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How long do wheels last?

Old 05-15-15, 03:03 PM
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philbob57
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How long do wheels last?

My front wheel was built in 1984 by a pro mechanic - Avocet/Ofmega sealed-bearing hubs, straight-gauge stainless steel spokes, Matrix Strada rim. The rear was built by me with final truing by a pro mechanic - Avocet, straight-gauge stainless steel spokes, and a Rigida rim (I don't know the model). I rode every year from '81-91 (when I weighed 180-190), 2001-2003 (weighing 230-240), and 2013-present (weighing 230). I expect to ride seriously this year, with a goal of 72 miles one day during the 8 days of July and maybe a century in September.

The front wheel is true; the rear wheel is slightly out of true laterally. The hubs spin smoothly. The rear wobbled for a time in 2013, but it just took adjusting the hub's washers and locknuts. Except for that, neither wheel has given me any trouble.

What's the probability that my wheels, especially the rear, have a good deal of life left in them? Is there some sort of guideline for replacing wheels? Am I likely to be better off just replacing them? If so, what current products would be a good replacement?

I want reliability from my wheels more than anything else. I'm very comfortable with the idea that I'll ride better with a lighter me than with a lighter wheel.

The frame is from 1972 - the rear dropouts are almost definitely 121 mm wide. The Avocet is 120 OLD.

Thanks.

Last edited by philbob57; 05-15-15 at 03:06 PM. Reason: add important fact
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Old 05-15-15, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by philbob57 View Post
. . . What's the probability that my wheels, especially the rear, have a good deal of life left in them? . . .
Carnac the Magnificent could tell you.
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Old 05-15-15, 03:26 PM
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There's no reason they shouldn't last until you wear through the brake tracks.
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Old 05-15-15, 03:32 PM
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There are some variables we can't account for, like spoke fatigue from past riding, but the odds are pretty good that the rims are fine. It's not like steel and aluminum have a shelf life -- not within our lifetimes, anyway. Check to make sure the braking surfaces aren't too worn down, spoke tension is good, hubs are freshly greased, and rim tape is intact. Then start riding 'em. You'll find out soon enough if they're in good shape!
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Old 05-15-15, 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
There's no reason they shouldn't last until you wear through the brake tracks.
Agreed.

But the bearings should be re-greased, and adjusted properly, and the wheels trued again, paying attention to spoke tension. Over time, adjusting out slight wobbles can result in some spokes being very tight, while others are loose. These overly-tight spokes can break in time.
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Old 05-15-15, 09:20 PM
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Thanks very much for the help. That's really good news, though I understand no one can reliably predict how these particular wheels will fare. My confidence is high, though, since I don't race, rarely ride in the rain, and have gotten good service so far.

I always thought sealed bearings required no maintenance. Given the counsel above, I looked seriously for info on maintaining Avocet/Ofmega sealed hubs. I checked the photos just make sure ... and found I've got the traditional Model I hubs. They definitely need maintenance, but I know how to do it and have the tools.

Carnac is no longer available.
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Old 05-15-15, 09:27 PM
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i have 20,000 miles on my wheels but your question is impossible to answer, you could ask the same thing about plywood.. when will it start to delaminate?
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Old 05-15-15, 11:23 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
There's no reason they shouldn't last until you wear through the brake tracks.
OR you crash, or otherwise bend them.

I did wear through the brake tracks on one wheel... heavy commuting rain or shine over a steep hill, and I probably built it with used rims that were already badly worn.

Sealed cartridge bearings can be replaced, but probably don't need much maintenance until they start feeling rough. Some cone and cup type of loose bearings are called sealed, but probably due to a double (labyrinth) seal.

Many cones are available, but if a cone is badly damaged, it could also spell the end of a wheel. And, especially if the races are damaged.
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Old 05-16-15, 12:55 AM
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Originally Posted by philbob57 View Post
I always thought sealed bearings required no maintenance.
SEALED bearings means just that. The internals of the bearings are closed off from the rest of the world by some mechanical means. A precision fit washer, a rubber gasket, a scraper ring, a dust shield...
All bearings where you can't see into the balls are sealed bearings.
You're thinking about CARTRIDGE bearings.
These are normally not serviced, but simply replaced when they run rough or develop play.
If you are stubborn enough, cartridge bearings with removeable shields can be cleaned and relubed, but not adjusted for play.
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Old 05-16-15, 04:59 AM
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philbob57, The longest lasting wheels I've had are those that were used on my distance roadies. Very few stops and starts per mile with primarily maintenance torque applied to maintain speed. A good initial build or a good tune-up on an existing build is very helpful to reduce re-truing events.

I suggest a hub overhaul along with detensioning and re-truing the wheels as long as the brake tracks are still good.

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Old 05-18-15, 05:50 PM
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Over 30,000 miles in Mavic 719, DT Swiss, Deore XT wheels. But I think the components are less important in wheel longevity/strength than the being handbuilt by a good builder (not me) and of course maintenance.
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Old 05-18-15, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by philbob57 View Post
My front wheel was built in 1984 by a pro mechanic - Avocet/Ofmega sealed-bearing hubs, straight-gauge stainless steel spokes, Matrix Strada rim. The rear was built by me with final truing by a pro mechanic - Avocet, straight-gauge stainless steel spokes, and a Rigida rim (I don't know the model). I rode every year from '81-91 (when I weighed 180-190), 2001-2003 (weighing 230-240), and 2013-present (weighing 230). I expect to ride seriously this year, with a goal of 72 miles one day during the 8 days of July and maybe a century in September.

The front wheel is true; the rear wheel is slightly out of true laterally. The hubs spin smoothly. The rear wobbled for a time in 2013, but it just took adjusting the hub's washers and locknuts. Except for that, neither wheel has given me any trouble.

What's the probability that my wheels, especially the rear, have a good deal of life left in them?
Good.

Is there some sort of guideline for replacing wheels?
Replace rims when the brake tracks wear out, you crash them and can't make them straight enough with acceptably uniform tension, or have other damage like cracks around the spoke holes which can come from too much tension.

Replace axles when they break (usually only on rear freewheel hubs).

Replace bearings when they get gritty and (cup-and-cone) lubrication doesn't fix that.

Properly tensioned and stress relieved spokes last almost indefinitely (hundreds of thousands of miles).

I was still riding the wheels I built in 1997 in 2014 (17 years) with the second front rim and second or third rear (all damage from obstacles, although the front brake track was getting a little concave), and would still be riding them if I wasn't training with power using a PowerTap based wheel set.
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Old 05-19-15, 10:13 AM
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im still using my 1976 built wheels , just Not every Day, any more , i Have less C&V bikes for my daily use.
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Old 05-19-15, 07:48 PM
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Wore out the rims a 60k miles. Replaced a few spokes because of a dropped chain and an omitted spoke protector.
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Old 05-19-15, 08:35 PM
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To answer the original question --- how long do wheels last. I believe that good wheels will last until they're crashed, or the brake track wears through, whichever comes first. IMO any other failure beyond needing minor truing now and then, is a premature failure.
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Old 05-19-15, 08:40 PM
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This happened to my 8 speed campy zonda. These wheels have had 5 years of heavy use from me and a German guy before me who babied them through the 90s.

The front hub is ok but the brake track is nearly worn through.
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Old 05-19-15, 09:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Soody View Post
This happened to my 8 speed campy zonda.
That flange is a bit undercooked for the tension of a 20h lacing; straight-pull interfaces generally fare better. Also, Campy hubs have shocking amounts of dish, which tends to be a bit crap unless they're triplet laced.

Shimano hubs are the go; reliable, but if you need parts they're everywhere.
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Old 05-19-15, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
That flange is a bit undercooked for the tension of a 20h lacing; straight-pull interfaces generally fare better. Also, Campy hubs have shocking amounts of dish, which tends to be a bit crap unless they're triplet laced.

Shimano hubs are the go; reliable, but if you need parts they're everywhere.
If my 5800 wheels last past 2035, then i will concede Shimano is more durable. I know which one i'd rather be riding though...


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Old 05-20-15, 01:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Soody View Post
I know which one i'd rather be riding though...
You have to be talking Dura Ace if you're comparing the finish to nicer Campy stuff...

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