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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 07-11-10, 06:55 PM   #1
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Rolf rear wheel failure

Well - was cleaning the tandem on Friday and noticed that a paired set of spokes had pulled through the rear rim. Wheel is 5 years and about 10k miles old. We didn't even notice a problem during our last ride. Sent the pic to Rolf and want to look at my options.

Been wanting to run dual disks and depending on what Rolf is going to do (if anything) I think I'll investigate a good set of disk wheels. Only issue is that i'll need a new fork as well.

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Old 07-11-10, 08:04 PM   #2
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I've commented a few times previously about our failed Rolfs - same symptoms. What is your team weight? What kind of riding? Have you been using them with a disk? I ask because ours failed soon after some fairly steep cobblestone descents, 340ish pound team + 50 or so of bike and stuff. Of course this may have been only coincidence - it wasn't a controlled experiment.
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Old 07-11-10, 08:13 PM   #3
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Also: We had way fewer miles on ours (2-3k?). Rolf agreed to repair it "because you were not satisfied", not because they admitted that the wheel should hold up better. I guess this means it was not a warranty repair, but rather a customer satisfaction repair. I love the ride on these wheels, darn it. Too bad about the failures. I see an awful lot of reports like yours and mine, and I can't help but think there is a real problem here, not simply some bad luck.
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Old 07-12-10, 06:44 AM   #4
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Well - was cleaning the tandem on Friday and noticed that a paired set of spokes had pulled through the rear rim. Wheel is 5 years and about 10k miles old. We didn't even notice a problem during our last ride. Sent the pic to Rolf and want to look at my options.

Been wanting to run dual disks and depending on what Rolf is going to do (if anything) I think I'll investigate a good set of disk wheels. Only issue is that i'll need a new fork as well.

Join the club. If it's any consolation, you got more miles than most before failure. Ours pulled spokes exactly as yours did after 3500 miles. After warranty repair, hub broke at spoke hole. After that noticed stress cracks in rim after another 1000 miles. To Rolfs credit they made good on all repairs even though out of warranty. I finally obtained wheels for every day use with Chris King hubs and 36h Velocity Deep V Rims. So far, 5000 miles with no issues.
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Old 07-12-10, 08:59 AM   #5
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Not sure if I'm glad to hear of other similar failures or not :-)

I've got a love/hate relationship with these wheels. I love the way they ride - but I hate the damn bearing adjustments which work themselves loose. I had one broken rear spoke and one front spoke that came loose for no apparent reason. As most have said - Rolf has been pretty good on fixing them, but we'll see what they do here.

We are a relatively heavy team - 350 or so pounds. It does have a rear disc.
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Old 07-12-10, 09:32 AM   #6
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So, both the Rolf and the Sweet 16 are prone to rim failures, a joy to ride on, and a pain to upkeep. The difference maybe that Rolf stands behind its product and Santana blames the consumers for the failures.
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Old 07-12-10, 09:52 AM   #7
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So, both the Rolf and the Sweet 16 are prone to rim failures, a joy to ride on, and a pain to upkeep. The difference maybe that Rolf stands behind its product and Santana blames the consumers for the failures.
Just heard back from Rolf - I'll have to pay the standard $285 to have them replace the rim and spokes using my old hub. Since the wheel is 5 years old - I understand their position - was just hoping that they would help a bit more considering the type of failure.

Oh well - decision time for a new wheelset.
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Old 07-12-10, 10:09 AM   #8
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Since the wheel is 5 years old - I understand their position - was just hoping that they would help a bit more considering the type of failure.

Oh well - decision time for a new wheelset.
I think our expectations have changed a bit over the years. It used to be that it was pretty much standard operating procedure to put new rims on your race wheels every year.

With expensive wheels, sold as complete wheelsets, and stuff being more durable these days, I think we expect wheels to last indefinitely, which may not be a reasonable expectation for lightweight stuff.

If we get 5 years out of Rolf's I'll be happy. (until I have to stroke a check in 3 years)
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Old 07-12-10, 11:04 AM   #9
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Just heard back from Rolf - I'll have to pay the standard $285 to have them replace the rim and spokes using my old hub. Since the wheel is 5 years old - I understand their position - was just hoping that they would help a bit more considering the type of failure.

Oh well - decision time for a new wheelset.
If you want some hand built wheels, try Ron Ruff at White Mountain Wheels.
The guy is really an expert wheel builder.
Although I have not actually bought any wheels from him, I did a get a quote and he has given me a lot of good free advise on wheel building.
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Old 07-12-10, 11:23 AM   #10
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It used to be that it was pretty much standard operating procedure to put new rims on your race wheels every year.
Good grief... what type of rims were you using and/or how many miles a year were you putting on these wheels?

For mortal cyclists, unless we found fatigue cracks around spoke holes, saw excessive brake track wear (which took a lot longer before they started machining the brake tracks), or encountered a bent a rim there was really no good reason to replace a rim. Yeah, there were a lot of rims that did get replaced fairly often BECAUSE signs of fatigue were discovered, but they were typically the uber-lightweight rims that were designed for race use... not rims that were marketed for use as every day trainiing rims.

Heck, I think I still have a set of MAVIC GL330's that I used in the 80's and 90's at the house on my Raleigh's that probably have 12k miles of use but don't look much worse for wear. Admittedly, I never weighed much over 140lbs back when I rode sew-ups all the time, but I always expected to get many seasons of use out of any rim I bought... right up and until I bought my first integrated, super-light MAVIC Helium wheelset. I had low expectations for their longevity and was hardly surprised when they became unreliable after about 5k miles of every day use.

However, we're not talking about single bike race wheels here: these are wheels being marketed for use on tandems as everyday wheelsets that are purportedly as durable as 40h wheelsets in the case of the Big-S. So, if your benchmark for rim life and durablity is 20k miles for rims like MAVIC T217s, CXP30s, Velocity Deep-Vs and the like then that's the expectation. As to how long it takes to put 10k or 20k miles on a tandem wheelset and whether or not your wheels will last that long, that seems to be the wildcard... well that an honest mileage records. Clearly, there are many sets of Rolfs, Santana Sweet 16's and Bontrager RL Tandem wheelsets out there with a lot of hard miles that are doing just fine. However, there sure seem to be an awful lot of them that don't. That's the crux of this on-going issue with 'performance wheelset' reliability, never mind the value proposition.
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Old 07-12-10, 11:49 AM   #11
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Good grief... what type of rims were you using and/or how many miles a year were you putting on these wheels?

For mortal cyclists, unless we found fatigue cracks around spoke holes, saw excessive brake track wear (which took a lot longer before they started machining the brake tracks), or encountered a bent a rim there was really no good reason to replace a rim. Yeah, there were a lot of rims that did get replaced fairly often BECAUSE signs of fatigue were discovered, but they were typically the uber-lightweight rims that were designed for race use... not rims that were marketed for use as every day trainiing rims.

Heck, I think I still have a set of MAVIC GL330's that I used in the 80's and 90's at the house on my Raleigh's that probably have 12k miles of use but don't look much worse for wear. Admittedly, I never weighed much over 140lbs back when I rode sew-ups all the time, but I always expected to get many seasons of use out of any rim I bought... right up and until I bought my first integrated, super-light MAVIC Helium wheelset. I had low expectations for their longevity and was hardly surprised when they became unreliable after about 5k miles of every day use.

However, we're not talking about single bike race wheels here: these are wheels being marketed for use on tandems as everyday wheelsets that are purportedly as durable as 40h wheelsets in the case of the Big-S. So, if your benchmark for rim life and durablity is 20k miles for rims like MAVIC T217s, CXP30s, Velocity Deep-Vs and the like then that's the expectation. As to how long it takes to put 10k or 20k miles on a tandem wheelset and whether or not your wheels will last that long, that seems to be the wildcard... well that an honest mileage records. Clearly, there are many sets of Rolfs, Santana Sweet 16's and Bontrager RL Tandem wheelsets out there with a lot of hard miles that are doing just fine. However, there sure seem to be an awful lot of them that don't. That's the crux of this on-going issue with 'performance wheelset' reliability, never mind the value proposition.
I've never in the 37 years of cycling had a rim fail as bad as this. I've also never had a set of wheels with as many issues as these - bearing adjustment, spoke loosening and now the rim failure. Of course - i've used handbuilt wheels on all my bikes over the years and retensioned and trued them every year. On the other hand I have two sets of Campy Eurus wheels - one on the wifes single and one on mine. We've owned them a bit more than 5 years and I haven't had to touch them at all. I re-greased the bearings once. Taking a look at the rims on the Eurus - I sure wish the Rolfs were overbuilt at the spoke junction like the Campys. I expect the Eurus wheels to last as long if not longer than the rest of the bike.

We don't ride the tandem exclusively - although it is our main choice on the weekends. 10k is probably a bit high of an estimate - but definitely somewhere between 8k and 10k.
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Old 07-12-10, 12:02 PM   #12
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Good grief... what type of rims were you using and/or how many miles a year were you putting on these wheels?

For mortal cyclists, unless we found fatigue cracks around spoke holes, saw excessive brake track wear ([I]which took a lot longer before
Fiamme Yellow label. Around 5000 a year. I don't know that I replaced them that often, but standard advice for racers back in the day was to rebuild your wheels each season with new spokes and rims as preventative maintenence. Of course that was probably a $100 or so job for both wheels then.
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Old 07-12-10, 12:12 PM   #13
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However, we're not talking about single bike race wheels here: these are wheels being marketed for use on tandems as everyday wheelsets that are purportedly as durable as 40h wheelsets in the case of the Big-S. So, if your benchmark for rim life and durablity is 20k miles for rims like MAVIC T217s, CXP30s, Velocity Deep-Vs and the like then that's the expectation. As to how long it takes to put 10k or 20k miles on a tandem wheelset and whether or not your wheels will last that long, that seems to be the wildcard... well that an honest mileage records. Clearly, there are many sets of Rolfs, Santana Sweet 16's and Bontrager RL Tandem wheelsets out there with a lot of hard miles that are doing just fine. However, there sure seem to be an awful lot of them that don't. That's the crux of this on-going issue with 'performance wheelset' reliability, never mind the value proposition.
To the extent that any low spoke count tandem wheel is marketed as being as reliable as a 40 spoke wheel, I think that marketing is unrealistic.

Rolf rims (as well as Sweet 16's), by their design are going to be more prone to fail at the spoke hole than conventional wheels as a result of the high spoke tension inherent in the paired spoke design.

When you buy them I think you have to recognize the tradeoff that they are not going to be as durable, as other less aerodynamic higher spoke count wheels, and that is part of the decision calculus of whether they're worth it for you.

As for ours, we've got about 7- 8,000 miles on our Rolfs (I say about because I have a fairly accurate idea of the mileage on the bike, but a less accurate handle on how that splits between 2 wheelsets) with no issues.

I hope we get another 8,000 out of them. But if I had to replace a rim tommorow, I woudn't feel like Rolf had let me down, or I hadn't gotten my money's worth.

Aero, light, inexpensive, durable. You can pretty much have 3. Not sure anyone's packaged all 4 together yet.
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Old 07-12-10, 12:34 PM   #14
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To me it all comes down to use and expectations.

Finding a failed rim while you are cleaning up your bike at home is one thing. Having such a rim fail in Eagle River, Wisconsin on Wednesday of a multi day tour is something else. It doesn't matter if Rolf will replace the rim for $285.00, unless you can come up with an alternate plan, your vacation is over.
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Old 07-12-10, 12:42 PM   #15
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Personally, I wouldn't do a multiday tour away from support with them. I would take them on a multiday tour, if I had another set of wheels back in a car which I could get to each night.
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Old 07-12-10, 12:43 PM   #16
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About 5500 miles on our Rolfs until the above failure in the rear wheel. I paid for them to replace the rim. We are about 340 total weight including the tandem, with rim brakes.
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Old 07-12-10, 01:48 PM   #17
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There are 3 photos of cracked rims here http://share.ovi.com/album/currentresident.bicycle this is a common failure the mathematics of it is simple make that part twice as thick and it will never fail at your weight.
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Old 07-12-10, 02:37 PM   #18
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Fiamme Yellow label.
That explains a lot. What were they, like 290g or some insanely light weight like that? As noted, my GL330's were about the lightest rims I ever used and having eyelets seemed to give them a much longer life than the non-eyelet rims like the Fiamme Yellow label / Ergal rims. I think the Red label Fiamme rims were on par with the GL330s, made a bit more durable by the use of eyelets.

Interestingly enough, and related to this thread, I'm pretty sure FiR acquired all of Fiamme's assets when Fiamme went out of business.
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Old 07-12-10, 02:53 PM   #19
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Chris King hubs, Velocity Aerohead rims, 32H front and 36H rear.
Got just over 22,000 miles on rear wheel when rim had to be replaced.
Front wheel still doing great at 30,000+ miles.

Way-back-when, we used Mavic rims; usually got 20 to 25 thousand milesw off rear rims. One front rim lasted 56,000 miles.
Just our experience.
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Old 07-12-10, 05:40 PM   #20
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Hit a huge pothole Sat. Destroyed front rim. 14,000 miles on Rolf's. Going to replace both front and rear rims 7 spokes. Hope these last as long.
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Old 07-12-10, 05:51 PM   #21
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So looking at options - a place called prowheelbuilder.com does custom builds. They are limited in Rim choice on their website - but give a good estimate of weight and their costs seem reasonable.

As a comparison - Rolf Tandem Disc Clincher 31mm 20 / 24 Bladed 885gm / 1050gm 1935gm $1099

So looking at DeepV's with WI Mi disc hubs, sapim cx-ray spokes and brass DT nipples - all in black with 32h front and 36h rear - estimated weight was 1,935 at $785. With Mavic CXP33's instead of the Deep V's - weight drops down to 1,836 grams but price goes up to $820.

The ONLY thing i'm a bit unsure of is the 32h fronts with disc - especially with our team weight at 350lbs.

Thoughts? Suggestions?
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Old 07-12-10, 06:01 PM   #22
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So, both the Rolf and the Sweet 16 are prone to rim failures, a joy to ride on, and a pain to upkeep. The difference maybe that Rolf stands behind its product and Santana blames the consumers for the failures.
That seems to sum up these two threads perfectly!
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Old 07-12-10, 09:12 PM   #23
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I would go with a 36 holer for sure with a front disc. More so if using a big rotor. Our last tandem had a 203mm rotor up front and on steep decents at a pretty fast clip I could get the back wheel off the ground. I sure miss that stopping power. Not sure I would go that far with a carbon fork. The Winwood disc fork with a tandem rating only accept's a 160mm rotor, and probably not much better than rim brakes as far as stopping power, but, no heat on the rim. A rotor this small would be rendered useless on a steep decent in a very short time, and may warp quickly. Just a guess, but I've run a front disc for years on a Cannondale with a steel fork and a 203mm rotor. The ultimate stopping power, with a rim brake on the rear.
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Old 07-13-10, 07:30 AM   #24
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I would go with a 36 holer for sure with a front disc. More so if using a big rotor. Our last tandem had a 203mm rotor up front and on steep decents at a pretty fast clip I could get the back wheel off the ground. I sure miss that stopping power. Not sure I would go that far with a carbon fork. The Winwood disc fork with a tandem rating only accept's a 160mm rotor, and probably not much better than rim brakes as far as stopping power, but, no heat on the rim. A rotor this small would be rendered useless on a steep decent in a very short time, and may warp quickly. Just a guess, but I've run a front disc for years on a Cannondale with a steel fork and a 203mm rotor. The ultimate stopping power, with a rim brake on the rear.
I'd go with a Wound Up front duo disc fork and keep my disc in the rear.
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Old 07-13-10, 07:55 AM   #25
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Good choice. Make sure length is compatible, from crown to dropout. Rake is somewhat important within a mm or two. Awesome stopping power. I looked @ the prowheelbuilder site. Thats where I'm headed for my next wheel build. I'll use the Rolf's for special occasions. Sonoma County roads are nothing but dirt roads with a bit of pavement over the top.
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