Wheels - number of spokes

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21pavone
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Joined: 13 Apr 2015, 10:16pm

Wheels - number of spokes

Postby 21pavone » 15 Dec 2019, 6:16pm

I’ve been a cyclist for many years and when touring with panniers I’ve always used 36 spoke wheels or 32 for a short, lighter laden trip. My new Trek Checkpoint ALR5 has 28 spoke wheels, Trek quoting a maximum weight limit (bike + rider + cargo) of 125kg/275lb. I’m 77kg/170lb so it looks as though there’s plenty of scope but I’m still sceptical about the durability of wheels with fewer spokes than I’m used to. Need someone to either put my mind at rest about the wheels that came with the bike or tell me I need another set with more spokes for heavier touring.

mattsccm
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Joined: 28 Nov 2009, 9:44pm

Re: Wheels - number of spokes

Postby mattsccm » 15 Dec 2019, 6:19pm

Brucey will tell you that more is better * and I bet he is right.
* exception excluded.
However what you have will certainly work. I have 20 spoke road wheels which survive cobbles and gravel.

mattsccm
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Joined: 28 Nov 2009, 9:44pm

Re: Wheels - number of spokes

Postby mattsccm » 15 Dec 2019, 6:21pm

Fashion though?

Brucey
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Joined: 4 Jan 2012, 6:25pm

Re: Wheels - number of spokes

Postby Brucey » 15 Dec 2019, 6:26pm

the main reason why your new wheels have 28 spokes is..... (drum roll)

fashion.


Would they be stronger with more spokes? Yes of course.

In truth the service loads on the spokes, as well as varying with conditions etc also vary with the design of the wheel rims. So you can perhaps have acceptable service loads on spokes provided the rim is made stiff enough. They can always be made lower by adding more spokes though.....

So to put fashion considerations ahead of wheel strength in a touring machine is (IMHO) a pretty dumb idea. Adding four more spokes per wheel 'costs' about 30g per wheel.

Like any factory wheels they would probably benefit from being stress-relieved, and if riding well-loaded, you should carry spare spokes and be prepared to use them.

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

pwa
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Re: Wheels - number of spokes

Postby pwa » 15 Dec 2019, 6:29pm

Unless I'm missing something, it makes more sense to have a few more spokes that happen to be thinner, rather than a few less spokes that happen to be thicker. To me that is using the grams better.

hamster
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Joined: 2 Feb 2007, 12:42pm

Re: Wheels - number of spokes

Postby hamster » 15 Dec 2019, 6:36pm

And indeed lots of spokes instead of extra-heavy rims to take the load instead.

drossall
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Location: North Hertfordshire

Re: Wheels - number of spokes

Postby drossall » 15 Dec 2019, 6:38pm

How easy is it to rebuild a factory wheel while out on the road somewhere (even for limited values of "rebuild")? The great thing about a 36-spoke wheel is that you can lose two or three spokes, and it's a feasible job to fix it and get home. In fact, if you're not out in some remote area, you can probably get home anyway and fix it afterwards.

Not so sure that a factory wheel would work like that? That can matter more to a tourist than to a road rider, who may just opt to get rescued, or even stick the bike on a train.

21pavone
Posts: 10
Joined: 13 Apr 2015, 10:16pm

Re: Wheels - number of spokes

Postby 21pavone » 15 Dec 2019, 7:29pm

Thanks for the comments.

Yep, I think my first instinct was correct. Better start looking for some new wheels. Hope and Spa Cycles look good.....

scottg
Posts: 713
Joined: 10 Jan 2008, 8:44pm
Location: Highland Heights Kentucky,, USA

Re: Wheels - number of spokes

Postby scottg » 15 Dec 2019, 11:43pm

mattsccm wrote:Fashion though?


You will notice the fewer the spokes the higher the price of the wheel.
Charge more, less time to build too.
Ron G. called wheels with few spokes, "Team Car Wheels", if you broke
a spoke, it was time for the team car. Rolf Primas 16f/20r
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Why not the best, buy Cyclo-Benelux.

gxaustin
Posts: 542
Joined: 23 Sep 2015, 12:07pm

Re: Wheels - number of spokes

Postby gxaustin » 16 Dec 2019, 10:25am

I know a very tall/large chap weighing 100 to 110kg and he breaks spokes regularly if the spoke count is less than 28. He's the only person I know who has broken front spokes!

Debs
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Location: Powys

Re: Wheels - number of spokes

Postby Debs » 16 Dec 2019, 1:22pm

A lot depends upon rider weight, bike weight, and type of use. A touring bike obviously needing wheels with more spokes than a lightweight race bike.

IMO it also matters how good the wheel builder is at building bicycle wheels. 30+ years ago I knew a superb frame builder who was one of the most clever blokes one could meet, but his wheel building was IME a disappointment, then on the other hand i know a young cheeky chirpy bike mechanic in a LBS who was a right 'bit of a lad' type.... but he built wheels with a kind of sixth sense of exacting refinement. I did spread the work around about this but people didn't like the look of him and didn't believe me.
Even nowadays i have this impression that most people can be taught how to chuck a bicycle wheel together, but very few actually possess the true natural ability to feel the force of the build...

I also wonder if rim and spoke technology has improved over the past 40 years (?) back in the 80s & 90s it was an occasional occurrence for me to break a spoke, usually but not always on that darn sprocket side of rear wheel, even using Mavic rims 36 holes with DT db spokes they did break on occasion in them days.

But over the past 20 years i've never had a spoke break, and this using these new fangled wheels with a lower spoke counts.
My Trek Silque has 24/18 spoke count and after 5k miles over past 2 years they remain spinning perfectly true. Summer use only and my 66 kilo of fighting weight maybe doesn't place enough demands upon them (?) However, i'm not so impressed with the modern sealed cartridge bearings, my carbon aero wheels front bearing lasted 8 months and only 3k miles! : ( ...so i now worry about using wheels with this type of bearing in the wet wintry months.

Note to OP:
Trek honour a 24 month warranty for bearing and if i'm not mistaken spoke failure too so there is some recourse...

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RickH
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Re: Wheels - number of spokes

Postby RickH » 16 Dec 2019, 1:48pm

I've got a pair of Kore wheels with 36 spokes - that's 16 front & 24 rear - bladed spokes with a shallow V section rim back in 2009. I didn't intentionally get them like that but they were the only wheels my LBS had in with a Campag freewheel when I split a rim on my usual wheels (32 spoke - on each wheel - Mavic Open Pros on Campag Centaur hubs) & I wanted to keep riding the bike while the rims were replaced. The Kores were half price as they were ex demo so weren't expensive either.

They have served well as spare/event wheels & have even done a weekend camping trip when my others weren't sorted in time. They are also about 500g lighter than the Open Pro wheels if I wanted to run as light as possible. The slight weight reduction & better aerodynamics seemed to have a slight speed benefit but it is difficult to tell in with the data "noise" of other variables.

Mr Evil
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Re: Wheels - number of spokes

Postby Mr Evil » 16 Dec 2019, 5:39pm

Brucey wrote:...So to put fashion considerations ahead of wheel strength in a touring machine is (IMHO) a pretty dumb idea. Adding four more spokes per wheel 'costs' about 30g per wheel...

You can make exactly the same argument about any chosen spoke count; going up to 40 spokes is only a small penalty, and 48 spokes only a little more. The choice of 36 spokes is based on tradition, which is just another form of fashion, and a wheel which is stronger than it will ever need to be is just as pointless as choosing a wheel is which is lighter by an amount you will never notice.

Brucey
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Re: Wheels - number of spokes

Postby Brucey » 16 Dec 2019, 5:52pm

There is no absolute 'right for everyone/every purpose' spoke count, which is why I phrased the effect of increased spoke count in the way I did.

FWIW you could argue that the choice of 36 spokes for loaded touring is based on experience (it works) and availability of parts both initially and in the event of problems/wear. If you think a set of 32 spoke wheels (or whatever) would do, great, but carrying the extra weight of four spokes on a loaded touring bike ain't gonna kill you either....This means that it is certainly not 'just as pointless' to err on the side of caution; if you get this wrong you will be in a very unforgiving bind one way (with wheels that are falling apart), and carrying a few tens of grammes 'too much' the other. Not the same thing at all.

IME the chances of being able to rebuild a low spoke count wheel with a new rim on tour are about nil and they are not much better than that otherwise. It is easy enough to replace a wheel completely but often very difficult to get a decent match.

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

hamster
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Joined: 2 Feb 2007, 12:42pm

Re: Wheels - number of spokes

Postby hamster » 16 Dec 2019, 6:09pm

Mr Evil wrote:You can make exactly the same argument about any chosen spoke count; going up to 40 spokes is only a small penalty, and 48 spokes only a little more. The choice of 36 spokes is based on tradition, which is just another form of fashion, and a wheel which is stronger than it will ever need to be is just as pointless as choosing a wheel is which is lighter by an amount you will never notice.


It always used to be 32/40 until bike shops got sick of holding unmatched inventory, so 36 isn't plucked from the air.

Having had a 32H rear wheel nearly fail completely on a loaded tour I am much more cautious - it was in the US, and on that day we were lucky enough to see a bike shop. Other days we were over 100 miles from one. If you tour to remoter places a few extra spokes is the difference between irritation and a problem.

Up to you. It's about your personal level of risk aversion.