Minimal-spoke madness....

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
Brucey
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Minimal-spoke madness....

Postby Brucey » 7 Dec 2014, 12:06pm

As a cyclist, it won't (unless you have been living in a hole in the ground) have escaped your notice that if you try and buy a 'lightweight bicycle' these days you will be offered a variety of machines that have wheels with ever-decreasing numbers of spokes in them.

In fairness if the rim is stiff enough maybe you don't need as many spokes, some rear spoking arrangements (eg campag/fulcrum's) are quite clever and maybe (if you are going racing) the small aero gain through having fewer spokes is important in shaving off the last few seconds in a time trial.

But.... most of the wheels I see with such spoking arrangements don't have rims that are particularly stiff, and most of the people riding them are not going racing. Many of those that are 'racing' in some fashion or other could do any number of other simple things and go a fair bit faster.

Almost invariably if a spoke breaks in such a wheel (and they do break, make no mistake...) it goes out of true so badly that the bike cannot be ridden further without a fair bit of messing about and often, not even then. When the rim wears out, you generally can't buy a new one, either.

Structurally, if you want a lightweight wheel, it is pretty clear that having many skinny spokes allows a lighter rim to be used and this allows (at any given cost/weight) the strongest wheels to be built. Such wheels can usually be ridden when there is a broken spoke, too.

So I view this fashion for having minimal spoking as being a bit mad really. I think it is even madder when I see minimally spoked wheels being fitted to MTBs and Hybrids that are meant for leisure use.

The full depth and breadth of this madness is only apparent when you start reading the semi-delusional published 'reviews' of wheelsets. I read one recently (on a well-known cycling website) where they concluded that the wheels in question were a bit heavy, and a bit draggy because 'they had too many spokes in them' and that the wheels would therefore be better suited to 'light touring' use. The wheels in question were fitted with 20 and 24 (bladed aero) spokes respectively, and despite the use of a stiff-ish deep section rim, heavier riders would already be verboten if you held to the manufacturer's weight limits. The wheels themselves weighed 1700g for the pair, and cost about as much as a whole used bike of decent quality.

Presumably the reviewer would prefer a wheelset with a few less spokes in (and therefore on the point of near-collapse in the event of the slightest problem) in order that they could go 0.00-something mph faster... perhaps.... People read such reviews and then go out and buy wheels with even fewer spokes in them so that they are not 'slowed by their heavy, draggy wheels' when they go for a weekend pootle or commute in and out of work. Crazy...

I guess this falls somewhere in a spectrum between;

ten points = 'yes Brucey, you are quite right', to;
nul points = 'no Brucey, you have just turned into a grumpy old man'.

what think ye?

cheers
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Spinners
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Re: Minimal-spoke madness....

Postby Spinners » 7 Dec 2014, 12:09pm

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cjchambers
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Re: Minimal-spoke madness....

Postby cjchambers » 7 Dec 2014, 12:18pm

ten from len.jpg

Mind you, I build my own wheels nowadays, so I need to give the thing half a fighting chance.

I had a spoke break on an old 40 spoke wheel a few years ago - I just taped it to another spoke (to stop it getting in the way), and continued my ride as normal. Lesson learned.

freeflow
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Re: Minimal-spoke madness....

Postby freeflow » 7 Dec 2014, 12:38pm

I experienced the pringle effect when my durace rear wheel popped spoke on the hill out of Fitchinfield on last years Dunwich dynamo ride. Fortunately thats only 15 miles from home so I was rescued by a slightly irate Mrs F. Whilst I really like my Durace wheels Santa is likely bringing me some handbuilt 32 spoked wheels for Audaxing.

reohn2
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Re: Minimal-spoke madness....

Postby reohn2 » 7 Dec 2014, 12:40pm

.......So I view this fashion for having minimal spoking as being a bit mad really. I think it is even madder when I see minimally spoked wheels being fitted to MTBs and Hybrids that are meant for leisure use.....

+1
I knew it was getting mad when there were less spokes than gears :?
Using a bit of logic(I'm not an engineer,just a logicist :) )and not wanting to state the bl@@ding obvious but can't help myself, less spokes = more strain/tension/wear on each spoke and spokehole irrespective of whether it's a strong/heavy rim or not,so it seems,to me at least,taking things to their logical conclusion:-
a)wheels will wear out quicker,
b)if a spoke breaks yer stuffed for that ride at least,as the wheel will go so far out of true it'll be unridable.And if you are able to ride it,the chances of more breakages is greatly increased as even more strain is put on the remain few spokes.
c)if rims are made heavier to compensate for the wheel's spokelessness,they won't be any faster unless a constant high speed is maintained,
d)should a spoke break at speed ,say if the rider hits a pothole,due to huge loss of truth in the wheel it could be bl@@dy dangerous.
But,Hey,fashion's fashion,right? and we can't be seen to be unfashionable can we,we wouldn't want that :roll:
After all manufacturers gotta make a living,right?and they won't be able to if wheels last longer than brake pads?
I await the views of the modernistas.........

PS,can someone please tell me what those four spoke grouped wheels with massive gaps,are all about? :?
PPS,I'm not buying it that they're faster,air turbulence nonsense either,unless their users are riding at 20+mph averages.

EDIT:- I've slightly rewritten this post with more spokes,err,I mean words,to reduce tension needed to hold it all together :wink:
Last edited by reohn2 on 7 Dec 2014, 4:19pm, edited 2 times in total.
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fastpedaller
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Re: Minimal-spoke madness....

Postby fastpedaller » 7 Dec 2014, 2:26pm

Absolutely agree with everything you say Brucey. They had it right years ago with 40R 32F, but I understand the rationale or making drillings for front and rear (both hubs and rims) equal.
A little from my experience during racing (both wheels built by me)......... I had 2 'best' rear wheels a) Campag s/f 36H with Mavic Monthlery pro rim. b) Campag l/f 36H with Mavic Leger Rim. So wheel b was the same except for a slightly lighter rim and large flange hub. I could tell the difference (not just psychological) wheel b felt that little bit stiffer/faster. I suspect the lighter rim made such little difference that it wouldn't have been measurable, but the larger flange/shorter spokes helped. I'm a firm believer in many spokes, after all, a spoke and nipple only weighs about 7gm, but contributes hugely towards the rigidity of the wheel.

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Vantage
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Re: Minimal-spoke madness....

Postby Vantage » 7 Dec 2014, 4:54pm

+1
They're catering to the Wiggo wannabe's and mamils who don't have a clue. A bit like 10 or 11 speed cassettes and 53T chainwheels.
Gawd.
Bill


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nicmarsh
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Re: Minimal-spoke madness....

Postby nicmarsh » 7 Dec 2014, 5:45pm

must admit I like 32 as a rule but....
SpokeRims.jpg
:lol:

robc02
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Re: Minimal-spoke madness....

Postby robc02 » 7 Dec 2014, 7:54pm

Looking at new bikes is something I do pretty infrequently, so I could be wrong here .......but...... does the type of person, who may be quite inexperienced as a bike buyer, who buys from a typical chain bike shop have much choice in the matter? There seems to have been a big push to get people to buy factory built wheels which invariably have few spokes and which come fitted to many (most?) new bikes from the major manufacturers. I wonder whether it is really market pull or marketing push?

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hondated
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Re: Minimal-spoke madness....

Postby hondated » 7 Dec 2014, 7:59pm

Vantage wrote:+1
They're catering to the Wiggo wannabe's and mamils who don't have a clue. A bit like 10 or 11 speed cassettes and 53T chainwheels.
Gawd.

Exactly Vantage. I had this conversation with Harry Rowland last year after I had brought and returned some Ksyrium's from Wiggle because they had so few spokes.
And basically he made the same point you have made and I ended getting a pair of wheels made by him that more suited my needs and indeed weight. Oh yes and for far less money as well.

http://www.harryrowland.co.uk/

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gaz
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Re: Minimal-spoke madness....

Postby gaz » 7 Dec 2014, 8:21pm

Brucey wrote:what think ye?

11 :wink:
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reohn2
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Re: Minimal-spoke madness....

Postby reohn2 » 7 Dec 2014, 9:12pm

robc02 wrote:Looking at new bikes is something I do pretty infrequently, so I could be wrong here .......but...... does the type of person, who may be quite inexperienced as a bike buyer, who buys from a typical chain bike shop have much choice in the matter? There seems to have been a big push to get people to buy factory built wheels which invariably have few spokes and which come fitted to many (most?) new bikes from the major manufacturers. I wonder whether it is really market pull or marketing push?


Oh,no doubt it's market push.But whatever it is,minimum spoke wheels for 95%+ of cyclists offer absolutely no advantage,but a shed load of disadvantages :?
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SilverBadge
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Re: Minimal-spoke madness....

Postby SilverBadge » 7 Dec 2014, 10:43pm

If you take a 36H rear wheel as adequate, in reality an 18/9 spoking is pretty much equivalent as the tension becomes equivalent both sides. And you can manage with fewer on the front wheel as it bears less weight. Factor in straight pull spokes and deeper stiffer rims that distribute tension more evenly, something like 18/24 becomes feasible, if only delivering marginal benefits elsewhere. My 16/21 Eurus are "nicer" than my 32H Record/Open Pro, and have stood the test of time, though I don't commute on them like a friend of mine does.

DaveGos
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Re: Minimal-spoke madness....

Postby DaveGos » 7 Dec 2014, 11:04pm

I used to do mainly CTC rides on a tourer and now race and train on a racing bike. I find modern racing wheels far more reliable . My old tourer the wheels were rarely 100 percent true and you were always tweeking them . Also modern road bikes ( rather than touring or cross bikes) don't allow much tolerance for wheels out of true. Its true if a spoke breaks its easier to carry on on a tourer but that's about all . In the end modern road bikes are very good at what they are designed for but they are like racing cars and not very green and often you just have to but new components / wheels etc

Brucey
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Re: Minimal-spoke madness....

Postby Brucey » 7 Dec 2014, 11:52pm

DaveGos wrote:.... My old tourer the wheels were rarely 100 percent true and you were always tweeking them .
in which case I'd suggest that you are confusing conception with execution. I'd expect you to have had badly built wheels in the past. A well built wheel ought to be able to go tens of thousands of miles without being touched, but I don't know of any minimally spoked wheels that are like that.

In the end modern road bikes are very good at what they are designed for but they are like racing cars and not very green and often you just have to but new components / wheels etc


If they were really like racing cars then they would be used exclusively for racing and would clearly be considerably better suited to that purpose than anything else is. In fact neither thing is really true; the 'road bikes' that most people ride are more like 'toys' than they are 'tools' built to do a job. When people buy them they may be buying into a 'marginal gains' philosophy.

They are welcome to do that of course, (or even buy into their bikes as a fashion statement, come to that...) but it is often whilst ignoring the 'elephant in the room' which is that they would go much, much, faster if they did other things differently, and that a few less spokes on the bike (or a few more cogs, or a few grammes less, or a few stickers more...etc etc) ought to be about the last things on the list, not the first.

cheers
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