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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm considering a new wheelset for my commuter - touring bike. I've been using Ultegra/Open Pros for the past two years (6000+ miles) with no problems, not even a loose or broken spoke. However, my existing wheelset is 32-spoke, and I'm thinking that I should get some 36-spoke wheels for carrying loads. Most of my riding is commuting to work carrying moderate loads, but I would like to do some weekend touring with rear panniers and heavier loads. My frame has 130 mm rear spacing. Here are my questions:

- Would it be sufficient to just buy a 36-spoke rear wheel and keep my existing 32 in the front (assuming I don't use front panniers)?

- Should I consider CXP33s rather than Open Pros, or would they be equally strong in 36 spokes?

- Are straight-gauge spokes stronger than butted spokes? Several mechanics have recommended straight-gauge, but my understanding has always been that butted spokes are just as strong if not stronger (and also lighter).

- Any other brands of rims I should consider? I've had pretty good service from Mavic despite the dreaded OP click on some older wheels.

- Can you recommend any place to buy some touring wheels? Some of the less-expensive dealers (eg, BWW) don't seem to carry 36-spoke rims.
 

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I would go 36h front and rear while you are about it.

Say no to Mavic! Actually, if you want to use wider tires (and you should) than a CXP33 isn't wide enough.

Use butted spokes, they are more elastic and will last longer.

DT Swiss TK 7.1, KinLin ADHN, there are others too....Sun make some wide touring rims.

In the "Partner Stores" section of this site, LikinBikin.com have both rims I mention above listed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
A few more facts. My frame will take tires up to 32 mm, no larger. Also, I want silver rims, not black.
 

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Try Peter White Cycles for touring stuff. Surf his site for a few hours and you'll be all gear-heady about fenders, lighting, and $300 handlebar bags.
 

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Had same dilema as you

Put together a Surly Long Haul Trucker on a budget. Used a rear 32 hole Open Pro that had historically been extremely reliable for me - worked well at first for commuting and grocery runs on smooth asphalt, but didn't take much loaded touring before I warped the rear rim beyond repair. They're great rims, and have even held up for cyclocross, but were just not designed for the low-gear torque and extra weight that comes with loaded touring. You will be amazed at how much squishing and flexing occurs when you're rolling down the road with a truly loaded bike. A 36 hole open pro may be okay, but I'd probably just go heavier unless it's a freebie. I did use my 28 hole double butted open pro with front panniers and it stayed perfectly true, but that was only for one trip on chipseal and a smooth dirt road. Doubt it would hold up for multiple trips, although without front panniers and 32 holes, you may be fine if you're trying to minimize costs. Even loaded down, front wheels aren't dished and don't experience the same forces that the rear does. They're on the narrow side for 28 or 32mm tires, but given your frame restraints and limited actual touring use, I bet it would work out.

A friend gave me an older pair of 32 hole Mavic MA40s - had to convert the axle and freehub to 8/9 speed, but they have since worked very well for loaded 3-4 day tours with a 75-100pound bike, with several days that involved significant portions of logging roads, or old railway ballast (Hiawatha Trail) on 28 mm tires. I wish the rear was 36 hole just to be safe, but couldn't argue with the price! They're a heavy box section rim and are much stronger than they look. If you find a pair in 36 hole, they're worth paying good money for. A 36 hole CXP33 is probably along the same lines in terms of durability (stronger than an open pro), but I think they're hard to find in that drilling and not cheap. They're also narrower, questionable with a 32 mm tire. 28 probably OK but not ideal.

Otherwise, there's a real lack of versatile, reliable mid-weight wheels right now. 36 spokes just aren't cool, yet they allow one to use a relatively light rim that is still reliable and easy to true. Before the MA40s fell in my lap, I had been looking at the Sun Rims and 700c Salsa Delgado rim - I didn't want to pay for or need the hardcore super heavy and wide Mavic T520/A719 rim for one or two touring trips per year (at most), and couldn't afford a separate set just for touring . Probably like you, I wanted a wheelset that was going to see 95% of it's life doing speed commuting, hauling groceries, and bombing down gravel roads on an empty bike, and 5% actual loaded touring. I really wasn't interested in an overkill wheelset that could not take 23 or 25mm tires for daily use. Basically I wanted something that was acceptably close to an open pro with 23 or 25 mm tires on a daily basis, but strong enough to go tour on once in a while. Another rim, if you can find it (I couldn't), would be the older Mavic T220s that are no longer made. Had one of those that I really liked - medium width and light enough, yet bombproof for everything except for hopping rocks for 10,000 miles in South America. I'm being a bit facetious here, but hopefully you get my point. Heard mixed reviews about the budget Mavic Supersport rim or whatever it's called - it looks much like the T220/MA40/MA2 in dimensions/weight/intended use, but heard from one semi-qualified person that they are made out of cheaper aluminum and aren't all that reliable, hence the low price.

As far as spokes - there are plenty of threads about this. STraight 14's are cheap and work, also easy to build with. I've been told that while they may eventually fatigue, their stiffness helps keep the rim true over hard hits. I've also been told that the double butted spokes have a little more give and that the forces are better distributed over the entire hub/spoke/rim system, minimizing eyelet cracking and such. I'm not an engineer and can't say, but the double butted spokes definitely do not break at the J bend and thread cuts as often as the straight 14's do. A common compromise is to use straight 14's on the drive side for stiffness and double butted everywhere else for durability. I'm guessing that this matters less than the rim choice, general wheelbuild quality, and 32 vs 36 spokes. Probably comes down to practicalities of cost and availability.

I'm using Specialized All Condition 28's (which run wide) and have been happy with them as far as punctures go. I think they have the Armadillo puncture belt with softer rubber and more supple sidewalls. Got them dirt cheap since they had been sitting in the shop for too long - you might have similar success. They roll and stick nicely enough on an empty bike too. For loaded touring on any road, the 28's were fine, particularly for an occasional weekend trip, but I was pushing it with the offroad touring and think 32's would have allowed for slightly lower pressures and been a little easier on the rims and sidewalls. Someone else around here raves about his Panaracer Paselas, which look very similar in price and build. The compromise I'm doing works, but if you end up getting a second set of wheels, it'd be best to install the widest and beefiest tires that will fit your bike. The Conti and Schwalbe touring tires are nice, but will cost ya. Bontrager Hardcases are available in 32 and would also be a good option. Specialized Armadillos are reliable and long lived (too long lived if you ask me), but ride like crap on an empty bike, aren't cheap, aren't always round, and are scary in the rain. But, on a heavy semi-truck for a bike, that doesn't matter as much.

If you really see yourself going out on several weekends, there is really no substitute for a true touring frame, good racks, front and rear panniers, and solid wheels with wide tires. If funds are available, investing now can save you a lot of headache that comes with half-assing it...just a thought from the half-ass king himself. Good luck.
 

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lets think about this...

The Open Pros and CXP-33 rims are last generation competitive training and racing rims. They are strong, light, and slightly fragile. But, the fact that you have used them for a while in commutes does not indicate that they will hold up loads and tough miles. They can take a lot of use, but under loaded running, and getting hammered sometimes by bad roads, you might regret staying so lightweight. (horror scenario: descending in bad light on a bad road...)

If you are looking for an inexpensive and appropriate change, you should at least use a bigger tire, or at slightly greater cost, a wider rim and and a bigger tire. Even a lower tech rim like a Sun, or a low-cost Mavic, with a quality big tire would be better.

You might want to consider, at the next price level, some Velocity Synergy rims. They are wider, and the rear has off center spoke holes, which makes for a stronger rear wheel.
They are not too heavy, and take bigger tires easily. I have some on a long distance rider that I built, and they are deluxe--and they roll easily to.

As for tires, I have used the Conti touring line (many choices), the Conti Gatorskin all-condition training clinchers (cant think of the name), Panasonic Pasela touring tires, and the tough condition Specialized (but the new ones are relatively rough riders and don't have a very thick tread). No complaints on any of them, but I have really been impressed with the Continentals.







tarwheel2 said:
I'm considering a new wheelset for my commuter - touring bike. I've been using Ultegra/Open Pros for the past two years (6000+ miles) with no problems, not even a loose or broken spoke. However, my existing wheelset is 32-spoke, and I'm thinking that I should get some 36-spoke wheels for carrying loads. Most of my riding is commuting to work carrying moderate loads, but I would like to do some weekend touring with rear panniers and heavier loads. My frame has 130 mm rear spacing. Here are my questions:

- Would it be sufficient to just buy a 36-spoke rear wheel and keep my existing 32 in the front (assuming I don't use front panniers)?

- Should I consider CXP33s rather than Open Pros, or would they be equally strong in 36 spokes?

- Are straight-gauge spokes stronger than butted spokes? Several mechanics have recommended straight-gauge, but my understanding has always been that butted spokes are just as strong if not stronger (and also lighter).

- Any other brands of rims I should consider? I've had pretty good service from Mavic despite the dreaded OP click on some older wheels.

- Can you recommend any place to buy some touring wheels? Some of the less-expensive dealers (eg, BWW) don't seem to carry 36-spoke rims.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Suns

Here's where I'm leaning. The Sun CR18 rims seem just about ideal for my needs and not too heavy. So I contacted bicyclewheels.com, where I had bought some SS/fixe wheels over the winter, and for $170 they can build me the following wheels:

- Sun CR18 rims, silver, 36H
- Shimano Ultegra hubs, 36H
- DT 2.0 stainless straight-gauge spokes
- brass nipples

For the price, this seems hard to beat. He recommended 2.0 straight-gauge spokes rather than butted. I have gotten mixed opinions on straight vs. butted spokes for touring wheels, but most of the old-timers and experienced folks seem to recommend straight.

BTW, in case it wasn't clear in my previous posts, my bike is a touring frame. It's a Bob Jackson World Tour, with canti brakes and room for fenders and tires up to 32 mm. However, it is not designed for 135 mm wheels or tires larger than 32s. Currently I am running Michelin Pro2Race 25s, which fit more like 27s, and I've got some Panaracer Pasela 28s that I can use as well.
 

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tarwheel2 said:
He recommended 2.0 straight-gauge spokes rather than butted. I have gotten mixed opinions on straight vs. butted spokes for touring wheels, but most of the old-timers and experienced folks seem to recommend straight.
As almost all spokes break at the j-bend, extra material in the center doesn't help there at all. The extra rigidity of straight gauge transfers more of the shock loads to the hub flanges - via the j-bends. And on the 'cycle' goes.
 

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If you want bombproof wheels, and you would be happy with tires no thinner than 700 X 28C, try these that I just built: Mavic A719 rims (available in silver - 32, 36, 40H - with Shimano Ultegra hubs & DT or Wheelsmith DB 14-15-14 spokes.

Throw some Rivendell Ruffy Tuffy tires on them, and you'll be riding nimble, fast, and strong.
 
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