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In defence of STEEL RIMS...

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In defence of STEEL RIMS...

Old 11-10-18, 05:28 PM
  #1  
maxants33
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In defence of STEEL RIMS...

Hello all,
Im a fan of steel rims and I've been meaning to write this for a while - but after a crash several days ago and near loss of my back wheel due, I've finally had the push I need!

Basically, I had a crash on my way to work and pretty much warped the rear wheel to the point where it was not ride-able. I dropped it off at the bike shop near work, but at the end of the day, the mechanics told me the wheel was a write off and would need re-building on a new rim.

The wheel is a custom made solid 26 x1 3/8 Steel Beretta rim with the Sturmey Archer S2C hub and Schwable Marathon+. Its been going 2 years without needing any truing. I hunted for a long time to get that Beretta rim for this wheel build so was totally shocked when the mechanic told me it was a write off.

The thing is - I am building a round-the-world-attempt bike just now - and have elected for old school steel rims - my logic being that in a pinch, you will always be able to beat or bend a steel rim back into shape (something alloy rims cannot do so well) . SO, rather than rush out and buy a new rim, I had a go a bending out the rims by hand/foot and did a truing job myself - sure enough, the wheel is looking very good and riding exactly as before.

On my Cargo/touring bike I have gone through 2 mavic A119 and 1 sputnik (2 buckled and 1 flatspot) in a mere 3 years (accident prone?)! But the longevity/robustness of the steel rims on my Vindec has really pleased me (the front wheel was very vintage when I got it and is also a Beretta rim, other than being rebuilt onto a dynamo hub, the wheel has never been trued and has been on the Vindec since 2013!). Bearing in mind I have commuted on this bike several miles daily for 6 years. I also have always used coaster brakes with steel rims + the 2 rim brakes, would never think about riding steel without at least one hub brake...

Its this robustness that got me decided on putting 28x1 1/2 (ISO 635) oldschool rims on my world tourer - common size in a lot Asia and Africa, and being the biggest diameter wheel available they deal nicely with rough terrain. And hopefully will survive many re straightening attempts if needed... (Read a few blogs from people with alloy rims stuck in the middle of nowhere unable to get a replacement). Dont worry abot spokes, old 28 rims accept the heaviest gauge of spoke (pretty much motor bike grade) and I actually enjoy the effect of rotational momentum from heavier wheels!

In Short - I think steel rims have a place on low/cheap maintenance commuting bikes and potentially ultra distance touring bikes (will find out about that one!) and they look much nice.

Of course this is all just my opinion. And I have 4 bikes - 2 with alloy rims and and 2 with steel and will not be changing this as alloy is ideal for these bikes.



Remarkably true 26x 1 3/8 old Beretta rim


The 'All/mostly steel' Vindec Atlantic (6 years post restoration)

Last edited by maxants33; 11-10-18 at 05:38 PM.
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Old 11-10-18, 05:50 PM
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Yes, steel wheels belong in defence.


now, if you are trying to stick up for them, that's a whole 'nother word altogether.....
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Old 11-10-18, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by hazetguy View Post
Yes, steel wheels belong in defence.
I don't get what you mean? I agree, they are great though.
Meant to add - cost last time I buckled an alloy wheel:
New rim: £30
Wheel build: £35

Cost of buckling my first steel rim in 15 years:
£0!
Great, eh?

Last edited by maxants33; 11-10-18 at 06:14 PM.
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Old 11-10-18, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by maxants33 View Post
I don't get what you mean?
Meant to add - cost last time I buckled an alloy wheel:
New rim: £30
Wheel build: £35

Cost of buckling my first steel rim in 15 years:
£0!
Great, eh?
A play on words in [American] English. Defense is to protect something, whereas defence is not a word, but contains 'fence', a thing that separates property, typically. I understand the common usage in the UK is 'Defence', versus 'defense'

That said, a well built alumin[i]um wheel will last a good long time and suffer much abuse. Steel is eminently repairable, but you pay for it with weight and poor rim braking.
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Old 11-10-18, 06:23 PM
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There are rumors that there are certain "Taco" shaped wheels that can be repaired, either through loosening all the spokes and re-truing, or using brute force (possibly banging against a solid object). And, apparently is effective with either aluminum or steel.

I haven't tried it myself, but I've seen a co-op mechanic working on a wheel.
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Old 11-10-18, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by wschruba View Post
That said, a well built alumin[i]um wheel will last a good long time and suffer much abuse. Steel is eminently repairable, but you pay for it with weight and poor rim braking.
Thanks, naturally agree with that.
I have always added a hub brake if building onto steel - would be madness not to in rainy Britain!

On my LongTail I have a very good Alloy sputnik laced onto a SA XL-FD hub which has survived the numerous alpine rocky descents and most recently the Pyrenees. But I still had a costly rebuild from an irreparable flat spot on that wheel's last iteration. Dont mind spending that much to repair my beloved Longtail, but on my beater bike?

As you might be able to tell from this pic - I'm not overly concerned about weight (taken after a 4500ft climb in the Pyrenees)


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Old 11-10-18, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
There are rumors that there are certain "Taco" shaped wheels that can be repaired, either through loosening all the spokes and re-truing, or using brute force (possibly banging against a solid object). And, apparently is effective with either aluminum or steel.
No, don't bang it against solid object that's how it got damaged in the first place!

Any metal can be reworked, it's all a matter of working out how to stretch & shrink it at the right places to achieve your desired shape. Alu workhardens & tears easier than steel but if you have access to heat then that widens the working window.

Main limit is time & skill. Economicswise, if you're paying for someone else's time & skill, it's cheaper to buy new rim.

Steel wheels work fine but my main concern is rust. Not talking surface rust but the hidden areas inside the tubing (wheel rims are usually made from flattened steel tubing).
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Old 11-10-18, 07:03 PM
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I am also on the steel side of the fence, as weight is of no concern to me. I have one example that is just as true and gleaming as when it was rolled out 37 years ago. I have no problem with aluminum rims either, as they are both just as easy to true and maintain. I do have a steel rimmed bike that came to me recently with rusted rims/seized spokes and nipples not worth saving. I'll throw some spare aluminum wheels on that.
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Old 11-10-18, 07:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Tamiya View Post
[left]

No, don't bang it against solid object that's how it got damaged in the first place!
My blue-collar bike mech took great joy in trying to smack tacos back towards their norm and then start with some spoke tweaks continuing on with jusdicious standing and jumping on wheel, always determined to bring a wheel back to life. Alloy or steel.
Wheel ninja.

He was old school at it's best and built some of the finest racing wheels for East Toronto riders.
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Old 11-10-18, 07:39 PM
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Aluminum is clearly the better material for rims. They're lighter, rust resistant and rims don't have the same corrosion welding issues that seat posts and stems have. Still, I feel that their advantage in rim braking tends to be a bit overstated. If you're really after a clear, quantifiable improvement in braking power move up to hydraulic discs.
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Old 11-10-18, 10:43 PM
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The two detriments of steel rims are weight and braking performance. You have a coaster brake, so braking performance isn't an issue. If you're not bothered by the weight, by all means a steel rim is perfectly fine.
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Old 11-10-18, 11:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Tamiya View Post


No, don't bang it against solid object that's how it got damaged in the first place!

This is an old trick. If the rim is bent tot the side, it must be re-bent to approximately straight or it will require constant uneven spoke tension to keep it true. So, given that bent rim, the mechanic would tell the customer to come back in 4 hours. Customer leaves, mechanic takes the wheel, loosens the spokes around the bend, inflates the tire, then slams the wheel done on a concrete step (so all contact is with that tire). Return the spokes to original tension, tweak a bit and done. Properly done, that wheel will probably roll until it dies of natural causes. 10 minutes. You just cannot let the customer see the process! (Wheel will almost certainly have a small wave or two at the repair, but it often doesn't affect riding.)

Don't do this with modern quality aluminum rims. The metal is too "good", too strong, too high strength. Modern aluminum rims are near guaranteed to to crack, either then or later, if you try to bend it twice. But steel rims and the aluminum rims of the '70s - this approach saved a lot of wheels and riders a lot of money.

Ben
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Old 11-11-18, 01:59 AM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
This is an old trick. If the rim is bent tot the side, it must be re-bent to approximately straight or it will require constant uneven spoke tension to keep it true. So, given that bent rim, the mechanic would tell the customer to come back in 4 hours. Customer leaves, mechanic takes the wheel, loosens the spokes around the bend, inflates the tire, then slams the wheel done on a concrete step (so all contact is with that tire). Return the spokes to original tension, tweak a bit and done. Properly done, that wheel will probably roll until it dies of natural causes. 10 minutes. You just cannot let the customer see the process! (Wheel will almost certainly have a small wave or two at the repair, but it often doesn't affect riding.)
thanks Ben! Yeah that's the general idea... I just avoid anywhere "concrete"

I'd rather massage it back using planks of wood & broomsticks as levers, pressing down with body weight is more than enough to bend most mild steel with lots of control

ripple at braking surface, I try to roll out with a broomstick - put broomstick at peak of dent, wedge the end at the hub under spoke lip then press rim against stick to smoothen the high spots. Low spots might need drifting out from inside... short lengths of broomstick cut at a slant into chisels make good drifts.


Definitely don't let any civilians watch you bashing their pride & joy back into shape
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Old 11-11-18, 06:49 AM
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I'm curious how you trashed two A119's (and one sputnik). I put an A119 on the front of our tandem (only 32 spokes!) and it has been flawless after 10,000 miles. When the rear rim (a 36 spoke Matrix strung onto the original Atom hub) developed a crack I rebuilt the wheel with another A119. It has maybe 5000 miles and has also been flawless. Granted we are not a heavy team, but tandems always carry heavy loads. You say you aren't concerned about weight, but maybe you should be.
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Old 11-11-18, 06:50 AM
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I have a couple of bikes with SS 635 ERTO wheels and an extra set I want to build up in the States They are great rims but need some type of drum brake to avoid slippage when wet. The Schwalbe Cruiser tires are a great choice. but these are not a setup for long distance touring as there are as many or more aluminum rims here in Asia as there are SS or steel. My suggestion is to get the best Aluminum rims you can and skip the Steel rims.

IMG_20170721_174116889[1] by Bwilli88, on Flickr
This is the Sram version of a 2 speed auto hub with a coaster brake.

IMG_20170721_174128741[1] by Bwilli88, on Flickr
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Old 11-11-18, 06:55 AM
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Originally Posted by hazetguy View Post
Yes, steel wheels belong in defence.


now, if you are trying to stick up for them, that's a whole 'nother word altogether.....

hahaha I like that!
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Old 11-11-18, 07:25 AM
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One of my co-op clients has a disk brake Mongoose that has steel wheels. It is heavy but bombproof! I would never use steel rims for a bike with rim brakes, but if you have a hub or disk brake then they should work well enough.
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Old 11-11-18, 07:50 AM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
There are rumors that there are certain "Taco" shaped wheels that can be repaired....:
I've successfully trued wheels that have looked like a Pringle's potato chip. If the deviation from true progresses smoothly and gradually, even wheels that are several inches out of true can be saved. The problematic wheels are those with the sharp changes from true.
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Old 11-11-18, 08:11 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
The two detriments of steel rims are weight and braking performance. You have a coaster brake, so braking performance isn't an issue. If you're not bothered by the weight, by all means a steel rim is perfectly fine.

I wouldn't be attempting a world tour, relying on a coaster brake for back-up. Descending a mountain, in the rain, on a fully loaded bicycle with steel rims would be a terrifying experience. If steel rims and IGH were mandatory, I'd be building the rear wheel around a Shimano Nexus hub with a disc brake rotor.
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Old 11-11-18, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
I'm curious how you trashed two A119's (and one sputnik). I put an A119 on the front of our tandem (only 32 spokes!) and it has been flawless after 10,000 miles. When the rear rim (a 36 spoke Matrix strung onto the original Atom hub) developed a crack I rebuilt the wheel with another A119. It has maybe 5000 miles and has also been flawless. Granted we are not a heavy team, but tandems always carry heavy loads. You say you aren't concerned about weight, but maybe you should be.

I did say "accident prone"... One A119 lost due side impact fom a car. One due to LBS not fastening the axle nuts and wheel coming out of drop outs mid traffic at high speed.

The Sputnik suffered a flatspot after hitting a curb in the dark at high speed fully loaded (I was fine but a physiothe****** who saw me come off the bike was convinced I needed to go to hospital - so violent was the dismount!). The wheel was perfectly true - but the flat spot was just so annoying to ride on. I tried all the tricks on Sheldon Brown, but the rim was just too stiff. Local mechanic didn't feel it would be safe to use on a loaded cargo bike even if I did get the flatspot out.


BUT - This bike (grey longtail above) still has an A119 on the back and a Sputnik on the front! Its my pride and joy and alloys are great for it and plenty strong - as seen in the picture posted earlier, its handled the Alps and Pyrenees mountains wonderfully.


But after an accident - which I seem to be prone to - the ability of my steel rims to bend back into shape has impressed me - thus will be going to use on my world tourer bike - especially after reading about some folks temporarily stranded in central africa after their alloy rim cracked!:


https://www.davestravelpages.com/cyc...-khartoum.html

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Old 11-11-18, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by bwilli88 View Post
Beautiful beater bike this! Feel like its a spiritual relative of my vindec - also a 2 speed/coaster (sturmey S2C) on vintage steel rims/frame!
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Old 11-11-18, 09:38 AM
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I have no problem with steel or alloy rims, though I have worn out several alloy rims over the years. Never had to replace a steel rim due to the side collapsing from braking.

My oldest bike (by date of purchase) is a 1970ish Raleigh Sports Standard, it has been through hell and back and has somewhere over 30,000 miles on it. The rims are pretty rough, the chrome is worn off in a few places so the braking is a bit grabby, but it still gets ridden. FWIW it has the lighter Endrick pattern rims rather than the heavier/thicker Westrick/Raleigh pattern rims.
Braking has always been a bit of an issue with wet steel rims, Kool Stop pads have gone a long ways towards making that less of an issue, as well as hub brakes.

If the steel rims are of a decent quality I don't see any reason not to use them.

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Old 11-11-18, 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
I have no problem with steel or alloy rims, though I have worn out several alloy rims over the years. Never had to replace a steel rim due to the side collapsing from braking.

My oldest bike (by date of purchase) is a 1970ish Raleigh Sports Standard, it has been through hell and back and has somewhere over 30,000 miles on it. The rims are pretty rough, the chrome is worn off in a few places so the braking is a bit grabby, but it still gets ridden. FWIW it has the lighter Endrick pattern rims rather than the heavier/thicker Westrick/Raleigh pattern rims.
Braking has always been a bit of an issue with wet steel rims, Kool Stop pads have gone a long ways towards making that less of an issue, as well as hub brakes.

If the steel rims are of a decent quality I don't see any reason not to use them.

Aaron
I agree, Kooolstop salmon pads have taken the edge off wet braking. In combo with a coaster brake, wet braking is not much of a problem for me. Skidding in the rain still is though
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Old 11-11-18, 09:06 PM
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Consider stainless steel rims.
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Old 11-11-18, 09:20 PM
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Originally Posted by old's'cool View Post
Consider stainless steel rims.
SS rims are not any better, just rust slower.
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