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Going with a 36 spoke wheel

Old 04-18-10, 07:07 PM
  #1  
rainking63
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Going with a 36 spoke wheel

So I'm out for a training ride today, loaded down with all my stuff I'm taking on tour this summer. Feeling good, nice pace, new cassette smooth as silk and all is hunky dory. Then, CLANG! Broken spoke, rear wheel, non-drive side. (luckily)

Long story short, I'll be ditching the 32 spokers I have now and going with 36. I've gotta say I'm glad this happened now and not in the middle of who-knows-where.
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Old 04-18-10, 07:33 PM
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Over spring break I took a four day self supported tour. At the beginning of the final descent I broke a spoke. Rear wheel and drive side. I flagged a car down and asked them to tell my friends up ahead that I had a mechanical. Removed the wheel and played with the spoke tension until I made the wheels true enough to ride again.

In my case-a 40 spoke rear wheel. #6 is better than 32, but there are no guarantees. Carry a spare and make sure you have a spoke wrench.

Oh yeah. Have fun too.
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Old 04-18-10, 07:39 PM
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Indeed, I understand that there are no guarantees on spoke breakage; this was just my first one. Funny thing, my front wheel is a 36. I had brought the bike in last year for a bad hub, and the shop gave me a much better one for free. Only caveat was that it was a 32 spoke hub. I figured it would hold up, but no biggy. Time for a nice, shiny new rear wheel!
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Old 04-18-10, 08:51 PM
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I recently went from 36h to 32h. I only weigh 110, loaded bike is ~65.
My Sun Rinolites on 36h XTs was heavy and overkill.
My SO built me a set of 32h Bontrager Mustangs on XT hubs, DT Swiss straight gauge spokes.
Should be just fine for my weight.
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Old 04-18-10, 09:09 PM
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The fact that a non-drive-side spoke suggests to me that the wheel may not have been built properly. If the rear wheel is properly built with evenly tensioned spokes and high enough spoke tension, the drive side spokes (which are at a higher tension and take more of the stress) will break first. Whether you rebuild the old hub and rim with new spokes or go for a new (36 hole) hub and rim, I'd suggest using high quality double or triple butted stainless steel spokes (Sapim and DT are two good brands. Spoke tension should be checked with a tensiometer, and should be even all the way around and at the minimum level recommended by the rim manufacturer. For rear wheels, rim makers may only give a minimum tension value for the drive side.

If you're getting new rims, I'd suggest offset spoke holes for the rear wheel, whether you get 32 hole or 36 hole.

Wider tires will cushion some of the impact from bumps and make any spokes last longer, although your frame design will impose an upper limit on tire width.
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Old 04-19-10, 06:06 PM
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I had a tour ruined by a series of broken spokes. I didn't know much about bike wrenching in those days, but I learned firsthand how important a strong rear wheel was.

Before the next big tour I went to a good, mature mechanic; told him my story, and asked him to build me a rear wheel that wouldn't break spokes, whatever it cost. He did, and it still hasn't broken any after three long tours.

On my LHT I decided to give wheelbuilding a try (fool that I am?) I used Sheldon Brown's website. I used Mavic 719 rims, 36 double butted spokes, and good mountain hubs (LX?) I bought a truing stand, tension meter, and dishing tool. Amazingly, I've taken them on two tours and haven't broken a spoke yet!

I guess my point is that it's pretty vital to have wheels, particularly in the rear, that aren't going to break spokes. You could try and build them yourself, find a local mechanic you trust and put him/her to work, or order one with a guarantee, like from Peter White.

As far as spoke numbers go, 4 spokes don't add much weight or wind resistance to a touring setup. I see no reason not to go with at least 36. I didn't go higher because they're harder to find with more than 36. So far, so good.
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Old 04-19-10, 06:59 PM
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In this day and age 36 spoke wheels are plenty strong enough for most touring, 40 and 48 spokes are tandem fodder. To me the best bet is a properly hand built wheel using quality components. I routinely use 36 spoke wheels on most of my bikes for trouble free riding.

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Old 04-19-10, 11:53 PM
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Originally Posted by markf View Post
The fact that a non-drive-side spoke suggests to me that the wheel may not have been built properly.
+1 With all of the people who think that 36-spoke wheels are a requirement, I wonder what bicycle tourists used to use in the past. Modern spokes and rims are much better than those from even a decade ago. If you were a bike tourist in the 1970's or 1980's, what the recommendation? Use 100-spoke wheels for touring?

Truth is: a well-built 32-spoke wheel shouldn't have any problems on a loaded touring bike. Similarly, a poorly-built wheel will end up with problems no matter how many spokes it has...
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Old 04-20-10, 03:31 AM
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Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
+1 With all of the people who think that 36-spoke wheels are a requirement, I wonder what bicycle tourists used to use in the past. Modern spokes and rims are much better than those from even a decade ago. If you were a bike tourist in the 1970's or 1980's, what the recommendation? Use 100-spoke wheels for touring?

Truth is: a well-built 32-spoke wheel shouldn't have any problems on a loaded touring bike. Similarly, a poorly-built wheel will end up with problems no matter how many spokes it has...

Many of us used 40 and 48 spoke wheels in the past or suffered broken spokes and wheels on a regular basis. I weigh ~220# put that together with a fully loaded touring bike and I would be very wary of a 32 spoke wheel, even a well built one. The rear wheel carries the lions share of the weight and most wheels require a helluva lot more dishing than they did 20 years ago.

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Old 04-20-10, 10:11 AM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
Many of us used 40 and 48 spoke wheels in the past or suffered broken spokes and wheels on a regular basis. I weigh ~220# put that together with a fully loaded touring bike and I would be very wary of a 32 spoke wheel, even a well built one. The rear wheel carries the lions share of the weight and most wheels require a helluva lot more dishing than they did 20 years ago.
I wonder what BF member and RAAM participant Homeyba would say about wheels? I believe his current tandem team is 500+ pounds and they're using 32-spoke wheels for RAAM.

Kinda makes me think that a well-built 32-spoke wheel should be just fine for a bicycle tourist...
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Old 04-20-10, 05:58 PM
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"Modern spokes and rims are much better than those from even a decade ago"

I doubt that. Modern rims seem to be in decline, with the last 10 years seeing a lot of questionable fads (at least for touring) gaining traction. The main problem though is the loss of really reliable double eyelet rims. There are alternatives, or I thought there were until some recent threads on Velocity... With the variety of makers these days, it would only take someone like Velo Orange to dig out an overseas maker for double eyelet quality rims in the MA2 mold.

Spokes come and go in quality, but we have had a steady supply of DT or Wheelsmith for quite some time.
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Old 04-20-10, 06:06 PM
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"I Kinda makes me think that a well-built 32-spoke wheel should be just fine for a bicycle tourist..."

Problem with races is that 1) they are "short"; 2) they have support vehicles, if that applies to the RAAM...

I haven't broken a touring wheel yet, not even a spoke. Even weighing 265 + fully load. The fact is people have built successful touring wheels with 20 spokes. The issue is how durable do you need, and what can reasonably be delivered in the average shop. If I couldn't win without the lightest wheel, and wasn't going to be stranded for days if a spoke parted, I would be willing to go with fewer spokes also.

Then there are the people, like Nancy, who are touring pretty much full/all the time. They crank up mileages that would make a good RAM career, every year. So those kinds of people aren't even in the same league as the rest of us. The reality is though, that if they could figure out a decent combo that had eternal life, so far, at least, it isn't costing all that much more, so it would be worth it to me.
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Old 04-20-10, 07:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Peterpan1 View Post
Problem with races is that 1) they are "short"; 2) they have support vehicles, if that applies to the RAAM...
1) I wouldn't call a 3000-mile race short
2) I don't know anyone who enters a 3000-mile race without doing at least a little training beforehand
3) I don't know any racers who use shoddy wheels just because they have access to a support vehicle. Wheel swaps take time. When you're competing, time is the last thing you want to waste.

I haven't broken a touring wheel yet, not even a spoke. Even weighing 265 + fully load. The fact is people have built successful touring wheels with 20 spokes. The issue is how durable do you need, and what can reasonably be delivered in the average shop.
The issue is whether you're gullible enough to believe that having 36 or more spokes makes you immune to wheel problems, or if you're willing to look deeper and consider component quality, build quality, and all of the other factors that go into building a reliable wheelset. By all means: if you want a wheel with lots of spokes, then buy a wheel with lots of spokes. For me, spoke count is just one (very small) factor in deciding what wheels to use...
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Old 04-20-10, 07:54 PM
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Do 32 or 36 spokes make that much difference? I have used off the shelf 26 inch Alex DP17s 32 spokes. I enjoy touring the back roads of Oregon, Nevada and Washington some of which are rough gravel, dirt or blacktop. I have used panniers and/or a Bob trailer on different tours. No problems. My tours are usually 7 days. Enough time to check out the kit. I believe disc brakes may help as well as keeping my BMI to 22/23.
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Old 04-20-10, 09:13 PM
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Well built wheel much more important than spoke count. Common spoke tension is 110 kgf. That's 242 lbs. tension per spoke. And you have two tires and a whole lot of spokes. No wonder homeyba only needs 32 spokes on his tandem. I run 36 spokes on my tandem, but 32 would be fine, and that's a lot more weight at much higher speeds with much harder tires than anyone will ever use touring. And I never break spokes - but then I build my own wheels. No, 32 or 36 doesn't make much difference. The build is everything. Most spoke breakages are from too low tension. It's a fatigue failure, not a failure from too much stress.
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Old 04-22-10, 03:06 AM
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I`ve had troubles with broken spokes since 50 years. Two years ago I bought two HED3 threespoke carbon wheelsets, and this problem is
solved. I know, they`re are expensive, but they`re worth it and the wheels always run true. This is not an advertising, just an advice!

Kind regards,

Hans
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Old 04-22-10, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
+1 With all of the people who think that 36-spoke wheels are a requirement, I wonder what bicycle tourists used to use in the past. Modern spokes and rims are much better than those from even a decade ago. If you were a bike tourist in the 1970's or 1980's, what the recommendation? Use 100-spoke wheels for touring?

Truth is: a well-built 32-spoke wheel shouldn't have any problems on a loaded touring bike. Similarly, a poorly-built wheel will end up with problems no matter how many spokes it has...
I had an aluminum seatpost on my bike. It broke. Therefore, I can extrapolate that every aluminum seatpost made from every manufacturer is terrible and prone to breakage.

Isn't the above statement sort of ridiculous? Isn't the above statement kind of similar to saying that you had 32 spoke wheels that had a spoke break, so now you're never going to use 32 spoke wheels again? You give no additional information about the wheels, other than the number of spokes. What kind of rim? What brand and gauge of spoke? Nipples? Hand built or machine built? How old?

Like others have said, there is a HUGE difference in quality between wheels. Spoke count is one factor, but there are several others that are probably much more important.
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Old 04-22-10, 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by tiggermaxcocoa View Post
You give no additional information about the wheels, other than the number of spokes. What kind of rim? What brand and gauge of spoke? Nipples? Hand built or machine built? How old?
And most importantly: when was the last time the tension of the spokes or trueness of the wheels was checked? Seems like none of my riding buddies do any maintenance on their wheels. They'll clean their chains once a week and make sure there isn't a speck of dust on their bikes, but don't look at their wheels until they start breaking spokes...
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