Review Steampunk Wheelset - Gokiso / CB Italia

GSAstuto

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#1
I built this wheelset on a whim. I had a set of Gokiso 32H hubs for testing and already built them up on a variety of rims to test (another separate thread). But then I got a few sets of CB Italia Rims (wood) to play around with. I really wanted the Ghisalo rims - but they are distributed through a Japanese distributor who marks them up beyond all f*ng belief. CB Italia suffers no such nonsense and in fact encouraged their US distributor to sell to me at a reasonable 'dealer' rate . So much for politics - on to the build.

Hubs - Gokiso 2nd generation. A little more cleanup non the shells and the newest freehub which has like a bazillion engagement points actuated by a Mr. Coffee Fusion Reactor double-throw-down, Hurst 4 on the floor pawl system. Smoother than an 8-Track with the Temptations on board.

Rims - CB Italia Vigorelli. It's been around since the 40's. I used to race these on track. They have a certain , say, je ne sais quoi (or Io non so che cosa) about them.

Spokes - Since I was using Japanese hubs I thought it would be pertinent to lace up with Hoshi spokes. I chose the DB 14-15 (NJS) version as a likely candidate.

First build out of the box and the front was fine, but rear was a taco in waiting that reminded me of some damn fine cilantro salsa procured from the finest Ptomaine Ptommies in Inglewood. I let them set for awhile.

Second build out of the box was inspired by more esoteric patterns. How can I increase the NDS stability and tension without the DS going into Warp Factor 7 conniptions? I tried every lacing pattern in the book suitable for 32H and beyond. Nothing really felt right.

Third build - with the front stable and standing properly, I decided to go back to basics and just use a 3X DS with 2X NDS and 15-15 on the NDS. Voila! I massaged the wheel into place like coaxing a cobra from its basket. It came into 'being' at about 85kgf on the DS and 45kgf on the NDS. A little more tweaking and I got a stable 90-95 out of the DS without warbling. This gave me a reasonable standing NDS and I was fine to mount some rubber.

For this first version I'm running Challenge Parigi Roubaix. They are handmade by orphans in Thailand and I sincerely hope that each tire buys them a book! If not - then please donate to Gary's Beers for Books! Challenge is the <old> Clement cum Vittoria cum who the hell knows from Italy-in-the-80's. Anyway. Most of the world's latex came from Indonesia and Thailand so it just made sense to locate the tire factories there. The Challenge PR is such a 'handmade' tire complete with lumps, bumps and tread imperfections expected from workers who have actually never ridden a single tire they've made.

Because I'm pretty sure these tires will have the half life of the same roadents [sic] that travel Rt 20 as I do, I taped them to the rim with Miyata tape expecting quick and easy replacement.

The ride --- Ok already. yes, well, they are smooooooth. In a way that is hard to describe unless one remembers the smoothness of a very well chilled Gin on leaded glass with a single (mind you) Olive, pimento intact. Wooden rims / wheels are nearly impossible to true to the same roundness as carbon or alloy - but you can make them sing. And when you do - they are full on Jazz. Combined with the Gokiso hubs which soak up the small imperfections and lend a superior glissandi between the 'notes' , you are talking pure music on the road.

On my regular commute (the aforesaid RT 20) I can hold the same speed no issues whatsoever. And, in fact, feel like pushing a bit more just 'because'. Like Rambo IV where John Rambo takes on the entire Burmese Army.

The smell : This combination imparts a nose that is somewhat akin to roasted walnut and Squirrel hair in the fire when you brake. In other words - there is no mistaking when you put the binders to the wood. Whether comforting or alerting is up to you. But I'm enjoying watching the sidewalls burnish to their natural dark sheen. Now If I only smoked Nazionali I could light one on the rim after the descent from Val d'Isere, take a sip of Grappa from my flask and be on my way!
 

kiwisimon

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Dec 14, 2006
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#2
pics would be cool, any way Owen and Thomas can build a scratch and sniff port into this fine web creation? "roasted walnut and Squirrel hair in the fire" desrves a scratch panel.

Love this review!
 

FarEast

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May 25, 2009
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#7
Hang on hang on, how can this be a review Tim - it's a info comercial - the type I would prefer to get on FB and other sites.

Got to say Tim they look stunning and they are a real throwback to me years as a junior - although we took the cronic mikey out of the old boys that rode them.

One thing though..... the Anchor ruins the look, get them on your steel bike for the love of god!
 
Likes: Malte

GSAstuto

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#9
@James - I'm using the Anchor as a test mule right now. Agreed they look better on my steel bike --- I just need to work out some spacing details and cassette refactoring... With that being said, they actually make the Anchor much more ride-able on the commute. It seems Japanese frame designers have forgotten the word 'compliance'.

They really are nice looking wheels and they ride quite well. I'll give some followups as I know people are always interested how these boutique builds really hold up. (Me especially). I rode wood alot on the track - but there it's a no brainer. For the road .... hmmm, and with 130mm spacing and dish .. <double> hmmmm. Very tricky to get enough NDS tension to keep them from becoming an instant taco.

So -- should anyone consider wood rimmed wheels? Well, I suppose like anything else if you like the esthetics and the performance is decent enough, why not? It's definitely a throwback build but serviceable and in comparison to current offerings, not far off spec. There is more interest these days in things " l'eroica" and this falls into the that category.
 

GSAstuto

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#11
Hi Simon - in general the rims go for about 7000yen-8000yen /ea and then just depends the hubs and spokes you decide on. Possibly hubs make up the majority cost. I'd suggest large flange - and the Dura Ace or Gran Compe NJS would both be good candidates. For track sprints, I'd choose the 36H and Hoshi 14/15's. The wooden rims favor a heavier spoke than alloy. I'd suggest these (Vigorelli) for track - they have a long history of reliability.
 

FarEast

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#13
@James - I'm using the Anchor as a test mule right now. Agreed they look better on my steel bike --- I just need to work out some spacing details and cassette refactoring... With that being said, they actually make the Anchor much more ride-able on the commute. It seems Japanese frame designers have forgotten the word 'compliance'.
I assumed thats why they were on the Anchor, especailly with the new skool hubs.

Honestly mate, you should get your butt down to Sagami Cycles - they have brand new, still boxed vintage parts including hubs.
 

GSAstuto

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#14
Definitely - now I'm closer to that neck of the woods. I need to get some bits and pieces for my Guerciotti and am thinking about going all Suntour Superbe. That was the hands down best performing kit ever and alot of the more obscure version deraillers never left Japan. I use Superbe hubs and cassette still on my other steel bike. (Hiroshi would kill me). A set of wood wheels done up on the Superbe's would be as svelte as svelte can be.

I assumed thats why they were on the Anchor, especailly with the new skool hubs.

Honestly mate, you should get your butt down to Sagami Cycles - they have brand new, still boxed vintage parts including hubs.
 

microcord

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#15
. . . am thinking about going all Suntour Superbe. That was the hands down best performing kit ever. . . .
And Suntour stuff didn't have to be "Superbe" to be, if not superb, then pretty good. My antique has a Cyclone Mark-II derailer that impresses not just me (meaningless!) but also (looks aside) the disraeligears.co.uk man. I've a feeling that the bike needs new wheels; much though I appreciate the excellent new Shimano-hub wheels on my slightly younger bike, it would amuse me to keep the old one a Shimano-free zone.
 

kiwisimon

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#16
Ditto on suntour, if they had got their index shifting just a tad smoother and jumped on brifters earlier they might still be a force in the drive train category. Loved their MTB range. XC pro was the bees knees.