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Thread: 32 vs 36 spokes

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    32 vs 36 spokes

    I'm looking to buy a bicycle for commuting. My current commuter is a v4 Haro. I want something that I can make go faster and is not as tiring when I go for 50 miles or more rides. Aside the difference of 4 spokes, how does 32 spokes compare to 36 spokes? I weight about 180lbs and normally carry a payload of 5 to 10lbs. I also use my bike for grocery shopping. Then the payload is about 30 to 40lbs.(I guessing)

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    32 spokes should be OK but 36 would be better, especially for the rear wheel. Spoke count is important but so is the component quality and maintenance. You'll have less trouble if you keep the spoke tension up where it should be and keep the rim true and the tires fully inflated.

    Al

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    Thanks. A long time ago(mid 1990's) I use to commute on 36 spokes and I was wondering if quality improved over time. I used 23mm tires but the roads was pretty good. Back then it was mostly hills that I rode, now its just about all flat.

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    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    I think that it's better to think of a bicycle wheel as a complete assembly. Consequently I think that it's smart to talk about the rim before deciding on the number of spokes. A Velocity Dyad rim, for example, looks like a slightly scaled up version of the Velocity Aerohead rim. The Dyad rim, consequently, is a lot tougher and would be just as strong (or stronger) with fewer spokes.

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    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    In my 15 years of commuting and carrying the same total weight as you will be I've had no issues with 32 spoke wheels at all. Mind you I keep an eye on them and true them up from time to time. I've found a few loose spokes that way before they broke. And most of these are wheels that I laced myself using fairly light guage butted spokes. Also I picked roadie rims with narrow spacing and run 25's.

    So I'd have to say don't worry about 32's as long as you pick components known for their durability.
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    Keep in mind that 36 spokes will distribute tension over a greater number of spokes. Given equal total wheel tension, you'll have less stress on rim eyelets, spokes, and whatever J-bend or straight pull end you have.

    Although you can build a wheel with more overall tension, you can also use more spokes to build with much less peak tension (per spoke). This makes for a more durable and resilient wheel.

    btw if I was building a wheel for running errands and stuff, I'd probably get a 36h setup, esp if you're carrying stuff that doesn't unweight like you do. 30-40 lbs in racks is a big load to not unweight.

    Also, if possible, I'd use the widest tires you can fit. Contrary to popular belief, tires determine a wheel's ability to absorb punishment. You can race the skinniest, lightest rim on a mountain bike as long as you have a wide enough tire. In pre-suspension days, one hot setup was a front 28H Sun rim (13mm bead to bead, 1.8mm butted spokes, alloy nipples) with a 2.35" front tire running 18-25 psi (on the rear I ran the same rim, 28 or 32H, same spokes/nipples, 2.1" at max 30 psi). Just point and shoot and let the tire take the impacts. The same setup with a 20c or 3/4" tire would be a disaster to ride, even on the road (yeah, I tried it - pinch flat city).

    hope this helps,
    cdr

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    Maybe because I have a lard butt, but I think it is regretable that minimizing spoke count has become fashionable. I understand why it is good for racing uphill, but for everyone else it seems like a damn foolish place to save 4 grams of weight. If I was in charge I would sell bikes that started with bombproof wheels and then built up from them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al1943 View Post
    32 spokes should be OK but 36 would be better, especially for the rear wheel. Spoke count is important but so is the component quality and maintenance. You'll have less trouble if you keep the spoke tension up where it should be and keep the rim true and the tires fully inflated.

    Al
    If he were running a 700C wheel, 36 would make some difference but since he's riding a mountain bike with smaller wheels 32 will do fine. 32 spoke 26" wheels are much more common, too.
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    He wants to buy a new commuting bike and carry 40lbs of groceries on it.
    I would say that 700c wheels feel faster, and 36 spokes, when you need to carry 220lbs, are better.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barabaika View Post
    He wants to buy a new commuting bike and carry 40lbs of groceries on it.
    I would say that 700c wheels feel faster, and 36 spokes, when you need to carry 220lbs, are better.
    Misread it. However, for carrying loads, a 26" wheel still beats a 700c even with only 32 spokes. And speed is mostly about gearing anyway. With the same gearing, size of wheel will make little difference.

    That said, if you want a bike to carry loads, you can't beat a touring bike. They are designed for it. A Cannondale T2 is about the best one around, followed closely by the LHT complete. The T2 isn't a slug either. (Don't know about the LHT)
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    thanks everybody. Thanks for reminding me about the rims. My current bike is a mountain bike(a slug), the next one I'm looking for is a road bike. The up to 40 pounds grocery load is carried mostly on me(backpack). My rack is one of thoses attached to the seatpost. I wanted a regular rack but it seems like the disc brakes were in the way. When I get my next bike the Haro will be a beater(most rainy days and shopping). My next bike...I more concerned about making it go as fast as I'm able, only able to handle a rack and fenders(it's going to be a commuter after all. thank again.

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    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    The needs of commuters and those who tour are often very similar, if not identical.

    Our community shop's focus is building and servicing bikes for commuters and the most sought after bikes are old road and touring bikes (we don't sell new bikes) although we do have our fair share of members and customers that use mountain bikes.

    One of my favourite bikes is a 1987 Kuwahara Cascade mtb /tourer... it is basically an expedition bike.

    It has all the things you need in a touring bike in that it has slack frame angles (like the modern LHT), an outstanding frame (handbuilt w/ quad butted Ishiwata tubing), and runs some vintage and rather bombproof Araya Rm 20 wheels. It is also fully rigid, and is set up as a fixed gear.

    When it is unladen it is far from being a slug as the semi slick Schwalbe Hurricane tyres it runs are also very fast, puncture resistant, and have even been used on century rides.

    I built an SS commuter/tourer for a friend of mine and he outweighs me by about 90 pounds (he's about 240)...

    I used 36 spoke wheels with Ukai rims (very strong) as besides his commute, he also rides loaded centuries on this bike and needs a bike that would stand up to carrying loads far greater than most. When I'm loaded up for the same kinds of rides my total weight might be 200 pounds and if we were the same height he would probably be better suited to the Kuwahara which is often more bike than I need.

    Over multiple century rides and some serious commuting he has not needed to have his wheels trued or serviced and when the bike is stripped down it is still seriously fast.

    The best touring wheels I have are probably on my 1955 Lenton... it runs 26 inch Dunlop EA1 wheels that are stainless and run 40 spokes and since the bike is a fixed gear, both the front and rear wheels are zero dish which also makes for a much stronger wheel.

    Good wheels are the sum of all their parts and the build quality really has a great deal to do with how they hold up... lesser parts can still make for very good wheels if they are built right while a lot of good parts get wasted because the builder's skill was not up to par.

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    None is my guess.

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    If you're hauling 40 lbs., I vote for 36-hole. Maybe even 40 on the rear wheel. The added weight isn't that much, but a wheel that has failed catastrophically will definitely slow you down.
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    It makes sense that distributing the weight over more spokes would create a sturdier wheel. As for making it go faster, what type of terrain do you ride on? If you're trying to get your ice cream home before it melts I'd swap the tires out for some 26x1 or 1.25 city/commuter tires and either up the gearing or put on a smaller cog, check out the surly dingle cogs. Slap one of those on and ditch the cassette and rear shifter.

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    It depends on what you have. If you are starting with a 32-hole hub or rim, then stick with it, as it will probably suffice. But if I were buying all new components, I would buy 36-hole stuff. It may or may not make all the difference in the world, but I prefer durability, and I don't see the point in taking the chance.

    I concede the point that rims are better than they used to be, so a modern 32-spoke wheel may be about as strong as an older 36-spoke wheel, but why not have the benefit of both nifty, strong wheels and 36-spokes, if possible?
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    Senior Member Shimagnolo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by walterz54 View Post
    I wanted a regular rack but it seems like the disc brakes were in the way.
    Here are a couple frames that keep the disc out of the way of the fender/rack mounts:

    http://www.salsacycles.com/fargoComp09.html

    http://www.gunnarbikes.com/fastlane.php

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    After suffering many broken spokes on cheap wheels, and cracking Alu nipples on fancier 24 spoke Shimano wheels, I have learned to trust Velocity Synergy OCR rims (32 spoke). I'm 95kg / 209 pounds plus I sometimes ride with two huge 40 liter Ortileb panniers full of groceries.

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    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    Aluminum spoke nipples seem like a very bad idea to me.
    You don't read my signature anyway, do you?

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    Yep Alu nipples are as brilliant and useful as Mavic's new carbon fiber spoked wheels... R-Sys or something. I'd love to try 'em out with my loaded panniers.

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    aspiring bike mechanic leweee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noglider View Post
    Aluminum spoke nipples seem like a very bad idea to me.
    +1

    stay away from cheap single wall rims of any spoke count for a durable wheel.
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