Big dude needs strong wheel!
May 9, 2012 10:03 AM   Subscribe

I'm a big guy. I need a beefy bike wheel. Suggestions?

I'm shopping for a front wheel for my Trek road bike. The bike is new, but the wheel is about 10 years old (thanks to a Klein lifetime replacement policy, this wheel has outlasted two frames), and spokes are starting to fail at an alarming rate so it's time for a replacement. I'm 6' 2" and 245 lb, so I have enough grams on my bones that I'm not worried about shaving grams off my wheels. Light doesn't really matter to me - my main need is durability. My 11 mile ride to work goes over some crazy rough pavement in a few spots, and my size tends to magnify the stresses on a wheel from both rough pavement and aggressive hill climbing.

Any suggestions as to a brand of ultra-durable wheel that I should be looking at? Price is, sadly, a concern - I'd love to stay in the $100-150 range if at all possible. I don't need a whole set, my back wheel is relatively new, so I'm just in need of a front.
posted by pdb to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Mavic Open Pro 36-hole laced to an Ultegra hub. Extremely durable.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:11 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another great option: the Sun CR 18. Very tough rims.
posted by bonehead at 10:12 AM on May 9, 2012

Best answer: 36 spoke rim, touring oriented.

Make sure the person who builds it is competent and relieves the stress correctly. Wheels are a lot more durable when they're built right.
posted by thylacine at 10:15 AM on May 9, 2012

BTW, you either need to true any commercial rim yourself, or take it to a shop for a quick once-over. Spoke tensions on factory wheels are often out of whack.
posted by bonehead at 10:15 AM on May 9, 2012

Any of the wheels so far would work. For a tire, and if your bike can handle it, try a Schwalbe Big Apple.
posted by dukes909 at 10:19 AM on May 9, 2012

Best answer: Stick with 36 spoke wheels. 2 or 3 cross spoke patterns might be preferable to radial or more exotic patterns.

FWIW, I weigh 225 and have never broken a spoke on a front wheel, regardless if hand built or a cheap off the shelf factory wheel.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:22 AM on May 9, 2012

Excel Sports Boulder Custom Wheel Builder. I selected:
  • Road
  • front wheel only
  • Shimano Ultegra HB-6600 Front Hub 36 Hole, $49.98
  • Mavic Open Pro Road Rim Silver 36 Hole, $79.95
  • DT Swiss Competition 14/15 Gauge Spokes, 3 Cross Lacing, $27.00
  • DT Swiss Brass Nipples
Plus labor, minus the whole-wheel discount, comes to $174 and change. You should be able to find a local shop with a well-reputed wheelbuilder who will come in around the same price (I hear great things about Veloshop, and I know someone who works there—MeMail me for a personal referral if you want).
posted by The Michael The at 10:33 AM on May 9, 2012

(Also, MetaFilter sponsors Veloshop's owner Molly Cameron in CX racing)
posted by The Michael The at 10:49 AM on May 9, 2012

If you're really concerned about weight, try going up to 40 holes or even 48 holes. The extra spokes add a lot of strength, and the hubs and rims drilled for higher spoke counts (e.g., Phil Wood's) will be targeted for tandems (two riders) or touring (baggage and bad roads), so higher spoke-count wheels will also have features like stronger bearings, a heavier rim, etc. Other things to consider include double-walled rims, deep-section rims (for strength, not aerodynamics). People on the internet tell me that a three-cross lacing is stronger than four-cross on 36 holes, and vice versa on 48 holes, but I have no personal experience with four-cross lacing.

That said, 245 pounds isn't that much. As long as you don't make a habit of jumping curbs, I don't think you need to worry about buying a "strong wheel" as much as just avoiding the lightweight stuff meant for racing. So no aero spokes, low-count hubs, radial lacing, etc., and you should be fine.
posted by d. z. wang at 11:16 AM on May 9, 2012

Best answer: In my experience, the wheels that have lasted the longest have had:
- double-wall design, obviously
- an aero or semi-aero profile (rigidity is a function of cross-section area, among other things)
- eyelets (prevents cracking at the spoke holes)
- hand-built by somebody who knows what (s)he's doing
- high cross count, high spoke count
- this one's weird, but... I will put in a plug for butted spokes. They're sold as a weight feature, but I think they enhance durability. Something about spreading the stress out along the length of the spoke better than straight-gauge spokes do? Not sure, I just know mine have lasted longer that way.

I will also mention that slightly meatier tires are going to prolong the wheel's life. Can your frame clear 28's? If so, run 'em. If you're just using this bike for commuting, I'd even consider squeezing in some 32's.
posted by richyoung at 12:56 PM on May 9, 2012

For what it's worth, I've found Mavic's Aksium wheels to be more durable than custom-built 32-spoke wheels with Ultegra hubs and Open Pro rims. However, I've had hub and rim failures, not spoke breakage.

They look fragile, but they're remarkably strong.
posted by klanawa at 3:05 PM on May 9, 2012

The Mavic Pros a couple of people have suggested are OK but not great for a bigger rider, there's been some question about premature fatigue around spoke holes the last couple of years and they're over-priced these days, anyhow. My go-to rim brand is Velocity now. I'd look at their Deep V or Fusion models, or, if you have the clearance for something wider, Dyads are tough and have a great strength to weight ratio.

For a bigger rider it has to be 36 spokes - there's no meaningful advantage to any fewer. Don't skimp and get something reputable and double-butted, like DT Competition.

Hubs are the least important part, in consideration of strength, just get whatever you fancy that isn't right at the bottom of the range. I'd look at Shimano Tiagra or 105 for no-nonsense utility, Ultegra if you don't want to be shunned by the cafe racers. Alternatively, Deore or XT for extra bomb-proofing.

Most important of all, have someone who knows what they're doing put it all together.

Shimano 105 hub on a Velocity Deep V or Fusion rim with decent spokes should be obtainable from a good local shop for < $150.
posted by normy at 5:45 PM on May 9, 2012

For what it's worth, I've found Mavic's Aksium wheels to be more durable than custom-built 32-spoke wheels with Ultegra hubs and Open Pro rims. However, I've had hub and rim failures, not spoke breakage.

They look fragile, but they're remarkably strong.

Oh god, my Aksiums were the worst. I'm 6'1" and vary from 170-200# and my Aksiums were incredibly flexy. I never broke anything, but when they'd regularly flex enough to rub the rim on the brake pads. Terrible wheels.
posted by The Michael The at 12:53 PM on May 10, 2012

posted by The Michael The at 12:53 PM on May 10, 2012

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