Clydesdale Chronicles: Bike Wheels for heavier riders. Part II

By | November 11, 2013

In the previous edition of the Clydesdale Chronicles, I told you about the miles ridden and the damage done (to  my wheels).  So now it is time to buy a new set of wheels, but wheat wheels will work for a heavy rider like myself?  What wheels can withstand the heft of this mighty Clydesdale (230lbs)?

Like anyone else in this computer driven world my first inquiry was made on the internet.  I also checked with several local bike shops which are always a fantastic resource.  Since I have been on the market for wheels in the past, I have my own experiences and preferences when it comes to wheels.  Based on this experience and research I have compiled the following options:

Custom Built Mavic Open Pro rims with Shimano Ultegra hubs.

  • Rims – Mavic Open Pro
  • Hubs – Shimano Ultegra
  • Spokes – DT Swiss (13/14 Double butted) 28-36
  • Nipples – Brass or alloy.
  • Weight – 1,127 grams rear, 868 grams front (32 spoke)
  • Cost – $450+ depending on options

My Mavic Open Pro wheels from Colorado Cyclist were the best wheels I have every owned.  The build quality of these wheels were fantastic.   I would likely still be riding these wheels if not for an unfortunate accident involving a pot hole.

Positives:  Great build quality, durable, easy to true and work on, nearly endless customization options, inexpensive.

Negatives:  Heavy!!!

Revolution Wheelworks

  • Rims – Revolution
  • Hubs – Revolution
  • Spokes – Sapim 24 front 28 rear
  • Nipples – Sapim
  • Weight – 1,600 grams +/- pair
  • Cost – $500-$600 depending on spoke options

There are a number of companies like Revolution Wheelworks.  These companies source parts from Taiwan and build their wheels in the US.  I met a gentleman on RAGBRAI who had great customer support with Revolution and recommended them.  After some research, it seems that they have an excellent reputation for well built, lightweight wheels (particularly on the East coast).  I filled out the help me decide form on their website and received an e-mail from Jonathan.  He will probably be building my wheels and he recommended a wheelset similar to the REV 27 to meet my hefty demands.  The gentleman from RAGBRAI is correct, their customer service is great, but not always speedy since the company is so small.  I have a number of options for upgrades I can add to the wheels including Sapim CX-Ray spokes and white industries hubs for an up charge.

Pros:  Great build quality, fantastic customer service, lightweight, many customization options, lightweight, easy to work on.

Cons:  Imported components, many Taiwan made rims are pinned rather than welded and machined.

Mavic Ksyrium Elite

  • Rims – Mavic
  • Hubs – Mavic
  • Spokes – Mavic straight pull bladed aluminum
  • Nipples – Mavic
  • Weight – 1,564 grams/pair
  • Cost – $800 pair

Mavic appears twice on my list of wheels for heavy riders.  They really do make some great wheels.  The Ksyrium Elites have a reputation of holding up for many years under riders even heavier than me.  They are nearly bulletproof rarely even needing to be trued.  They have a sealed cartridge style bearing which is easy to service and with the bladed spokes are nicely aero.  The negatives, the proprietary spokes and ride harshness.  The spokes have been known to change from year to year.  So if you have a 4 year old set of wheels and break a spoke, they can be very difficult to find. The large, high tension spokes are also not known for compliance.  I recently rode the Ksyrium SLS.  I has shocked by the harshness of the ride from these wheels.

Pros:  Rock solid, proven record under many heavy riders, easy to service bearings, bladed spokes are aero, solid Mavic reputation.

Cons:  Proprietary spokes may be difficult to find, could be a little lighter, rough ride, not a cheap set of wheels.

Fulcrum/Campagnolo Racing 1

  • Rims – Campagnolo
  • Hubs – Campagnolo
  • Spokes – Mavic straight pull bladed aluminum
  • Weight – 1,460 Grams
  • Cost $1,200

Fulcrum is an offshoot of Campagnolo created for those who prefer not to mix and match SRAM, Shimano and Campy components.  You can get an equivalent set of wheels with the Campy name if that is your preference.  These wheels are the lightest of the bunch and still getting a reputation for toughness.  They hold true very well.   These wheels feature a cone and cup bearing assembly, however the cups may be pressed out and replaced instead of throwing away the hub or whole wheel.  These wheels are built for the long haul despite their light weight.  Again with the Mavic spokes, you may have difficulty getting replacements.  Also an interesting note regarding spokes, the Fulcrum/Campagnolo wheels have two drive side spokes for every single non-drive side spoke.  This is in an effort to equalize spoke tension across the wheel.  Most striking thing I hear from those who ride these wheels is the lack of rolling resistance.

Pros: Light weight, low rolling resistance, serviceability, aero.

Cons:  COST!!!  Proprietary spokes may be difficult to find, I would guess ride harshness may be an issue.

What do I purchase?

If cost were no object, I would buy the Fulcrum/Campagnolo’s without hesitation.  However, I am on a budget.  I am not sure how much longer I will be relying on this bike for all of my riding.  With any luck I will be upgrading and using my Giant for commuting purposes.  With that in mind, Revolution tops the list.  I like the quality of their build.  I also like the idea of supporting a fellow small business.  Regardless whatever wheel I purchase, expect a full review.

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8 thoughts on “Clydesdale Chronicles: Bike Wheels for heavier riders. Part II

  1. Chris

    I have destroyed 2x Mavic Open wheels.
    I am 265#
    I went with a 36hole Velocity Dyad, Ultegra Hub, Brass Nipples, and DT 13/14 double butted spokes.

    Mine were hand assembled by my local shop, and needed only a minor re-true after 100 miles (ran over some rough RR tracks at 30MPH). and have been amazing ever since.

    1. admin Post author

      Sorry to hear about your bad luck with Open Pros. I have been really impressed with the quality of build done by my local bike shop. Sad to say that wheel building is a dying art. There aren’t many shops that do it anymore 🙁 I have been rediscovering Velocity rims in recent weeks. They have lots of great reviews and hear they have good customer service. Those wheels look sturdy!

      1. Bob Bacon

        It’s not a “dead art”, it’s just super expensive, now. Bike parts cost WAYYYYYY too much. As long as the bike companies want to keep ripping people off, and as long as American wages are crap, things like wheel truing (time intensive and requiring specific parts) will be super spendy, shutting out a lot of people from the practice.

  2. Ralph

    I have been running Campy Sirocco G3 on my Bianchi. My weight is between 230 and 260. No problems on the front yet, 7 years, 3,000 miles/year. Just had the rear respoked. I have a beefy front wheel from my tandem. Built by Co-motion 42 spoke 3 cross. Has been running with 500lb of rider and stoker. Removed it because of a switch to disc front end. Interested let me know. It’s not light.

    1. admin Post author

      I have a pair now that make me happy. But a great tip on the Campys!

    1. admin Post author

      I have not ridden ROL wheels yet. THey don’t seem to have any offering for riders over 240 lbs. I would love to take a pair for a spin.

  3. Bob Bacon

    Aluminum spokes? ROLOLOLOL. WTF. If you are so heavy you break bike parts, why would you want aluminum spokes, even in a 48 spoke wheel? Instead of $800 “racing” wheels, that’s what you might really need, a pair of solid axle tandem wheels.


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