At the end of the 2013 outdoor cycling season in Iowa (for me at least), I found myself breaking several spokes in only a couple of hundred miles. Each time I had several other spokes loose and my wheel had fallen out of true. I had been running the factory Bontrager SSRs that came on my Trek 2.1. I’ve gotten about 2500 miles on these wheels, but I’m afraid these recent signs of wear indicate that I need a new set. My LBS recommended Fulcrum Racing 7s due to their strength, longevity, and price, but another LBS recommended something with J-bend spokes for durability and ease of maintenance/replacement. Anybody have any opinions about this decision? I’m young (limited income, high student loan payments) and need to keep the price down under $400, or lower. Hoping to get ahead on this so I can ask for assistance via my Christmas list! LOL! Thanks!
For durability and cheap repairs its hard to beat a set of 32 spoke j-bend spoked wheels. Also for ease of repair. Factory wheels usually have to go back to the factory for repair. That’s an option for your current wheels. 2,500 miles isn’t very many for the troubles you’ve had.
A few things to keep in mind on j-bend type wheels:
J-bend spokes are very reliable when built correctly. I have sets with rims with over 20,000 miles with hubs that have well over 30,000 miles. I’ve never had a broken spoke on them.
Custom wheels allow you to reuse the hubs no matter what rim you use so the whole wheel never becomes useless. Also consider if you want to go with tubeless tires as you’d need tubeless compatible rims like “Stan’s Notubes”. You’d also need sealant and the tools for injecting the sealant.
The spokes should have the spoke heads facing inward on both sides of the wheel. This reduces stress in areas of the spoke that are most likely to break. I’ve never broken a spoke on 3-cross laced wheels with the spoke head facing towards the center of the hub. I have broken spokes when they face out.
Also on 11-speed compatible rear hubs (all Campy, not sure about new Shimano 11 speed), use an even slightly aero rim like Mavic CXP-33s because those spoke holes are center drilled in the rim rather then off-set like an Open-Pro4. There is so much dish for these hubs the non-drive side spokes for non-center drilled rims need lock-tight to keep from loosening.
For the best price check out online bike retailers that feature custom wheel building. Put your spoking requirements in the comments section of the order. Some have free shipping. Colorado Cyclist has done a good job for me and are usually the cheapest. Keep the shipping container in case they ever have to go back for repairs.
One more comment, 14/15 double butted stainless DT spokes have always been reliable for me. And the brass nipples have never squeaked. Always use 14s at the hub and spoke sides of the wheel for strength, even if you want to save money by going straight 14s instead of 14/15s.
You might want to consider building your own. It is a good project. 2 web sites to look at are Sheldon Brown for lacing instructions (use high spoke counts and 3 cross for worry free wheels) and Peter White for parts ideas. Once you build up a few, you realize there is not much sorcery involved, just patience.
I agree with most of what you said in your post, but….
(1) First, almost all – but not all – tubed clinchers can be successfully converted to tubeless (generally with rim strips).
(2) Look at the Lenard Zinn article I posted today (10/21/13) on the Tubeless Tires thread.
I was unaware that your choice of wheels (i.e., among SRAM, Campy and Shimano) are virtually all interchangeable regardless of whether you have SRAM, Campy or Shimano group drive trains – if you have an 11 speed setup. Zinn tested SRAM, Campy and Shimano 11 speed groups and rotated three different wheels (with SRAM, Campy and Shimano hub bodies/cassettes) and found all of them interchangeable. I guess that was not the case with 10 speeds although I remember it being the case with most 9 speeds (my riding buddy, on his spare bike, runs Shimano Dura Ace 9 speed group on Campy wheel/cassette – never has had a problem).
I second Mootsman’s suggestion of custom wheels. I have a set of Colorado Cyclist wheels on my bike right now. I see on their website that you can get a set of Ultegra/CXP-33 or Ultegra/Open Pro wheels for just at $400. The CXP-33 rims are a little on the heavy side, but are famous for being bombproof. The Open Pros are a little lighter and are sturdy as well. Of course, if you have a good custom wheel builder near you, then you should check them out as well.
I’m a Clydesdale (270#) and own 5 bikes. A 48″ highwheel, MTB, and 3 roads. I have Rolf, Mavic, Shimano, Vuelta Corsa, and Pro Wheel Builder Custom Deep V Velocity wheel sets for the road bikes. The strongest and most durable are the Velocity and Vuelta Corsa HD. Both are 32-14ga spokes laced 3 cross. Unless your racing or want some snob appeal. Go with the 32 spoke with V rims. Even for someone my weight the Velocity 32 Deep V’s are bomb proof. Pro Wheel Builder can lace them up in a multitude of color rims and print. With colored spokes and nipple. Speaking of nipples. Make sure they are brass. This prevents loosening. My custom white and black wheelset was just under $400 with shipping. Now for a cheap bomb proof wheelset. You can’t go wrong with Nashbars Vuelta Cosra HD. The go on sale frequently for $150 a wheelset. I use these on my rebuilt Trek 2100. That is my every day bike. I love those wheels. They have excellent roll out with superior strength. They even look sharp. LBS don’t like the big box bike stores. But I build bikes and use online sources as well a LBS’s for parts. If you know what your shopping for. You can save a ton of cash. The last bike I built was for my girl friend. It was a 9 speed (105, FSA, Sram) driveline with new Mavic Askium wheels. A new aluminum frame for $550. So it can be done on the cheap.
I have two sets of Stans (Alpha 400) tubeless rims with Campy hubs. Light but durable and I use standard J bend spokes to ensure they are able to be fixed anywhere in the country and they can run tubes quite easily in case of a cut too big for the sealant to seal. I used to have some Mavic CXP33 rims that I converted to tubeless for about a year and they did well but I also had a set of Mavic Open Pro rims that did fine tubeless once you got the tires on – a good bit harder to do than with the CXP33′s.