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Spoke Choice for Heavy Rider (250+)

Old 02-23-21, 04:41 PM
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aaronmichael
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Spoke Choice for Heavy Rider (250+)

Good day to you,

I work at a local bicycle shop and we have a customer who is having us lace a pair of wheels for him. He's a road rider that weight around 250 pounds. I've built plenty of wheels but none where long term strength because of rider weight was a significant factor to consider. My largest obstacle right now is deciding what spoke to do the build with. I wouldn't classify his riding style as aggressive. Should I build this with a single butted spoke such as a (2.3/20), double butted (2.0/1.8/2.0) or a triple butted spoke (2.3/1.8/2.0)? The lacing will be 32H 3x for the rear wheel and 28H 2x for the front wheel. The general consensus seems to be that the spoke will last longer with any butted version but may sacrifice some stiffness. On the other hand, a straight gauge or single butted spoke may be stiffer but won't last as long. My main concern here is strength and durability because of rider weight. Any input on how to proceed would be greatly appreciated! Thank you for reading!
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Old 02-23-21, 05:02 PM
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My next rear build for my "grocery getter" will use- (I'll carry up to 60 lbs. on a rear rack/folding baskets bike 87 Rockhopper)
13/14 DS & 14/15/14 for the NDS. Part of that is $ driven.I don't think "fancier" spokes are going to return much additional benefit per $.
One thing that GREATLY benefits wheel strength is an OC rim for the rear such as-
https://www.velocityusa.com/product/rims/a23-oc-622
A 3mm offfset would change my NDS spoke tension from 71 to 88% of DS tension on my rear build. (32 Sp SunRims M13 II)
Assuming smooth pavement, I'd use a 14/15/14.
I used 15/16/15 on my 32 Spoke hybrid, but the spoke heads are undersized for a sloppy 2.6mm Shimano (like found on a plethora of 3X8 hybrids) "hole". I'd rather fill the hole better, so a 13/16/14 (if they even make that) if $ is no object would do the job.
I weighed about 260 when I built that wheel. Dropped it in an old fashioned storm sewer grate when it had about 30 miles on it. I hit hard enough to launch me about a foot out of the seat. I didn't even have to adjust the brakes. Rim has a permanent .010" WOW in one spot. Just glad I had 28mm tires on it instead of my current 25's. That little bit more tire squish probably helped a bunch.
Better quality hubs will have a smaller hole to fill. A plus.

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Old 02-23-21, 05:09 PM
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What about a 36 rear and a 32 (or 36 front)? Wouldn't more spokes help also?
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Old 02-23-21, 05:21 PM
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Our tandem team weighs 285. I build my own wheels for it, but always 36H because of having 36H CK hubs. I've used both double-butted and CX-Ray and never a broken spoke. The bigger deal than spoke details is rim detail. Heavy riders need a deep rim, like 28mm. Then spoke count and size becomes essentially a non-issue. I know tandem teams running 28H rims and double-butted spokes. It's the flex in the rim which limits both spoke and rim life.
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Old 02-23-21, 05:45 PM
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I've been in the same weight range, and the best thing I did was going with double-butted spokes on the NDS rear. Or maybe that was second best, and getting a tensiometer to make sure everything was adequately and evenly tensioned was best. I'd probably go double-butted on the front to make up for the low spoke count. You could do triple-butted, but IME that's probably not necessary.
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Old 02-23-21, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by aaronmichael View Post
Good day to you,

I work at a local bicycle shop and we have a customer who is having us lace a pair of wheels for him. He's a road rider that weight around 250 pounds.
You know there's a Clydesdale subforum right? I think they discuss wheels quite a bit.
But I'd put rim strength #1, spoke count #2, and double butted spokes #3 in order of importance... ie, talk your customer into a different component selection.
What he's asking for probably isn't dangerous at his weight, but they'll wear out faster and need more maintenance.
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Old 02-23-21, 07:48 PM
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Thanks for all the quick responses and information! I tried posting in the Clydesdale forum but didn't have much luck. Here's a little more information about the build:

DT Swiss 350 Front (28H) and Rear (32H) Hubs
DT RR 511 Hoops

The only reason I did not go with 32H for the front wheel was because our parts suppliers had very limited stock and this is a time sensitive issue as his current wheelset is toasted. Figured the front wheel doesn't take as much stress and 28H should do the trick. The rim is 32mm deep, and DT classifies it as a semi-aero rim. I would also be using DT Swiss spokes, either the Alpine III if I decide on a triple butted spoke or the DT Competition for a double butted option.
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Old 02-23-21, 07:55 PM
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Spokes have basically no meaningful effect on wheel stiffness beyond the total amount of tension available. Pretty much all spokes have more tensile strength than necessary, so butted spokes will redistribute flex away from the stress risers at the elbow and first thread. DT Alpine IIIs or similar would probably what I'd use in your shoes, although if their first and foremost priorities are durability I'd opt for more spokes.That is a pretty beefy rim which is encouraging.
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Old 02-23-21, 08:31 PM
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So a wheel is a system. If you use a really strong spoke on a really lightweight rim or hub or both then you will probably have a failed wheel at some point.

I would probably stick with DT Swiss spokes (it is a DT Swiss wheel after all) in your case I would probably go with a DB spoke like the Competition and make sure you have good proper and even spoke tension. I would also look into their ProLock nipples (in brass always brass) as well and of course a good 3x pattern. All my handbuilt wheels are 32h and 3x. The only time I would do 2X is if I had to like with a Rohloff hub or something really high flanged.

The Alpine III is a great spoke but I would talk with DT Swiss and see what they say especially since you are keeping it in their family so they could say if it is a good idea or not. I might work fine but it might just be too heavy gauge for the situation (but I am no expert) I do like the Alpine IIIs and for a touring bike of course but a lighter weight road wheel set maybe not so much. However they might know.
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Old 02-24-21, 01:03 AM
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Appreciate all the responses. Good to hear that the butting feature of the spoke shouldn't have much of an effect in this case. Nice recommendation on reaching out to DT Swiss and getting their two cents - couldn't hurt. They will definitely be built with brass nipples (aluminum is terrible), haven't decided if I'll be using their ProLock spoke nipple or just a standard ProHead nipple. Any more thoughts and suggestion would be appreciated, thanks!
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Old 02-24-21, 10:34 PM
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Originally Posted by WGB View Post
What about a 36 rear and a 32 (or 36 front)? Wouldn't more spokes help also?
I agree. I'm close to that weight (240-ish) and I ride a recumbent so I can't "unweight" to protect the wheel. I've used 36-spoke rear wheels forever. I usually build them with 2.0/1.8/2.0 double-butted spokes and tension them high and even. They rarely need retruing. I've worn through 2 or 3 sets of rims thanks to our rain and rim brakes.

My latest bike has disk brakes. I built the wheels with H+ Son Archetype rims, 32 front, 36 rear. Thanks to the disks I hope they last forever.
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Old 02-24-21, 10:49 PM
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I've built several of my wheels being about that weight.

30 mm deep rims are perfectly fine for 32 spokes in the back and 28 up front. 20,000+ miles till the brake surface wore thin.

I have also built 24 front and 28 rear using 30 mm deep rims as well. 10,000+ miles then gave the set away to a friend in need, still riding them at 200 pounds, still in good shape after 2 more years. FTR, this was a set that came stock on my bike. Mavic CXP 30 with Ultegra hubs. I was at 230 pounds and the rims would not keep true. Shop kept saying it was my weight. I bought a hand built set from a good builder from a different shop. I then started building my own with great success. I then took those 24/28 wheels the original shop said was too few spokes for me and rebuilt them myself. Totally stripped them, then used the same spokes, hubs and rims. Turns out it was not the spoke count, it was the lousy wheel builders they had at the shop who could not keep the wheels true.

Since then I have built several sets. I go with 32, 3 cross, and straight gauge spokes without any issue. I tried a double butted on one set and makes no difference at all imo. I use straight gauge DT Swiss spokes. I have built 28's for the front and never an issue with them either. Have built about 15 wheels for my bikes. All with straight gauge. At 230, not going to notice a lighter spoke.

FTR, I have done timed events with 10,000 ft - 12,000 ft of gain along with all the training, 5,000 to 7,000 ft training rides and have not had one single issue with my wheels.

Straight gauge, 3 cross, 30 mm deep rims, no problem ever. No problem with 28 in the back either but I prefer 32 just because my training makes me faster, not a couple of spokes. Ultegra, 105, and Dura Ace hubs on my wheels, never a problem.

I myself don't like the thought of 36 hole hubs as there is less meat between the spoke holes. I often though that that would be an issue. I don't know about others, but I have had a couple of Clydesdale friends break the hub right at the flange between holes. One was 230 and the other 280 pounds. To each his own but this is my concern and have never had an issue with 32 or 28 on the rear. I am not willing to waste money on a 36 hole hub.

The problem. Lousy wheel builders who don't know what they are doing.

---------------

FTR, I use every tip I can to make sure my wheels are built well. I know a gang of bike shop workers who say they do not need a dish tool, tension meter and said some things do not matter. Good for them but the wheels I have built have lasted much longer than every single wheel I paid to have hand built at all the local shops her in So California. All but one guy who actually built the first wheel that lasted over 2,000 miles for me.

So I lace the wheels so that the TRAILING spokes are inside the hub flange. Some say it does not matter but my wheels are great with this method so I'd prefer my wheels over those guys who said it doesn't but yet could not build a wheel for me that would last. I use a dish tool and a tension meter to test the wheels after they are built. Good QC and they last vs the non believers I have dealt with.

Last edited by UCantTouchThis; 02-24-21 at 11:00 PM.
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Old 02-25-21, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Jeff Wills View Post
I agree. I'm close to that weight (240-ish) and I ride a recumbent so I can't "unweight" to protect the wheel.
Maybe some sort of ejection seat or at least a pneumatic arm to move the lounger forward. Maybe you could reconfigure the La-Z-Boy to instead of just moving back and putting the foot rest out it move it forward off the wheel
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Old 02-25-21, 02:14 PM
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DT Alpine III or similar.

13/15/14 gauge. They provide the most meat at the elbow that will fit the holes in most hub flanges. More material right where spokes usually break = stronger.
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Old 02-25-21, 11:10 PM
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Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
Maybe some sort of ejection seat or at least a pneumatic arm to move the lounger forward. Maybe you could reconfigure the La-Z-Boy to instead of just moving back and putting the foot rest out it move it forward off the wheel
OTOH, maybe it wouldn't be an issue with enough padding on the seat:
Sofa Bike Turns A Love Seat Into A Pedal-Powered Date Vehicle (coolthings.com)

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Old 02-26-21, 04:36 AM
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aaronmichael-

Have you actually test fit spokes in the hub flange? Do you detect play at the spoke hole? Some hub maker have enlarged the spoke holes in their hubs at the request of volume wheel builders to make machine spoking easier. Spokes rarely fail at the elbow because they are not strong enough, the spokes fail prematurely because of fatigue caused by movement in the hole and subsequent drops in tension. This is a function of the spoke diameter in the elbow area, spoke hole diameter, hub flange thickness and the shape of the bend in the elbow. Just using a larger diameter spoke may not result in the optimum fit. You might get some increase in lifespan because of the extra material but not what you would really hope for.

If using DT spokes, I would use the Competition (2.0-1.8-2.0) and definitely install spoke waters at the elbow for the best fit possible. Then spend extra time optimizing the spoke path to the rim after lacing. Nipple washers like the Sapim HW would be worth consideration as well. Revolution spokes on the rear NDS might be a choice if you know the rider's style and "relationship" with equipment.

The stated rider weight + bicycle weight is rapidly approaching the maximum recommended by DT. Tension will need to be high and tension balance will need to be spot on to keep them out of the shop.

As stated previously, a wheel is a system. The tire is also an important part of the system. A 25 mm tire at adequate pressure for a 250# rider could be asking for trouble even on fairly smooth roads.

Good luck however you proceed!
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Old 02-26-21, 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Jeff Wills View Post
OTOH, maybe it wouldn't be an issue with enough padding on the seat:
Sofa Bike Turns A Love Seat Into A Pedal-Powered Date Vehicle (coolthings.com)

No jokes or snark at all I really want one of those. I don't know why but drifting on a bicycle powered couch looks like boatloads of fun.
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Old 02-27-21, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by aaronmichael View Post
Good day to you,

I work at a local bicycle shop and we have a customer who is having us lace a pair of wheels for him. He's a road rider that weight around 250 pounds. I've built plenty of wheels but none where long term strength because of rider weight was a significant factor to consider. My largest obstacle right now is deciding what spoke to do the build with. I wouldn't classify his riding style as aggressive. Should I build this with a single butted spoke such as a (2.3/20), double butted (2.0/1.8/2.0) or a triple butted spoke (2.3/1.8/2.0)? The lacing will be 32H 3x for the rear wheel and 28H 2x for the front wheel. The general consensus seems to be that the spoke will last longer with any butted version but may sacrifice some stiffness. On the other hand, a straight gauge or single butted spoke may be stiffer but won't last as long. My main concern here is strength and durability because of rider weight. Any input on how to proceed would be greatly appreciated! Thank you for reading!
Go read this article in Wheel Fanatyk. Iíve also posted on the strength of various spoke gauges several times. Hereís one of them. The strength measurements from Pillar spokes demonstrate quite nicely how thinning out the middle part of the spoke makes them stronger. The strength gains of a 2.3/1.8/2.0mm spoke is significant over a 2.0/1.8/2.0mm spoke. The gain over a 2.0mm spoke is even larger.

The difference in stiffness between a straight and butted spoke is mostly insignificant. The gains is durability is far more important. Iíd build both wheels with the triple butted spokes. Itís mostly unnecessary on the front since those are strong but the added insurance doesnít cost much.
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Old 02-28-21, 12:49 PM
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Thanks to everyone for the additional information. I definitely have some reading to do on the issue. I reached out to DT Swiss and promptly receieved a response. Once again, these wheels will be equipped with 28mm tires which should in theory take some stress off the whole system.

"Youíve got it bang on for the front wheel, that is a great setup. The rear however is a little different, the Alpine III spokes are 2.34mm at the elbow of the spoke and they are designed to be used with our 350 Hybrid hubs that have thicker spoke flanges than standard hubs. We do not recommend using this spoke in a standard 350 hub. I would just go with the competition spokes in the rear, they are still a really strong spoke and paired with the RR511 I think it will be plenty strong even for a 250lb rider."

I was surprised he did not recommend the Alpine III. I'm curious if he is worried about the integrity of the hub flange with a 2.34mm spoke or if he's more concerned with them not laying relatively flat against the flange once it's laced. "Spoke path" is something I've never really delved into but it sounds like it's worth it now to do some research. Per their recommendation, I will also be using their DT branded PHR washers under the head of the nipples. The DT guy also recommended that I use their ProHead/ProLock nipples.
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Old 02-28-21, 03:31 PM
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Originally Posted by aaronmichael View Post
Thanks to everyone for the additional information. I definitely have some reading to do on the issue. I reached out to DT Swiss and promptly receieved a response. Once again, these wheels will be equipped with 28mm tires which should in theory take some stress off the whole system.

"Youíve got it bang on for the front wheel, that is a great setup. The rear however is a little different, the Alpine III spokes are 2.34mm at the elbow of the spoke and they are designed to be used with our 350 Hybrid hubs that have thicker spoke flanges than standard hubs. We do not recommend using this spoke in a standard 350 hub. I would just go with the competition spokes in the rear, they are still a really strong spoke and paired with the RR511 I think it will be plenty strong even for a 250lb rider."

I was surprised he did not recommend the Alpine III. I'm curious if he is worried about the integrity of the hub flange with a 2.34mm spoke or if he's more concerned with them not laying relatively flat against the flange once it's laced. "Spoke path" is something I've never really delved into but it sounds like it's worth it now to do some research. Per their recommendation, I will also be using their DT branded PHR washers under the head of the nipples. The DT guy also recommended that I use their ProHead/ProLock nipples.
Iíve used the Alpine III on a number of different brands of hubs without issues. Brands Iíve used are Phil Wood, White Industries Mi6, WI T1, WI H3, Shimano XT and XTR, GT (made by Hadley), as well as some otherís Iíve forgotten. The only one that I had a problem with was a Ringleí Hubabubba. I drilled that hub out slightly to make them fit.

If they wonít fit in DT Swiss hubs, Iíd look for another hub. The advantages of the heavier head far outweigh any advantage that the hub might give to the wheel. The strength of the wheel comes from the spokes and not much else. Read the Wheel Fanatyk article. It explains very nicely why the triple butted spokes should be used.
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Old 02-28-21, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by aaronmichael View Post
The lacing will be 32H 3x for the rear wheel and 28H 2x for the front wheel. […] My main concern here is strength and durability because of rider weight.
Use butted spokes, for sure. If the "main concern here is strength and durability," the more spokes, the better. I'd go 36 both front and rear. If loaded touring, consider 40 for the rear.
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Old 02-28-21, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Iíve used the Alpine III on a number of different brands of hubs without issues. Brands Iíve used are Phil Wood, White Industries Mi6, WI T1, WI H3, Shimano XT and XTR, GT (made by Hadley), as well as some otherís Iíve forgotten. The only one that I had a problem with was a Ringleí Hubabubba. I drilled that hub out slightly to make them fit.

If they wonít fit in DT Swiss hubs, Iíd look for another hub. The advantages of the heavier head far outweigh any advantage that the hub might give to the wheel. The strength of the wheel comes from the spokes and not much else. Read the Wheel Fanatyk article. It explains very nicely why the triple butted spokes should be used.
I did check to see if the Alpine III fit in the 350 hubs and it certainly does. Glad to hear that you used them in other hubs without any problems. I may message the customer service guy back and ask what the major concern is with using this particular spoke with that particular hub.
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Old 02-28-21, 06:16 PM
  #23  
wvridgerider 
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I just built myself a wheel set. I am 285lbs. I used 36 spoke 105 hubs, DT Swiss double butted spokes, brass nipples, and Velocity Atlas rims. They turned out nice and I have a few rides on them and they seem to be doing good. I like Shimano hubs, they work.
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Old 02-28-21, 08:28 PM
  #24  
DiabloScott
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The other advantage to using more spokes is that when one does break it has less effect on the wheel and it's easier to make a road fix and get home.
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Old 02-28-21, 10:13 PM
  #25  
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I have built a few wheels for 250+ riders and always build with 36 double butted spokes. I have not used triple butted spokes and see no real need for them.
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