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Old 02-13-06, 09:48 PM   #1
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Should I replace my wheels now or let them die a natural death?

Hey everyone - I'm looking for opinions and experience regarding a set of touring wheels. I have an '83 Trek 520 with the (in)famous 27in Matrix Safari rims and Helicomatic hubs. I've been riding the bike for about 6 months but recently found a replacement free wheel and got some new tires.

The quandary is that I'm planning a cross country tour this summer that will include the Lewis and Clark trail but can't decide if I should replace these wheels now or after they die. On the one hand, I have a certain amount invested in them and have spent a bunch of money getting equipment for my bike(s) and camping. On the other, new wheels are sweet and would be more reliable.

Sheldon proclaims his mistrust and hate for these wheelsets and others seem suspicious as well. Has anyone had experience with their failure? I've looked at the cups and cones in the hubs and they seem to be in could shape. I've kept them in good adjustment since I purchased the bike but don't know their earlier history. Do you think I'm crazy to risk wheel issues on a trip that long and in sparsely populated areas? Do you think they'll make it? What kinds of problems might I be in for?

I suppose I should also mention that I'll probably be touring alone for most of the trip and that I am no twinkle toes. At least that the beginning of the ride I will be a little over 200lbs. If I were going to replace the wheels I would probably do it with xt hubs and mavic a 719 rims. I would appreciate any opinions about replacements, my current wheels, or even my route. Anyone thinking of the same route could give me a shout too.

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Old 02-13-06, 10:25 PM   #2
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Ummm... wheels that fail can be rather dangerous.

I'd say spend the $300 on some nice 36 spoke Mavic 719's
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Old 02-13-06, 10:46 PM   #3
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Just the worry about wheel failure would put a damper on a trip for me. New wheels would probably ride better anyway. Anyway, should you need new tires or wheel parts, a 700c rim/ cassette hub wheel would be much easier to find replacements for.

I have an 80's 520 with those same wheels; I use it is as an around-campus bike. XT/719s are way better.
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Old 02-13-06, 10:51 PM   #4
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My advice is if you like the bike and plan to keep it, do the upgrade now and travel with peace of mind. If you end up changing bikes you can use them for the next one and sell this bike with the original wheelset that you have on it now. I have also been eying a set of new wheels from Peter White, a719 built on XT hubs, for around $360 shipped to my door.
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Old 02-13-06, 10:57 PM   #5
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I rode on a helicomatic hub for several years and never had a single problem with it. I actually liked the thing, I mean anything that came with a tool that would also open your beer had to be good! Right!?.
But if I had that wheel now I wouldn't tour on it. Put an 8 speed freehub and cassette on it and enjoy your tour.
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Old 02-14-06, 12:19 AM   #6
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I don't know the specific gear you mention, but I do know it is better to start your tour with a bike that is already outfitted. In other words, have new tires, new tubes, new whatever, before you head off. If you have to refit any parts mid-trip, you might be out of luck and get stuck with some inferior quality parts.

I should have put new tires on before leaving for my cross-Europe last summer. About midway thorugh, I needed to replace my Schwalbe Marathon Plus's, but couldn't find anything except normal tires. I had 0 flats before the tire change, and 10 after. If I'd had new ones on before leaving,I wouldn't have needed to change all those flats. Live and learn.
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Old 02-14-06, 10:29 AM   #7
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My general rule is to replace any component that is near the end of its life before leaving on a tour. On one trip, a leather strap on my toe clip snapped on my first day out. I had noticed the strap was frayed, but I opted to leave it for one more trip. I "only" spent three hours on repairs: detours, finding a bike shop, installing the replacement, and then getting back on track. And because of the delay, all accommodations at my destination were taken, and I was forced to ride an extra 50 km to get to an overpriced hotel.

Last edited by acantor; 02-14-06 at 12:27 PM. Reason: Added a detail
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