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Old 04-18-06, 12:37 PM   #1
trekkie820
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Paired Spoke wheels: Durability

I have seached the forum and other sites about these, and I recenty bought a Lemond Reno that came with a set of Bontrager Select wheels, paired spoke, with 20h up front and 24h out back. I weigh 245pounds, but will most likely lose some with this bike. I have read many posts, articles and Bontragers website that say (the technical articles and posts on cyclingforums.net) I will be fine. I have read posts here and elsewhere that says I am pretty well ****ed. Bontrager posts no weight limit to these wheels, and seeing that they are their lowest level wheelset, I would think that they would be designed for the masses. I just need someone reputable to tell me if they feel that the wheels will be okay, or if I should talk to the shop about a beefier set before I put too many miles on them. I have not yet ridden the bike.
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Old 04-18-06, 01:03 PM   #2
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Twere I you, I'd ride them until they break. If they break, get good mavic/shimano/dt 3x wheels, and never buy another wheelset ever.
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Old 04-18-06, 07:44 PM   #3
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I weigh 205 and I race cyclocross on a set of Bontrager Race X Lites. I've yet to have to true them.

I also have a set of Bontrager Race wheels that I use for everyday riding, which includes a lot of very rough roads, and I've never had to true those yet either.

And lastly, I also have a set of Bontrager Race X Lite Carbon track wheels that I put to some good use and those have been just fine as well.

I think that's all of my paired spoke wheels. There might be another floating around in my basement, I dunno.
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Old 04-18-06, 08:51 PM   #4
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The higher "grade" wheels in a series are lighter, but not necessarily stronger. I can't say how you'll do with the selects but I'm happy with the current year’s race lites and I've used Rolf Vectors (also paired spoke technology, Rolf licences it to Bontrager) for 6 years. The Rolf's have been over rough roads, rails to trails routes and suffered under light touring; I've never broken a spoke.
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Old 04-18-06, 11:10 PM   #5
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No naysayers yet on this thread, so I'll chime in. 245 is hoss. I can say that because I'm pretty big myself, and I would never run a paired 24 rear. On a regular wheel you can do a little spoke wrenching, open up your brake releases, and carry on just fine after breaking a spoke, within reason. On a paired wheel you are pretty hosed. I run a 2x 24 now, and even that isn't really strong enough for me. I think I have now broken every left hand leading spoke at least once. Compare that to the 36 spoke on my fixed gear, which gets less miles but more abuse and hasn't ever gone ping. Since your sig block says you are working toward a 60 mile charity ride, I would say you really need to get something else, or at least get someone to lend you a beefy rear wheel for that event.

I would go back to the shop and tell them to sell you the right bike for your size and needs, including the correct wheels. As far as I can tell, these aren't even the wheels that are supposed to come on the reno, so even just getting what they were supposed to give you (normal 32 spoke 3x wheels) would set you up just fine. Selects have been "outed" in the marketplace as not being very durable for bigger riders, so I'm not surprised that they swapped them onto a price point bike; they are sexy looking, and most people wouldn't know better. They would be an upgrade on this bike, and a smaller rider would be getting a deal. However, the shop shouldn't have let you leave with something so wrong for you, so make them take them back. Or send them to me and I'll send you a set of 32's off of my girlfriend's nevada city with less than 1k on them . If you have to buy something new, you can get away with just a new rear for now, and even keep your cassette.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trashing these wheels in general. They're pretty good for their price point, and I know a triathlete who would be a full time pro if it weren't for her kids who uses them as trainers on a very high-end tri bike and wouldn't hesitate to race on them if she needed to, but she weighs half what I do. All the field reports say they're just not for clydesdales.

Hope that helps -- best of luck to you
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Old 04-19-06, 05:06 AM   #6
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Thanks for the replies, but I think I am going to just ride them and see what happens. The shop took my weight as well as my measurements to fit me for this bike, and no one mentioned a thing about the wheels. Also, they will fix broken spokes and true the wheels for the life of the bike. I think that I could get them to swap the wheels out if they really get messed up.

Edit: All of their sizing was done with a laser measuring tool which took many different measurements, and the bike came assembled and set-up pretty close to how I need it. In this lawyer crazy, risk averse world, it would be crazy for Bontrager and Trek to put stock wheels, on a low cost bike that will be accessable to the masses, that are prone to failure under too much load.

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Old 04-19-06, 05:40 AM   #7
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Look, you can sell the Bontrager wheels for a nice bit on eBay, especially if you've not ridden them yet, or have ridden them very little. Then get a good basic wheelset - 105 hubs, 36-spoke (at least in the rear), double-wall rims. And have it at that. You'll actually earn money in the transition, and have a wheelset that's more durable. For what you're doing, the Bontrager wheels may work, but if they have issues they'll be enough of a pain to deal with that it's totally worth going with a more traditional wheel design with higher spoke count.

Alternately, you could keep the Bontrager wheels for when you slim down a bit. But really, there's little to nothing that you gain, for the sort of riding you'll be doing, from this sort of wheelset.
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Old 04-19-06, 08:43 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Landgolier
No naysayers yet on this thread, so I'll chime in. 245 is hoss. I can say that because I'm pretty big myself, and I would never run a paired 24 rear. On a regular wheel you can do a little spoke wrenching, open up your brake releases, and carry on just fine after breaking a spoke, within reason. On a paired wheel you are pretty hosed. I run a 2x 24 now, and even that isn't really strong enough for me. I think I have now broken every left hand leading spoke at least once. Compare that to the 36 spoke on my fixed gear, which gets less miles but more abuse and hasn't ever gone ping. Since your sig block says you are working toward a 60 mile charity ride, I would say you really need to get something else, or at least get someone to lend you a beefy rear wheel for that event.

I would go back to the shop and tell them to sell you the right bike for your size and needs, including the correct wheels. As far as I can tell, these aren't even the wheels that are supposed to come on the reno, so even just getting what they were supposed to give you (normal 32 spoke 3x wheels) would set you up just fine. Selects have been "outed" in the marketplace as not being very durable for bigger riders, so I'm not surprised that they swapped them onto a price point bike; they are sexy looking, and most people wouldn't know better. They would be an upgrade on this bike, and a smaller rider would be getting a deal. However, the shop shouldn't have let you leave with something so wrong for you, so make them take them back. Or send them to me and I'll send you a set of 32's off of my girlfriend's nevada city with less than 1k on them . If you have to buy something new, you can get away with just a new rear for now, and even keep your cassette.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trashing these wheels in general. They're pretty good for their price point, and I know a triathlete who would be a full time pro if it weren't for her kids who uses them as trainers on a very high-end tri bike and wouldn't hesitate to race on them if she needed to, but she weighs half what I do. All the field reports say they're just not for clydesdales.

Hope that helps -- best of luck to you
Killer response; good info and well-written!
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Old 04-19-06, 09:13 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trekkie820
Thanks for the replies, but I think I am going to just ride them and see what happens. The shop took my weight as well as my measurements to fit me for this bike, and no one mentioned a thing about the wheels. Also, they will fix broken spokes and true the wheels for the life of the bike. I think that I could get them to swap the wheels out if they really get messed up.

Edit: All of their sizing was done with a laser measuring tool which took many different measurements, and the bike came assembled and set-up pretty close to how I need it. In this lawyer crazy, risk averse world, it would be crazy for Bontrager and Trek to put stock wheels, on a low cost bike that will be accessable to the masses, that are prone to failure under too much load.
I hate to tell you, but you got the smoke and mirrors treatment. There's not a single measurement used in fitting an $800 bike in an LBS that needs anything like laser precision, but much like paired spoke wheels and carbon seat stays and other such stuff, it sure looks cool. They may have fit it pretty well to your body geometry, but they didn't take your weight into account, else they would have never put you on the entry-level wheel most notorious for popping spokes, creaking and rubbing the brake pads when you step on it, and going out of round under the strain of heavy riders. These wheels come stock on a lot of mid-line treks, which they sell if they sell lemond because it's all the same company, so they took an extra set and threw it on there to make it look cool. Show me the guy that actually took off the stock 32h 3x wheels to put on these things for you, on purpose, thinking they were the right wheel for you, and I'll show you someone who should be flogged with a rubber chicken and then forced to wear the stupid helmet for a month.

I'm glad your LBS provides such good warranty coverage, but unless they're going to follow you in a support car to fix the spokes out on the road, you're going to have a crappy experience at least once. Also, the reality with these wheels is that as much as you true them, sometimes they can't be made to stay true, so it doesn't matter how many times they put them on the truing stand for free.

As for the liability issue, these aren't firestone-style catastrophic failures, we're talking about popped spokes and general poor performance. You're not going to die, you're just going to get to ride home real slow with a bum bike wobble in the rear wheel.

It's your bike, you can do what you want, but I guarantee you that you're going to break some spokes before the 2000 mile mark and wish you had better wheels, and now is the cheapest time to take action on this.
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Old 04-19-06, 11:07 AM   #10
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One more question: If this set-up is so weak, then why is Bontrager putting 24h paired spoke wheels on tandems and even has a Select Disc wheel with the same set-up?
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Old 04-19-06, 12:15 PM   #11
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I didn't say paired spoke setups are weak, I said that bontrager selects are weak. You'll notice there's no select tandem model.

Let me put it this way: all entry-level 24h wheels ridden by a battleship-class rider like you or me are going to break spokes. Specifically, they're going to break left side leading spokes, because as you or me deposits our 16 stone on a pedal in a stand up climb or sprint, the hub torque momentarily detensions the left side leading spokes. It also does this to the right side spokes, but they don't go as slack because they are tensioned much higher. You can prove most of this to yourself by plucking your spokes. You will notice that the drive side ones give you a lot higher pitch. This is because they have to be tighter for the wheel to be dished enough to make room for that big fancy 9 speed cassette. So anyway, you or me goes jamming around on a wheel like that for a couple thousand miles, and puts a few hundred thousand wear cycles on the spokes, of which maybe 2% are really monster and basically detension the left side leaders entirely. Soon, you start popping them, and they break right at the point where tensioning/detensioning creates the most stress: the bend and stress riser at the hub. Now, you're out there with a paired spoke wheel, only one pair of spokes is now solo. That rig is going to wobble like a fiend, and unlike a conventional wheel or one with more spokes you don't have as many options for how to spot-true it back into place. You can try to loosen the opposing spoke a little, but this is going to give you radial truing issues on a paired spoke rim, and it's pretty hard on a rim model that is not known for stellar radial truing anyway. So you hit your brake release, unscrew the barrel adjusters as far as they will go, and try to ride skippy the wobble wheel home real nice-like, where you replace the spoke and take a bet on which one goes next. If you're smart, you relace the wheel half-radial, which makes it a little weaker (not so good for us), but does make this problem go away. The other cures are stiffer hubs, better and stronger spokes, and higher-quality wheel builds, all of which figure into the higher-end paired spoke wheels, or just sucking it up and buying a 32h 3x, which is what I'm doing if my half-radial wheel gives me problems in the next 2000 miles or so.

As you can see, this is a general problem for all big guys on dainty wheels, but it is exacerbated by the paired spoke design and the fact that selects are known for not-so-hot performance in the relevant areas anyway. Also, I should note that I didn't discover all of this crap myself, I just broke a bunch of left side leading spokes on a 24h and then stumbled upon Sheldon Brown's explanation of why it was happening. Sheldon figured it out for himself, but he also notes that Ford figured it out years ago. Scroll most of the way down at this link to the Half Radial heading to read about it: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/wheelbuild.html
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Old 04-19-06, 12:39 PM   #12
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I don't think there's any inherent danger in riding these wheels. The problem with low spoke count is that if you break just one, THEN it is unsafe to ride. So you'll end up calling your wife for a ride home or walking if it happens. I'm sure there are 245 lb racers out there on those same wheels, but they train on 32h 3X wheels because they are less likely to end their training ride. As for the paired spoke technology, I love it. It addresses my biggest complaints about truing wheels. You pull on both sides at the same time, so adjusting it is easier, especially on low spoke count wheels.
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Old 04-20-06, 07:16 PM   #13
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I have the Bontrager Selects on my Cross-check. I was pretty worried about them. I weigh around 205 lbs and thought they might not be strong enough for curb-hopping and a some off-road. I only have a couple hundred miles on them so far, but no problems as yet. I do consistently hear a pinging sound from the rear when I am pedalling hard. The guys at my shop said they were "bomber" and fine for the rough use I give them. They come standard on the LeMond Poprad and Trek XO-1 'cross bikes, so I assume they are strong enough to put up with a certain amount of abuse.

All that said, I wish I had simply gotten some Open Pro's or CXP22 or 33's, but I really wanted to save some weight. Still, the bike has gone down hard twice now, been on some pretty bumpy singletrack and so far the wheels are true.
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Old 04-20-06, 08:04 PM   #14
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I am staying with 32-spoke 3X or 36-spoke 3X or 4X wheels, thank you! The way to enhance a bicycle wheel's strength-to-weight ratio is to INCREASE the number of spokes.
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Old 04-21-06, 06:04 AM   #15
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trekkie,
The Selects are good wheels. I have 10000 miles on my LeMond Buenos Aires with the Selects. 6000 of those miles were touring miles with rear panniers over some really rough road. The wheels have held up great.
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Old 04-21-06, 10:45 AM   #16
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I just don't think it's worth the risk. I've been on some longer rides and extended trips where spokes have broken (others' bikes, not mine). Those with 36 spokes just wrap the broken one out of the way and continue on. Those with your type of wheels get left by the side of the road waiting for a sag driver. And for the LBS to guarantee they'll fix any broken spokes seems like a pretty empty guarantee. (It reminds of the sump pump I just bought with a "full unconditional replacement guarantee." What about the $40K damage to my full finished basement caused by its failure?)
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Old 04-21-06, 06:54 PM   #17
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I have been doing more looking into it, and it seems that the Trek Megaplex has no problem putting these wheels on MANY different types of pikes, including all of their commuter, hybrid, cyclocross and many road bikes. They're confident, and so am I. A cyclocross bike is going to take more of a pounding from anyone of any weight than my Reno will under my fat ass on smooth roads. Maybe if they pop spokes left, right, up and down, I will get a beefier set, but for now, I am fine with it.
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Old 04-22-06, 12:19 AM   #18
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Trekkie, the problem isn't whether the wheels will be able to support the rider or last or anything like that. The problem is, sh*t does happen, and when it happens, those with enough spokes to continue get to keep riding while the others have to walk or hitch a ride home instead. I've seen pretty light wheels on race bikes, but racers have spare wheels in a pit or on a support vehicle ready to go in seconds. Recreational riders like you and me don't have spares readily available, so it's best to make sure your main equipment is more likely to make it through the entire ride. Even when I was racing on lightweight, radial laced tubulars, my spares (which were also the wheels I trained on exclusively) were always a set of 32h 3x eyeleted clinchers. They never failed me. Well, ok my racing wheels never failed me either, but that's because I handbuilt them.
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Old 04-22-06, 06:13 AM   #19
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Overall the less spokes you have the more problems you "COULD" have, note I didn't say "will" have. If you ever seen the wheels that riders ride on the Paris Roubaix race they are all 32 and mostly 36 spoke rims because the lower spokes and or paired spoke rims won't last! The same is true for touring. But more importantly, in everyday riding like what most of us do, if you break a spoke on a paired or low spoke count wheel your going to walking home with a taco'd rim that will be unrepairable, plus that could be a chore if your 30 miles away! With a higher 32 or 36 spoke wheel, if you break a spoke you can simply bend the spoke around another spoke and readjust the spokes just a tad and ride; this I know because I've done it! In fact when I broke a spoke on my 36 spoke rim I didn't even have to readjust the rim because the rim didn't move enough to come into contact with the brakes and I was too frustrated to be bothered; but I only weigh 160 pounds.

Those low spoke count or paired spoke rims should be used for racing events and not so much for daily riding.
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