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How important is spoke count really?

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How important is spoke count really?

Old 10-28-12, 09:59 PM
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Originally Posted by superdex
if (and when, you have to expect it) you blow a spoke, a low-count wheel will explode into pretzeldom --....
I assume that's tongue in cheek as low spoke count wheels don't "explode into pretzeldom" if they have a spoke break. I recently broke the first spoke on my 12yr old 16 spoke DA wheels with no such thing happening and a while back I broke a spoke on the 7yr old 20 spoke Zipp after I used it on the front of my tandem and was able to ride it 15 miles back to the car with no problem. What can happen if you use shallow depth rims is that they can go far enough out of true that you may not be able to ride the bike because of the rim rubbing on the brakes. I use deep dish rims so that isn't even much of an issue. They hardly go out of true if a spoke breaks.

Properly tensioned, low spoke count wheels will last many thousands of miles. I've gotten easily over 30k out of Shimano Da wheels and pretty close to that out of one of my sets of Zipp 404s.

Last edited by Homeyba; 10-28-12 at 10:08 PM.
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Old 10-29-12, 07:53 AM
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But, with regard to clydesdale use, neither of these make much difference to someone who is probably sitting more upright in the wind than optimal and weighs several kilos more than they should. There are exceptions to this, but, for the most part the important thing to cyldes is that their bike is a reliable means of exercise and with that in mind many of us prefer 32 or 36 spoke count wheels.


Thanks for the welcome.I ride my Trek 7500 which is a hybrid. I'm also 260lbs with a 25lb bike. My bike came stock with 700 c Bontrager Select 20/F spoke 24/R spoke rims. When I first came to the forums about a week ago. I had performance in mind. But the more I learn it seems that performance parts can have more potential disadvantages than advantages for a big guy on a hybrid. My current rims seem to be staying tru and i haven't had any broken spokes yet. *knocks on wood*
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Old 10-29-12, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by mikemartin
...My bike came stock with 700 c Bontrager Select 20/F spoke 24/R spoke rims...
Wow! Old threads never die. Reminds me to be careful what I say, because it will be around forever.

Just for info... I have several thousand miles on a set of Dura-Ace WH-7850-C24-CL wheels. My other bike has a set of Ultegra WH-6700 wheels. Both wheels have a 16 spoke count front and 20 spokes on the rear. Both sets are a hybrid carbon wheel with an aluminum braking surface. Even though they are tubeless, I run a standard configuration, (with tubes). My weight during the use of these wheels has fluctuated between 220 and 205.

I have had zero problems with these wheels. (Well, I did have to have the D/A front wheel trued once because I crashed into another rider at a signal. (I was "hammering" to keep up with him and wasn't looking ahead like I should have.) Totally my fault, not the wheels.) I ride them hard, but also avoid most debris in the road and try to avoid potholes and really rough pavement. I don't ride off curbs or otherwise abuse the wheels.

All this to say that if you don't abuse your wheelset, and keep them in tune, a low spoke count really isn't a concern for us heavier riders.
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Old 10-29-12, 09:36 AM
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There's a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt in this sub-forum around this question. Most of it is superstition.

Strong rims make strong wheels. You want well-built wheels, put together by a skilled wheel builder.
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Old 10-29-12, 10:20 AM
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IMO boxy rims like open pros need more spokes to keep the rim in line. 27-38mm alum rims will have strength in the rim itself and need less spokes # but higher tension.
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Old 10-29-12, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by volosong
Wow! Old threads never die. Reminds me to be careful what I say, because it will be around forever...
It's kind of funny, I usually check that before I post a response. At least Mikemartin was doing a little digging before posting a new topic.

Regarding spoke count and performace. Here is a great article written by Zipp. It's a good read on the topic.
https://www.zipp.com/_media/pdfs/tech...spokecount.pdf
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Old 10-29-12, 12:51 PM
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Then there are guys like me that have had issues with low spoke count wheels that came on my Schwinn Broadway, then the aftermarket read wheel I purchased at my LBS, then problems with the oem Mavic rear on my Spez Secteur in the first few months. Both times a hand-built 36h fixed the issue. FWIW spoke count may not have been the issue as much as machine building not properly tensioned or stress relieved. Going to the expense of a custom build twice I did not wish to experiment either time.

Even on a 32h wheel when a spoke breaks the wheel can go out enough to drag on the brakes, at least it has in my experience.
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Old 10-29-12, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Black wallnut
...Even on a 32h wheel when a spoke breaks the wheel can go out enough to drag on the brakes, at least it has in my experience.
That is very dependent on rim profile. If you have a low profile rim like a Mavic OP then yes it'll go out enough to drag on the brakes but a high profile rim won't. As I mentioned above, my 20 spoke Zipp didn't go out enough for me to even have to loosen the brakes. I wouldn't have noticed that I had a broken spoke if I didn't hear it break.
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Old 10-29-12, 08:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Homeyba
That is very dependent on rim profile. If you have a low profile rim like a Mavic OP then yes it'll go out enough to drag on the brakes but a high profile rim won't. As I mentioned above, my 20 spoke Zipp didn't go out enough for me to even have to loosen the brakes. I wouldn't have noticed that I had a broken spoke if I didn't hear it break.


I guess what you mean to say is your Zipp high profile rim did not. Both of the pictured wheels had brake pad rub after a single spoke broke, well at least the same exact profiles as these are both front wheels and the broken spokes were on the back only on the Mavic. (black wheel) The silver one is my stock Schwinn wheel, 24h, and is not what I call shallow although not as deep as any Zipp that I've seen. What I'm saying is there are a number of factors and rim profile may be one of them, so may spoke count, and I would bet alloy matters more than either of the above when we are talking about aluminum wheels. WTH I measured it just for kicks; the Schwinn wheel is 30mm deep which just happens to be the same spec as Velocity Deep V in 700C.
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Old 10-29-12, 09:18 PM
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It's kind of funny, I usually check that before I post a response. At least Mikemartin was doing a little digging before posting a new topic.

Wow! Old threads never die. Reminds me to be careful what I say, because it will be around forever.
Lol, yeah I usually google stuff first and see if i can find a definitive answer. You'd be surprised how many times I googled stuff and this website is among the top results. it's part of the reason why I joined.

My rim depth is 18 mm (I think) so I might have some problems if a spoke broke. I did have the rear tire go out of true after a year and half of daily commuting. I baby my rims, the only thing that kills me is freaking sewer drains!

Here's what my rims look like although this is a google image, not mine. https://i.ebayimg.com/t/2009-Trek-T1-...RF!~~60_35.JPG
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Old 10-29-12, 10:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Black wallnut


I guess what you mean to say is your Zipp high profile rim did not. Both of the pictured wheels had brake pad rub after a single spoke broke, well at least the same exact profiles as these are both front wheels and the broken spokes were on the back only on the Mavic. (black wheel) The silver one is my stock Schwinn wheel, 24h, and is not what I call shallow although not as deep as any Zipp that I've seen. What I'm saying is there are a number of factors and rim profile may be one of them, so may spoke count, and I would bet alloy matters more than either of the above when we are talking about aluminum wheels. WTH I measured it just for kicks; the Schwinn wheel is 30mm deep which just happens to be the same spec as Velocity Deep V in 700C.
What I should have said is "generally." I agree that there are lot of factors. Generally higher profile rims make for a stronger wheel set. The CXP 22 is pretty shallow. I used you have a set of CXP 33's but I don't remember if I ever broke a spoke on them. I don't know anything about your Schwinn wheel, I wonder who actually made it?
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Old 10-30-12, 12:23 PM
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The Schwinn wheel did not prove to be durable at all. I suspect the alloy they used, whoever "they" is was way too soft for the job.
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Old 11-03-12, 03:19 PM
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at 260 I ride Zonda wheel 16/21H - have threes sets on three different bikes from 5 years old to 1 years old. Lost one rear spoke this spring (the new wheels!) and had about 20Km to get home - no problem, no rub, no pretzelization
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