Thread: Spoke count
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Old 07-11-18, 03:20 PM
bicycle tourist
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Austin, Texas, USA
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Bikes: Trek 520, Lightfoot Ranger, Trek 4500

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Way back in 1997, I broke three rims cycling across Canada (6089 miles/9800 kilometers from Fairbanks AK to St Johns NF). Two were 36-spoke and one I don't recall.

After that exercise, I switched over to a 48-spoke hub/rim combination. I stopped breaking rims on subsequent bike trips. However, I now had some failures of Phil Woods hubs, in particular, the pawls would seem to get stuck and the hub would rotate both directions. The first time was after a ride around Australia and I figured it was a fluke. The second time was after a ride across Russia and I gave it a pass. However, after the third PW hub during my a trip from Prudhoe Bay southbound, I looked and tried a 40-spoke DT Swiss Tandem Hub. Both the hub and the (26") rim made it across Latin America from San Diego to the tip of Argentina.

Rim failures are rare enough, that it is tough to draw definite conclusions. However, my anecdotal experience:
-- 36 spoke rims are pretty strong for lots of uses; I think I had some more extreme situations of >300 lbs (bike+rider+gear) and long distances over sometimes rough roads
-- Eventually, other things seem to wear out/break instead including (a) rims worn down after cautious braking (b) potential hub failures
So for me: at least, I am partial to disc brakes (to wear brakes/rotors rather than rims) and at this point to 40/48 spoke counts. I only have ~10,000 miles on my DT Swiss hub but so far still seems to work well.
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