When buying a new bike, it’s not common that the number of spokes in the wheels are discussed. From your first bike as a kid, to your current road or triathlon bike, it’s assumed that the wheels that come with the bike, just work. For this reason, it’s easy to understand why people have questions when a wheel manufacturer/builder has different build or spoke count options.
|Chris and I on our first bikes. Can you tell we’re Canadian?
Spoke count is important for a number of reasons. Most importantly proper spoke count ensures the wheel does not fail prematurely. Failing can mean a number of things.
- Broken Spokes
- Pulling Spokes Through the Rim
- Pulling Spokes Through the Hub
You can also find yourself truing the wheel more often if your spoke count it too low. This is not ideal.
For those of you who don’t know what Clydesdale wheel is, it normally means that it is a wheel built for a heavier rider.
Why You Don’t Discuss Spoke Count When Buying a Bike
Every year, bike companies release new models. Each model has been specified with a list of components. The components are ordered in mass quantities and sent to a build house for assembly.
OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. This simply represents the company that originally manufactured the components specified for a bike build. If FLO wheels were specified for a bike model, FLO would be the OEM.
OEM products are built for the general public. When you are building for the general public you try your best to limit the number of failures. This means that wheels are often built with more spokes than most people need. The reason for this is because more spokes, typically mean you can add more weight before you get a failure.
In a lot of cases, OEM wheels are built with lower quality spokes, which also increases the need for more spokes to be used in the build. It’s not uncommon to see OEM wheels with 36 spokes. That’s too many spokes for most people.
|Building the First FLO Wheel
FLO Wheel Builds
When you are building a custom wheel, you are less constrained. Using high quality components is possible and you can build a wheel for a specific weight range. At FLO we have two wheel builds.
The standard build is rated for a rider weight up to 198lbs. Using a high quality spoke like the Sapim CX-Ray, we are able to build with fewer spokes. The standard build features the following.
20 spokes w/ a radial lacing pattern.
24 spokes with a two cross lacing pattern on both drive and non-drive side.
The Clydesdale build is rated for a rider weight up to 242lbs. The Clydesdale build features the following.
20 spokes w/ a radial lacing pattern.
28 spokes with a three cross lacing pattern on both drive and non-drive side.
When Should You Choose a Clydesdale Build?
The standard recommendation for a Clydesdale build has to do with weight, but the riders strength and riding style should also be considered. It’s not uncommon for us to recommend a Clydesdale build to a strong criterium rider that weighs 175lbs. Criterium races have a number of sprints and if you are continually putting 1,000+ watts into the pedals, then you may want to consider a Clydesdale build. Triathletes are much different since they typically maintain a much lower average power throughout a race without the maximum power efforts. A strong 175lbs triathlete would most likely be fine with a standard build wheel.
But Aren’t the Clydesdale Wheels Much Heavier?
Most people who are contemplating the Clydesdale build, are worried about the weight penalty by sizing up to the Clydesdale build. Since only the rear wheel changes with a clydesdale build, we only see a increase of 30-40 grams for the Clydesdale build. The difference in weight will effectively make no difference. If you’re interested in learning more about how weight affects your riding time, you may like the following articles.
If you are in the Clydesdale category, the benefits of sizing up will greatly outshine the 30-40 gram weight difference. Since the wheel is built for your weight/strength, power transfer is improved, cornering improves, compliance is balanced, and the service life is much better.
Why Don’t I Just Get the Clydesdale Build?
If you’re wondering why you shouldn’t just get the Clydesdale build, you’re not alone. It’s a good question. Just like a wheel can be built too lightly for a heavier rider, a wheel can also be built too heavily for a lighter rider. While a stiff wheels is good, too stiff make for a less compliant ride and a wheel that “feels” like it’s too much. If you are in the standard build range, it’s best to get the standard build.
I’m 250lbs So I Should Be OK Right?
In theory, you could ride our Clydesdale build. However, when I am asked this question, I tell people they should not buy our wheels. While I’d love to sell the wheels, I’d hate to sell someone a product that wasn’t right for them. We also do not warranty wheel when the rider is out of the weight range.
If you are a heavier rider, then I would recommend a custom wheel build from a professional wheel builder. Two excellent builders, with lots of experience are listed below. Either of them are qualified to build a wheel that will work for you.
Pro Wheel Builder
It’s Not Always Cut and Dry
If you find yourself in the middle ground and aren’t quite sure, which wheel is best for you, feel free to contact us, and we can find the wheel build that’s right for you.