Author Topic: My hybrid bicycle can't handle the stress of trailer hauling - what should I do?  (Read 6513 times)

Beric01

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Hi Mustachians! So per the advice of this community, I switched over to pure cycling and sold my car around a year and a half ago. About a year ago, I got a trailer and started making regular trips to Costco (~50lbs of groceries per trip, every 1-2 weeks). Ever since then, it's been one broken spoke after another on my rear wheel. Fixing these is costing me too much time and money.

The situation: I own a 2010 Specialized Crosstrail Hybrid XXL. I've broken 5 spokes in the past year, which have costed me about $25 apiece parts and labor to replace. I'm 6'3" and only 155 pounds, so it's pretty clear the damage is being done due to the stress my trailer is putting on the rear wheel. Now the shop is saying it's time to replace the wheel. The problem is that my bicycle is a 29" with a 7-speed rear hub which is apparently no longer made, so the shop would need to get a new hub along with a new wheel. You're talking $250 for parts and labor. Over the past year I've already put in over $150 into buying a new front wheel and tire, and rear tire, so the parts are actually better than stock, which makes me hesitant to buy a new bicycle. My current bike retailed for $500 new when I bought it.

My use case: I bike to work every day of the work week (about 5 miles round trip, though that could increase to 10 miles soon). To Costco with trailer every 1-2 weeks: 8 miles round trip. Visit family/friends: 25 miles a week. Let's presume 3500 miles a year on average.

I can see several options:

  • Pay the $250 to fix the bike (or alternatively find some other way of cheaper repair). This lets me keep my upgraded tires/front wheel. The problem is, due to the age of the bike and the stress I'm putting on it I don't know that it can last another 5 years without further extensive repairs.
  • Sell the bike on Craiglist and buy a different used bike. This is probably the cheapest option, as I'm sure if I just fix my spoke and promptly sell the bike I can get $200-$250 for the bike. Problem is, I don't know that the replacement used bicycle I buy won't run into the same issues.
  • Buy a new bicycle. This will have the advantage of letting me choose the best bike and parts for my specific use case, but the disadvantage of costing me boatloads of money.

I'm looking for the most cost-effective option over the next 5+ years. I appreciate you guys advice!
« Last Edit: October 19, 2015, 11:11:38 AM by Beric01 »

Syonyk

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Get a double walled touring wheel with thicker-than-normal spokes (go with the tapered ones if needed).  It should work fine after that.  I'm rather hard on rear wheels and I've destroyed radically fewer wheels after going to that setup.

Also, your bike shop is lazy.  Try a different one.  They should be able to lace up a new wheel into your existing hub for a lot less than $250.

tooqk4u22

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It's not the trailer as the weight of the trailer and stuff is loaded with should be born by the trailer's wheels and frame - the tongue weight of the trailer (assuming it is distributed evenly) is usually very low.

The cause of the spokes breaking is likely either:
1. the spokes are not tensioned correctly and evenly all the way around - if one is out of whack, it stresses the rest, so when one breaks, expect more to
2. the rim is damaged/bent in some way, which may be un-noticeable.
3. there are manufacture defects of some kind or the mfg wheels just suck
4. they are just nearing the end of their useful lives

Beric01

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Get a double walled touring wheel with thicker-than-normal spokes (go with the tapered ones if needed).  It should work fine after that.  I'm rather hard on rear wheels and I've destroyed radically fewer wheels after going to that setup.

Also, your bike shop is lazy.  Try a different one.  They should be able to lace up a new wheel into your existing hub for a lot less than $250.
Thanks! So I should just try another bike shop and ask them for a double walled touring wheel, and see if they can beat $250?

And yeah, the guys at my shop said they could rebuild the wheel, but that it would be outside of my price range.

It's not the trailer as the weight of the trailer and stuff is loaded with should be born by the trailer's wheels and frame - the tongue weight of the trailer (assuming it is distributed evenly) is usually very low.

The cause of the spokes breaking is likely either:
1. the spokes are not tensioned correctly and evenly all the way around - if one is out of whack, it stresses the rest, so when one breaks, expect more to
2. the rim is damaged/bent in some way, which may be un-noticeable.
3. there are manufacture defects of some kind or the mfg wheels just suck
4. they are just nearing the end of their useful lives

Yeah, it could also be my panniers, though I don't usually carry heavy stuff on them. Or just my riding style - I do a lot of hard pedaling standing up on my pedals, particularly when starting up from lights/stop signs. Or just that my bike is 5 years old. Regardless, I seem to have more stress on my wheel than normal and I'd like to prevent breaks from happening in the future while continuing my normal riding.

My friend wants me to spend $1000+ on a Cyclocross bike and I'm not prepared to do that...
« Last Edit: October 19, 2015, 01:35:24 PM by Beric01 »

naners

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If you get more than a couple of damaged spokes, it's time to replace the wheel. Might never have been an especially good wheel to begin with, and if you ever rode around with a broken spoke without knowing it you can do some serious damage to the rim. Back wheel can be expensive though, be prepared for that. Second the recommendation for a touring wheel, that should solve your problem. See if there is a bike shop in your area that sells used bikes/parts, they're usually less ritzy than places that primarily sell new and may be able to get your old casette onto the new wheel.

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Get a double walled touring wheel with thicker-than-normal spokes (go with the tapered ones if needed).  It should work fine after that.  I'm rather hard on rear wheels and I've destroyed radically fewer wheels after going to that setup.

Also, your bike shop is lazy.  Try a different one.  They should be able to lace up a new wheel into your existing hub for a lot less than $250.

Not sure if this counts as a touring wheel, but I ordered Vuelta Corsa HD wheels 700C so they should, I think, fit a 29er. Nashbar's price varies between 150-190

http://www.nashbar.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/SearchDisplay?searchTerm=Corsa+hd&catalogId=10052&cn1=&langId=-1&gast=Corsa+hd&storeId=10053&URL=CatalogSearchResultView&ddkey=http:PBSearchTermAssociationsCmd

I weigh over 200 and regularly haul over 100 pounds in the trailer and they have been rock solid.

Complication, of course, being that your original post seems to suggest an internal hub? If it's a normal cassette the swap is easy-peasy.

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Thanks! So I should just try another bike shop and ask them for a double walled touring wheel, and see if they can beat $250?

And yeah, the guys at my shop said they could rebuild the wheel, but that it would be outside of my price range.

What weird rear hub do you have that is causing problems?  You said it's a $500 bike, so it shouldn't be something hugely exotic.

But, yes, ride around & check a few other bike shops.  There's a huge difference between two near me (one near home, one near work) in cost, quality of work, etc.  One of them won't do much but sell you parts and charge you to install them, the other does a huge amount of custom work, and charges me remarkably little for labor on complex projects.  I don't think it should be more than $50 or $60 to relace a wheel with heavy duty spokes (plus the wheel cost).

hyla

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You can fit a 7 speed cassette on an 8/9 speed hub if you use a spacer.  Then you could just buy a stock touring wheel and move your existing cassette over.   

A quick google search on "7 speed cassette on 9 speed hub" will get you details.

Changing a cassette is a simple operation that should be relatively cheap at a shop, or if you want to tackle it yourself is manageable with a casette tool and a chain whip for tools, and youtube videos, a book, or a knowledgeable friend for instruction. 

Beric01

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Ok, so I did some more investigation. All of my spokes are breaking at my hub, not at the rim, so apparently double-walled rims won't help me as it's not the rim that is the issue. The reason why my spokes are breaking is likely due to my acceleration off of a stop - I tend to start very fast.

I appear to have 32 spokes right now, and I guess the highest possible is 36 - not sure that only 10% more makes much of a difference.

I am just getting more and more confused...

Beric01

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Complication, of course, being that your original post seems to suggest an internal hub? If it's a normal cassette the swap is easy-peasy.

Yeah, the problem is that it's a 7-speed hub, and no one makes 7-speed 29" wheels anymore apparently.

What weird rear hub do you have that is causing problems?  You said it's a $500 bike, so it shouldn't be something hugely exotic.

But, yes, ride around & check a few other bike shops.  There's a huge difference between two near me (one near home, one near work) in cost, quality of work, etc.  One of them won't do much but sell you parts and charge you to install them, the other does a huge amount of custom work, and charges me remarkably little for labor on complex projects.  I don't think it should be more than $50 or $60 to relace a wheel with heavy duty spokes (plus the wheel cost).

Yeah, the issue is that we're talking about not just a wheel replacement, but a hub replacement as well, and the labor thus required. That seems to up the cost considerably.

Jack

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Or just my riding style - I do a lot of hard pedaling standing up on my pedals, particularly when starting up from lights/stop signs.... Regardless, I seem to have more stress on my wheel than normal and I'd like to prevent breaks from happening in the future while continuing my normal riding.

The reason why my spokes are breaking is likely due to my acceleration off of a stop - I tend to start very fast.

I appear to have 32 spokes right now, and I guess the highest possible is 36 - not sure that only 10% more makes much of a difference.

First of all, learn to use your gears properly. Wanting to maintain your "normal riding" style becomes a little complainypants when said riding style is apparently so needlessly destructive.

Second, this page seems to suggest that 40-spoke rear wheels used to be the standard until the early '80s, and that some wheels might have up to 48 spokes (probably on tandems).

Third, read the page I linked to some more and then rebuild the wheel yourself.

Beric01

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First of all, learn to use your gears properly. Wanting to maintain your "normal riding" style becomes a little complainypants when said riding style is apparently so needlessly destructive.

Perhaps you can advise me on how to properly ride a bicycle then? I've been riding for 10 years and I've only had this type of issue in the past year. I generally have to stand on my pedals to get up to speed quickly, particularly on a trailer. I always ride with 3 in the front gear, and range from 2 in the back at stops all the way up to 7 for going 20-25mph. My lower gears are just too slow and I've never had much use for them.

Second, this page seems to suggest that 40-spoke rear wheels used to be the standard until the early '80s, and that some wheels might have up to 48 spokes (probably on tandems).

That sounds cool, but seems I would still have to buy a new hub as my current hub is only 32 spokes (I just counted my spokes) or 36 - not sure how to tell.

Third, read the page I linked to some more and then rebuild the wheel yourself.

Sorry, but I don't own any tools and I'm not good with mechanical things. Most I can do is replace a flat. I'm a very clumsy person in general and am more likely to break the wheel and cost myself even more money than to just pay someone to do it.

DagobertDuck

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Complication, of course, being that your original post seems to suggest an internal hub? If it's a normal cassette the swap is easy-peasy.

Yeah, the problem is that it's a 7-speed hub, and no one makes 7-speed 29" wheels anymore apparently.

Any modern 9-speed hub can take a 7-speed cassette with a spacer. If your current wheel has a freewheel, and you buy a new cassette-style wheel, you'll need a new cassette, but 7-speed cassettes are dirt cheap.

Ok, so I did some more investigation. All of my spokes are breaking at my hub, not at the rim, so apparently double-walled rims won't help me as it's not the rim that is the issue. The reason why my spokes are breaking is likely due to my acceleration off of a stop - I tend to start very fast.
Spokes don't break due to accelerating hard on the bike, not even if you're Chris Hoy.

Spokes always break at the bend at the hub, that's due to metal fatigue caused by the varying load on the spoke with every rotation of the wheel.
A double wall rim is stiffer, so it spreads the load across more spokes = less variantion in spoke tension when the wheel rotates = less breaking spokes.
So a too light rim can cause spokes breaking, but build quality (sproper and equal spoke tension) is key. I wouldn't trust your bike shop to build a wheel for you: they should have retensioned the entire wheel after 1 or 2 broke spokes, which they apparently didn't do (properly) since you've broken 5 spokes.

All you need is a new, decent quality wheel and maybe a new cassette. Should be possible for well under $ 150.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2015, 12:42:31 AM by DagobertDuck »

Bob W

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Buy a used heavy duty bike for $40 bucks on Craigs list and use for your hauling days.  Rinse and repeat as needed.  Maybe once every 3 years at your pace.   

Beric01

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Complication, of course, being that your original post seems to suggest an internal hub? If it's a normal cassette the swap is easy-peasy.

Yeah, the problem is that it's a 7-speed hub, and no one makes 7-speed 29" wheels anymore apparently.

Any modern 9-speed hub can take a 7-speed cassette with a spacer. If your current wheel has a freewheel, you'll need a new cassette, but 7-speed cassettes are dirt cheap.

Correct me if I'm misunderstanding something, but you seem to be talking about a 9-speed hub with a 7-speed cassette. My hub is 7-speed, so I can't mount a 9-speed wheel unless I change the hub. So I'll need a new hub as well.

I checked out this page and it kinda looks more like a freehub than a freewheel.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2015, 03:31:14 PM by Beric01 »

Jack

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First of all, learn to use your gears properly. Wanting to maintain your "normal riding" style becomes a little complainypants when said riding style is apparently so needlessly destructive.

Perhaps you can advise me on how to properly ride a bicycle then? I've been riding for 10 years and I've only had this type of issue in the past year. I generally have to stand on my pedals to get up to speed quickly, particularly on a trailer. I always ride with 3 in the front gear, and range from 2 in the back at stops all the way up to 7 for going 20-25mph. My lower gears are just too slow and I've never had much use for them.

If you're worried that you're putting too much stress on the wheel from accelerating too fast in too high a gear, then the obvious solution is to accelerate slower and in a lower gear. Wanting to fix a problem by throwing a bunch of money at it, when you yourself believe you could fix it by a free change in behavior but choose not to, is what is complainypants.

Of course, that assumes that you're correct in thinking that the torque is causing the spoke breakage, which DagobertDuck disputes. If he's right, keep riding however you want.

Third, read the page I linked to some more and then rebuild the wheel yourself.

Sorry, but I don't own any tools and I'm not good with mechanical things. Most I can do is replace a flat. I'm a very clumsy person in general and am more likely to break the wheel and cost myself even more money than to just pay someone to do it.

First of all, the solution to not owning tools is to go find a bicycle co-op and use their tools. Second, practice makes perfect. Maybe some people have natural mechanical talent, but I'm sure a bunch of others conquered their clumsiness by not letting it stop them from trying.


Correct me if I'm misunderstanding something, but you seem to be talking about a 9-speed hub with a 7-speed cassette. My hub is 7-speed, so I can't mount a 9-speed wheel unless I change the hub. So I'll need a new hub as well.

I checked out this page and it kinda looks more like a freehub than a freewheel.

He's telling you that if you want to buy a new replacement wheel then you can just get an easy-to-find 9-speed one, remove the 9-speed cassette, then put on a 7-speed cassette (and spacer) so that it works properly with your existing derailleur and shift levers.

DagobertDuck

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A wheel consists of a hub, a rim, and spokes. On the hub, one puts either a freewheel or a cassette, depending on the type of hub. (low-end or old fashion hubs use freewheels, modern hubs take cassettes.)

Your spokes are toast and your rim is probably of inferior quality, so you basically have 2 options:

-Buying a new rim, new spokes and have a new wheel laced around your current hub. I would not recommend this option, since your bike shop doesn't seem to have great expertise on building and tensioning wheels, and buying all parts separately + labour is generally more expensive, especially when buying low to mid-end stuff.

-Buying an entire new wheel. This is probably the best option. This new wheel will have a modern (8/9/10 speed compatible) cassette style freehub, but it's perfectly possible to put a 7-speed (the number of sprockets of your cassette should match the gear shifters and derailleur of the bike) cassette on that hub.


If you're worried that you're putting too much stress on the wheel from accelerating too fast in too high a gear, then the obvious solution is to accelerate slower and in a lower gear. Wanting to fix a problem by throwing a bunch of money at it, when you yourself believe you could fix it by a free change in behavior but choose not to, is what is complainypants.Of course, that assumes that you're correct in thinking that the torque is causing the spoke breakage, which DagobertDuck disputes. If he's right, keep riding however you want.
I am right. Accelerating hard (high gear, low gear, whatever) doesn't cause spoke breakage. Too high load (luggage or body weight), too low spoke count, too light/weak rims, and above al: inferior build quality do.
The wheelset I have on my roadbike, built by a very good wheel builder, is still going strong after 40.000 miles, never broke a spoke, not even needed any trueing.

Quote
He's telling you that if you want to buy a new replacement wheel then you can just get an easy-to-find 9-speed one, remove the 9-speed cassette, then put on a 7-speed cassette (and spacer) so that it works properly with your existing derailleur and shift levers.
Wheels usually come without a cassette ;)
« Last Edit: October 19, 2015, 04:13:47 PM by DagobertDuck »

Thegoblinchief

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-Buying an entire new wheel. This is probably the best option. This new wheel will have a modern (8/9/10 speed compatible) cassette style freehub, but it's perfectly possible to put a 7-speed (the number of sprockets of your cassette should match the gear shifters and derailleur of the bike) cassette on that hub.

Yes. Most/many wheels will come with a hub, laced spokes, and the rim. With a spacer (which often comes with the wheel already), you can have them put your existing cassette (the actual gear sprockets) on the wheel. Bam. Done.

Beric01

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A wheel consists of a hub, a rim, and spokes. On the hub, one puts either a freewheel or a cassette, depending on the type of hub. (low-end or old fashion hubs use freewheels, modern hubs take cassettes.)

Your spokes are toast and your rim is probably of inferior quality, so you basically have 2 options:

-Buying a new rim, new spokes and have a new wheel laced around your current hub. I would not recommend this option, since your bike shop doesn't seem to have great expertise on building and tensioning wheels, and buying all parts separately + labour is generally more expensive, especially when buying low to mid-end stuff.

-Buying an entire new wheel. This is probably the best option. This new wheel will have a modern (8/9/10 speed compatible) cassette style freehub, but it's perfectly possible to put a 7-speed (the number of sprockets of your cassette should match the gear shifters and derailleur of the bike) cassette on that hub.

Ok, thanks a lot! I was not understanding before but it sounds like the hub is built-in. I am guessing that was my confusion.

This does sound like the best option. This is the SF Bay Area so everything is expensive - if alternative bike shops ask for $250 as well is it a good option?

Buy a used heavy duty bike for $40 bucks on Craigs list and use for your hauling days.  Rinse and repeat as needed.  Maybe once every 3 years at your pace.   

This would be a great idea if bicycles actually sold for this price in my area. Unfortunately, unless I ride Walmart quality (which will falls apart in 3 months) a decent bike on craigslist starts at $150, at which point it might be better to just fix my current one and have something that will last longer.

DagobertDuck

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Ok, thanks a lot! I was not understanding before but it sounds like the hub is built-in. I am guessing that was my confusion.
The hub is the thing all the spokes attach to ;) So that's why replacing a hub (or re-using an old hub) is always a lot of work / expensive: one has to rebuild the entire wheel.

Quote
This does sound like the best option. This is the SF Bay Area so everything is expensive - if alternative bike shops ask for $250 as well is it a good option?
$ 250 seems really, really expensive to me. You're not a clydesdale, you don't carry heavy loads for very long distances, nor are you looking for super-light racing bike components, so just a decent quality will do.
A wheel like this ($70) should suffice. (Similar wheels probably available at US web stores for similar prices)

Quote
This would be a great idea if bicycles actually sold for this price in my area. Unfortunately, unless I ride Walmart quality (which will falls apart in 3 months) a decent bike on craigslist starts at $150, at which point it might be better to just fix my current one and have something that will last longer.
A different bike off CL might very well have the same problems with the rear wheel, so better get a decent wheel for your current bike.
A Walmart bike isn't up to 3500 miles a year.

« Last Edit: October 19, 2015, 04:03:27 PM by DagobertDuck »

Jack

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So... in a fit of laser-guided karma, less than two hours after I chided Beric for riding too hard this happened.

Sorry, Beric. : (

Beric01

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Well, you guys were right. I dropped by a different smaller family-owned bike shop and they quoted me a grand total of $63. In short, my local Specialized dealer was ripping me off. They're ordering the wheel for $55, and are charging me $8 labor. I couldn't be more pleased.

So... in a fit of laser-guided karma, less than two hours after I chided Beric for riding too hard this happened.

Sorry, Beric. : (

Heh - no problem! I still think there may be some merit to your comment :P

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I was a DT Swiss certified and Shimano certified wheelbuilder for quite a few years and building wheels from scratch was not only my forte but it's ridiculously enjoyable and relaxing.

This is for anyone in future that doesn't want to spend money on a new wheel. It's a good idea to do this with a new wheel too as all factory built wheels will go like this over time. Most usually within a few months.

Firstly, unless there's an actually 'faulty' component, spokes usually go at the hub. This is where the weak point of the spoke is because of the bend.

Usually spokes go because they don't have enough tension. It happens as the bike wears in as there's only so much you can do in a factory to prevent it. This creates movement in the spoke when riding and eventually it wears out the bend. A good wheelbuilder gets rid of this by stretching and bedding in the spokes as pat of the building process.

Assuming the wheel is already true (straight), drop a tiny bit of chain lube onto each of the nipples and then turn every nipple 2 turns, maybe more, see how you go. Spokes can be overtightened but its quite obvious and quite difficult to do. The only way to measure it is with a spoke tension meter, retail about 140 bucks plus so I can only suggest to try it out by hand, you tend to just 'know' when once you've done a few. Start at the valve hole so you know where you've started and finished. The tool (a spoke key, spoke wrench in american) is usually about $5, 10 max from a bike shop.

If it needs a bit of truing, try it out with any guide on the internet, Sheldon Brown is highly recommended but usually better for those in the know. Park tool also have some guides. if you're not able to, then take it in. Usually a small true up might be $10 in a bike shop rather than a more expensive spoke replacement as you don't have to remove the tyre, cassette and disc brake (if applicable)

32 spokes is plenty, any less and strength starts to be compromised. Double walled rims are a must and double butted spokes are an unnecessary but beneficial bonus. Basic spokes are fine though.

Little fact I was told on a course, not entirely sure its right but can't disprove it. Vertically, the bicycle wheel is the strongest man made object in the world.

Also, accelerating and stopping as an excuse is utter bullshit. That's what they're made for, change bike shops.

Syonyk

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$63 sounds reasonable.

What about tapered spokes? Any advantage to them?

DagobertDuck

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They're lighter (not so important for a commuter), and the thinner middle section takes the stress of the bend, the most vulnerable part, so they'll last longer.

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I'm 210 lbs and often carry 50-70 lbs on my bikes when grocery shopping.  A 32 spoke rear wheel will go out of true often and break spokes often for me.  36 spoke rear wheels are much more stable, there really is a tremendous difference in how much tougher the wheels are.

If you're lighter, 32 spokes might work.  One thing to pay attention to is your spoke tension.  Never let your spokes get loose (especially on new wheels they have a tenancy to work their way loose after a few rides).  Loose spokes will fatigue and break much more quickly.  It's pretty rare for someone to break a spoke because of too much tension.

BlueMR2

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Something is horribly wrong.  I'm now down to 200, but rode regularly at 225lbs, often carrying 20+ lbs of stuff in my backpack.  I've *never* broken a spoke ever.  Not even on my 1986 $250 no-name beater bike.  In earlier years I used to jump ditches on this thing.  If anyone should be breaking spokes due to load, it's me.  Yet, it has never happened.  Properly tensioned spokes just shouldn't be breaking like that.  I've even been hit by a car (which bent the wheel), re-trued it, got it back on the road, and still no broken spokes...

Also, you should still be able to get a 7 speed rear.  I've been able to get MUCH older parts than that before.  Try a different LBS or perhaps nashbar.com.

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Even if you end up spending $250 on a new wheel (which sounds spendy) you are still saving a tremendous amount over having a car. If you use it every day you want it to be reliable and work well.

Jack

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So I just had to buy a new rear wheel for my bike (see the "laser-guided karma" post above) and I learned a couple of things.

First of all, my local bike co-op sells parts, including wheels, for a $5 "suggested donation." I highly recommend looking for a similar co-op before resorting to a $50+ new wheel.

Second, according to one of the regular volunteers, rear wheels are one of the most frequently in-demand items. Apparently, they actually do break pretty often.

Beric01

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So I just had to buy a new rear wheel for my bike (see the "laser-guided karma" post above) and I learned a couple of things.

First of all, my local bike co-op sells parts, including wheels, for a $5 "suggested donation." I highly recommend looking for a similar co-op before resorting to a $50+ new wheel.

Second, according to one of the regular volunteers, rear wheels are one of the most frequently in-demand items. Apparently, they actually do break pretty often.

Eh, in my case $55 wasn't at all bad for having a brand new wheel and a good location. FYI, I got it out of the door for $65 yesterday and couldn't be happier.

One thing they did recommend was to bring the bike in a couple weeks from now to have the spokes re-tensioned - apparently there's a break-in period. And with their labor costs, I don't mind at all!
« Last Edit: October 23, 2015, 01:58:30 PM by Beric01 »

GuitarStv

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Yes!

Always retension spokes after the first couple hundred kilometers.  They will loosen on a new wheel.  After the retensioning they should stay true pretty well.