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Old 04-14-17, 09:30 AM   #1
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Better wheels for commuting?

This morning while standing on the pedals to take off from a light I heard the ominous ting that made me wonder about breaking another spoke. Sure enough, I'd broken another drive side spoke on the rear wheel.
My bike had new wheels on it when I bought it in 2005. Since then I've replaced both wheels and replaced another drive side spoke on the rear wheel about 200 miles ago. The first rear wheel was replaced after it kept breaking spokes that undoubtedly were due to hitting a huge bump shortly after I got the bike. At that time the shop told me if I've gone through a couple of spokes I'd be better off replacing the wheel instead of continuing to replace spokes as they continued to break and I replaced it with a basic wheel from Performance. The second wheel has been on for about 5 years and is due to have the bearings repacked anyway and now I'm wondering is 5 years a reasonable amount of use for a wheel like that? What would be a better replacement for commuting than another basic wheel from Performance? I weigh about 195 plus whatever is in the backpack and usually ride pretty sedately on pavement.
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Old 04-14-17, 09:38 AM   #2
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My adult son kept busting wheels and he finally had a custom wheel built. At $260 it was more cost-effective than replacing $100 wheels regularly. Came with lifetime truing and rim guarantee. Check with your local wheel builders and see what they offer. His wheels are Velocity ATlas and are bomb proof now.
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Old 04-14-17, 10:02 AM   #3
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Handbuilt is certainly a good way to go. Somebody in the forums should be able to recommend a wheelbuilder in the Chicago area.

I got a recommendation for a local shop from this forum (from FBinNY actually), and paid $400 for a wheelset handbuilt with parts I selected: 32H 105 hubs and Velocity Dyad rims in reflective black, the builder chose the spokes, I'm not exactly sure the gauges, but I know they're butted. The wheels have been rock solid for me, I'm about 250lb, and I carry up to 30-40lb in my kittier sometimes. After four years, about 10Kmi of mostly commuting, some longer road rides, and even some trail rides, the wheels run SUPER true. I only ever had to tighten a spoke once about a year ago, and that was because it got hit by something . Not sure how/when it happened, but there is a visible dent in it, but it tightened up just fine and has given me no problems

If I were to do it all again though, I would:
(a) not waste a few extra bucks on the reflective black finish on the rims, barely reflective at all. The reflective stripe on my tires is much brighter
(b) go 36H rear and 28H front
(c) maybe only have the rear wheel handbuilt
(d) maybe just buy Nashbar's Vuelta Corsa HD reputedly bombproof, and cheap (although is it discontinued now? can't find it on their website)
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Old 04-14-17, 10:52 AM   #4
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I kept finding loose and broken spokes on the rear wheel of my 2015 Charge Plug. Long story short, the derailer had been knocked out of alignment and was hitting the spokes enough to eventually break them. After fixing that situation I had the chain fall into the wheel and break some spokes immediately. But the last six months have been problem free.
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Old 04-14-17, 11:07 AM   #5
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If your 'new' wheel, bearings repacked at 5 years, is staying true and not breaking spokes, I would keep it (unless the rim is wearing through of course). Repacking bearings (and freehub if they do that) is like the best thing you can do for your drivetrain, it's as good as new wheels.

The best wheels I have had for reliability per dollar have been the basic performance ones. 105/openpro or xt/whatever-generic-26"-rim. They have not been notably fun or light, they have just been reliable as all get out.
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Old 04-14-17, 11:22 AM   #6
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If I were you, I'd go for machine or handbuilt 28/28 front/rear spoke wheels. I'm a little heavier so I have 32/32 ones from has some parts, build kits and I think they might also build wheels as well. Another benefit with more spokes is that you can survive a break a lot better and still be able to ride. Get a break on 20 or 24 spoke wheels and its likely the end of the ride until its replaced...

This recent thread cover some of the same ground:

Last edited by ptempel; 04-14-17 at 11:27 AM.
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Old 04-14-17, 12:20 PM   #7
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Spokes break when they've flexed too many times, which is why after a few have broken the rest will follow. You won't really have 2 or 3 flexing so much, and the others not. Spokes that are properly and evenly tensioned (which is what the custom builders excel at) don't flex as much and last longer. So it's logical to me to retain your wheel and check the tensions, and also that another Performance brand wheel can made durable.

It's true that custom builders might use higher grade nipples and spokes, and wider flanges for greater strength and so on, but I honestly think that for durability of spokes and staying true the quality of materials is less important than knowing what they're doing and getting it right. And even getting it in the ballpark of "right" goes a long way.
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Old 04-14-17, 03:31 PM   #8
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There seem to be a ton of reputable and inexpensive sources for wheels right now.

I was going to build my next set of wheels myself just for the pleasure of it, but the world just won't get in line. I tried to order a hub from Chain Reaction and due to a stock error they canceled it and refunded it plus a L5 credit... but it's no longer included with the big-enough-for-free-shipping order I placed. :-/ I was planning to do something maximally-compatible, a QR 6-bolt disk hub with 135 spacing (the canceled order was Deore 525) and a wider tubeless rim with brake tracks (like Velcoity A23 or DTSwiss R 460). I could cram it into my commuter (130 spacing) or into a 27.5 MTB with 37mm tires or into a 29er MTB with 2" tires.
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Old 04-14-17, 03:49 PM   #9
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I'm building a bike up for a friend of mine who is 6'10". I ordered for the build a handbuilt wheelset from Spa Cycles from the UK for $330, US shipping included. Rigida Sputnik rims, O-lite hubs, 40 spoke rear, 36 front. They are impressive.
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