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  1. #1
    nice-n-easy
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    lightweight wheels

    So, how much of a difference will we see (other than the impact on our finances) with a set of Rolf tandem wheels? Currently 48 spoke on HuGi hubs- dual disc.

  2. #2
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    The tandem will feel a bit lighter when you pick it up, lighter than the actual net weight reduction. I'm not sure why that is, but it just seems to work that way when you drop 1.5 lbs to 2.0 lbs off a 30 lb - 40 lb tandem.

    As for the ride, the tandem should feel more lively and, again, the perceived performance gain is greater than the actual change. This can come from a number of the different things that come with switching over to lightweight racing wheels and the extent of the change is tied directly to just how different the new wheels and tires are from the old wheels and tires, noting the tires often times do more to influence the change than the wheels alone.

    Frankly, just going from your 48's to a very lightweight set of 36h conventional wheels with a 25mm tire would probably feel pretty dramatic, and almost on par with a Rolf as far as first impressions go: the smaller tire running higher psi + the lighter wheel set will not dampen road vibration like your current wheels and tires and when coupled with the lighter weight of the wheels = that more lively road feel. Where the Rolfs differ from even the 36h wheels is the spoke network: the radially-laces front wheel has very little vertical compliance as compared to the 3x 36h wheels, never mind your 3x or 4x 48h wheels which, again, contribute to the more lively feel. At the same time, having 1/2 as many spokes that are also bladed eliminates more than 1/2 of the air turbulence around the front wheel which you can sense by feel through your hands via quicker, lighter steering response and that you can hear, i.e., less wind noise.

    These things all contribute to the perception that the wheels have made a profound impact when the actual net improvement is something a bit less dramatic and as likely to have come from the tire and tire pressure change as anything else.

  3. #3
    Senior Member mkane77g's Avatar
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    We have Rolf's & 40 spoke wheelsets. I like the ride of the low spoke count wheels, seems to dampen road vibrations more than the 40 holers.

  4. #4
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    The aerodynamic difference between the Rolfs and a set of 48 spoke conventional rimmed wheels is going to be substantial.

    Wheels make up about 10 to 15% of the aerodynamic drag. Going from a conventional 36 spoke wheel to a deep dish low spoke carbon wheel can reduce that 25% or about a 2-3% decrease in the total aerodynamic drag of bike and rider.

    My bet is that the drag reduction between a 48 spoke wheel, and the Rolfs which are low spoke, and semi deep dish would be at least as prononced if not more so.

    If you run that through analytic cycling, you get a speed increase of about .25mph at 25 mph.

    Add into the equatiion that the weight reduction will make the bike accelerate, and climb just a tad faster, and there will be a perceivable increase in speed.
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  5. #5
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
    Wheels make up about 10 to 15% of the aerodynamic drag. Going from a conventional 36 spoke wheel to a deep dish low spoke carbon wheel can reduce that 25% or about a 2-3% decrease in the total aerodynamic drag of bike and rider.
    The wheels when looked at by themselves, yes...

    On a single bike with a physically-fit, average size test subject (usually a licensed racer), again I would agree.

    However, not so for a tandem that has 1.5x as much aero drag as a single bike. Moreover, unless both riders fall into that physically fit, average size model the entire marketing spin on total bike/rider aero drag reduction is substantially less for a tandem if only because the total aero drag number is substantially higher to begin with.

    There's no question light weight wheels feel much more lively and faster and that they can provide a tad improvement in performance (~.02% rotating mass and some equally low % of aero drag reduction) but, again, other aspects of performance change such as reduced rolling resistance typically comes from other changes that are made at the same time, e.g., tires. Moreover, to really reap the moderate reductions in aero drag a team really needs to be pushing their tandem at the higher speeds where aero drag becomes large enough to yield those more tangible reductions.

    The only reason I could ever recommend something like racing wheels for a tandem that's not being used for racing is: (a) they look racy, (b) they feel more lively, (c) they're typically lighter than most conventional wheels, (d) they provide a huge placebo effect that can make your team train and ride harder or more often, and (e) you have the cash on hand to buy them as a second set of wheels.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 03-08-10 at 10:11 AM.

  6. #6
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mkane77g View Post
    We have Rolf's & 40 spoke wheelsets. I like the ride of the low spoke count wheels, seems to dampen road vibrations more than the 40 holers.
    No doubt. Perhaps I did not word my comment correctly....

    ...the lighter wheel set will not dampen road vibration [in the same way as] your current wheels and tires and when coupled with the lighter weight of the wheels = that more lively road feel.

    I've tried to quantify the difference between our various 36h wheels laced 3x, two different sets of Rolfs ('07 & '08) and a set of Topolino wheels on different road surfaces running the exact same tires at the same tire pressure and it's not exactly linear. Smooth roads feel smoother on the Rolfs, but chip seal is awful and beats you to death. Big hits or bumps are also pretty painful for Debbie (stoker) but don't feel as 'sharp' up front on the Rolfs as they do even on 36h wheels laced 3x. The Topolino's are by far the best at dampening all forms of road vibration but, sadly, have not proven to be durable enough long term to do so by several teams and even ours have now gone out of true. 40h and 48h wheels will dampen road shock differently based on how they're laced (3x, 4x or even 5x) and typically run larger diameter tires at lower PSI, so it's all over the map but at the end of the day lightweight and lightweight/racing wheels always seem to feel more lively and faster.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 03-08-10 at 11:49 AM.

  7. #7
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    The wheels when looked at by themselves, yes...

    However, not so for a tandem that has 1.5x as much aero drag as a single bike. Moreover, unless both riders fall into that physically fit, average size model the entire marketing spin on total bike/rider aero drag reduction is substantially less for a tandem if only because the total aero drag number is substantially higher to begin with....

    True, the percentage of drag from the wheels will be lower on a tandem, but the amount of drag coming from the Op's 48 spoke wheels is also going to be a lot more than a conventional 32-36 spoke wheel.

    Thus I'm betting the speed increase at 25 mph is still going to be something around .25mph.

    Note that I'm not suggesting this a huge increase in speed. For a 40km time trial we're talking about 30 seconds.

    And without doing any testing, that small, but measurable speed increase would be consistent with our anecdotal experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    Moreover, to really reap the moderate reductions in aero drag a team really needs to be pushing their tandem at the higher speeds where aero drag becomes large enough to yield those more tangible reductions.
    Note that when I tried to model this, my assumption was with enough power output to produce 25 mph. For those few gifted people that can time trial at 28mph or above it would be more. If you're doing 18 mph it would be a fair amount less.

    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    The only reason I could ever recommend something like racing wheels for a tandem that's not being used for racing is: (a) they look racy, (b) they feel more lively, (c) they're typically lighter than most conventional wheels, (d) they provide a huge placebo effect that can make your team train and ride harder or more often, and (e) you have the cash on hand to buy them as a second set of wheels.
    I'd agree with all that. If you're not racing (or doing competitive group rides that are essentially races) then the admittedly small speed increase isn't going to matter much.
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  8. #8
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    I have never been a fan of low spoke count wheels.
    I have been building my own wheels for some years.
    The problem is if you break a spoke on the road, its ride over unless you have a spare spoke and are able to install it. Also low spoke count wheels use higher spoke tensions which can prematurely wear out the rim by causing cracking around the spoke holes. If the tensions are not higher then the wheel will not be very stiff laterally. Since I weigh only 135 lbs I would not hesitate to use 20 spokes on the front and 24 on the rear of my single but not on a tandem. A good compromise is fewer spokes but enough to still have a robust wheel. Also CX Ray spokes cut off some weight and add some aerodynamics but also add about $2 per spoke in cost. My latest set of tandem wheels uses White Industries hubs, CX Ray spokes and Velocity Fusion rims. The wheels are laced with 32 spokes in 3X pattern. These wheels are lighter and less expensive than Rolf tandem wheels.
    I am really impressed with the White industries hubs. I went with the Mi6 on the rear in case I wanted to add a disk brake at some point. IMHO a set of handbuilt wheels using components from established well known manufacturers will always beat botique wheels with components of unknown origin.

  9. #9
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jnbrown View Post
    The problem is if you break a spoke on the road, its ride over unless you have a spare spoke and are able to install it.
    Actually, in practice folks have broken spokes on Rolfs, Sweet 16's and Bontrager wheels and other than being a bit out of true, just as a 36h wheel might be, they were all able to ride home.

    In fact, in one instance, some friends had just finished riding along side Rolf Dietrich who was stoking a tandem at the Northwest Tandem Rally in Eugene a few years back and talking about wheels, spoke breaks and what not with the usual manufacturer's position, "they're rare" and son of a ***, blew a rear wheel spoke. A short while later the broken spoke's paired mate failed. They finished the ride on the wheel, less two spokes, but at least the wheel was true again. They are about a 300lb team.

    There was, in fact, a bad run of Rolf's early on where the wheel builder puportedly did not lace the wheels per spec and once those wheels that broke spokes were sent back and fixed by Rolf, few if any one has had further problems with broken spokes.

    There was also a problem with the front wheel hubs on another generation of the Rolfs where the flange had been drilled between the spoke holes for some additional weight savings. In this instance, the radially spoked wheels would fail at the flange as a chuck of hub would be pulled out by the spoke head. Again, one of our friends (340# team) had this happen during a fairly challenging century in NC and they were able to finish the ride. once they lashed the flailing spoke to another spoke on the wheel.

    Quote Originally Posted by jnbrown View Post
    Also low spoke count wheels use higher spoke tensions which can prematurely wear out the rim by causing cracking around the spoke holes. If the tensions are not higher then the wheel will not be very stiff laterally.
    True, which is why folks using these 'racing' wheels as every day wheels need to ask themselves, "why am I using THESE wheels?" They will not outlast conventional wheels and are just as vulnerable to road hazard damage and must typically be sent back to the manufacturer for repair / rebuilding as there are very few "authorized" service centers. Moreover, those repairs when not covered under warranty are expensive. And, lastly, even with their very high tension, I can tell you that the Rolfs do deflect quite a bit under side loads from even a somewhat lightweight team like us. You may never notice it unless you bomb through corners or go through a very high-G corner at the bottom of a short valley, but it's quite disconcerting if you're accustomed to the stablity that 36h conventional wheels (or greater) provide.

    Quote Originally Posted by jnbrown View Post
    I am really impressed with the White industries hubs. I went with the Mi6 on the rear in case I wanted to add a disk brake at some point. IMHO a set of handbuilt wheels using components from established well known manufacturers will always beat botique wheels with components of unknown origin.
    Unknown origin? Rolf's hubs are made by White Industries, just to Rolf's specs. In fact, the internals are interchangeable. I haven't asked who makes the rims or spokes, but it would clearly be another company of similar standing with a reputation for quality and reliability.

  10. #10
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Why you want/need lighter wheels . . . and
    . . . have you got excess greenish bills in your wallet?
    Heck, we all can justify expenditures when it comes to having fun on the tandem!
    Pedal on!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  11. #11
    Senior Member joe@vwvortex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jnbrown View Post
    I have never been a fan of low spoke count wheels.
    I have been building my own wheels for some years.
    The problem is if you break a spoke on the road, its ride over unless you have a spare spoke and are able to install it. Also low spoke count wheels use higher spoke tensions which can prematurely wear out the rim by causing cracking around the spoke holes. If the tensions are not higher then the wheel will not be very stiff laterally. Since I weigh only 135 lbs I would not hesitate to use 20 spokes on the front and 24 on the rear of my single but not on a tandem. A good compromise is fewer spokes but enough to still have a robust wheel. Also CX Ray spokes cut off some weight and add some aerodynamics but also add about $2 per spoke in cost. My latest set of tandem wheels uses White Industries hubs, CX Ray spokes and Velocity Fusion rims. The wheels are laced with 32 spokes in 3X pattern. These wheels are lighter and less expensive than Rolf tandem wheels.
    I am really impressed with the White industries hubs. I went with the Mi6 on the rear in case I wanted to add a disk brake at some point. IMHO a set of handbuilt wheels using components from established well known manufacturers will always beat botique wheels with components of unknown origin.
    Try replacing an inner spoke on the drive side of a regular wheel on the road - you carry a chain whip and cluster removal tool? Same with the non drive side if you have disc wheels which have a disc adapter. I've ridden home with a broken spoke on my rear Rolf before - not a problem.
    Administrator and Contributing Editor - Vortex Media Group

  12. #12
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jnbrown View Post
    I have never been a fan of low spoke count wheels.
    I have been building my own wheels for some years.
    The problem is if you break a spoke on the road, its ride over unless you have a spare spoke and are able to install it. ...
    I broke a spoke on my eight year old front Zipp wheel last month and it wasn't ride over. We rode it 15 miles home with no problems other than a slight wobble. We did take it very easy and kept the speeds low but it got us back with no problems. I had a 36spoke wheel break two spokes at once 15 miles outside of Brest (France). I wasn't able to fix it and was barely able to get the bike back to town...
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

  13. #13
    Senior Member mkane77g's Avatar
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    Our Rolfs have been very reliable, 3 years old, 500 miles monthly. Combined weight below 300lbs. 40 holers are spares.

  14. #14
    Tandem Vincitur Ritterview's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    The only reason I could ever recommend something like racing wheels for a tandem that's not being used for racing is: (a) they look racy, (b) they feel more lively, (c) they're typically lighter than most conventional wheels, (d) they provide a huge placebo effect that can make your team train and ride harder or more often, and (e) you have the cash on hand to buy them as a second set of wheels.

    Another reason to have racing-style deep dish rims is wheel stiffness. I had planned to get 45 mm Edge rims as a balance between weight and aero, but the Edge rims are limited to 28 spokes and their spoke holes are molded, which precludes drilling additional holes. Both Rich at Wheelbuilder and Jason at Fairwheel recommended therefore the deeper 66mm rims, as these both strengthen the rim and reduce spoke length.

    It will be interesting to determine if these wheels are sufficiently stiff.

    Another tandem-specific consideration with aero wheels is braking rim heat. Aero carbon rims are lighter than aluminum. For example, the Edge 66 mm rim is 500 grams, whereas the Velocity B43 (mm) aluminum rim is 770 grams. So, those wanting their aero wheel to be relatively light will want to consider a carbon rim. However, carbon does not dissipate heat so well as aluminum, and moreover can essentially melt at a lower temperature. Teams with greater team weight and on steep descents might damage their carbon rims more readily than they would aluminum.

    For the rear wheel, this will not present a problem, as we will have an Avid BB7. We will have to be very cautious with the front. I will likely purchase an aluminum front wheel for rides with steep descents.

  15. #15
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ritterview View Post
    I had planned to get 45 mm Edge rims as a balance between weight and aero, but the Edge rims are limited to 28 spokes and their spoke holes are molded, which precludes drilling additional holes. Both Rich at Wheelbuilder and Jason at Fairwheel recommended therefore the deeper 66mm rims, as these both strengthen the rim and reduce spoke length... Another tandem-specific consideration with aero wheels is braking rim heat. Aero carbon rims are lighter than aluminum.
    Maybe you missed my caveat, "The only reason I could ever recommend something like racing wheels for a tandem that's not being used for racing is:"

    Surely, no one in their right mind would outfit their tandem with $2,000+ wheelsets for use outside of a sanctioned racing event, that is unless they have more money than sense.

  16. #16
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Agreeing with Merlin and TG here. We have a 36H Aerohead in front and a 36H Deep-V in back with light high pressure tires. Love how the bike feels. We're a fairly aero team and when the road tips down a little we are just gone. When the other teams catch us, they're shouting "Hammerheads!" which is not true at all. It's not so noticeable under 25.

    I've had very good experiences with Rolfs on my single and wouldn't hesitate to put them on our tandem except for the cost-benefit thing. Their rims wear just as fast as any other rim, maybe faster. We had a side-by-side coasting duel with a Speedster with Rolfs and a team about our height but heavier than we are. We beat them fairly handily.

  17. #17
    nice-n-easy
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    Well, that's about every point of view on the matter. I think I'll keep the $1000 for my son's college... thanks.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    I broke a spoke on my eight year old front Zipp wheel last month and it wasn't ride over. We rode it 15 miles home with no problems other than a slight wobble. We did take it very easy and kept the speeds low but it got us back with no problems. I had a 36spoke wheel break two spokes at once 15 miles outside of Brest (France). I wasn't able to fix it and was barely able to get the bike back to town...
    Well I guess I shot my mouth off without thinking it through. I once had a 16 spoke Velomax (now Easton) wheel on my single and when it broke a spoke it was ride over. To top it off, Velomax would not send me one of their special spokes to fix it. I had to send it back to them at my expense to be repaired. They used a Velocity aerohead rim which is not very deep or rigid. I think that was the day I decided to start building my own wheels.
    So if you have a deep rim, breaking a spoke may not be a big deal as I thought and the paired spokes on Rolf wheels may make it even less of a problem.

    Spokes should not break on a properly designed and built wheel in the first place. But I have to admit I have had wheels that break spokes for no obvious reason, while other wheels never have broken a spoke.

  19. #19
    Tandem Vincitur Ritterview's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    Surely, no one in their right mind would outfit their tandem with $2,000+ wheelsets for use outside of a sanctioned racing event, that is unless they have more money than sense.
    Whew! I checked on the price of my wheelset, and it was well under $2000. Though I do plan to participate in 'sanctioned racing events', I nonetheless worried that I was out of my 'right mind', for exceeding the cost of tandem wheelset beyond that which TG 'could ever recommend'.

    But if $2000+ for a wheelset indicates mental illness, then there must be similar demarcations for other components. Perhaps for our edification, TG, you could post a table for all components on a tandem, and indicate for each the cost that no one in 'their right mind' would ever exceed.

  20. #20
    Senior Member coloroadie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    I broke a spoke on my eight year old front Zipp wheel last month and it wasn't ride over. We rode it 15 miles home with no problems other than a slight wobble. We did take it very easy and kept the speeds low but it got us back with no problems. I had a 36spoke wheel break two spokes at once 15 miles outside of Brest (France). I wasn't able to fix it and was barely able to get the bike back to town...
    One more data point - broke a spoke on Sweet 16 rear wheel while descending Independence Pass (12,000+ ft) into Aspen on Ride the Rockies last summer ... hit something unexpected in bike/car traffic at 50mph. Since we had a rear disc brake, didn't even notice until i was checking equipment later that afternoon. We carried extra spokes and spoke wrench, so not a problem.

    As others have reported, losing a single spoke on a low spoke count wheel isn't always game over - but you should come prepared with those special bits you may need to continue.

  21. #21
    Gear Combo Guru Chris_W's Avatar
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    Due to fear of spoke breakages on long rides, I bought a FiberFix kit from Peter White Cycles last year. It comes in a tiny cylinder and weighs just a few grams. I found that you can also squeeze a quick-link for a chain into the same pot to keep things tidy in your saddlebag. Fortunately, I haven't had the opportunity to try it out yet, although I did read through the instructions carefully to make sure I understood it before taking it on the road. You can install it in any position without removing the cassette. I don't think it's officially "tandem rated," but if you've broken a spoke then using it is going to be much better than using nothing.

    fiberfix1.gif

    Proper touring cyclists will carry a set of spare spokes, often taped to their left chain-stay. You can then carry a small tool called the Next Best Thing 2 (NBT2) to remove the cassette when needed. See this page for other similar options.

    nbtinst1.jpg

  22. #22
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ritterview View Post
    Whew!I nonetheless worried that I was out of my 'right mind', for exceeding the cost of tandem wheelset beyond that which TG 'could ever recommend'.

    But if $2000+ for a wheelset indicates mental illness, then there must be similar demarcations for other components. Perhaps for our edification, TG, you could post a table for all components on a tandem, and indicate for each the cost that no one in 'their right mind' would ever exceed.
    Remember, there are TWO options in this scenario: "Surely, no one in their right mind would outfit their tandem with $2,000+ wheelsets for use outside of a sanctioned racing event, that is unless they have more money than sense."

    You just gotta pick the one that suits.

    I have fallen into both categories from time to time in many different projects, interest and hobbies, but usually recognize it only after I've come back to my senses.

  23. #23
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    Our Rolfs failed midway through an expensive European tour (not loaded). 330# team. Spokes pulled through rear rim. Don't know how long the damage may have been developing, but I must say the discovery was disconcerting. Able to ride the balance of the day, maybe 30 more miles after finding the failure - erupting spokes at three separate locations around the rim. Didn't feel safe riding any additional days, so had to borrow the tour leader's singles for the second week (not the end of the world since they were Glenn Erickson's personal bikes!). No way to fix the Rolfs on the road, as mentioned. I really don't know why I didn't know that the Rolfs were "racing wheels" only. No vendor or online stuff at Rolf says "for racing only". They seemed simply like high end shi-shi wheels and we were suckered in. After rebuild (by Rolf for lots-o-bucks) we still use them, but only for club/day rides. Would never take them on a tour again.

  24. #24
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2frmMI View Post
    I really don't know why I didn't know that the Rolfs were "racing wheels" only.
    As the consumer market heated up the "racing wheels" label gave way to "high performance" and in the quest to be king of the hill with the most 'robust wheels available' it became common for wheels like the Rolfs Prima Vigor Tandem, Bontrager Race Lite Tandem and Santana's Shimano DuraAce / Sweet 16's to tout that they were strong enough for daily use or, in some cases, it was suggested they were even stronger than 40h conventional wheels. Consumers being consumers consumed all of this and go-fast 'performance wheels' ended up on all kinds of tandems that really would have been better served by conventionally built, component wheelsets, i.e., the tandem market simply mirrored the single bike marketing trends.

    It took me a looong time to even start playing around with low spoke count wheels, first on my single bike with MAVIC Cosmos Elites and then Campy G3 Eurus wheelsets. It wasn't until 2008 when we bought the Calfee that I even ventured into the Rolfs, mostly as an experiement to see if I could quantify the purported ' performance enhancing' features for an average, recreational tandem team. As it turns out, most of my original impressions and opinions regarding 'performance wheels' was fairly sound and you can see that reflected in my comments and validated by spending my own $$ on various different wheelsets for the sake of curiosity.

    Today, even with a set of Rolfs and Topolino's on hand, we still do our every day rides on a pair of 36h Velocity Deep-Vs with White Ind hubs, also our default for tours and out of town events. We'll sometimes throw on the Rolfs or Topolino's for show at rallies or other group rides or to get that slight go-fast pacebo effect, but if we didn't have the go-fast wheels I surely wouldn't miss them.

  25. #25
    Junior Member icanguy's Avatar
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    Tandem Wheels

    I build my own wheels using White Industries hubs and Velocity DeepV rims. I go with the 36 hole three cross in the back and 36 hole radial lace in the front they are very strong wheels. I have probably 40,000 miles on the Co-Motion with these wheels and never had a problem.

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