Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
Bont’s New Budget Shoes
So, I think you’ll appreciate learning of their new $129 road shoe, the Riot Buckle. For that affordable price, you get most of the features of Bont’s pro series models including the tub style chassis strengthened with a carbon band across high stress areas and an anatomical heel cup for stability during the pull through and up stroke.
The Riots also feature composite, heat-moldable soles for a custom fit and maximum power transfer. While the microfiber uppers with extensive perforations, and integrated air vents on the front bumper provide ample ventilation. Where Bont cut cost is by using buckle and Velcro closures instead of BOA lacing. The Riots are available now in white with black logos and accents (photo) and vice versa.
The Wheel Tip
The goal of this tip is to make sure you can ride home if your wheel gets damaged out on the road. The reason this tip is important is because many modern road rigs (those made in the last 20 years or so) have two issues that can stop your ride if you’re not prepared.
The first issue is that many companies have decided to fit their latest bikes with low spoke-count wheels. What this means is that instead of the 32-spoke wheels that had proven to be super durable over the decades, your wheels may have 28, 24 or even fewer spokes.
The second issue is that many frames now have minimal wheel clearance between the fork blades and the rear stays. So, a wheel knocked out of true by striking a bad pothole or a broken spoke, which makes an even larger wobble, will usually hit the frame.
There’s one more issue related to wheels rubbing you might find interesting. It’s the way wheels are attached to the frame now. Wheels fit into the ends of the frame and fork in what’s called “dropouts,” though with through axle wheels, what’s in the frame are just holes. A little trivia for you: through axles were common on bikes in the 1890s.
The issue is that these dropouts on frames today allow little to no wheel adjustment in the frame. So you can’t simply loosen the wheel, move it slightly over and get a wobble to not hit the frame. There is another type of dropout, however, called a horizontal dropout, which used to be on the rear of almost all road bikes (it’s usually rear wheels that get damaged).
In contrast to today’s standard dropout, the horizontal dropout allowed easily moving the rear wheel and you could often get a wobbly wheel to stop rubbing that way. Some custom builders still choose to use horizontal dropouts when they know the rider might require wheel adjustability.
There are many reasons why newer bikes have reduced clearance and fewer spokes in the wheels. But, there’s no need to discuss or debate them here.
The thing to understand so you appreciate the risk, is that wheels with less than 32 spokes in them get more wobbly and are more difficult to straighten when they are damaged or when a spoke breaks. This is because there are fewer spokes supporting the rim.
Which is also why low spoke-count wheels in general are more likely to suffer broken spokes – due to each individual spoke having to work harder.
If you don’t log lots of miles you might not break a spoke on your low spoke-count hoops, but sooner or later, with enough miles, they will break due to how hard each one is working. I’ve seen it over and over on even the major brand name wheels. Fortunately, on the best designs it takes years of consistent riding for it to happen.
The Big Problem
When a spoke breaks or a wheel gets hit so hard it has a major wobble, it means your ride is over unless you can get the wheel straight enough again so that it clears the frame and can spin freely. If you just keep riding on the wheel allowing it to hit the frame, it will likely wear out the sidewall of the tire and you’ll then suffer a blow-out, which could cause a crash.
But, even worse, it doesn’t take long for a rubbing tire to wear a hole right through a carbon frame. It only takes a little longer on some aluminum frames with thin tubing. So you definitely don’t want to risk riding on a wheel that’s rubbing.
The good news is that in most cases it’s possible to fix even low spoke-count wheels on rides enough that they stop rubbing. How easy it is and how straight you can get it depends on the wheel and the amount of damage.
1. The first thing to do is to check your wheels to see how many spokes are in them. The front and rear might be different. If either or both of yours have fewer than 32 spokes, your risk of someday having a wobbly wheel is increased. Now you know and can prepare yourself.
2. To be prepared, I recommend you carry the spoke wrench that fits the wheels on the bike you’re riding. This small inexpensive tool is used to turn the nipples on the ends of the spokes to loosen and tighten the spokes, which is how wobbles are fixed.
It used to be that almost all road bikes used the same couple of spoke wrenches. Not any more. Today there are many different sizes (photo). You want to get and carry the correct spoke wrench for working on your wheels. The easiest way to do this is to stop at a bike shop on a ride and ask them to sell you the right wrench for your wheels. Then put it in your kit so it’s always with you on rides.
Note that even if you don’t know how to work on wheels, carrying the right wrench is still important. Because with any luck another cyclist will come to your rescue who knows how to straighten wheels. But, they won’t likely carry the right wrench for your wheels. So they’ll need to use yours.
If you’re riding with a buddy and one of you ends up with a wobbly rubbing wheel that you can’t or don’t know how to fix, try this: switch the wobbly wheel to your friend’s bike and see if by chance it has more frame clearance and the wobbler doesn’t rub. If so, put their wheel on your bike and you both can ride home together.
I hope these tips help ensure that you’re never stranded roadside due to a rubbing wheel. Next week, I’ll provide some basic wobbly wheel truing instructions because once you have your own wrench, you might as well learn how to use it. That way you can come to someone’s rescue, too!
Ride total: 9,171
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.