Is "Traditional" a Good Thing When It Comes to Wheels? - Pinkbike Poll

Feb 23, 2018
by Vernon Felton  
Spangle Wheels Photo by Simon Nieborak

Even some of the most devoted of biblical scholars are unfamiliar with the Book of Jobst. I, however, have a dog-eared copy on my bookshelf. The working title, I should admit straightaway, is not actually "The Book of Jobst". The publisher opted, instead, for The Bicycle Wheel, but rest assured, for generations of mechanics and wheelbuilders, Jobst's 147-page opus to the wheel was nothing shy of divinely inspired.

Jobst who? If you're asking that question, well, I don't blame you, but it makes my inner unicorn want to trot down to the nearest bar and drink itself blind. Jobst Brandt was, first and foremost, a bad ass on a bike. A tall, lanky powerhouse of a rider who, for decades, had a reputation as one of the toughest, hardest-driving riders in Northern California. Interestingly, Jobst Brandt was not a racer, though he had a profound influence on many young racers, including Tom Ritchey, who would soon pioneer the sport of mountain biking.

The Bicycle Wheel Jobst Brandt Vernon Felton
A seriously good read....
Racing--particularly road racing--was full of tactics like sucking a stronger guy's wheel, staying cozy and fresh in his draft and then blowing by him at the sprint finish. That kind of thing struck Jobst Brandt as craven. Jobst believed in going hard, pulling at the front and tearing off your friends' legs and battering them about the heads with their bloodied limbs.

Even the best racers of the day studiously avoided Jobst's Sunday rides, which were ostensibly road rides, but would often devolve into miles of mach-speed riding on dirt. Because Jobst rode insane miles off road and because he put a hurt on bike components and, most importantly, because he was a full-time working engineer, Jobst Brandt was also a font of iron-hard opinions about what makes a wheel strong and what makes a wheel an inexpensive, weak and frustrating pile of shit. After years of building wheels himself and getting angry with riders whose ultra-light wheels broke and screwed up the progress of that weekly death march-slash-ride, Jobst funneled all of his knowledge, insight and, at times, anger, into that Book of Jobst. If you are even slightly interested in the physics, limitations and practicalities of the bicycle wheel, you should pick up a copy.

Like so many other riders, I spent hours poring over the pages of The Bicycle Wheel. The end result was that I was (and, to some degree, still am) suspicious of wheels that incorporate the latest space-age materials or opt for the lightest spoke lacing patterns because they shave grams or look insanely cool. Lines such as "It is generally better to be wrong in favor of strength than light weight." and "High quality means durable and reliable, not esoteric, super light, or trendy." and "In most cases it is best to build standard wheels - standard wheels, but good ones - and not yield to fashion, folklore, or advertising." all drive home Jobst's basic world view.

Having been weaned on the teachings contained in The Book of Jobst, I'll admit to having a bias against wheels that strike me as prizing fashion over function.

But where do you draw the line?

Materials change or, more precisely, new materials rise to the fore and our understanding of "old" materials changes. Manufacturing techniques change as well. And because these things are true, the material that might not have made sense for rims or spokes or nipples yesterday, might become not only feasible, but downright awesome tomorrow. There was a time, after all, when the world's best horse-and-buggy man looked at the first steel-spoked wheel that crossed his path and raised his fist to the heavens and cried, "Steel is entirely inappropriate for spokes. Nothing will ever replace a good length of hand-turned ash!" Or something like that. I actually don't know if ash is a better spoke material than, say, teak or yew or whatever... The point is that times change and, at times, our preconceptions probably should as well. At the very least, we should re-examine those preconceptions and ask if they are wanting.

Whew...

So, here's the poll question: Do you prize traditional, tried and true materials, lacing patterns and the like in your wheels? Or is "traditional" just code for "outdated"? Are you absolutely open to running anything and everything when it comes to wheels? Any new technology and material that comes down the pike is fair game? Where do you stand?





Is "Traditional" a Good Thing When It Comes to Wheel Designs?

I'll admit to having a bias against wheels that strike me as prizing fashion over function. But where do you draw the line? Do you prize traditional, tried and true materials, lacing patterns and the like in your wheels? Or is "traditional", just code for "outdated"? Are you absolutely open to running anything and everything when it comes to wheels? Any new technology and material that comes down the pike is fair game? Where do you stand?




201 Comments

  • + 406
 Destroy a hub: cut spokes (or reuse), replace hub with existing rim and new spokes/nipples. Destroy a rim: cut spokes, replace rim with existing hub and new spokes/nippes. Break a spoke: buy new spoke, replace spoke.

Anything that puts all three of those elements in one inseparable package is problematic. Hubs fail. Rims fail (or get smashed). Don't want to toss the whole thing and buy an overly expensive replacement when one of those things happen.
  • + 17
 Perfect.
  • + 83
 Don't cut the spokes!!! I can use those.
  • + 9
 Upvote to the sky
  • + 6
 @BenPea: Make great picks and chain link holders! Of course we keep the good ones Smile
  • + 2
 @m1dg3t: No, you can actually lace a new rim to the existing spokes, provided you need the same length of course.
  • + 5
 Good point about integration of components. Seems to be the way mtb is headed in line with the car industry - the one piece bar/stem combo's coming out are another example. Nice clean look and weight saving but more money if it goes wrong.
  • + 16
 @vinay: I have reused spokes before. When I first started riding MTB my friends and I used to dumpster dive the local bike shops because we were so broke. We scored some choice stuff once in a while Big Grin
  • + 4
 @vinay: just has to be close. I'm still using spokes from a '97 mavic 517 build as spares (after they had a second career connecting a 20 mm pro 2 to a mav xc117).
  • + 5
 Pretty much. I did use this book to build my first wheel around 1983. Rims back then were crap compared to today’s rims. Back then I weighed around 135 pounds and road raced. I was told because I was light I could get away with a 32 spoke front wheel maybe back too, for racing. Rims were shite. Today for road a good aluminum rim will weigh about the same as back then but are structurally far stronger due to better designs and materials. I have no issues with 24 or even fewer spokes on road wheels or off road wheels. But for off road 32 drilling’s are easier to find so that is what I favour.
  • + 6
 @tremeer023: totally agreed. If you start integrating everything, then you fall into this trap of increase in cost far outweighing marginal benefit you may get. No thanks industry. Can you guys imagine replacing your entire wheel every time you replace a rim? efffffffffffffff that

Offspring> Keep em separated /Offspring>
  • + 4
 RE: spokes, I also like to have a few dozen wheelstrings holding my hoops to my rollybits. not just 3 irreplaceable sticks. more redundancy is nice on such a critical thing as a wheel
  • + 8
 @Someoldfart: "I was told because I was light I could get away with a 32 spoke front wheel maybe back too, for racing."
Time for everyone to stop bitching and appreciate how far we've come?
  • + 3
 And also, a 'traditional rim' is actually very modern relative to the age of the bicycle. They used to have large wooden spokes.
  • - 4
flag H3RESQ (Feb 23, 2018 at 18:28) (Below Threshold)
 Most of these items cause the weakness in the other parts for adaptability. Most hub body failure is because there are holes for spokes. Also many wheel problems after time are because things were re-used when they should be replaced, built improperly, or not properly maintained.. The most expensive part of the modern wheel is the Carbon hoop, and those are rarely damaged when quality built. Many have crash replacement now days too. I see a stronger hub, spoke and rim in the Spengle, to bad its so narrow and only Shimano currently.
If you still ride aluminium rims then cutting edge isn't your thing (not saying anything negative about alum. rims)
  • - 8
flag tatertottwo (Feb 23, 2018 at 21:11) (Below Threshold)
 First the 29er and the 650b now this. The wheel has already just been re-invented. What? Are we board already? This is what the pioneers of the sport called a "mag". Nothing to look at here. Didn't work then. Didn't stick around. Don't bring it back just because there's carbon these days.
And for the love of Pete, please don't bring back the fanny pack either. Sh#t don't work either.

Please somebody work on some carbon training wheels. We got a lot of people here that don't really ride that probably would probably buy them. Only if there's a water bottle cage though.
  • + 5
 @makripper: Indeed, the modern wheel with steel spokes is very different. Wooden spokes were loaded in compression because that's what wood is good at. Thin steel wire is more stable in tension so that's how we use it now. So technically the wooden wheel back then was a very sound construction as well, use the material the way it performs best.
  • + 2
 The spoked wheel is one of the greatest inventions of all time (after the wheel itself obviously).

The genius is transferring load through tension, not compression.

As soon as you move away from this concept, things get compromised
  • + 4
 Hoverbikes are where it’s at
  • + 2
 I just wish you could get a good quality engagement at the rear rachet without having to rob a bank.
  • + 4
 Shimano, crack a rim and now their hub and spokes are useless because they discontinued it
  • + 0
 @nfa2005: hah, damage the freehub or the bearing races and you can throw the wheel away. Their spare parts for wheels, nobody has ever seen them
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: such a devastation too, this should not be a route or even an option for the bike industry. anything proprietary within a company thats going to discontinue their shit should be banish off the face of the earth.
  • - 1
 @nfa2005: I don't have such hard feelings, but it is a bit silly that their hubs are so disposable.
  • + 2
 Cutting spokes can cause other spokes to dig deeper into the hub flange. Best way to remove a rim and keep some of the hub flange holes from being reamed, loosen all the nipples then cut, or just completely unscrew the nipples. However, make sure that you keep a close, even tension among the spokes, loosing them a little at a time until the are all loose. Then if desired, cut away.
  • + 2
 @BenPea: mavic 517 still in working order!!! Best rim ever !!!!
  • + 2
 @XCMark: why would anyone cut the spokes is beyond me... I have reused spokes with not a single one snapping. I believe those that sit in the back wheel of my DJ are reused for the third time. Cut the spokes, is it some sort of bad ass move to make your wheel building epic?
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: I’ve purachsed cones, axles and free hub bodies in the past. It could be that some shops or is some countries small parts are hard to get but a certain shop in North Vancouver was always able to get me what I needed.

Now I wore out rims on a Dura Ace wheelset that I bought used for cross racing. Those rims and spokes were available but the price was ridiculous. The shop said that the rim at wholesale in Canada was around $400. Plain aluminum. Spokes were also a stupid price but I don’t recall how stupid. I haven’t tried to get parts for a few years though as I have not needed to.
  • + 1
 @vinay:
What is funny about this is that Jobst Brandt would disagree with you. Some decades ago on rec.bikes, he was ruthless and derisive while arguing the position that the hub is supported because the spokes between the hub and the contact point with the ground are in compression. He was right, in a formal engineering sense, but it was certainly amusing to watch the discussions.
  • + 1
 Just make sure to take the freewheel off BEFORE cutting the spokes. Man, i'm really dating myself.
  • + 1
 @fecalmaster: new bontrager line wheels have great engagement but are boost only
  • + 1
 Thanks I'll check those out, just don't usually think of them when it's wheel building time but if they work I'm in !
  • + 1
 @fecalmaster: they do a complete wheel with sets starting at like $300 54t engagement which is upgradable to 108t for like $30. I did the top of the line carbon but the tech is the same with just a change in weight and what not as you move down
  • + 2
 Perfect.
  • + 1
 But... but... do you wanna destroy bike industry??? How come they will push ridiculous profits if there are replaceable parts? The whole goal is: you break a component or a part of it, then replace the whole bike, c'mon!

Sarcasm apart, you're right and is sadly part of the current craze in all sort of industries and markets
  • + 1
 @SJP: A genius and a pioneer of "gravel"/"adventure" riding on sewups that's a legend and inspiration...pretty much mountainbiking on a roadbike all over the south bay...

But yeah ruthless and derisive pretty well sums it up too.
  • + 101
 The two biggest selling points for traditional wheels are: 1. they work exceptionally well, 2. you can get replacement parts easily when something does break.

I've had many times when friends have broken proprietary wheels (crank brothers, mavic, sram, etc.) and found it very expensive, time consuming, and in some cases impossible to source parts. I'll take a 32h / 3x / j-bend wheel every day thank you!
  • + 6
 Right. Even something that strays little from convention like straight-pull spokes are a PITA. Try to re-tension a spoke and they turn (and I know there are solutions, but there shouldn't have to be).
  • + 5
 To each his own. I've been using straight alloy spokes for 15 years (Mavic and I9) and never had a broken spoke or any major problem whatsoever -- just regular maintenance, as with any other wheels. Maybe I don't shred hard enough or maybe I'm just plain lucky, but I don't feel like I'm missing something. BTW, I also have "regular" wheels and am very happy with them too.
  • + 15
 True story. You can walk into any shop in any town and get a traditionally-built wheel sorted. The spoke might be a different gauge or color but you will get to ride that day (and let's not forget: that's the important part).
  • + 4
 Simple solution. If you run one of those proprietary wheel systems make sure you have a bunch spokes in the relevant lengths and a freehub body with you when you travel. You'll probably bring a bunch of tools and replacement parts like a derailleur hanger anyway. If you have fancy taste and don't want to get waylaid then you take some basic precautions. Otherwise it serves you right.
  • + 2
 Same. But crossmax got run over and couldn't get parts in nz as was old. first i9s 2failed Al rims as i got too heavy, spokes failed after 4 years of work hardening after heavey use.( spokes broke at base not head). 2nd set old light bicycle rim failure 2 times due to underweight rims ( or fat barstard syndrome) Patched one up . Then front rim failure due to procore presure failer.(Cracks at spoke holes but still ridable)Finally 3 spoke failers after 4 years due to the anodising wearing off and Al carbon carosion at spokehead rim interface. All these wheels were very good when new. But failed due to fat barstard syndrome. Then finally failed due to material incompatibility. But nothing like the Wheelworks.co.nz road tubeless wheels they built 7 years ago . The front is still dead straight. I smashed the rear with a branch going into wheel. And had it rebuilt by someone else and it sucked. Then again by wheelworks and it was amasing. So I think the builders obsessiveness intellegence and skillegence is very important. It was Actually cheaper in short medium and long term to buy from wheelworks . @cool3:
  • + 0
 Fact! You can find spare parts for this combo even in your nearest grocery store..
  • + 2
 Here's a fun fact for you: any spoke that isn't a J bend type, is likely to be a design that is simply easier to machine build.
Telling people they're better for other reasons is nonsense
  • + 1
 @gcrider: 4+ yo gear and all bets are off.
  • - 5
flag Marcencinitas (Feb 25, 2018 at 8:59) (Below Threshold)
 It’s a myth that traditional wheels work exceptionally well. I was constantly truing wheels, cracking rims and replacing spokes until I switched to wheels engineered as a complete system by the factory. J-bend spokes break at the bend, offset spacing creates unbalanced spoke tension and inexperienced or misinformed wheel builders over tension their wheels and pick the wrong spokes for the intended application. Wheels engineered as a complete system have led to huge improvements in reliability.
  • + 0
 @Marcencinitas: ey? Show me a picture of a J spoke that broke at the bend. 25 years of riding mtb and building wheels and I have never seen that. Or even heard of it. Ever
  • + 4
 @Marcencinitas: It sounds like your wheels last longer when you don't touch them.
  • + 0
 @IllestT: You’re kidding, right? You’ve never had a J-bend spoke break at the hub side? Where do yours break?
  • - 1
 @scottzg: I’ve been racing since 1981 and I admit that back in the day I built wheels that were so bad that I once potato-chipped a road wheel while riding up a steep hill. I’ve also ridden hand built road and MTB wheels from many different builders, some of them well known. I’ve cracked the best rims you could buy and never got more than eighteen months out of a wheelset before switching to factory wheels 10 years ago. I currently have over 30,000 miles on my HED Ardennes road wheels without having to true them once. My Enve M60 cross country wheels have over 500 hours on rough San Diego county tails with no maintenance other than hub servicing. I have similar stories about engineered Campy and Mavic wheels.
  • + 3
 @Marcencinitas: somewhere on the threads 90% of the time
  • + 2
 If spokes break, it is mostly due to fatigue. Insufficient or uneven spoke tension could cause that. A fatigue crack grows between the grains. This is why forged/rolled metal has better fatigue properties. The flat grain structure (parallel to the surface) is such that the crack slowly (or never) grows all the way to the other side. Machined products are cut straight through the grain structure. This is probably why Hope starts their hubs from a forged part instead of a straight bar of aluminium. But back to spokes, the J-bend still has a nice and uniform flat grain structure. It is where the head gets smashed on where the structure is getting messed up. Now with a J-bend the head isn't really subject to loads. In fact, I have successfully fixed wheels with a broken spoke just buying a spoke too long, cutting off the head and bend a new S-shape where the bend should be. Try that with a straight pull spoke! Anyway, the heavily loaded head of a straight pull spoke doesn't have the same quality of grain structure the bend of a J-bend spoke has hence is more likely to snap.

Agreed, I have broken a couple of spokes too, all at the J-bend. These were factory built wheels. Haven't broken any of my self built wheels yet. But I think what matters too is that these (cheap) factory built wheels use straight gauge spokes. Butted spokes are thinner in the middle which causes them to deform mostly over there and less near the bend, which subjects the bend to less fatigue loads. I mostly build with DT Alpine III though I now mostly ride with a front wheel with DT Revolution spokes and it baffles me that it is still perfectly fine! Then again thinking of it, I wouldn't expect the thinnest section to snap. It is still enough steel to hold up, but the middle section is taking the strain so that the bend takes less.

For my next frame I bought some complete wheels because it was a very good deal (Syntace W35 set for under 400 euro) and I trust they do a great job building wheels. They use spokes with a 1.7mm middle section on the non-drive side and 1.8mm on the drive side (and the opposite on the front wheel) so they're getting more or less even tension left and right (using an asymmetric rim too). Sure 1.7mm sounds thin but really, I've never seen a spoke break in the thinner middle section.
  • + 2
 @alexsin: not on j-bend setup, obvs
  • + 54
 The wheels on the bike go Round and round Round and round Round and round The wheels on the bike go Round and round All day long... The riders on the bikes go Up and down Up and down Up and down The riders on the bikes go up and down All day long
  • + 34
 Going stir crazy!...can you tell? Huh? Is winter over yet?...Now?..........How 'bout now?
  • + 22
 @loopie: would you say you are... getting loopie...
  • + 61
 I'll join the crazy train. The forks on the bike go squish, squish, squish,-squish, squish, squish All day long.
The Avid brakes go #%*EE#}CHKK and AARGH####%%% and FU%#ING#ELL! ALL DAMN DAY LONG!
  • + 6
 Are we there yet?
  • + 1
 I sing this to my stir crazy kids in the car frequently
  • + 4
 @loopie: just hitch a ride with the other crazy Canadians driving to Windrock
  • + 4
 @Boardlife69: that quote about avid brakes... XD XD XD
  • + 5
 @Boardlife69: A little coffee came out my nose on that comment
  • - 4
flag BCtrailrider (Feb 23, 2018 at 16:29) (Below Threshold)
 I'll help too "The welds on the Kona go crack, crack, crack
Crack, crack, crack
Crack, crack, crack
The welds on the Kona go crack, crack, crack all f*****g day!"
  • + 2
 @BCtrailrider: I have never broken any aluminum kona's. I have broken two carbon fiber Craknfails.
  • + 1
 @properp: I bought a Kona stinky and not a day later I found a crack, probably got a lemon though
  • + 2
 @BCtrailrider: that Stinks! My Kona came with a malfunctioning rear shock that took 6 months to get a replacement. The bike industry as a whole totally sucks when it comes to a warranty issue. No one in the industry gives two squirts of piss about the amount of time it takes to replace a faulty product
  • + 1
 @properp: well now I ride a Devinci and their warranty and customer service is just amazing
  • + 52
 EVERYTHING NEW IS HORRIBLE BIKES ARE FINE LEAVE IT ALONE J BEND SPOKES WILL SURVIVE THE ROBOT APOCALYPSE
  • + 10
 And down with the cotton mills
  • + 3
 Crank Bros wheels and Richie Schley have never been the same after robocalypse
  • + 0
 Always count on Team-Robot to tell shit like it is!
  • + 2
 Bikes are fine, we just need more trails!!!
  • + 16
 that book is shimmimg a table somewhere at Crank Brothers lol
I'm curious about Jobst's take on twisted spoke patterns (snowflake). I built my own front wheel like that when I was a kid, and even tho I did it cause of the mega-cool looks, the fact is that it made for a super strong and rigid wheel that never came out of true again (priceless in a time of weak wheels + cantilevers). Sometimes I think of give it a try again
  • + 3
 Dude i've been super interested in building a wheel with snowflake pattern cause let's face it, it looks really damn cool on the right bike. BUT, how do you figure out the right spoke length for it?
  • + 3
 Pretty sure he’d say it’s f*cking stupid. I think it was him that tested wheels that had tied and soldered spoke crossing to see how Bach stiffer the wheel was sideways. The answer was it was so slightly stiffer that no rider would be able to tell the difference riding. He did not think it was worthwhile. Snowflake is purely aesthetic. If you want the look fill your boots but I don’t think there is any advantage. Only hassles to build and if you need a spoke replaced.
  • + 4
 @Someoldfart: Yeah, he covers it in the book and that's about the size and shape of it.
  • + 1
 @Crisskan: no idea. I was 12 and the guy at the LBS said all I had to do was undo two spokes at the time, twist them 3-4 times, then put them in place again. It worked.
  • + 2
 He covers it and explains it was done in the old days because spoke sizes were limited and it could be used to make spoke fit that wouldn’t with traditional lacing.
  • + 1
 @Someoldfart: well in today’s industry any marginal gain in stiffness leads to production and marketing hype. So maybe it is ready for a reboot
  • + 14
 Every time someone brings back high flanged hubs, aluminum spokes, or thinks they will make a wheel ride better by lowering spoke tension I pull out my copy of the bicycle wheel and re-read the sections that remind me it's all been done before and why it's not such a great idea. Because they're so ubiquitous, we tend to forget what an amazing feat of engineering traditional wheels are. Jobs was thinking of wheels built to last for years and thousands of miles. Maybe that's not as significant as it was now that changing rim sizes and hub widths dictate wheels that only need to last a season.
  • + 2
 That must be why they still sell all the modern supercars and street bikes with spoked wheels.
  • + 6
 @H3RESQ: Motocross bikes still use spoked wheels. Supercar and street bike wheels don't need to withstand hard impacts.
  • + 0
 @H3RESQ: I can't say I have ever seen a super car with spoked wheels
  • + 0
 @H3RESQ: lol and the first bicycles had wooden Wheels but I wouldn't even consider them in today's world.
  • + 2
 @H3RESQ: www.pinkbike.com/photo/13764920
108 mph on a wooden wheel bicycle.
  • + 1
 @properp: exactly my point, progression
  • + 0
 @Walrus666: fair, but what about dessert racers, and rock crawlers. I think spoke and nipple design is out dated.. it will eventually fall to the way side.
  • + 1
 @H3RESQ: those hyper Road track cars the wheels are made so the spokes (even though they are solid) under tension.
  • + 15
 Who else gets anxiety from these polls?
  • + 8
 I'm afraid of what they are preparing us for...
  • + 1
 Sinister.
  • + 6
 28.99Inch XD Torque spoke wheels rolling right up your SRAM.
  • + 1
 Poll results show pbers not ready for new wheel designs, wheel R&D budgets get shelved for the next five years?
  • + 1
 @Braindrain: my guess is that they started riding that Spengle wheel in the photo and are walking away wondering how come it performs so much better, therefore prepping the plebs against revolt.
  • + 10
 Roval Traverse alloy 29'er rims, DT Swiss 350 boost hubs, DT Swiss double butted j-bend spokes, DT Swiss brass nipples, 32h...

I've hand built close to 800 pairs of wheels, I'll take hand built any day for my MTB ????
  • + 8
 And tell these fine people the average wait time for a replacement proprietary spoke and how often they are discontinued...
  • + 11
 If it aint broke, don't fix it. My good ol' traditional wheels with spokes and aluminium rims work fine for me. Hope, Stans and DT are my friends.
  • - 6
flag scottzg (Feb 23, 2018 at 13:54) (Below Threshold)
 Stans doesn't belong in the company of Hope and DT.
  • + 2
 A fellow connoisseur! My three go-to brands.
  • + 8
 @scottzg: i have stans flow mk3 on hope hubs with dt swiss spokes, built by myself best wheels i have ever used
  • + 0
 Mnah, I’m into very traditional builds, good hub, dt competitions, brass nipples and quality alu rim. But when it comes to something more “innovative” with marginal gains at maximal costs, I’d gladly take those Spengle wheels or Bike Ahead. If someone told me: do you want to try Enve for a month, I’d go meh, I’d have to unpack them then pack them then send them away, rrying very hard to appreciate them over my DT super combo. But these one piece wheels, I just love the way they look.
  • + 2
 Isn't this what everyone has?
  • + 12
 I like the traditional circle shape of the wheel. Please, dont change that.
  • + 1
 @ismasan: HA! I had no idea that MAZDA had built bikesWink Wink

....and while some might call that guy a Wanker, I'd call him a WankelWink
  • + 6
 There was a time, after all, when the world's best horse-and-buggy man looked at the first steel-spoked wheel that crossed his path and raised his fist to the heavens and cried, "Steel is entirely inappropriate for spokes. Nothing will ever replace a good length of hand-turned ash!" Or something like that. I actually don't know if ash is a better spoke material than, say, teak or yew or whatever...

fantastic writing.
Smile
  • + 9
 32 j-bend spokes or fuck off.
  • + 8
 36 for dh wheels
  • + 12
 @StiHacka: I will allow it.
  • + 2
 What's the objections to straight pull? Just put a little side load on the spoke and it won't spin.
  • + 3
 @fussylou: But why?
  • + 6
 “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
― Ernst F. Schumacher
  • + 2
 Well played, sir! "Small is Beautiful" should be compulsory reading for any designer, or person, for that matter. It is still relevant 50 odd years on.
  • + 4
 On a road bike where drag matters, low spoke count wheels make sense. On a mountain bike where a big knobby tire churns up the air before it gets to the wheels and speeds are generally slower, such designs don't work well.

As far as I'm concerned, MTB wheels should have 32 spokes regardless of how strong the rim is. 4 extra spokes per wheel add almost no weight (lots of fancy wheelsets run 28 spokes-boo), a lot of strength and distribute stress loads more evenly.

Break a spoke on a 32h build? Ride home no problem.....pretty much every time.

Break a spoke on a 28h build. You'll probably ride out, but the wheel will have a big wobble and be hella weak.

Break a spoke on a wheel with anything less than 28 spokes-hope you like pushing your bike!

As for "innovative" composite spoke designs, they aren't new, they aren't lighter than a good 32h build, they don't ride better than a 32h build and they cost more.....and if you damage the wheel the whole thing is shot. If you munch a conventionally laced aluminum rim it's a bummer, but you can reuse the hub and often the spokes.

Spinergy, GT, Spengle and Aerospoke have been building this garbage since the 1990's. It's not new, it didn't work better then and it doesn't work better now. If you're racing on the road, hell yeah get some deep dish low spoke count wheels. For off road use, build yourself (or pay someone to build you) some use-appropriate rims and spokes on some decent hubs (i9, DT, Hope etc.). If you don't go for super gucci hubs and use aluminum rims the cost will even be (relatively) reasonable.
  • + 5
 Humans pretty much nailed it with the spoked wheel. Light, strong, rebuildable, can be inexpensive... It will take something remarkable to surpass the overall qualities of what we have now. I'd like to see it though.
  • + 3
 I love the new standards. Literally, I can't get enough of them. Make 40mm trail rims with 157 Supa-hubs. Do it! You know why?

Because non-boost wheels and forks are Cheap and some what affordable. As a pirateer, I have to lie, steal and cheat for my ride.

But, you know what, I gotta ride.
  • + 3
 I have never heard a good explanation for why spinergy PBO spokes didn't take over the mtb world. I rode a pbo mountain wheelset for five years and it was unkillable. The spokes were replaceable and weighed 30% of today's best aluminum spokes on high end wheelsets like I9. If we have people paying $2000 for ENVE carbon rims, why hasn't a company dropped in replaceable synthetic spokes and dropped that extra 300 grams? I agree that hubs, spokes and rims need to be separate replaceable systems but that doesn't explain PBO's death.
  • + 1
 I was under the impression that Spinergy still sold wheels with PBO spokes. They certainly have their following with roadies who like how comfy the wheels are, but the low spoke tension and sideways 'wobble' under load explain why they haven't taken off in mountain bikes.
.
I have to confess than when it comes to wheels I've stopped looking at anything that isn't Hope these last few years, they've taken overthe reliable but boring mantle from the Mavic/Shimano combos of old.
  • + 2
 @Fix-the-Spade:
They do still sell wheels, but they haven't moved to boost or carbon rims and are basically museum pieces. Also the boxes which one said "made in the USA" have Mexico stickers on them so they arrive saying "made in the Mexico". Let's just say I think they are surviving on their wheelchair business.

I rode their 29er wheels and the perceptible lateral flex for an average trail rider was zero. Might be different for a gravity rider.

Question is- why are they a dinosaur with no one else picking up the technology in a modern carbon wheelset?
  • + 3
 The other benefit is these spinergy wheels were very supple and rode really nice. Not sure we've not gone in the complete opposite direction!

The main downside of those spinergy wheels was the aluminum in the hubs and nipples that would corrode make them hard to adjust after a few years. (here in the soaking wet PNW).
  • + 5
 @Mtmw I have to agree with you--those spokes were amazing. Got a set still rolling on my wife's bike and another set still rolling on my brother's bike. Tons of use. Never needed truing. Crazy, really. They had some problems with early production hubs and I think that terrified people...well, that and the whole spokes that looked like skinny pieces of licorice. Still, there was something there.
  • + 1
 @vernonfelton: I think it's still there, TBH. they're just fancy direct pull spokes with a matching hub. Someone will get it off the ground again. Good discussion.
  • + 1
 @boxxerace: I had the first gen Road wheels and it was this that killed them for me - once the corrosion set in the nipples would fail if you had to true the wheel and it was nearly impossible to get spares at the time in the UK. Pity because the yellow spokes looked stunning with the black frame I had at the time
  • + 2
 And while I dig new wheels and mags (put it down to my days on Skyway Tough Wheels as a kid), thanks for pumping me up and getting me motivated on my last horizon. I've never built a wheel. Over the years I've lost the fear of ripping apart my bike and putting it back together- including rebuilding a stealth reverb which, when I bought the parts, the mechanic gave me a wry smile and said, "however much time you think it's going to take you, give it a full extra day." He was pretty spot on. Regardless, I look forward to buying the book of jobst and building my first set!
  • + 2
 The hard fact is that some things just plain work. Spoked wheels, chain drive, double diamond frames, whiskey, etc...

Rim/spoke material I think us up for grabs and totally fine to mess with so long as it’s based on what work: a traditional spoked wheel approach with spokes that have adjustable tension. It just works and produces the lightest/strongest possible wheel that still absorbs the bumps ever so slightly in ways that a one pice wheel simply cannot match for everyday riding.

2-3-4-5 spoke wheels are only superior when it comes to aerodynamics....and always at the expense of ride quality as well as heavier weight. Usually, drastically heavier than a similar wheel made of similar materials or at a similar budget.

For me, if I raced track again I’d be all over hunting down a set of tri spokes or something. Maybe on a fat bike only used for racing in the snow would I consider such as I see the benefit and small bump performance is a non issue. But for anythmg outside of the velodrome or a base of 8-10 inches of packed snow, give me a good solid set of spoked wheels all day long.
  • + 4
 I wish someone still sold a $300 wheelset. You used to be able to be able to select from numerous good wheelsets in t his price range.
  • - 3
 300$ is pretty hard to reach for carbon wheels, but it can be less expensive and affordable for a majority of people. Keep searching! Wink
  • + 1
 good is subjective, but velomine has half-decent machine built sets for $300. the hubs are going to be shimano or SRAM, and you'll probably want to have them retrued after a couple rides to be safe, though
  • + 1
 Learn to lace a wheel, and for $300 you can have a good wheelset, but for $600 you can build a pretty great wheelset; Hope rear hub, Shimano front, dt spokes, Oozy rims.
It's quite rewarding, and you can use a hope hub on most any bike. Plus, so many pretty colours...
  • + 2
 There is "better" and there is "the kind of stuff that I can fix". Of course there is much of the bike I simply can't fix. But there also isn't much on the bike more likely in need of a fix than the wheel. I like that if I completely wreck a wheel, I can lace a new rim on my hub. Or when I destroy the hub instead, lace that rim to a new hub. Both done that and I'd be kicking myself if I have something proprietary that is probably "better" and I destroy something that completely totals the wheel. The traditional wheel is good enough for me. In many cases I don't like going for "best".
  • + 6
 I WANT TO SEE A TEST RIDE OF THESE SPENGLE WHEELS
  • + 2
 I volunteer!! I'll also be taking bets on how long they last.....
  • + 2
 @nojzilla i was thinking about giving them to Brook Macdonald for this years' MSA DH WC round
  • + 1
 @RedBurn: even the logo says fragile Big Grin
  • + 2
 Every once in a while you ride past/over a loose rock in such a way that the rock spins/rolls toward the rim and makes contact with the rim or spokes (and you cringe). With a traditional wheel with lots of spokes spinning, the rock will get kicked out quickly, hopefully without any damage. I can see that situation being potentially disastrous for a carbon wheel with fewer carbon spokes.
  • + 4
 ahhhh cost....... HUGE factor. If I could afford carbon wheels and wasn't scared of new industry trends, sure i'd fork up the cash but not at the same cost as a new bike
  • + 2
 Coming from a guy who is 230lbs, and is a rim destroyer (carbon cracks, aluminum bends), I’ll still with tried and true. I’ve broke a set of Carbon rims, didn’t like doing that, it was expensive.

For me, aluminum is tried and true. Sure, I break those to, but they are a fraction of the cost to repair.
Also, tried and true. My Chris King hubs. I’ve had them since 2009, they are on their 5th bike, and their sixth wheel set. I won’t go to a 157mm hub, because I can’t get a conversation kit for my current Kings, which started off as a 135mm through axle
  • + 1
 Dunno... streetbike wheels started as all spokes. Then cast aluminum, then forged aluminum, then forged magnesium, then carbon fiber, and they see a crapton more force in every dimension. But not as much impact (though springtime potholes would be a good argument). I have carbon wheels on my streetbike, as an upgrade from forged aluminum, and the difference between the two is staggering regarding stiffness, suspension performance, and the improvement in acceleration and braking. Seems like with the advancements is CF today the layups could be engineered to give a similar flex and forgiveness to spokes with a durability and cost that might rival traditional spoked wheels over the long term.
With a full CF wheel, unless you manage to destroy the hub, spokes, and rim, it can be rebuilt- each section is made individually then glued together. As far as impact, companies like Koenigsegg and Ford test their CF wheels by smashing them into curbs, and they typically retain enough of their structure to continue to run safely.
I have nice heavy, strong, & cheap Halo wheels on my DH that have never been touched regardless of the beating I give them. So I guess I'm a bit of a hypocrite.
  • + 1
 The bicycle wheel , along with the pneumatic tire, is a pre-stressed tensile structure. Engineering-wise, those are almost impossible to beat in the strength to weight department. Every time you see a new wheel or tire that is not a pre-stressed tensile structure, save yourself the time and know it's inferior. It will take a bloody miracle of modern materials science to best it, and rest assured the innovation won't come from the bike world first.
  • + 1
 I voted for strongest and lightest, but I should add a disclaimer- I’m going to go from carbon to aluminum on my trailbike. I have definitive proof that my old aluminum rim 26’er is plusher than my carbon to death 29’er, and the rims are a real factor.
I abused them both because my bikes are here for me, not vice versa. The aluminum rims have a few wanks that won’t true out. The carbon wheels have one delamination, and a new fissure. The beginning of the end..

Eric
  • + 5
 I open beers on the trailhead with spokes. What would I do without spokes?
  • + 2
 Consider the cassette maybe?
  • + 1
 I like traditional because "if it's not broke don't fix it" but at the same time i confess that i have crankbros sage wheels for the dh bike i'm building. Nothing is indestructible and parts WILL fail so it's really a case of balancing "evolution" with realistically priced spares. If parts are going to cost excessive amounts of money like they do then they should come with a suitable warranty..

For example: If i bought a set of envy rims laced to chris king hubs it's expect a lifetime warranty for the wheelset

Traditional stuff is best in terms of repairs and replacements but for newer gear and tech i feel companies need to kinda make some sort of compromise for the sake of consumers.. we aren't all sponsored pro's at the end of the day.
  • + 1
 I think the lightest and strongest wheel would be a one piece carbon fibre wheel. The hub also carbon fibre intigrated into the wheel. The spoke should be straight round large diameter carbon fibre tubes. The whole thing baked and cured in a mould. They would be true, very light and very expensive.
  • + 1
 My original wheel book (read at the library) had a section explaining why galvanized spokes were superior to the new weak, fancy and expensive stainless spokes. And everyone knows steel rims are easier to repair than those brittle alloy things.

Lots to be said for material innovations in the past 40 years.

Latest wheel: 32 spoke, 3 cross butted with long alloy nipples, carbon rim, symmetric ck ss hub.
  • + 5
 Didn't think I'd spinergy reading this article but it really spoke to me.
  • + 4
 If you're going to talk about wheels that look insanely cool you might want to change that photo.
  • + 3
 Ha! Yeah... That wheel does nothing to make me want to move away from I have now.
  • + 1
 There's also the line where, with the excuse of improvement, the industry creates "better" things that leave the current outdated on the market of bling bling bling. Considering that, what would be the base to define better? That's the real question.
  • + 1
 Had a tioga disc drive back in the day. That thing was dope, extra torque and down force. Plus it sounded like thunder coming down the trail. But Back then riding was more grounded. Way less to no air time in XC races so no chance of getting blown off course by wind Not much is gonna beat traditional spokes for strength to weight, if so it would have by now
  • + 1
 As long as it works better I am good with something new, but it has to be much better and work on old stuff. So help me if some ass hole comes out with a new standard just to get wheels to be 10% better they can go to hell.
  • + 1
 Since we're in Wheel World I keep hearing a horrible rumor how rim manufacturers are refusing to honor warranties if you use ammonia-based sealants. Please enlighten me with all your knowledge.
  • + 1
 Graphene, 3d. printers its all over soon. But the bike industry will need to pimp what ever they still have to use. My only point is its all officially obsolete . Spend wisely .
  • + 4
 Jobst Brandt wast, first andt foretmost, a badt asst ont a bikest
  • + 0
 Wire wheels have been being refined since 1826.. They ain't broke, spoked wheels have proven for hundreds of years to be strong, light and easy to repair. WHY THE HELL ARE PEOPLE TRYING TO REINVENT THE WHEEL? The invention of tangential lacing has removed pretty much any argument for any other type of wheel on a bicycle.
  • + 3
 Goes to DT Swiss website, checks bank balance, rides another day on the wheels the bike came with.
  • + 3
 check out starbike. insanely cheap prices for DT swiss. IIRC, DTS 350 front hubs are ~$45, rears are ~$125. only downside is they ship slow
  • + 1
 I will be building up a new race bike this spring and I’m figuring out parts now. The only thing I’ve decided on for sure is it’s going to have Cush core and Spengle wheels.
  • + 2
 Those plastic bmx mag wheels in the 90s were insanely strong, and not expensive
  • + 1
 A car can go 100000 or more on stock bearings. When is the industry gonna improve all those shot RC cars suspension bearings (and in some hubs too)?
  • + 1
 I’ll stick to my J-bent spoke 3 cross laced pattern forever, but I’m game to try new rim materials. Why only run 26 or 28 straight pull spokes just to save a few grams!
  • + 2
 The bloody sesame street groms are out in force today,,, have fun children.
  • + 1
 When it comes to news, I'm open to change, but Vernon has to prove that his contentious tabloid sensationalism is better than traditional content.
  • + 3
 Memberberries when rims were made of ceramic.
  • + 3
 Never ever use alloy nipples. Brass only, baby!
  • + 2
 I used to break stuff, expensive and cheaper wheel stuff. Now I just break the cheaper stuff
  • + 3
 That Spengle wheel is the greasiest thing I've seen this week
  • + 1
 I love that wheels are HUNG! Hung by spokes to rims, Drive spokes and Braking spokes. Whoooooo!!! (Sorry, being an idiot)
  • + 1
 The Book of Jobst sits right next to my Park Tools Book and old brazing books.
  • + 2
 Without spokes there would be no nipples. I like nipples.
  • + 2
 Give it the McAskill test, then maybe is the real deal!
  • + 1
 Thank god we've moved passed steel rims. Wide rims have been the best advancement since disc brakes.
  • + 2
 Admit it, a tubeless steel rim would be hilariously bulletproof, you'd never get it off the ground to straddle a jump for starters.
  • - 2
 the wheel costruction is good especially with 150mm axles, what needs to change in the wheel is the bead tire interface as it is currently shit, tires need to change as well.
The wheel is very strong as it is today sans the bead, the bead seems to fold over at even the sight of sharp rocks eg giants 'enduro rims' that i demoed i bent the bead in 3 places in 3 hours of riding, i wasnt riding with insane low pressures either.
anyway the bead needs to change.
I also believe that the valve needs to change, ive had moslty minimal trouble with tubless leaking air through bad bead/tire link but ive always had trouble with valve leaking this needs to change
  • + 3
 TWO WORD: industry nine!
  • + 2
 32 j bend spokes, three cross pattern, “The Dude abides.”
  • + 1
 How much is it? That is the question!
  • + 2
 I worry about sticks!
  • + 1
 I'll ride a wheel of cheese if it helps me win the rat race
  • + 1
 Ever try and find spokes for a 3 year old Mavic wheel?
  • + 1
 I'm open to new things as long as they use J bend 18-8 spokes.
  • + 1
 This is the best thing I have ever read on Pinkbike
  • + 1
 Skyway wheels (www.skywaywheels.com) forever!!
  • + 1
 put your leg thru the wheel on the pic while crash and then ask again
  • + 1
 But how?
  • + 1
 what goes around ,comes around.
" groan "
  • + 1
 good is good
  • + 1
 YES !. Next.
  • - 2
 SICK!
  • + 10
 what is sick dude its a poll (?)
  • + 9
 @RedBurn: can a man not get stoked from a poll?
  • + 5
 @blakemoss: from a pole. That, I could understand
  • + 3
 @RedBurn: I am referring to the wheel. Troll
  • + 3
 @kingeriii: Being named after a Ghostbuster is not enough to make it sick. Maybe if you printed Bill Murray's character opposite. Da fuh was his name?
  • + 1
 @BenPea: Peter Venkman, Ph.D
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