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Tandem Cycling A bicycle built for two. Want to find out more about this wonderful world of tandems? Check out this forum to talk with other tandem enthusiasts. Captains and stokers welcome!

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Old 10-27-03, 06:56 AM   #1
S. Marley
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Number of Spokes

I see that CoMotion offers wheelsets in 36, 42 and 48 (I believe) spokes. Is there a standard number that splits the difference between weight and strength? Will you constantly be breaking spokes with a 36 hole pattern?

Just wondering.

Thanks for the help,

S. Marley
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Old 10-27-03, 07:17 AM   #2
L J Horton
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36 should be plenty for almost everybody.

Years ago 40 spokes was considered standard on touring bikes to accomodate the extra weight carried, but 36 is fairly normal now. Actually the standard is becoming 32 for everyday riding. (Very light racing wheels have fewer.)

48 spokes would be for someone about 275+ lbs. Even then, it might be over kill for safety.
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Old 10-27-03, 08:09 AM   #3
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When I built a set of wheels for our Co-Mo Speedster, I got a set of HuGi hubs for the price of a song. The lowest spoke count available on HuGi was 36H so, that's what I used. We built the 36H's into Velocity Fusion rims (thanks to Doug at Velocity for the awesome build) w/ DT swiss spokes. Fully loaded our bike can hit the scales at 390 lbs w/gear and riders. Even when we carry everything we own and are really loaded to the gills, I have complete confidence our wheels.

I'm not a builder so I couldnt tell you the cross pattern but, I can tell you they are WAY bomb proof. When I have my next set built I'll again use the Velocity Fusion or try Velocity's Deep V. I know I'll drop the spoke count and lighten the wheels to say even a 28H front and maybe a 32H rear.


I used to use the Hutchinson Elite Gold tires in a 23c w/ very good results. I've since bumped up to the 25c tires as we want to see if the larger size will wear a bit longer.

Hutchinson is coming out with a new tire that they call the Endurance in a 25c. According to Hutchinson they are full race tires but are engineered (sp?) to last many many more miles than the standard Hutchinson tires. I'm in the process of getting my hands on a pair now, when I do I'll give you all the scoop on them.
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Old 10-27-03, 08:44 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by S. Marley
I see that CoMotion offers wheelsets in 36, 42 and 48 (I believe) spokes. Is there a standard number that splits the difference between weight and strength? Will you constantly be breaking spokes with a 36 hole pattern?
I'm not sure that L.J. realized this was a tandem thread....

Regardless, there is not a standard set of published guidelines for determining the number of spokes to use on tandems. I would recommend that you talk about your team weight and intended use of your tandem with the Lynn or Pat at TCW; they'll be able to make a recommendation and will be able to stand by it and/or correct any problems that you might have.

That said, what you'll see is:

- Go-Fast teams use 36h wheelsets OR even lower spoke-count wheelsets; more rim options and some marginal aero/reduced weight benefits. Note: I believe Co-Motion also offers the Bontrager Race-Lite or Rolf's Prima Vigor Tandem wheels as options.

- Most team use 40h wheelsets; kind of the middle ground for tandems and this is a common hub/wheel size to find standard on many production tandems, notwithstanding the go-fast models.

- Large teams (350+), teams who do lots of loaded touring, and folks with multiseat tandems (triplets, quads) use 48h wheelsets.

We are on the light-side (280lbs combined team weight) and have used 36h wheels exclusively since 1998 with zero broken spokes. We ride with teams who weigh upwards of 380lbs who also have not had any problems with 36h wheels, and we have seen teams who tip the scales at over 450lbs riding 36h wheelsets (and yes, they have broken some spokes but not as often as you'd expect). However, I can also tell you that we have friends who are about our same weight who have broken spokes on just about every wheelset they own; 36h and 40h. So, it's hardly a science.

Ultimately, the strength and durability of any spoked wheel is determined to a certain extent by the quality of the components used and to a very great extent the skill of the wheelbuilder. If a wheel used on a tandem is not properly tensioned and stress-relieved during the building process, it will eventually be plagued by broken spokes. Of course, what happens to that wheel once it's on the tandem will also have a lot to do with it's longevity. If you nail a pothole or a rail at a train crossing, or if you happen to have a stoker that "bounces" as they pedal, you're much more likely to have a spoke failure somewhere down the road.

Hope this helps,
Mark

Last edited by livngood; 10-27-03 at 11:26 AM.
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