time you first make contact to having the wheel in your hand. Some people calculate the spoke lengths themselves and order the spokes as well, so the turnaround time is pretty fast. I still love doing it and love to see photos of the complete bikes or tales of how the bike is being used.