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All this talk about wheelset components makes me wounder?(23 posts)

All this talk about wheelset components makes me wounder?Kman
Nov 2, 2001 6:04 AM
I am getting a wide range of feedback about building a wheelset and most responses contradicts(sp?) one another & is making no sense at all. About a 1/3 of the responses are stating (& I understand they are opinions):

Must have 32 hole
3X pattern
heavy spokes
must use brass nipples
even then will still be truing my wheels
wheelset for me will weigh in at 1800+ grams

I am 185 lbs 6'2", road training/a few centuries/possibly racing

My background is pure MTB and have been racing for the beter part of 6-8 years, riding for 12+. My current mtb training/racing disc wheelset weights in at 1620 grams:
American Classic Hubs, wheelsmith 14/15 spokes, Velocity rims, alloy nipples, 3x.

I find it very hard to believe that I can ride (and many others) a 1600 gram wheelset for MTB racing with no problems and then have recommended a 1800 gram wheelset for road riding? My belief (though no road experience, that is why I am asking) is that there should be no problems running a 1500-1600 gram wheelset. Obviously MTB wheels will take substantially more abuse or is that just a misconception I have?

What gives or thoughts?
re: All this talk about wheelset components makes me wounder?PaulCL
Nov 2, 2001 6:30 AM
I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about the art of wheelbuilding.

But I will tell you of my personal situation...I am 6'1" tall and weigh about 185+ - though I'd like to ride at 175. My wheelset is a Dave Thomas Speeddream Aerolight - 1400 grams, Am. Classic front hub, Sapim bladed spokes, lacing pattern - I'm clueless. Strength for my weight - no problem. I've put about 2500 miles on them since March or April. I've had to true them only once due to getting squished in an airline box.

I have a Dave Thomas at Not so much to buy his wheels, but to discuss wheelbuilding and what it right for you. He's a really nice guy and full of information.
misconception !Cyclorocket
Nov 2, 2001 7:16 AM
In MTB you got a suspension.

Hitting a pothole @ 50mph (it destroys the wheels) going down a hill WITHOUT suspension is harder on wheelset then droping 5' with 80mm suspension.

+ in MTB your 1600g wheelset is quite smooth; your road race wheelset will have to be be stiff (more weight).

+ in MTB you use 26" rims, road race is 27" (a little more mass)

+ in MTB your tires are 1.5-2" @ 70-90 pressure witch does take a lot when you hit.

+ in road race you have mini tires @ 100+ pressure witch takes NONE of the hit.

+In road race there is two components problem : shifters (shimano) and wheelsets, so it is easy to fix your bikes problems for ever.

+In MTB you don't need to push your bikes at his maximum, in RR its always 110% or you're last.

You won't win the race if you don't finish it.
I do XC.
You're correctpmf1
Nov 2, 2001 7:25 AM
The fact that you ride a fairly light weight mtn bike wheel set just goes to prove that a road one is fine for you too. How can a road set get any more abuse than a mtn set? It makes no sense. You will be fine on the wheels you mention.

Road riding will help your mtn biking. The two complement one another.

This forum is full of folks who swear by what they use and think anything else is not as good despite having never tried it. Many of these guys love to trash "boutique wheels". There is nothing wrong with a standard 3-cross wire wheel. There is also nothing wrong with most of the lighter weight alternatives (they cost more though). Pay more, get a bit less weight.
food for thought.DAC
Nov 2, 2001 7:26 AM
If you go to a 32 or 36 spoke wheel, you can use much thinner spokes (like, say 15-17 DB), and they will ride MUCH better. You also won't go over the bars should you break a front spoke on a descent.
3x pattern will give you a better ride, and won't put your flanges at risk of shear failure. It may wheigh 3 or 4 grams more, though.
Brass nipples don't fail nearly as much as aluminum nipples do, so you should use brass, and swallow the extra 10 grams/wheel.
If the wheel is professionally built, you won't be truing the wheel hardly at all!
BTW, check out the weight of some of the lighter tubular sets.
1500 grams is now reliablepushka
Nov 2, 2001 8:28 AM
Most of these responses are concervative to say the least. Now welcome to year 2001 where a set of Campy Nucleons, Zipp 101's, etc. weigh 1500 gr +/- and are solid as a bridge. I am fortunate to only weight 160lb so they obviously work for me, but more to the point my riding buddy is 195lbs 6'3" and this year covered 6000 km's on the Nucleons which had to be trued only ONCE !!! This included 2 trips to Spain for some serious climbing. In the year 2001 lightweight and reduced reliability for your size means a 1000 gr wheelset. If reliability is a factor 1500 gr is still considered light enough for the Pro's and will do the job day in and day out.
re: All this talk about wheelset components makes me wounder?str8dum1
Nov 2, 2001 8:34 AM
i weigh a 167 pounds and I race on a 20/24 spoke zm classic carbon set weighing in at a whopping 1109g. Yes i can whack my rear out of true but that was primarily due to bad build. u could most likely race the 24/28 set that would still weigh in sub 1200g with no probs. all depends on the builder.
choices abound, but why not be practicalEric
Nov 2, 2001 10:31 AM
I did not chime in on the original thread, but here is my take.

If you are just getting in road riding your best bet is to build a dependable set of wheels, which may not be the lightest in the world. I would suggest 32 hole Mavic Open Pros laced to Shimano Dura-Ace or Ultegra hubs (or Campy Record or Chorus for Campy users), using brass nipples and butted DT spokes. You go with lighter spokes like 15/16g or Revolutions on the front, but in the rear I would use 14/15g on the drive side and if you want, 15/16g or Revs on the non-drive. Make sure you have them built by a reputable builder, or read "the Bicycle Wheel" and build them yourself.

Here's why I suggest these wheels: 1) The hubs are easy to maintain with no special tools, and they will last forever with regular cleaning and lubing. 2) The rims are reasonably light while being strong, plus they are virtually an industry standard so they are easy to find in replacement. They aren't aero, but that doesn't seem to be a requirement. Plus you will not ever need to have a valve extender or long-stem tube, which means if you need to borrow a tube from a riding partner (multiple flats) you will not be screwed. 3) Butted spokes will build a stronger wheel which requires less attention, plus they are lighter (read "The Bicycle Wheel"). If you do break a spoke, replacements are very easy to find. 4) Brass nipples will not round off during tensioning or shear off from a stress riser.

Now, if you really get into road riding and start racing, then you might consider buying a pair of race specific wheels. This is when you can start considering Ksyriums, Zipps, Nucleons, etc. And then you will have your original, conventional wheels for training wheels and spare wheels at races. And you just might need them if you break a spoke in your exotic race wheels.

I am always amazed when I see people who have only a pair of exotic, lightweight race wheels as their only set. It just does not make sense.
One vote hereCyclorocket
Nov 2, 2001 1:45 PM
Can't be more right then this
choices abound, but why not be practicalbikerduder
Nov 7, 2001 9:14 PM
Your answer makes sense to me and is exactly what I am leaning towards - I already have the DA hubs. And you are right, I have been an idiot thinking I could get by with just a set of vector pros. This is the most sensible advice I've seen yet on wheels.

the accused standsJofa
Nov 2, 2001 11:04 AM
MTB and road wheels are effectively the same (apart from the size difference). They are subject to much the same forces in use, so that this distinction doesn't need to be made: we might just as well talk about the bicycle wheel per se.

If you reread the threads from which you extracted your list of conditions, I think you'll find them not to be as 'absolute' as this. I've contributed to threads recently which have been discussions of these issues, and where I've made recommendations about componentry or design I hope I've made clear my reasons. In case not, however, I'll skim over the points you raise now:

32 spokes are about right for an ordinary lightweight rim. As the spoke count goes down, the spoke tension must go up, and it can get difficult to bring spokes to a high enough tension, when their number is much less than this. 28 of course will probably be fine if you really want to push it, but what's the point. Fewer than this and you are in the realm of deep strong rims which are used by prebuilt wheels.

3 cross, 2 cross, 4 cross, whatever: just make the spokes meet the hub at a tangent, to avoid the hub breaking out as discussed in the thread below. 3 cross is generally the most satisfactory solution when practical issues enter the equation: with some combinations, adjacent spokes can try to cross one another before they've left the hub. Radial spoking is fine if the hub is built for it, in which case it is heavier.

I don't know what 'heavy spokes' are: However, butted ones are good because they don't break often, and they are lighter than straight-guage. I like 14/15g, or 15/16g for special occasions.

Brass nipples are more tolerant of the cheap wrench you might have to borrow than aluminium ones, and brass is naturally slippery which is good here. There's no 'must' about it, though. Use what you want, just understand why.

If you build your wheels properly with all this stuff, then you won't have to touch them once until the rim wears through from braking, unless some component fails or you hit something too hard. In either case, spokes and rims can be sourced and replaced easily in most parts of the world, because they are quite standardised.
This all follows for MTB, road, touring, commuting and whatever other bike wheels, which differ only in size.

Very light wheels with few spokes fail much more often than ordinary ones, and are also invariably difficult to repair. Therefore in my judgement they are best saved for special occasions. There is also a proliferation of different attempts to redesign the wheel by presenting various spoke arrangements, at the moment. These are mostly unproven and – in my judgement again- appear to have their foundation more in novelty than in a proper understanding of the spoked wheel and its demands. Many people, however, like to use these new designs on an everyday basis, off-road or on, and are happy with them. I prefer the ordinary design to anything else I've seen so far, and have said so, and - I hope - given sufficient reasons and references: others here think similarly. Our advocacy is not totally based in curmudgeonliness or ‘retro-grouch' leanings- as other responders have suggested- but does have at least a little reason to it.

Nov 2, 2001 1:59 PM
"Very light wheels with few spokes fail much more often than ordinary ones"
WRONG : I know people running on REV-X, Rolf (me), K's, and people running on Mavic Open Pros. Those who are "exotic" ARE more reliable the stupid custom wheelset with a light (<430g) rim. We never trued the wheels.

"and are also invariably difficult to repair"
WRONG : less spoke means less time doing spoke tension adjustements (you don't need those with "exotic" wheelset)

"These are mostly unproven and ; in my judgement again- appear to have their foundation more in novelty than in a proper understanding of the spoked wheel and its demands" WRONG : should a wheelset that has 38 spokes be faster then 64 one ?

Meaby you don't want to put 800$ in your wheelset Jofa but you must admit that "exotic" wheelsets do wipe standard wheelsets.
(applies nosegay in despair)Jofa
Nov 2, 2001 2:33 PM
WRONGness, in your order:

LIght wheels with as few spokes as 18 each have been standard designs since the 1960's. Where they have been employed for general use rather than the special events they were designed for, they generally have broken in accordance wih theory. I can't speak for your friends. What is your point?

Many modern wheels which use both stiff rims and high spoke tensions require spoke tensions which aren't achievable by ordinary methods. They need machines to compress the rim in order to tension a given spoke, machines which are intelligently used by mass wheelbuilders, but conversely frowned upon as not having the 'human touch'.

100 years of trial and error has settled on 36 spokes as about ideal for modern bicycle wheels. I believe we can rationalise this to 32 in response to
the consistency of modern wheel componentry, particularly spokes. Where do you get 38 and 64 from?

I'm prepared to spend a lot of money on my bicycles, it being insignificant relative to my motorcar insurance premiums, but I must consent to not knowing much about 'wiping', in this regard.

38 = 18+20, 64 = 32+32 !Cyclorocket
Nov 2, 2001 5:39 PM
damn yoiu did not search long for that one !

Let's clear a question once and for all : fewer spokes does not mean more problems.

1- What is important in a road wheelset is HOW MUCH TOTAL TENSION, my rolf is 90F/110R kg, a standard wheelset is 60-70. The rim takes about the same tension, they will react the same on potholes.

2- Less spokes means less drag (do I need to prove ? or u understand)

3- less spokes means less weight(same here)

4- less niples means...

5- a "exotic" wheelset such has : Zipp 380 tub rims, Chris King Hubset, conti supersomp, wheelsmith ACE, alloy nipples is boost your acceleration by 3.5%, boost your flat ave. speed by 1.8% and you climb 1.1 % faster (calculated by a engineer based on standard wheelset by bontrager)

6- "exotic" wheelset are a standard in RR (next time you race check other teams wheelsets)

7- check reviews at about open pro and low spoke wheelset (rolf,campy,ksyrium...) from what we can hear : low spoke wheelset are the new standard, forget those draggy 64 wheelsets (64=32+32).

8- even MTB is heading for low spoke wheelsets (32 with shim, 38 with rolf, 38 with bontrager too)

9- don't bother about machines BLA-BLA-BLA : once you buy K's or Rolf Pro's your wheelsets probs are over, just need a 1 min spoke tension adjusting once a year

have to disagreeEric
Nov 3, 2001 12:05 AM
About #9 - What happens when you break a spoke on your K's? Or dent a rim? Can you go down to the LBS and get the parts on the same day? LIkely not. I had to order a Ksyrium front rim and it took about 5 days to arrive. Getting spokes for my rear Cosmic was even a longer wait. Now, if one of these wheelsets was my ONLY wheelset, I would have been in trouble.

Obviously I have some non-conventional wheels - Ksyriums, Cosmics and Spinergy Rev-X. But if I was just starting out, as the original poster is, I would have a conventional wheelset first and foremost and then add other wheels as necessity and finances allow.

As for the reviews, how many people spend $1K on a wheelset and then give it a bad review? Most of the reviews of high-dollar equipment tend to be biased toward the positive. Partly because of self-justification needs, and partly becuase those who have problems don't want to admit.
to what strange cyclists am I talking too ? open your eyes and steer !Cyclorocket
Nov 3, 2001 10:49 AM
I don't know why everybody cares about strengh, spokes replacement of their wheelsets, cost of 1 spokes...

Who buys a wheelset to break it eny way ?

I RARELY hear people speaking about misfunction of their wheelset (and 90% of the time it's a custom built)

A lot of cyclists here are talking about spoke breakage; last time I hear spoke breakage was my father in 1998 at the Tour de L'Ile in Montreal where is wheel got stuck in a drain in the street (he had a 48 rear spokes wheel with Campagnolo rims and hadley hub, why 48 spoke : he's 6'0 210 and still doesn't know how to pedal correctly, thus he can go 35 kph on a 40 flat km TT...)

Let's talk about pure performance, it's not walmart here, wheelset are very strong from the real manufacturers.

and where is the big deal in a dented rim ??? Just need a little handjob (not the one you are thinking about...) on the dented place and everything is ok.

I know a pack of cyclist running 1K$ wheelsets and never a damn story ! some people who reviews are giving 4/5 becuz the wheelset did not survive crushing potholes that would have trash even DH wheelsets. WHEELSETS are not build to be drivin in potholes. In races there is no potholes (should be), only in training that there is potholes, you won't win enything if you try saving 3 sec by passing IN the potholes, just open your eyes and streer.

Nov 7, 2001 9:31 PM

Very light wheels have their place and generally are very reliable, in terms of staying true. BUT when a spoke breaks on a high-tension 16-spoke setup, it is a major failure that can't be fixed on the side of the road. And spoke breakage can deform the rim to such an extent that it is unridable. The average biker (Make that 99.9% of us)simply cannot repair these babies and have to take them in to the LBS. I think they are great for racing or invitational rides where you have SAG support, but for everyday training, you are taking a chance on turning your ride into a hike.
spoke breakageCyclorocket
Nov 9, 2001 6:51 AM
how much time did you break a spoke this season ?

I think it's better to lose up 1 ride becuz of spoke brokage and the 100 others be very fun (else then 101 boring becuz of 64 spokes open pro wheelset)

Don't tell me you break more then a spoke each season !
Don't tell me you weight 200+, sorry a experience cyclist cannot weight that much (else you eat VERY badly) : 5000km/year DO take off some weigh, on your first year open pros are ok, but every year after your weight goes down so you may use these :

open your eyes and steer ;)
Beg to differ......Len J
Nov 9, 2001 8:42 AM
with a couple of things you say.

1.) Breaking one spoke a season is not the point. The point is, what happens when you break that one spoke. I suspect that if you broke a spoke on that 10 spoke wheel that the rim would collapse. If this happens when you hit a whole on a scary descent, you are in deep S**t. Is this risk worth it? It's sure not to me.

2.) "101 boring becuz of 64 spokes open pro wheelset)" I don't get this. What makes a ride on 32 spoke Open Pro's boring? Sounds to me like you are wooried about the Zoot factor, (i.e. what others think of your wheels).

3.) "Don't tell me you weight 200+, sorry a experience cyclist cannot weight that much (else you eat VERY badly) : 5000km/year DO take off some weigh," I think you are way off base with this. My brother is an exercise fanatic, runs, swims, rows, and rides. He is 5'10" 190 solid pounds, with 5% body fat. His body type is decided by genetics, he might be able to lose 5 lbs at most. A riding buddy of mine is 6'7' and weighs 200 lbs, again he rides 500 miles a year & is in great shape, but his body type is such that this is about as light as he can be & still be healthy. I think your comment is a gross generalization.

My .02

Simple answer for you from a fellow mtn bike crossover ridermatt
Nov 2, 2001 9:11 PM
Mavic crossmax are bombproof. Their roadwheels are the same. I ride the Ksyriums, just because I had some money to blow. I am 175 lbs, and train on them all week and they have never come out of true. The wheels I had before these were the Mavic Cosmic Elites, and they were just as good, but 200 grams heavier. Mavic is easy to find, and you don't have to find some zen wheel builder named after the Wendy's founder to build them for you. Check out the prices at for good prices.
"I ride the Ksyriums, just because I had some money to blow"Cyclorocket
Nov 3, 2001 10:51 AM
Hell, could you send me some if you have more to blow !!!
Why mail-order cat "custom" wheel set are cheaper...breck
Nov 8, 2001 9:47 AM
Why mail-order cat "custom" wheel set are cheaper Vs OEM pre-built even in their cat.

Lightness, stiffness, rim, hub, nipps, spoke & count, etc., etc. aside.

The OEM pre-built wheel the dealer has little option to discount as the mfg. can to some extent dictate the min sell price. However, the dealer can install parts otherwise under the same min sell price restrictions, and build the wheel using his shop labor and sell the wheel set for often well under the sum of the parts as no OEM part mfg may dictate a price for custom made-up wheel set using their parts.

Therefore you may save a little or a lot of dough by specking out wheel set from the likes of CC or Excel, etc. and get what you want, etc. Then take it to the LBS for follow on service or modify it to your like as you bike along that long-and-winding-road of second thoughts :)

Bought a wheel set from Colorado Cyclist; did not like the hubs; mailed it back; they replaced the hubs at delta cost & only was out shipping. Now that's service. BTW, any mail order-cat's wheels will need re-tension no matter what they claim, CC or anybody else, etc.

re: All this talk about wheelset components makes me wounder?grzy
Nov 8, 2001 1:57 PM
there are lots of opinions in the area of bikes, primarill b/c there is litimed data and many of the people looking at the data don't always have technical back grounds. Reading The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt is a good place to start. It debunks a bunch of theories and supports some others. Ultimately it all comes down to engineering and the NFL prinicple (no free lunch) - everything is a trade off. You can make your wheels totally bomb proof or you can make some compromises in the interest of cost or weight (or some other criteria). Point being is you usually have to give something up to get something in return. The exception is when totally inferior and cheap materials are being used, but we'll file that under K-mart bikes. many of the advances in current designs have been made possible through advances in materials.

Start with the realization that the typical MTB is running front, if not full suspension and much larger (i.e. compliant tires) and that the wheels are actually smaller and use less material (rim and spokes), but that a disc hub is usually heavier. While it may seem that MTB wheels do take more abuse - wacking something small on a 21 mm lightweight road wheel can do a number on it. Of course there isn't that much jumping happening on a road bike. So yes, MTB wheels see more abuse. All that said there isn't any reason why you can't be running a 1500 to 1600 gram wheel set - either custom built or botique. Ultimately it all comes down to the quality of the components and the skill of the builder. If you want to experiment then find a skilled local builder to work with - if you just want performance and light weight then take a look at some of the high-zoot wheels on the market. I'm pretty much hell on equipment (even though I don't weigh more than 160) and the Ksyriums have stood up quite well. My back wheel went out of true once after a crash, but I replaced a spoke and trued it myself. MY LBS stocks all of the Mavic Zircal spokes for both road and MTB - so buying just one on a Sunday afternoon is no problem, but they cost about $5 each. I woouldn't expect that you'd need to go through this very often. Also, note that Mavic uses essentially the same desing for both the Ksyriums and the Cross Max UST wheels. The things are very robust, but just one of many choices.

Probably the biggest are for weight variation lies in the hubs used. An AC or Hugi 240 is way lighter than most everything else out there. There's only a little to be gained in spokes (assuming everything is double butted) and what's left is just the number of spokes and the rim.