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How important is spoke count really?

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How important is spoke count really?

Old 06-01-07, 01:02 AM
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How important is spoke count really?

I know that this (or wheel strength) is a much repeated topic, but what I want to really know is:

Have any of you had big trouble from low spoke wheels? How many spokes did you have, and what was the big trouble? How many kms/miles before the trouble, what kind of riding were you doing? Any carbon rim horror stories?

The reason that I ask is, the first bit of advice I see from everyone when they recommend bikes to Clydes is to get high spoke count wheels built with 3x lacing patterns. I have lightweight wheels radially laced at front, and 2xdrive side/radial at the back (on three separate sets of wheels on 2 bikes now), and have had no problems..... so far....

I am 6 foot 3, between 220 and 240 pounds (and shrinking?). I'm training for a 210 km ride in October and want to know if anyone has had real problems, or its all fear uncertainty and doubt?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 06-01-07, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by mjolniir
I know that this (or wheel strength) is a much repeated topic, but what I want to really know is:

Have any of you had big trouble from low spoke wheels? How many spokes did you have, and what was the big trouble? How many kms/miles before the trouble, what kind of riding were you doing? Any carbon rim horror stories?

The reason that I ask is, the first bit of advice I see from everyone when they recommend bikes to Clydes is to get high spoke count wheels built with 3x lacing patterns. I have lightweight wheels radially laced at front, and 2xdrive side/radial at the back (on three separate sets of wheels on 2 bikes now), and have had no problems..... so far....

I am 6 foot 3, between 220 and 240 pounds (and shrinking?). I'm training for a 210 km ride in October and want to know if anyone has had real problems, or its all fear uncertainty and doubt?

Thanks in advance.
Let's put it this way... I recently had a wheelset built up for my xtracycle project... 48 spoke/dt super comp spokes/brass nipples/ Salsa Gordo Triple wall rim... The more the merrier IMHO. I guess it would depend on where you usually have the problem with wheel failures... I have always had bad luck with sheering the elbows off of the spokes... YMMV
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Old 06-01-07, 04:14 PM
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if (and when, you have to expect it) you blow a spoke, a low-count wheel will explode into pretzeldom -- each spoke is responsible for that much more rim area to keep true. More spokes means less tension per spoke, which is less stress per spoke.

FWIW, I rode on Bontrager Race Lights (2003 version), 20/24, while I was in the 220 pound range. They were rock solid....
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Old 06-01-07, 04:41 PM
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It depends on your application.

As an example, I do loaded touring, and run 40 spoke rear and 36 front. I don't worry about sweating grams, not when my fully loaded bike can top 70 pounds itself!
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Old 06-01-07, 04:48 PM
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Yeah,
seems silly to sweat low spoke wheels when you're a Clydesdale...
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Old 06-01-07, 07:22 PM
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I had Bontragers on my Lemond. Lasted 9 months (5,000 miles). Back went first,front about 1 month later. I always hated the front cause it would flex so much when I stood to climb or sprint. I could hear the magnet hit the comp sensor if it was the slightest bit too close.


20/24 stock rims. I'm 235'ish. Using Velocity Deep V in the rear,3X 32 spoke. I had a friend that ripped apart a 36 Ultegra hub. SInce then I lost faith in too high a count. Maybe not enough meat between holes unless you have special hubs like a tandem. My tnadem has 48 holes but big beefy meaty hub flanges that are made to handle it. Holes are no closer than a 32 standard hub.

Rear I built for the Lemond,11,000 miles, no problems
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Old 06-01-07, 07:54 PM
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This one was a bargain. I found the rim on clearance for $25,the hub at Supergo (Dura Ace) and $20 for spokes. Built it myself. $145 for a DA Deep V wheel.

Cannondale Deep V

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Old 06-01-07, 08:15 PM
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Thanks for your responses.
My current wheels are Shimano 560 16/20,
Generic cheapies 20/24
50mm carbon 20/24
(I also have strong MTB wheels that I'm not concerned about)

The carbon rims are Triathlon race wheels, only used for races. the generic cheapies are on my road bike, and I've loaned that out, so I use the Shimanos for training.

I'm slightly concerned that the shimanos may fail, but I visually expect the rims and hubs before I ride, but (as I remember from my younger days) a spoke will fail generally at the hub, and the shimanos don't have the eyelet bends that my earlier wheels did.


I think that I'll keep using the shimanos and maybe get some 24/28s with DA hubs built.
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Old 06-01-07, 08:45 PM
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I've read on various sites that 28 spoke wheels aren't very good. I think it was Sheldon Brown's site.

The angle in which the spoke enters the rim is too drastic with the 28's. Said it was better 24/20? can't remember. Just know 28's aren't rec'd!

I had 28's in the rear. From experience, I believe the guy after my 28's failed as he stated.

I really don't understand why you don't go 32 in the rear. Weight of 4 spokes? Heck, you probably lose some of the extra weight from 4 more drilled holes in the hub! Riders drill hokles in the cogs to lose weight. Makes sense for the hub too. But it's your money honey!
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Old 06-01-07, 10:09 PM
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I've dropped about 40 pounds since last summer, 265 to 225, but when I was heavier, I tore up 32-spoke rear wheels pretty quickly, sometimes in only 2500 miles. These were hand-built by a good builder in a local shop. Finally I replaced the rear on my Atlantis with a 36 built by Rich at Rivendell, and I've had no troubles in @ 3000. Could be the weight, but I think the spoke count is a factor, too. 225 is still pretty heavy.
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Old 06-02-07, 12:28 AM
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As long as you have a good wheelbuilder, you should be able to ride a 28 front / 32 rear.. Ideally a 32 front / 36 rear would give you a bulletproof combination.. There are many good rims choices, all have there merits..

Mavic Open Pro
Mavic CXP 33
DT Swiss RR 1.1
Velocity Deep V

These are all solid choices and will give you a good balance of fairly lightweight vs strength..
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Old 06-02-07, 09:02 PM
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Originally Posted by mjolniir
...Have any of you had big trouble from low spoke wheels? How many spokes did you have, and what was the big trouble? How many kms/miles before the trouble, what kind of riding were you doing? Any carbon rim horror stories?...
Hi mjolniir!

I am of the opinion that spoke count matters less than rim profile and quality. I rode some Campagnolo Vento road wheels for about six months until one rear spoke broke. The Ventos are not only low spoke count, but also radial-spoked. Even when the rear spoke broke, the wheel remained straight and true. The Ventos, on the other hand, have a "deep-V" profile rim. At the time I had the Ventos, I weighed between 260 & 275.

The rim quality also matters. I had some custom, 36-spoke, three-cross wheels built. The rims were Mavic CXP-33 models. The tires mounted were significantly wider than recommended by Mavic, but not out of line with what cyclocross riders routinely run. The rear rim failed catastrophically, left me with permanent injury, and could have killed me. The builder inspected the rims and thought that a manufacturing defect was likely to blame, although Mavic denied it.

Based on personal experience, I now avoid Mavics and hope to buy some Campagnolos again when I get to "racing trim" weight. My experiences are all with road wheels. To summarize my answer to your question, the first sentence of this reply says it succinctly.
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Old 06-04-07, 02:15 AM
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Thank you all

Thanks guys. I'll let you know what I end up getting.
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Old 06-04-07, 02:28 AM
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It so depends on riding style, habbits, conditions. I'm your weight and have been heavy for many years to some extent or another. I've not had problems with non-heavy-duty wheels when I've ridden a road bike. Tires, yes, when I rode sew-ups, not anymore though. Seems like you're not tough on wheels or you have adequate wheels or both. The rears are more prone to damage anyway, that can't be avoided. One CAN "baby" the fronts.
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Old 06-04-07, 09:57 AM
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This response may be to late, but I ride 24/28 Easton Circuits and have been quite impressed. I originally purchased a bike that had 16/20 count and they lasted about 100 miles before becoming untrue. Colorado Cyclist swapped those wheels for the Circuits, which I thought was one stop on the way to getting some 32/36 custom open pros, but the Circuits have held up superbly under my 250 lbs.

With that said, I am planning at some point to get a set of Velocity Deep V built with at least 32 spokes in the rear. The Circuits though have definitely made me a believer that a good wheel can hold up under weight.
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Old 06-04-07, 02:06 PM
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i was worried as well (at 6'1" 240lbs) but got an incredible deal on some Campy Khamsin (https://www.campagnolo.com/wheels.php?gid=2&cid=11), 24/27 and have had no problems at all. I ride hard (curbs, potholes, san francisco's infamous mission district city riding) and ride 100-200 miles a week with no problems for two months. good luck.
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Old 06-04-07, 03:47 PM
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230lbs down from 255, 24/20 spoke wheels here with no problems after amost 1200 miles. I tend to try and take care of my wheels and am "light" on the bike at appropriate times and never hammer any railroad tracks or even up driveways for that matter. Go easy, and the wheels may last.
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Old 06-04-07, 06:12 PM
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If you break a spoke, you will wish you went with the higher spoke count. If you lose 1 of 25 that is 5%, one of 36 is less than 3%.
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Old 06-05-07, 01:14 AM
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And the winner is:

Mavic Open Pro w/Ultegra Hubs DT Swiss 14 Guage spokes 32F/32R

Simple. Bombproof.

Getting the LBS to quote on building them for me.
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Old 06-05-07, 10:53 AM
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can someone please explain what the big difference is between built wheels and off-the-rack wheels? My bike came with Alexrims 250s. They sucked. I broke spokes in the rear, and the front was flexing so much I had to remove the magnet for my computer. I switched to off the shelf Mavic OPs with Ultegra hubs from Performance Bike and have been completely happy. The Alex 250s and the Mavic Ops have the same number of spokes. 32.
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Old 06-05-07, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by bburrito
can someone please explain what the big difference is between built wheels and off-the-rack wheels? My bike came with Alexrims 250s. They sucked. I broke spokes in the rear, and the front was flexing so much I had to remove the magnet for my computer. I switched to off the shelf Mavic OPs with Ultegra hubs from Performance Bike and have been completely happy. The Alex 250s and the Mavic Ops have the same number of spokes. 32.

There are three kinds of wheels, factory fresh, hand tuned, and hand built.

Factory Fresh, wheel is assembled on a machine, the machine basically takes a rim and a hub, and inserts the spokes, wheel is taken off machine, and tossed in box, installer takes factory built wheel out of box, adds tube and tire (if not already installed) installs on bike, pumps up pressure to something within 50PSI of what it should be. This is fine for riders under 115lbs, for an clyde they are likely to have a broken spoke within the first few weeks of riding, for an uberclyde, it's likely on the first ride. SOP at department stores, xmarts and some non-cycling oriented sports shops, and way more bike shops then it should be.

Hand Trued, wheel is assembled on a machine, wheel is taken off machine, and tossed in box, installer takes factory built wheel out of box, puts on truing stand, trues it, tensions it, stress relieves the spokes, repeat until optimum, add tube and tire, pumps pressure to optimum, installs on bike, should be SOP at bike shops, but sadly in many cases isn't. More expensive then factory fresh, but not as expensive as hand built.

Hand built, wheel builder takes hub, rim, spokes and assembles the wheel, after it's assembled it is placed in a truing stand, trued, tensioned, stress relieved repeatedly until optimum, tube and tire are added, and pumped to optimum pressure, gets spun on stand to make sure that it's still prefect, then installed on bicycle. Can be expensive because of all the hand labour. AFAICT Rocky Mountain in Canada actually factory hand builds wheels.

A good hand trued wheel, can be as good as a good hand built wheel, the difference being that a machine does the assembly. It's the tuning step that makes all the difference between a factory fresh and a hand built wheel. Some bike shop mechanics can tune a wheel so well that, 10 years and 25,000 miles later, it's as true is when they finished truing it. other guys you can't tell the difference from when they first pulled it out of the box, a day later.

A lot of times, when you get two riders, same size, same weight, same brand, model and year of bike, one will swear by the wheels, the other will swear at the same wheels, the difference is that one was properly tensioned and trued, the other wasn't.
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Old 06-06-07, 02:25 AM
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Thanks Wogster. I get the deal with hand built wheels.

I just got the quote from the LBS. $900AUD even for hand built, hand trued wheels.

It just feels ~expensive~ to me.

I trust the mechanic - he rides a lot, and he's ridden for a long time.

I'm thinking that for now, I'm going to keep on riding the wheels that I've got and either get the new wheels around October, or when the current wheels start to need truing, whichever comes first,
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Old 06-06-07, 06:32 AM
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Originally Posted by mjolniir
Thanks Wogster. I get the deal with hand built wheels.

I just got the quote from the LBS. $900AUD even for hand built, hand trued wheels.

It just feels ~expensive~ to me.

I trust the mechanic - he rides a lot, and he's ridden for a long time.

I'm thinking that for now, I'm going to keep on riding the wheels that I've got and either get the new wheels around October, or when the current wheels start to need truing, whichever comes first,
AU$900 IS Expensive, what you might want to try, is find out who does the hand building, and see if you can get him/her to true up YOUR wheels, even if it's $100, however, unless your wheels are giving you trouble, or are quickly going out of true, it might be better to remember the old cliché -- if it aint broke, don't fix it. Remember to that it's the RIM you check true for, not the tire, sometimes a tire will appear out of true, while the rim is fine, due to variations in the tire manufacturing process.
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Old 10-28-12, 09:17 PM
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What does spoke count matter as far as performance? I heard lower is better, but if that's true why does my 2002 Trek only have 20 while some more expensive bikes have more spokes. (noob)
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Old 10-28-12, 09:56 PM
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Originally Posted by mikemartin
What does spoke count matter as far as performance? I heard lower is better, but if that's true why does my 2002 Trek only have 20 while some more expensive bikes have more spokes. (noob)
Welcome to the forum Mike. The number of spokes affects performance in two ways. One, weight. Few spokes, equalls less weight, unless one is using a heavier rim to allow the lower spoke count. Two, fewer spokes cause less wind resistance.

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.
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