Svante Rödegård, from the Bay Area, sent me wheels from his father's Monark bicycle that he's restoring. This was his dad's daily driver, Swedish made in 1950, no nonsense, utilitarian, and 100% simplicity.
Wire brushed the hubs, straightened a few dents in the rims, and rebuilt them with fresh spokes. For the first time, I got to build actual stainless rims. No chrome, just pure stainless. We're all accustomed to stainless spokes but so many rims are aluminum (or carbon) today. These stainless beauties are as fresh today as when new.
|Monark ca 1950|
(1) Expense - stainless is over 4X the price of carbon steel.
(2) Formability - the complex shapes of extruded aluminum aren't easily replicated in stainless.
(3) Fatigue life - unless great care is taken, stainless can work harden and crack.
These are not obstacles for Scandinavian designers who use stainless for many utilitarian applications. The minimalism is unmistakable. No paint, varnish, plating, or anodizing protects the finish. Just the warm amber color of the stainless itself. Doesn't get anymore visually honest, yet practical, than that.
So here is a pair of wheels, entirely of steel. In the world of exotic materials and colors, what could be less interesting, more routine? Here is where simplicity trumps sophistication.
The rims are made from a long sheet, wrapped up on each edge, forming hollow tubes at the tire bead. In the center, the rim is single wall, so best to use a supporting washer. Of stainless, of course.
|Rim trough provides near-perfect nipple geometry.|
|Inside, hardly worn.|
|Oops, a little 21st century grease...|
Thanks, Svante, for the chance to appreciate the wonderful functionality and beauty of all steel wheels. After all, they are the vast majority of the World's two billion wire wheels. Like snowflakes, ubiquitous but beautiful down to the smallest details.