Clydesdale Chronicles: Bike wheels for heavier riders Part I

By | October 1, 2013

Clydesdales are hard on their bikes.  I am no exception.  I purchased a 2003 Giant OCR1 in the spring of 2004.  Since then, I have put somewhere in the neighborhood of 16,000-20,000 miles on the old girl.  During that time, I have replaced the following parts:

My trusty Giant OCR1 once looked like this many years
and many miles ago.

Bottom Brackets (Average 1.5-2 years).
Pedals (2) pairs
Seats (3)
Cassettes (3)
Frame (1)
Headset (1)
Chains (every 600-1,000 miles)
Tires (every 1,500-2,000 miles)
Tubes (who knows)
Bar Tape (every 2-4 years)

The most disturbing and expensive replacement part I have had to pay for are wheels. I am currently on my fourth set of wheels!  I am sad to say that these my current wheels are headed to the recycling bin.  Truly tragic.  I am averaging less than 5,000 miles or a little over 2 years on each set of wheels.  The following are the details of the broken wheelsets:

My Giant OCR1 originally came with:

  • Rims:  Xero XSR – 3, 20-hole Front, 24-hole Rear
  • Hubs: Aluminum, unknown brand. Cone and cup bearings
  • Spokes: 14ga.  Stainless steel, unknown brand.
If I remember correctly, these wheels held up for three seasons.  The first sign of a problem was noticed shortly after a 43 mph descent on RSVP (Ride From Seattle to Vancouver and Party), the rim started touching the brakes pads on both sides as I accelerated.  The bearing assembly on the front wheel was coming apart.  I had cones and bearings replaced, but they would not stay tight in the hub.  I think that the cups were shot.  It was also losing spoke tension.  Considering the low spoke count, they lasted a long time.
My second wheelset:
  • Rims: Mavic Open Pro Ceramic 32 hole
  • Hubs: Shimano Ultegra
  • Spokes: DT Swiss 13/14 double butted spokes
  • Nipples: Gold Anodized (Bling Bling!)
These wheels came to me from Colorado Cyclist.  They really do a great job on their wheels.  They held true for a long time and were easily trued with minimal effort.  The ceramic coating does require special brake pads.  These wheels lasted 3 years until one fateful, sad day.  I was riding an early spring ride (25 miles).  It was going great.  I had just found a $20 bill on the street.  Five minutes after this lucky find, my luck ran out.  I bunny hopped a railroad track.  What I did not notice was the pot hole on the far side of the tracks.  I landed squarely on the far edge of the hole.  I don’t know how I stayed upright.  I twisted the sidewall of the back rim, chipped off a large chunk of the ceramic coating and sent both wheels out of true.  Worst of all, both wheels were rendered ovular from the impact.  I did not feel safe or comfortable rolling on egg shaped wheels.
Broken hub flange 🙁


My third wheelset:  
  • Rims: Mavic Open Pro 32 hole
  • Hubs: Shimano Ultegra 6700 (salvaged from the previous wheelset)
  • Spokes: DT Swiss 15/16 double butted front, 13/14 double butted rear
  • Nipples: Red Anodized
Having some parts and time on my hands, I chose to build my own set of wheels with Sheldon Brown’s guidance.  Wheel building is becoming a lost art.  Build quality is everything with wheels.  Sadly I am not a very good builder.  The front wheel was a breeze.  Sadly I laced and unlaced the rear wheel 3 times during its life and was constantly truing it.  During servicing, the flange on the hub failed.  This was likely due to spoke tension that was too high.  These wheels in various forms forms lasted me 3 years.
My current wheelset:
  • Rims:  Mavic CXP-22 (claimed  no sticker)
  • Hubs:  Who knows
  • Spokes: Who Cares
My wheel broke this spring and I just wanted something to get me through the year.  I met a gentleman from Craigslist who was selling a set for $100.  Deal!  I didn’t pay much and I got what I paid for.  As stated earlier a good quality build makes a wheelset.  There was no linseed oil or thread locker on the spoke threads so they were always coming loose.  A rear wheel should have different length spokes on the drive and non drive side so the rim will center properly on the hub.  I suspect they used equal length spokes on both sides.  I cannot get the dish right and the nipples on the drive side will not tighten any more.  I spend anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour working on these wheels nearly every time I ride.  After all this practice, I am getting pretty good at truing wheels.  (Maybe I should try my hand at lacing again?).  Technically these wheels are not broken, but they are a mess, will not stay true, the nipples are stripped and the bearings make funny noises.  Plus they are very heavy!
It is time for new wheels, but what should I buy?  What wheels will work for heavier riders?  Stay tuned for more details!
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