40 spoke w/ cassette freehub -vs.- 48 spoke w/ thread-on freewheel?
This is actually a tandem question but since it involves specifically a weight and wheel strength issue I decided to post it here. (There are teams in the tandem forum that weigh less than I do.)
I purchased a used tandem via craigslist. It uses 26" 48 spoke wheels with a thread-on freewheel. When I purchased the bike, the rear axle was bent slightly and so I replaced it and so far so good. I have no idea what the previous owner did to bend the axle but since I'm currently planning a tour on the bike over a rocky trail in the middle of nowhere, I'd like to make sure that the wheel is solid. I'm trying to decide which it a 'better' wheel- the stock 48 spoke wheel with a thread on freewheel that means the bearings (and therefore the load bearing surface of the axle) is pretty far inboard. The other option I've found is a 40 spoked 7 speed wheel that uses a cassette freehub body which puts the bearings farther outboard making the axle less likely to bend but also uses 8 less spokes to support my wife, the bike, and I (somewhere in the neighborhood of 550lbs). Both wheels are 135mm OLD so no problem with funky tandem spacing. Correction: The wheel I was looking at is 145mm spaced, and my tandem is 135mm (i just measured). :( I've found some White Industries 40 hole hubs that are 135mm spaced but they cost more than I paid for the bike and they aren't even built into a wheel yet. I guess I'll keep looking and see what I can come up with in a more affordable option.
What say you Clydesdale forum?
► Keep the stock wheel which has worked fine for my wife and I so far.
► Get the new wheel that should be easier on the axle but uses 8 less spokes to support a large load over an uneven surface.