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how many spokes

Old 03-25-10, 12:31 PM
  #1  
walterz54
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how many spokes

for a commuter bike, how many spokes would you recomend? I weigh 170, and carry anywhere from
10 to 25lbs. most of the commute is on good roads. I do jump off or onto curbs every once in a while.
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Old 03-25-10, 12:37 PM
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I went out of my way to go with 36 spokes, particularly on the rear wheel. When I was building it it was a lot easier to find 32 spoke hubs and rims, but I held out for 36.

I had previously had significant trouble with spoke breakage. I weigh 180, 35 pound bike, 8 miles a day of gravel road, but really the problem was that the wheel the bike came with was under-tensioned.

On the front wheel, with rim brakes, I'd be OK with going with 32 spoke wheels. I went with 36 because of the disc brake.
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Old 03-25-10, 12:38 PM
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My total weight (rider + bike + cargo) gravitates around 190 - 200 lbs. I ride on fair to poor quality roads: lots of asphalt patches, steel plates, RR crossings, gravel. I run 32 spokes front and rear, and my wheels require only minor truing roughly twice a year.
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Old 03-25-10, 12:40 PM
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32 spokes is fine on a road bike. 36 spokes will give you a very strong rear wheel on your touring, mountain, or hybrid.
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Old 03-25-10, 12:50 PM
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The more the merrier, I always say. If it's just for commuting/riding around town, there's no reason not to get 36, at least on the rear. I'm significantly heavier than you, so YMMV, but if you're not concerned about the weight of the bike, you'll have a stronger wheel with more spokes - all other things being equal - so why skimp on spokes?

32 would be fine at your weight, too, if you find a wheel you really prefer that only comes in a 32 spoke configuration and not a 36.
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Old 03-25-10, 06:11 PM
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Thirty-two would be about right--and none of that paired-spoke lacing either. Good old 3-cross is what you need.

I'm 175, carry a little less than you daily and a lot more on grocery runs. I suffered through two years and two sets of 24-spoke paired 2-cross laced wheels. Couldn't keep them true, and broke spokes with alarming regularity.
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Old 03-25-10, 06:23 PM
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32 3 cross front and back. Just about to put my bike in to get the wheels rebuilt with a new hub on front and investing double butted spokes front and rear (trying to lighten the wheels up a bit...a wee bit).

The guy from the bike maintenance shop (he doesn't sell bikes, maintenance service only) told me this......

The treatment utilised to make spoke black actually weakens the spokes inferring that black spokes are more prone to breakages than silver ones. If i was to tot all my broken spokes up I really would have to agree. Could this be true? My maintenance man is held in the upmost regard by all who have used him.

So maybe the number of spokes isn't the only factor in developing / implementing a strong commuting wheel.
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Old 03-25-10, 06:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Surfindixon View Post
So maybe the number of spokes isn't the only factor in developing / implementing a strong commuting wheel.
The number of spokes won't help you if you don't keep the wheel true and the spokes evenly tensioned. Probably a good idea to get the wheel trued (do it yourself!) periodically. I do mine a couple of times a year.

I also have 36 spokes on all my wheels. (It's also a good idea to make sure you have high-quality spokes.)
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Old 03-25-10, 06:55 PM
  #9  
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Originally Posted by tsl View Post
...I'm 175, carry a little less than you daily and a lot more on grocery runs. I suffered through two years and two sets of 24-spoke paired 2-cross laced wheels. Couldn't keep them true, and broke spokes with alarming regularity.
Broke my second rear spoke on my homeward commute last night (first was a few months ago). 20 front/24 rear 2x wheelset. I can't complain too much as total weight (rider/bike/loaded panniers) is at least 275 lbs. and I hit some ugly potholes and railroad crossings on a regular basis. Haven't had any real issues keeping them true but know that I'll be looking for sturdier wheels in the future now that spokes are poppin'.

If you're looking to buy, go 32 spoke minimum with quality components and a good builder. Lots of spokes don't make up for crap components or poor craftsmanship.
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Old 03-25-10, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by gerv View Post
The number of spokes won't help you if you don't keep the wheel true and the spokes evenly tensioned. Probably a good idea to get the wheel trued (do it yourself!) periodically. I do mine a couple of times a year.

I also have 36 spokes on all my wheels. (It's also a good idea to make sure you have high-quality spokes.)

So how do you keep them evenly tensioned gerv? Do you utilise the ping test where the builder pings each spoke to make sure they are the same pitch or do yo utilise an expensive (park) tensioner tool. And...is it possible to have all spokes evenly tensioned and the wheel to be trued at the same time or is there an acceptable margin of error between achieving even tensioning and wheel trueness?
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Old 03-25-10, 06:59 PM
  #11  
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FWIW, my bike came with two crappy, cheap machine-built 36 spoke wheels, and I broke a dozen spokes in the first 1500 miles or so.

I then bought good spokes and a new rim and built my own rear wheel (my first build), again 36 spokes. After 4 years and about 15000 miles, when the axle finally broke (it was a cheap freewheel hub) it still was in absolutely true without me ever having touched it again after building it. And again, this is over rough road that broke a bunch of spokes with a factory wheel.

I was worried about proper tensioning, and was thinking about buying a tension gauge, but a friend said "just slowly ramp up the torque, keeping the wheel in true at all times. Keep going until it feels like you're about to strip something." It worked for me, and I later built a front wheel around a disc hub, and that one also is absolutely true after 8000 miles of riding.
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Old 03-25-10, 08:15 PM
  #12  
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If you're willing to carry 10-25 pounds of extra weight, then you're not going to save anything by shaving a few spokes off of your bike. Go with 36. There's no reason not to, and if something does go wrong with your wheel, at least you'll know it wasn't because you skimped on the spokes.
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Old 03-25-10, 08:52 PM
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I add a vote for 36 spokes. What do a few extra spokes weigh? Probably less than the brown bag lunch or change of clothes you may be carrying to work. In the big scheme of things, it is worth the extra spokes to have a more durable wheel.
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Old 03-26-10, 06:15 AM
  #14  
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It's the rear wheel that matters, partly because there's more weight on it, and partly because it's dished. The drive side spokes have to be under a lot more tension to put any sideways pull on the rim, which leads to a relatively unstable wheel. So yeah, more spokes is better, especially for the rear wheel.
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Old 03-26-10, 06:21 AM
  #15  
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I've broken 3 spokes in about 4 years. 32 x 2 pattern, MTB. The next wheel I get will be 36 for sure. I'm 200 pounds and do a lot of rough surface riding. The front wheel is all original. Like rhm ^^^ said, it's the rear that matters.

Does anybody ride fixed with 36 spokes? (I'm curious)
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Old 03-26-10, 10:30 AM
  #16  
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All of my spoke breaks were due to load/unload on the drive. The wheel was under-tensioned, so every time I pedaled, the leading spokes would almost completely untension, then retension when I hit bottom stroke. All of the spokes broke right at the elbow, which is typical for this kind of problem.

I've never had a front wheel spoke break.
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Old 03-26-10, 10:44 AM
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Originally Posted by tsl View Post
Thirty-two would be about right--and none of that paired-spoke lacing either. Good old 3-cross is what you need.

I'm 175, carry a little less than you daily and a lot more on grocery runs. I suffered through two years and two sets of 24-spoke paired 2-cross laced wheels. Couldn't keep them true, and broke spokes with alarming regularity.
+1
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Old 03-28-10, 09:51 AM
  #18  
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Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
I was worried about proper tensioning, and was thinking about buying a tension gauge, but a friend said "just slowly ramp up the torque, keeping the wheel in true at all times. Keep going until it feels like you're about to strip something." It worked for me, and I later built a front wheel around a disc hub, and that one also is absolutely true after 8000 miles of riding.
That's the method I use to build a wheel, but how do you apply the same philosophy to maintaining tension over time in order to prevent a wheel from becoming visibly out of true or breaking spokes?

The problem is that when you build it's easy to keep the tension even because you're starting out with all the spokes being the same, but when maintaining a wheel you're starting out with the spokes uneven.

Going by the pluck test gives me misshapen wheels (which I discovered much to my dismay after trying to perfect a perfectly good wheel by fine tunning the pitch without actually looking at the wheel...by the time I was done it hummed like a church bell, but it looked like a taco). I'm not sure if this is because the pitch is unreliable due to spoke crossing and resonance in the rim or if it's because manufacturing imperfection requires uneven tension to compensate. I'm not sure a tension meter would help either.

Last edited by chucky; 03-28-10 at 10:11 AM.
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Old 03-28-10, 04:25 PM
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I really shy away from anythign less then 32. I'm 225 right now. My main rider is a Touring bike with 36 front and rear. No broken spokes but the rear rim starts cracking around the spokes. I think it was overtightened (Bought the bike used). Re laced both with CR18 and DT spokes.
My Fuji Touring bike is factory 48 14gage spoke rear wheel. It is the most true wheel on any of my bikes including the ones I just built. I bought the bike at a yard sale for $8 and this bike definitely has some miles on it. Maintained but if had a full set of racks for an extend period of time.
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Old 03-28-10, 07:52 PM
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Originally Posted by chucky View Post
That's the method I use to build a wheel, but how do you apply the same philosophy to maintaining tension over time in order to prevent a wheel from becoming visibly out of true or breaking spokes?
I dunno. None of the three wheels that I've built have ever gone out of true. Even the one that got beat on so badly that eventually the axle broke was still absolutely true as best as I could see.
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Old 03-28-10, 08:48 PM
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I am a light Athena - that's leave it at that - and ride commuterized Tricross that came with 20 in front and 24 in the back. Never had a spoke break or the wheels trued in 14 months I own it. Commute is 30 mi RT, 2 RR crossings each way.

Go figure....

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Old 03-28-10, 09:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Surfindixon View Post
So how do you keep them evenly tensioned gerv? Do you utilise the ping test where the builder pings each spoke to make sure they are the same pitch or do yo utilise an expensive (park) tensioner tool. And...is it possible to have all spokes evenly tensioned and the wheel to be trued at the same time or is there an acceptable margin of error between achieving even tensioning and wheel trueness?
I do have a Park tensioner and I use on each of my rear wheels once or twice a year. Perhaps once a year for the front. Just to make sure I tighten up anything that is below average.

I also do a little test just by grabbing each spoke with my thumb and index finger to see if it flexes a lot. I do this quite often, especially if I've hit a few bumps. It's much less accurate than then tension meter, but I do occasionally find a loose spoke. Otherwise, I wouldn't find it till it broke.
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Old 03-29-10, 09:59 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
I dunno. None of the three wheels that I've built have ever gone out of true. Even the one that got beat on so badly that eventually the axle broke was still absolutely true as best as I could see.
That would make me want to lower the spoke count until the tension needs occasional adjustment, which then begs the question of how to determine the need for adjustment?

When it comes down to it I guess the purpose of trueness is primarily to accommodate the brakes whereas the purpose of even tension is to make the wheel stable/robust to punishment and the problem is that extreme circumstances (such as very high tensions required for lower spoke counts) magnify imperfections and pit these two goals against each other.

So I guess the best technique is to make the tension as even and as high as possible without making the wheel so untrue as to compromise brake operation; And in my experience if you do this you will reach unacceptable levels of trueness before differences in tension become fine enough to require the superior accuracy of a tension meter (versus the pluck test).

Therefore, I propose the following algorithm for wheel maintenance:
1. Pluck spokes to check tension.
2. Tighten looser spokes.
3. Stop when either tension is equalized or brake interference is observed.
By never loosening spokes overall tension will be maximized and brake interference will become the stopping criterion, thus superseding a tension meter.
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Old 03-29-10, 10:08 AM
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I personally will always opt for a 36 hole rear wheel and a 32 hole front wheel. I don't care how much you weigh, the strength is worth it for a commuter.
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Old 03-29-10, 11:16 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by chucky View Post
That would make me want to lower the spoke count until the tension needs occasional adjustment, which then begs the question of how to determine the need for adjustment?
Why would you intentionally weaken the bike until it couldn't actually stand the stresses and required maintenance? I'm a commuter, not a racer, and I don't buy that there's that much air friction or weight involved here; I can get my rear wheel up to 30 MPH in a few seconds on a stand spinning the crank with one hand, so clearly the 36 spokes aren't robbing me of a whole lot of power here.

Personally I'd run the spoke count UP until I never had to touch the thing again. Building wheels is fun and all, but I don't need extra junk to deal with.
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