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    Seeking road bike wheel building advice for a 290 pounder

    Helllo, I recently purchased a Bianchi Nirone 63cm fits me great (I'm 6'9"). The wheels are 23mm, 130mm hub, 28 spokes. I am getting prepared for when this back wheel starts to crap out and looking for advice for wheel components and any other modifications that I may want to look into. Any advice would be appreciated. (No, I don't have experience in wheel building but I was told yesterday in the Mechanic Forum that a reasonable competence and patience would get a newbie wheel builder a long way).
    Last edited by TheNeed4Speed; 07-13-14 at 08:28 PM. Reason: typo

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    Senior Member chriskmurray's Avatar
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    If you are looking for specific component recommendations, I still say the Velocity Deep V is a fantastic rim if you plan to run tires smaller than 28mm. If you plan to run wider tires than that I really like the Velocity Dyad a lot, 36 spokes should be plenty and use a quality (DT or Wheelsmith) double butted spoke with brass nipples and you will have a wheel that is good for thousands of miles.

    Building a wheel is not as difficult as it looks if you are patient and pay attention to detail. The main thing is to focus on keeping tension even and at the proper levels. A spoke tension gauge would be well worth the investment or asking your shop to check for you after you think you have it where it should be. One other very important thing is to make sure you stress relieve the wheel when finished.

    I would suggest browsing this website for advise on building wheels, the person who wrote it is the co-founder of Wheelsmith so he knows a thing or two about wheels and having built thousands of wheels with similar methods and no issues I can say his advise works great. Library - Wheel Fanatyk

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    32 double butted spokes 28mm tire you should be fine or go with 36. Id go tubless but thats your call.

    I wouldnt run 23s at your weight may just be headache central

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    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheNeed4Speed View Post
    Helllo, I recently purchased a Bianchi Nirone 36cm fits me great (I'm 6'9"). The wheels are 23mm, 130mm hub, 28 spokes. I am getting prepared for when this back wheel starts to crap out and looking for advice for wheel components and any other modifications that I may want to look into. Any advice would be appreciated. (No, I don't have experience in wheel building but I was told yesterday in the Mechanic Forum that a reasonable competence and patience would get a newbie wheel builder a long way).
    First and foremost : spokes. Second, any wheel building should start with consideration of spokes. Third, you should really think about spokes. And, finally, spokes are the most important consideration.

    99.9% of wheel builders start planning with the rims. Then they think about the hub. Spokes are usually an afterthought. But this is exactly backwards. A rim has little to contribute to the strength of a wheel. It serves only as a convenient place to attach the spokes and hold a tire. The rim "floats" on the spoke nipples and really isn't connected to the spokes.

    If you don't believe me, think of what determines if a wheel is completely useless. If you break a rim, you can easily replace the rim with another one and be on the road. Break one spoke and the wheel is suspect. Break 2 spokes and you have an indication that the wheel is on it's way to failure. Break spokes with any kind of regularity, and the wheel is done for.

    Now, what spokes? There are several that should be used on wheels for your size. DT Alpine III, Sapim Strong, Wheelsmith DH13 or Pillar PSR TB 2018 all have 2.3mm heads compared to "regular" spokes with 2.0mm heads. Adding that 0.3mm increases the strength by 50%. As an added benefit, the spoke holes in the hub are drilled so that the 2.3mm threads can pass through the hub so the heads fit tighter in the spoke holes at the hub. A 2.0mm spoke has 0.4mm of available movement on each cycle of compression and decompression of the wheel. A 2.3mm spoke has 0.1mm of available movement. The weaker head of the 2.0mm spoke is stressed more because of the movement and the thinner cross section.

    All the other things you hear will apply like more spokes (32 is probably good, 36 is better), proper tension, spoke preparations, yada, yada. But think of the spoke first. Then build a wheel around it. You'll have better longer lasting wheels with fewer problems.
    Stuart Black
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    Need4Speed,

    Sorry if I got the spoke count wrong. I was simply working from the Maddux specs page that indicated the 4000 rims to only be available in 32 drilling.

    By 23mm, are you referring to the tire width? The rim width? Or, the rim depth?
    Birth Certificate, Passport, Marriage License Driver's License and Residency Permit all say I'm a Fred. I guess there's no denying it.

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    What rims are on those wheels? When I got my first road bike it came with 28/28 wheels with Mavic CXP30 rims. Radial front and 3x rear. I was tipping the scale as 140kg/310lb back then. I thought they were going to implode but after 3 years of many many miles and races and on my way to hitting 120kg, one spoke started coming loose on the rear before I retired them for the 23mm wide rim craze.

    Don't be so quick to dismiss the wheels. I'd ride them until they look like breaking and either save up for something else upon possible failure, or keep an eye out for something on special. 32 spokes on something like a deep v will be more than enough for you I think. Velomine sells those style of wheels pretty cheap, and possibly a lot of other places too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheNeed4Speed View Post
    Helllo, I recently purchased a Bianchi Nirone 36cm fits me great (I'm 6'9"). The wheels are 23mm, 130mm hub, 28 spokes. I am getting prepared for when this back wheel starts to crap out and looking for advice for wheel components and any other modifications that I may want to look into. Any advice would be appreciated. (No, I don't have experience in wheel building but I was told yesterday in the Mechanic Forum that a reasonable competence and patience would get a newbie wheel builder a long way).
    Quote Originally Posted by bigfred View Post
    Need4Speed,

    Sorry if I got the spoke count wrong. I was simply working from the Maddux specs page that indicated the 4000 rims to only be available in 32 drilling.

    By 23mm, are you referring to the tire width? The rim width? Or, the rim depth?
    I've done a bit more investigating. Had to find the Bianchi USA site to find out that your Maddux DRX 4000s do not appear to be a standard drilling. They appear to be what would be described as "paired" spokes. And, in fact, only 28 spokes.

    Not unlike you, I'm increasingly under enthused about them and their ability to perform adequately for you.

    The most commonly recommended wheels for a clyde of your proportions are going to be something with 36 spokes, straight 14gauge (2.0mm) or double butted 14/15/14gauge (2.0/1.8/2.0mm) spokes, brass nipples, laced 3 cross to any of a number of double walled alloy rims of 500grams or more, around a Shimano hub like a Tiagra, 105 or Ultegra. The standard rim recommended here for a long time has been the Velocity Deep V. However, there are others that are up to the task.
    Birth Certificate, Passport, Marriage License Driver's License and Residency Permit all say I'm a Fred. I guess there's no denying it.

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    excellent advice, thank you. Yes, I'm not confident in those 28 spoke wheels.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheNeed4Speed View Post
    Helllo, I recently purchased a Bianchi Nirone 36cm fits me great (I'm 6'9"). The wheels are 23mm, 130mm hub, 28 spokes. I am getting prepared for when this back wheel starts to crap out and looking for advice for wheel components and any other modifications that I may want to look into. Any advice would be appreciated. (No, I don't have experience in wheel building but I was told yesterday in the Mechanic Forum that a reasonable competence and patience would get a newbie wheel builder a long way).
    I love how manufacturers will make a bike for big riders, but then not change the specs appropriately. Anyway, I would be pretty confident putting you on a rim as light as our Velocity A23 with a 32h front wheel and a 32h offset rear wheel. The offset drilling allows for more even tension on the non-drive side of the rear of the wheel, making it a stronger wheel. The A23 is a bit wider rim, and tubeless ready (works fine with tubes too). The tubeless ready design actually makes it stiffer and reinforces the sidewalls a bit as well.

    For hubs, I'd look at something like our Sport hub, which has a steel freehub body and good cartridge bearings. A Shimano Tiagra or better hub would be a good one, too. The key to a strong wheel, as others have indicated, is the quality of the build. Even spoke tension and proper spoke length is key.
    commuter turned bike mechanic turned commuter (also a Velocity USA employee, but this is my personal account)

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    tubeless? you mean as in a solid tire?

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    Quote Originally Posted by bigfred View Post
    I've done a bit more investigating. Had to find the Bianchi USA site to find out that your Maddux DRX 4000s do not appear to be a standard drilling. They appear to be what would be described as "paired" spokes. And, in fact, only 28 spokes.

    Not unlike you, I'm increasingly under enthused about them and their ability to perform adequately for you.

    The most commonly recommended wheels for a clyde of your proportions are going to be something with 36 spokes, straight 14gauge (2.0mm) or double butted 14/15/14gauge (2.0/1.8/2.0mm) spokes, brass nipples, laced 3 cross to any of a number of double walled alloy rims of 500grams or more, around a Shimano hub like a Tiagra, 105 or Ultegra. The standard rim recommended here for a long time has been the Velocity Deep V. However, there are others that are up to the task.
    By 23 mm I'm referring to the tire width.

  12. #12
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheNeed4Speed View Post
    tubeless? you mean as in a solid tire?
    No. He means like the tubeless pneumatic tires on your car.
    Stuart Black
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    Senior Member Black wallnut's Avatar
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    I have had great results with Velocity wheels. I pair them with 105 hubs mostly due to cost, at my weight I can drop more weight off me for less money than a hub upgrade. Double butted DT spokes with brass nipples. All that said my next wheel build I think I'll follow cyccommutes recommendation of 2.3mm spoke heads, seems to make sense.

    Honestly wheel selection should consider how you are using your bike. Smooth roads, small hills, low speed, short distances and you'll likely get away with a not as strong wheel. Rough roads, steep hills, high miles, and my addiction to trying to improve my placing on Strava leader boards for short uphill sprints all contributed to mty choice of 36h rear and 32h front deep v.


    Mark

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    The wheels are 23mm, 130mm hub, 28 spokes
    A boutique wheel suitable for someone weighing 120 pounds less .. replace with a spoked 36 . conventional 3 cross .

    the product managers were not thinking of You as a theoretical customer .

    maybe a 28 tire will fit your frame clearance. IDK .

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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    A boutique wheel suitable for someone weighing 120 pounds less .. replace with a spoked 36 . conventional 3 cross .

    the product managers were not thinking of You as a theoretical customer .

    maybe a 28 tire will fit your frame clearance. IDK .
    How soon before the back tire goes on me?...

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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    No. He means like the tubeless pneumatic tires on your car.
    those expensive?

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    How soon before the back tire goes on me?...
    how long is a string?

    the Ouija Board is not that good at predicting the future with accuracy ..

    it all depends .. where you ride and what you hit along the way ..




    The rim for a tubless tire has to not let any air out, and the tires have to be airtight too ..

    It is a significant cost bump over the mainstream kit. ..

  18. #18
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheNeed4Speed View Post
    those expensive?
    They are in about the same range as high end tires. You aren't likely to find a $20 tubeless tire, however.
    Stuart Black
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  19. #19
    Senior Member chriskmurray's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    First and foremost : spokes. Second, any wheel building should start with consideration of spokes. Third, you should really think about spokes. And, finally, spokes are the most important consideration.

    99.9% of wheel builders start planning with the rims. Then they think about the hub. Spokes are usually an afterthought. But this is exactly backwards. A rim has little to contribute to the strength of a wheel. It serves only as a convenient place to attach the spokes and hold a tire. The rim "floats" on the spoke nipples and really isn't connected to the spokes.

    If you don't believe me, think of what determines if a wheel is completely useless. If you break a rim, you can easily replace the rim with another one and be on the road. Break one spoke and the wheel is suspect. Break 2 spokes and you have an indication that the wheel is on it's way to failure. Break spokes with any kind of regularity, and the wheel is done for.

    Now, what spokes? There are several that should be used on wheels for your size. DT Alpine III, Sapim Strong, Wheelsmith DH13 or Pillar PSR TB 2018 all have 2.3mm heads compared to "regular" spokes with 2.0mm heads. Adding that 0.3mm increases the strength by 50%. As an added benefit, the spoke holes in the hub are drilled so that the 2.3mm threads can pass through the hub so the heads fit tighter in the spoke holes at the hub. A 2.0mm spoke has 0.4mm of available movement on each cycle of compression and decompression of the wheel. A 2.3mm spoke has 0.1mm of available movement. The weaker head of the 2.0mm spoke is stressed more because of the movement and the thinner cross section.

    All the other things you hear will apply like more spokes (32 is probably good, 36 is better), proper tension, spoke preparations, yada, yada. But think of the spoke first. Then build a wheel around it. You'll have better longer lasting wheels with fewer problems.
    While those are nice super tough spokes. Saying someone NEEDS a spoke with a 2.3mm head to have a durable wheel is simply not true. Plenty of tandem teams are running standard 2.0/1.8/2.0 spokes with tens of thousands of miles. I have build wheels for touring cyclists that rider+gear was a similar weight with standard DB spokes and they were good until the rims wore out from brake track wear.

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    Your 23mm tires are undersized for your weight. This results in you needing to inflate them to abnormally high pressure if you are going to avoid pinch flats and a reduction in ride quality, traction and an increased probability of punctions.

    For your weight 28mm tires really are more appropriate. However, some frames and/or forks don't provide sufficient clearance for such tires, even though they are once again becoming more popular in the pro peleton. Your frame or fork may limit you to 25mm at either end. Keep in mind that not all tire manufacturers measure their tires identically and some are commonly known to run a bit large. Michelin's 25mm tires in particular are well known to run in the 26-27.5mm range on standard 19mm wide rims. Where Continentals are know to run true to size or a little under with their 25s usually measuring very close to that and their 28s running just a touch under. Rim width also has an influence on the profile of an inflated tire as does inflation pressure and how old a tire is or how long it's been inflated at pressure.

    One of the concerns with underinflated 23mm tires is the likelihood of pinch flats. Which can be identified by their characteristic snake bite pattern of a "pair of little holes at the same point on the tube" caused by the tube being pinched between the rim and whatever object you've collided with (stone, pot hole, pavement seem, etc.).
    Birth Certificate, Passport, Marriage License Driver's License and Residency Permit all say I'm a Fred. I guess there's no denying it.

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    My advice: Figure out who's going to build this wheel, tell 'em what you're after, and get their input on what to do.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

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    On the subject of spoke diameters and specifically 13ga/2.3mm elbows:

    Cyccommute and I have a history of having debated this subject before. I don't intend to go down that path once again. I feel the only logical position for he and I to take is one of us agreeing that we do not agree on this subject. However, I feel it's important to present the other side of the considerations for those who are attempting to select their own components.

    As pointed out by chriskmurray, there are many heavy cyclists, tourists and tandem teams who utilize standard dimension spokes without failures.

    I agree that one of the most common failure modes amongst factory built clyde wheels is spoke breakage of the non-drive side elbow.

    However, we must ask ourselves "why" these failures occur and investigate the root cause of that.

    It is accepted that these breakages are generally the result of cracks formed through work hardening and fatigue from millions of cycles of loading and unloading that an Under Tensioned spoke is subject to.

    An undertensioned wheel allows these spokes to be subjected to this cycle. If a wheel is tensioned appropriately for it's intended use, the spokes never become fully unloaded and any variations in tension are within the elastic limits of that spoke. Subsequently, we can see the elimination of fatigue related elbow or head breakages.

    To me, the notion of using larger diameter elbows to counter act this situation is akin to adding suspenders to your trousers that already have a belt installed, but, which simply is drawn up snug. Tighten your belt, and the suspenders are neccessary.

    Use 13ga/2.3mm diameter spokes in an undertensioned wheel and while you might extend the period before you start to experience fatigue related issues, but, you won't eliminate the issue.

    Properly tension that same wheel, so that you don't experience fatigure related failures and you could have achieved the same result through the use of standard straight gauge or double butted spokes.

    I seriously considered using 13ga/2.3mm elbowed spokes on the my last build for myself (the set of DT585s that are my current training wheels). But, the headaches of sourcing very uncommon spokes that are only available in limited sizes and colors, from very few retailers, at considerable expense compared to double butted spokes and the logic above convinced me to stay with standard 14/15ga 2.0/1.8/2.0mm double butted spokes.

    Some of the arguements for heavier gauged spokes are simply red hearings. Such as the notion of "better filling the spoke hole" on the hub and eliminating movement at that juncture. In a properly tensioned wheel that increased or decreased clearance is simply moot. The constantly tensioned spoke will be held hard against the nearest edge. A U shaped channel or key hole slot function just as well.

    A wheel is ultimately a "composite" structure. It is only as strong as it's weakest link. And to realize the ultimate potential of any wheel the components need to be selected in such a way that they compliment each other.

    Spokes deserve appropriate consideration in that selection process. However, they are only part of the equation and in the vast majority of cases there are other spoke options that are just as capable of meeting the design requirements.

    If you want to add some suspenders to your trousers, in addition to the belt (tension) that you already have to consider, by all means go for it. Wheel Fanatyk stocks uncut 13ga. that he'll custom cut to length and thread for you, at a cost. St John Street Cycles in the UK has also stocked a reasonable selection in the past but I don't know if they still do.

    It still comes down to tension. And for a heavy rider to not have spokes going slack on the non-drive side, reasonably high tension is required. Many light, low profile or box section rims simply can't hold the neccessary tension without starting to collapse or turn into the shape of a potato chip or taco. A rims rigidity and ability to resist the tension that cyldes require is largely determined by the amount of material (weight) and shape (depth of V cross section) of a rim.

    When selecting your own wheel components, think about your use for the wheel honestly, write down your priorities of weight, durability, cost, etc. on paper. Use those to consider what components may be most appropriate. If building your own for the first time, seriously consider your level of experience and that what you really need is an opportunity to build a successful wheel. Those requirements may out weigh your desire to construct some sort of "dream" or "bling" wheel.

    The clyde standard is a 30mm V shaped rim of at least 500 grams, laced 3 cross with either straight or double butted spokes and brass nipples to a hub with a steel freebody for a reason.
    Birth Certificate, Passport, Marriage License Driver's License and Residency Permit all say I'm a Fred. I guess there's no denying it.

  23. #23
    Senior Member chriskmurray's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigfred View Post
    On the subject of spoke diameters and specifically 13ga/2.3mm elbows:

    Cyccommute and I have a history of having debated this subject before. I don't intend to go down that path once again. I feel the only logical position for he and I to take is one of us agreeing that we do not agree on this subject. However, I feel it's important to present the other side of the considerations for those who are attempting to select their own components.

    As pointed out by chriskmurray, there are many heavy cyclists, tourists and tandem teams who utilize standard dimension spokes without failures.

    I agree that one of the most common failure modes amongst factory built clyde wheels is spoke breakage of the non-drive side elbow.

    However, we must ask ourselves "why" these failures occur and investigate the root cause of that.

    It is accepted that these breakages are generally the result of cracks formed through work hardening and fatigue from millions of cycles of loading and unloading that an Under Tensioned spoke is subject to.

    An undertensioned wheel allows these spokes to be subjected to this cycle. If a wheel is tensioned appropriately for it's intended use, the spokes never become fully unloaded and any variations in tension are within the elastic limits of that spoke. Subsequently, we can see the elimination of fatigue related elbow or head breakages.

    To me, the notion of using larger diameter elbows to counter act this situation is akin to adding suspenders to your trousers that already have a belt installed, but, which simply is drawn up snug. Tighten your belt, and the suspenders are neccessary.

    Use 13ga/2.3mm diameter spokes in an undertensioned wheel and while you might extend the period before you start to experience fatigue related issues, but, you won't eliminate the issue.

    Properly tension that same wheel, so that you don't experience fatigure related failures and you could have achieved the same result through the use of standard straight gauge or double butted spokes.

    I seriously considered using 13ga/2.3mm elbowed spokes on the my last build for myself (the set of DT585s that are my current training wheels). But, the headaches of sourcing very uncommon spokes that are only available in limited sizes and colors, from very few retailers, at considerable expense compared to double butted spokes and the logic above convinced me to stay with standard 14/15ga 2.0/1.8/2.0mm double butted spokes.

    Some of the arguements for heavier gauged spokes are simply red hearings. Such as the notion of "better filling the spoke hole" on the hub and eliminating movement at that juncture. In a properly tensioned wheel that increased or decreased clearance is simply moot. The constantly tensioned spoke will be held hard against the nearest edge. A U shaped channel or key hole slot function just as well.

    A wheel is ultimately a "composite" structure. It is only as strong as it's weakest link. And to realize the ultimate potential of any wheel the components need to be selected in such a way that they compliment each other.

    Spokes deserve appropriate consideration in that selection process. However, they are only part of the equation and in the vast majority of cases there are other spoke options that are just as capable of meeting the design requirements.

    If you want to add some suspenders to your trousers, in addition to the belt (tension) that you already have to consider, by all means go for it. Wheel Fanatyk stocks uncut 13ga. that he'll custom cut to length and thread for you, at a cost. St John Street Cycles in the UK has also stocked a reasonable selection in the past but I don't know if they still do.

    It still comes down to tension. And for a heavy rider to not have spokes going slack on the non-drive side, reasonably high tension is required. Many light, low profile or box section rims simply can't hold the neccessary tension without starting to collapse or turn into the shape of a potato chip or taco. A rims rigidity and ability to resist the tension that cyldes require is largely determined by the amount of material (weight) and shape (depth of V cross section) of a rim.

    When selecting your own wheel components, think about your use for the wheel honestly, write down your priorities of weight, durability, cost, etc. on paper. Use those to consider what components may be most appropriate. If building your own for the first time, seriously consider your level of experience and that what you really need is an opportunity to build a successful wheel. Those requirements may out weigh your desire to construct some sort of "dream" or "bling" wheel.

    The clyde standard is a 30mm V shaped rim of at least 500 grams, laced 3 cross with either straight or double butted spokes and brass nipples to a hub with a steel freebody for a reason.
    Thanks for elaborating on why such over built spokes are not necessary. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against them and usually suggest them on wheels I build for people that are going to see unusual amounts of stress in some very remote locations. I look at it as cheap insurance because any type of equipment failure when people are hundreds of miles from civilization, especially in nasty weather can turn life threatening quick.

    To show how important a good build is, my old cargo bike wheels were built with 28 hole rims with straight gauge spokes and aluminum nipples and those wheels were prefect until the day the rim wore through from braking, they never needed to be trued and I never had a broken spoke or nipple. On paper that is a horrible combo for a cargo bike (I happened to have this stuff laying around and wanted to use it). That bike regularly saw 300+ lbs combined weight, sometimes a touch over 400lbs combined weight.

  24. #24
    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheNeed4Speed View Post
    Helllo, I recently purchased a Bianchi Nirone 36cm fits me great (I'm 6'9"). The wheels are 23mm, 130mm hub, 28 spokes. I am getting prepared for when this back wheel starts to crap out and looking for advice for wheel components and any other modifications that I may want to look into. Any advice would be appreciated. (No, I don't have experience in wheel building but I was told yesterday in the Mechanic Forum that a reasonable competence and patience would get a newbie wheel builder a long way).
    Check the weight rating for the tyres - I went through a rear Schwalbe Durano Plus in under 2000 miles and it turned out I was overloading it. I weigh about 240 but the tyre is rated for 75kg (about 165lb) so if you take a 66-33 weight distribution then my 240lb would be split 160-80 before you consider the weight of the bike.

    I approached building my first wheel with some concern but my LBS had lent me a couple of wheels with trashed rims to practise on so when I started to lace my first live wheel my main concern was the chance of wrecking parts that had cost me actual money. If you take your time and approach it methodically it's not particularly difficult.

    At your weight go for a good spoke count and choose decent quality components. At my weight (about 240 as I mentioned) I built a 32-spoke rear wheel and it's held up fine over probably 2000 miles or so thus far. Since you're heavier you might want to consider going for 36 spokes. I also wouldn't cheap out on components, we heavy riders put more strain on our gear so get stuff that will last. I figure if I cheap out and build a cheap wheel I might save some money now but if it breaks and I have to take a train home then I just lost my savings, and still have to build a decent wheel.
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  25. #25
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigfred View Post
    On the subject of spoke diameters and specifically 13ga/2.3mm elbows:

    Cyccommute and I have a history of having debated this subject before. I don't intend to go down that path once again. I feel the only logical position for he and I to take is one of us agreeing that we do not agree on this subject. However, I feel it's important to present the other side of the considerations for those who are attempting to select their own components.

    As pointed out by chriskmurray, there are many heavy cyclists, tourists and tandem teams who utilize standard dimension spokes without failures.

    I agree that one of the most common failure modes amongst factory built clyde wheels is spoke breakage of the non-drive side elbow.
    While there are some people out there who have never experienced a spoke failure, there are many times that number who have. Spoke failure is the number 1 wheel problem. Rim failure and hub failure are a very distant second and third. If a wheel is going to fail, it is going to fail at the spokes.

    In my experience, you are completely incorrect is assuming the most common failure mode of any wheel is spoke breakage on the non-drive side. I see failed drive side spokes all the time as a mechanic at my local co-op but seldom see a non-drive side spoke failure. They just don't happen even on the most poorly tensioned of wheels.


    Quote Originally Posted by bigfred View Post
    However, we must ask ourselves "why" these failures occur and investigate the root cause of that.

    It is accepted that these breakages are generally the result of cracks formed through work hardening and fatigue from millions of cycles of loading and unloading that an Under Tensioned spoke is subject to.

    An undertensioned wheel allows these spokes to be subjected to this cycle. If a wheel is tensioned appropriately for it's intended use, the spokes never become fully unloaded and any variations in tension are within the elastic limits of that spoke. Subsequently, we can see the elimination of fatigue related elbow or head breakages.
    Yes, we must certainly ask "why" but first we have to ask it about the proper problem. The drive side spokes are under higher tension than the nondrive side. No matter how high you get the tension on a wheel, the very nature of the floating rim on the spoke nipples will result in a spoke undergoing some unloading and reloading on each cycle. You can not avoid it with the way that bicycle wheels are made. At the bottom of rotation, the rim is being squashed and is releasing just a little bit of tension on the spokes while that tension is being taken up at the top of the wheel. The spokes at the bottom aren't "fully unloaded" but they do go through an unloading cycle. Essentially, the rim (under load) will never be round.

    This constant loading and unloading of even the best tensioned spoke will eventually lead to spoke failure...even of the most properly tensioned spoke. It may take more time but it will happen. And the greater the load that the wheel has to bear, the sooner the spoke will fatigue.

    Quote Originally Posted by bigfred View Post
    To me, the notion of using larger diameter elbows to counter act this situation is akin to adding suspenders to your trousers that already have a belt installed, but, which simply is drawn up snug. Tighten your belt, and the suspenders are neccessary.
    Your analogy is all wrong. The larger diameter elbows aren't used to counteract low tension but to counteract how the wheel has to be built. Every 2.0mm spoke has a threaded end that is 2.3mm in diameter. The hole at the hub has to be 2.3mm for the treads to pass through the hub. Every single hole in the hub has a built in 0.3mm gap. The fact that we can build pretty good wheels with 2.0mm spokes speaks well to the strength of those spokes but spoke breakage is a fact of life. It happens all the time due to fatigue of the head from constant loading and unloading.

    A more proper pants analogy would be that you don't have a belt or suspenders. Each loading and unloading cycle is your pants falling down and having to be hitch up again. Going to a spoke that actually fits the spoke hole tighter is like putting on a belt or (not "and" but "or") suspenders to hold up the pants.


    Quote Originally Posted by bigfred View Post
    Use 13ga/2.3mm diameter spokes in an undertensioned wheel and while you might extend the period before you start to experience fatigue related issues, but, you won't eliminate the issue.

    Properly tension that same wheel, so that you don't experience fatigure related failures and you could have achieved the same result through the use of standard straight gauge or double butted spokes.
    First if you were to use a 2.3mm spoke on an undertensioned wheel it would extend the period before you start to experience fatigue. The problem is that you are assuming that the wheel is undertensioned. Carry your thought just a little further to a properly tensioned wheel with 2.3mm spokes and what happens? You've achieved a much stronger wheel over all.


    Quote Originally Posted by bigfred View Post
    I seriously considered using 13ga/2.3mm elbowed spokes on the my last build for myself (the set of DT585s that are my current training wheels). But, the headaches of sourcing very uncommon spokes that are only available in limited sizes and colors, from very few retailers, at considerable expense compared to double butted spokes and the logic above convinced me to stay with standard 14/15ga 2.0/1.8/2.0mm double butted spokes.
    So you haven't really tried them? So what experience do you have with them to say that they are worse...which is what you have been implying all along? I don't find them any more difficult to source than other quality spokes. I gave 4 different manufacturers for this kind of spoke. I can get individual DT Alpine III in just about any length I want from Universal Cycles in black. If I want silver I can go to SJS. Or I can get Pillars from BDop Cycles for $7 per 8 pack. Wheelsmith and Sapim are available from a variety of sources.

    Quote Originally Posted by bigfred View Post
    Some of the arguements for heavier gauged spokes are simply red hearings. Such as the notion of "better filling the spoke hole" on the hub and eliminating movement at that juncture. In a properly tensioned wheel that increased or decreased clearance is simply moot. The constantly tensioned spoke will be held hard against the nearest edge. A U shaped channel or key hole slot function just as well.
    The problem is that you are misunderstanding the wheel dynamics. The spoke isn't constantly tensioned, no matter how high you get the tension. The spoke nipple isn't a "nut". There is nothing to keep the rim from moving upward as the rim hits dead bottom of the wheel. The upper spokes will pull upwards as the rim deforms but that still means that the bottom spokes will be pulled upwards. Each spoke sees a detensioning and retensioning on each cycle around the wheel.

    Quote Originally Posted by bigfred View Post
    A wheel is ultimately a "composite" structure. It is only as strong as it's weakest link. And to realize the ultimate potential of any wheel the components need to be selected in such a way that they compliment each other.
    I agree absolutely. I just disagree on what is the weakest link. The rim and hub aren't the weakest link. The spoke is. If you want the wheel to be as strong as it's weakest link, start with the weak point...the spokes.

    Quote Originally Posted by bigfred View Post
    It still comes down to tension. And for a heavy rider to not have spokes going slack on the non-drive side, reasonably high tension is required. Many light, low profile or box section rims simply can't hold the neccessary tension without starting to collapse or turn into the shape of a potato chip or taco. A rims rigidity and ability to resist the tension that cyldes require is largely determined by the amount of material (weight) and shape (depth of V cross section) of a rim.
    Yes, it comes down to tension. But the tension is set by the spoke.

    Quote Originally Posted by bigfred View Post
    When selecting your own wheel components, think about your use for the wheel honestly, write down your priorities of weight, durability, cost, etc. on paper. Use those to consider what components may be most appropriate. If building your own for the first time, seriously consider your level of experience and that what you really need is an opportunity to build a successful wheel. Those requirements may out weigh your desire to construct some sort of "dream" or "bling" wheel.

    The clyde standard is a 30mm V shaped rim of at least 500 grams, laced 3 cross with either straight or double butted spokes and brass nipples to a hub with a steel freebody for a reason.
    Where have I said anything about "bling" or "dream" wheels? I'm talking about everyday, ride 'em hard, pound them to death wheels.

    I do agree that wheel building should be about honestly assessing the use of the wheel, the weight, the durability and the cost. I also think you should consider value. A spoke with a 2.3mm head doesn't add much to the cost nor the weight. But it does add significantly to the strength. And, considering that Need4Speed is new to wheel building, do you really think he'll get his tensions right the first time? If his wheel isn't tensioned properly, the thicker head is more forgiving.

    Let's do a couple of thought experiments, shall we? Let's start with a rim. Let's make a wheel around a 30mm wide rim that is steel. It weighs much more than the 500 g you say are "needed" by clydes. It's stronger than any aluminum rim you could possibly construct. You can put enough tension on the spokes to actually break the spoke by pulling on it hard enough. You might have to use a steel nipple to actually break the spoke but that's not something we need to worry about. Let's also not worry about the braking issues with steel wheels...we can solve that problem. Let's just concentrate on the wheel strength.

    Now, since the rim is so strong, we can use a very thin cross section spoke. Let's use a 1.8mm spoke. We have a strong rim, so the tension should be a problem on that thin of spoke. Would the wheel be strong enough? I'd suspect that the rim would pop spokes with frightening regularity even if you took the tension up the the breaking point of the spoke.

    Let's also consider the current wheels that Need4Speed is using. If he could find a 30mm V-shaped rim that weighs in a 500g in the same drilling why not just replace the rim? He should be able to develop enough tension with the spokes he has to make a strong wheel. After all, all he needs is the proper tension...according to your way of thinking.
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