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Cracked Bontrager SSR Equals New Boyd Altamonts

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Cracked Bontrager SSR Equals New Boyd Altamonts

Old 09-03-14, 08:45 PM
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Cracked Bontrager SSR Equals New Boyd Altamonts

I broke a rear spoke a couple of weeks ago, and dropped the wheel at the local bike store for repair. When I went to pick it up the mechanic had me take a close look. As seen below, there is a fairly long crack where the spoke is attached to the rim. Turns out, there are 12 such holes, one per drive-side spoke.





The wheels are stock Bontrager SSR Race wheels, formerly from a Trek 7.5 FX hybrid, now being run on my Felt Z6 road bike. The weird thing is, the 32 spoke Mavic CXP22N rims that came on the Felt are a better match for a hybrid bike that's primarily ridden on gravel roads and the 24 spoke Bontragers work(ed) better on the Felt.

So I began my quest for replacement wheels. Actually, I picked up where I had left off last time, and the time before that. I love to window shop, and I'd looked at and read reviews on a variety of wheels over the past couple of years.

Previously, I had decided that after 4 years of biking, next year would be a good time to upgrade my wheels.But given the state of my wheel, that plan had to be accelerated.

I didn't want to spend too much, but I wanted a significant upgrade. In the end I chose Boyd Altamont wheels. They are hand-built from stock materials, and are quite highly regarded, but quite a bit less expensive than the bigger, well known (bigger marketing expense!) companies.

As a Clyde, I got the beefy model, with 28 spokes in the front and 32 in the rear. I barely "qualify" for the next model down, at 24/28, and the security of a heavy wheel is worth the minuscule weight increase due to the added spokes.

Installation was a snap, requiring only a minor adjustment to the brakes, as the rims are a tiny bit wider. My new cassette hasn't arrived, so I just transferred the old one from the Bontrager. That wheel is useless (and hopefully under warranty) anyway.

I've only ridden them a short distance, less than 20 miles, but so far I really like them quite a bit. I'd say love, but that's premature this early in our relationship.

For one thing, they weigh a good pound less than my old wheels. A bit under 1/2 pound lighter on the front wheel, and a bit over 1/2 pound lighter on the rear.

For another, they are very stiff, and seem to more effortlessly translate my pedaling energy into speed! They seem to perhaps transmit a bit more of the feel of the road than my old wheels, but not in a way, that so far anyway, could be considered rough or jarring. It's just more like a sports car, you feel closer to the road.

I used to run the Bontragers with 25mm Continental GP 4000 S tires at 105 pounds in the front and 115 in the rear. I've got 25mm Continental GP 4000 S II tires on the Boyds, inflated to 100/110 for starters.

Overall, I consider these to be a fantastic upgrade to the OEM Bontrager SSR wheels that I've been using. Having said that, I am asking Boyd about the apparent crack in the front wheel; it's exaggerated a bit due to the close-up nature of the image, but even if structurally sound, I wouldn't like my name to have a big crack in it! :-)




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Old 09-03-14, 09:36 PM
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Nice! I'll be pulling the trigger on some Boyd's myself soon.

I wouldn't worry too much about the 'crack': it's probably just a weld.
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Old 09-03-14, 11:13 PM
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It's not a crack, it's the seam. Aluminum bike wheels start out as straight pieces of aluminum that get rolled into their circular shape and pinned or welded at the seam.

And yes, Trek had some problems with cracking rims 5-6 years back. I read one story of someone who lost some teeth when one of the spokes let go!
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Old 09-04-14, 05:57 AM
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It is strange, though, that the seam seems to go through the Boyd graphic, though. It's not as though anodize and other graphics are applied before the rim is rolled into a hoop, so all I can think is that the joint shifted. That'd be unusual, I suppose, but it's a good idea to check with Boyd and see what they have to say about it.
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Old 09-04-14, 06:18 AM
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Originally Posted by chaadster
It is strange, though, that the seam seems to go through the Boyd graphic, though. It's not as though anodize and other graphics are applied before the rim is rolled into a hoop, so all I can think is that the joint shifted. That'd be unusual, I suppose, but it's a good idea to check with Boyd and see what they have to say about it.
You are correct in a lot of this, except the joint shifting.

Basically in producing an alloy rim a few steps happen:

A long straight extrusion in the shape of the rim profile goes through a bending jig. Each extrusion will yield a coil just over 4 layers thick. A saw then cuts through the coil to make 4 separate rims. The rims then get joined together so they are a solid hoop.

After this is done and before they get anodized, they take a bath in acid to clean them off and make sure there is no contamination before getting anodized. We have noticed a couple where right at the seam a little bit of the acid must have remained and this prevented the anodization from sticking perfectly right at the seam. It something we are going to work on, but as is it's just a very tiny cosmetic imperfection. . nothing at all structurally wrong with the rim.

After anodization the brake track gets CNCed down and then the rims get laser etched as well. The holes are also drilled into the rims in the different spoke counts that we offer. There's actually quite a few steps involved in producing an alloy rim.
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Old 09-04-14, 06:20 AM
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I suspect that the compression of the rim as the spokes were tensioned flexed the joint a little. Likely a pinned seam, rather than welded. That doesn't bother me, but a discussion about it with Boyd wouldn't be wrong.
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Old 09-04-14, 06:50 AM
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Thanks, coachboyd! I didn't realize you'd see this before I had a chance to contact you directly. Glad there's nothing to worry about and looking forward to many more miles on these wheels! (If you want to swap wheels so I don't have to explain, no, the wheel's fine, Boyd's quality is fine, it's just cosmetic, that's up to you. As long as it's safe to ride, that's the main thing.
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