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Old 06-04-11, 12:10 PM   #1
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Road bike with 32 spoke wheels.. feasible?

A friend an I are doing a West Coast tour this summer. Eugene to SF. While I have a genuine touring bike, my touring partner opted to purchase a road bike for the job. It's a Sora-equipped Trek 1200 from the late 90s, early 2000s. It has eyelets for racks and all that. My bigger concern are the wheels. 32 spoked no-namers.

Here's the dilemma. He's coming to the end of his gear budget, so we're trying to figure out what's necessary. He's a fairly light guy at 5'9, 150-160lbs. His gear, while not ultra-lightweight, is still on the light side of things. (hammocks, small sleeping bag, etc.)

Do you think he can forgo new 36-spoke wheels and get away with the existing 32? Or is that a really bad idea? I was thinking that he can probably get away with just a rear 36-spoke wheel, as most of the weight is on the back. But, if we can go with the 32s, life would be a lot easier.

At this point, a BOB trailer isn't an option.

What say you bikeforums/touring?
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Old 06-04-11, 12:15 PM   #2
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Have the wheel overhauled and ride it.
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Old 06-04-11, 12:54 PM   #3
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If he weighs in at 155 lbs and you keep rear weight to 25 lbs, I would think 180 lbs should be a piece of cake, assuming as 10 Wheels said, that the wheel has been gone over and in good shape. And yea, a rear wheel alone with 36 spokes is often sufficient.
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Old 06-04-11, 01:18 PM   #4
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My 80's Schwinn Passage was equipped with a 36f/40r set when I got her. That set was overkill for LIGHT touring. I have a second set of 32's that I ran most of the time. ( My weight back then was 165,i'm @ 200 now... ) I run those 32's unloaded all the time now.
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Old 06-04-11, 01:56 PM   #5
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There's nothing magical about the number 36. A poorly built 36 spoke wheel can be weak, and a good 32 spoke wheel can be strong. I see heavy guys riding 20f/24r spoked wheels and their rider+bike weight far exceeds your friend's body+bike+gear weight, and that's for 24 spokes. A properly tuned 32 should be just fine.
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Old 06-04-11, 04:20 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
Have the wheel overhauled and ride it.
+1 A 32h wheel w/a pro truing will be fine for light touring. Check the psi every morning before embarking. Have fun.
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Old 06-04-11, 08:06 PM   #7
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number of spokes really doesn't tell enough about the condition of THAT particular set of wheels. 32 spokes on 10yr old wheels could be fine, 36spokes on ten year old wheels could be iffy. Have someone check the wheel. If in doubt move weight forward.
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Old 06-04-11, 11:33 PM   #8
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As almost everyone else has said, 32s are fine. I'm about the same weight, carry about 40 lbs, and used 32spoke wheels on my cross bike for some pretty serious tours. They did fine untill I rode off a high curb fully loaded, and my front wheel started popping spokes--not the wheels fault. It might be good to use 25mm or 28s tires if his bike has the clearance. Another good investment for the TREK is a 11-34 rear cassette with a long cage Mtn rear derailleur (Shimano Deore); especially for that hill south of Elk, CA. IMO, I'd opt for lower gearing and go with the existing wheels. It is a lot cheaper (about $60-$75) and will be appreciated on the hills.

Bianchi Volpe set up for touring with 32 spoke wheels.

This is a TREK 1000 with stock 32 spoke wheels and 25mm tires that I have used for light touring. It would handle anything on the coast route.

Last edited by Doug64; 06-04-11 at 11:46 PM.
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Old 06-05-11, 09:15 AM   #9
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A good 32-spoke wheel should be fine, especially at his weight. Get it evaluated by a competent pro. It should probably be trued and tensioned.

If he's worried, it might be worth it to have a new, 36-spoke wheel built by someone good.

Is he going to be using a front rack? You can take a lot of weight off the back by putting it in front. Maybe that would be the best use of his funds?

He's got some options, and I think all of them are very do-able.

Have a great trip! That is one of my favorite routes! You'll meet lots of other tourers.
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Old 06-05-11, 09:25 AM   #10
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Question is, how old is the current wheel and how road worn?

As to hand built, ready made touring wheels for road spaced bikes, a Tiagra road hub laced to a Mavic A319 rear wheel sets a person back 109 USD at Gregg's Greenlake Cycle in Seattle last time I was in there and they usually keep them in stock.A wheelset was like 200 bucks american.

if your friend can limp along as far as Seattle, go by and pick up a new rear wheel, stout as they come, for a little over a hundred bucks USD. I'd call a day or two ahead to secure one for you, as they are pretty busy shop.
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Old 06-05-11, 11:09 AM   #11
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i wouldnt worry about spoke count. make sure the wheels are in good condition and carry a few extra spokes just in case one breaks.
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Old 06-05-11, 11:25 AM   #12
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Bring spare spokes , yes, + Bring enough money (credit/debit card)
to replace the wheel in the middle of the trip, if there are unforeseen problems.

Last edited by fietsbob; 06-05-11 at 11:29 AM.
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