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Differences in wheels

Old 03-16-03, 08:30 PM
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Differences in wheels

Here's a real basic question from a newbie.

I'm researching some comfort bikes to get back into biking after a 25 year absence. I've noticed that between two models of the same bike (one higher priced than the other) that the deluxe version may have different wheels (of the same size) from the more basic one.

What's the difference between wheels of the same size? I always thought a wheel is a wheel. Please enlighten me as to why some wheels are better than others. I understand the differences in other component levels, just not wheels.

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Old 03-16-03, 09:17 PM
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Quality of the parts and weight.

You start off with basic hubs that use traditional cone/race bearings with less expensive steel axles, steel spokes, and good rims that aren't as light as they could be. Keeping in mind, heavier rims and tires are less efficient than lighter ones. Lighter means you can accelerate faster and climb hills with less effort than you could with the heavier rims. Hub weight isn't as big a factor.

As you move up the price index you start to get into hubs with sealed bearings, stainless steel or aluminum axles, stainless steel spokes, and lighter weight rims with machined sidewalls, etc...

If you don't plan to do a lot of riding, will limit riding to fair weather and aren't interested in "performance" the basic wheels are OK. However, if you plan to log higher mileage, ride in wet conditions or are looking for more efficient wheels the mid to higher range wheels are the best bet. Good wheels are a good investment, second only to a good frame and fork.
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Old 03-17-03, 06:38 AM
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Rims can vary in their width, their profile and weight. This would affect the size of tyre, the aerodynamic and ride quality, acceleration and how long the braking surface lasts before it wears out.
Spokes are available in a variety of wire guages. Thicker ones are stronger and heavier. Butted ones are thicker at highly stressed points, and thinner where more elastic characteristics are needed, so are much stronger. Exotic materials are used on up-market spokes, but stainless steel is fine.
The hubs can vary in the precision of their bearings, the effectiveness of dirt seals, and the amount of lightweight material vs steel.

In practice the most important factor in a wheel is the quality of the build, esp how the spokes are evenly tensioned.
Most shop bikes come with machine-built wheels. They are of adaquate build quality, but can often be improved in the hands of a good wheel-builder.
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