Jim’s Tech Talk
by Jim Langley
Some of the feedback on last week’s look at a budget, super light carbon clincher wheelset from the new Chinese company, ICAN Cycling surprised me. So, this week I’m sharing the unexpected comments and responding to provide some thoughts.
To go back and read all the details about ICAN’s feathery hoops (there’s also an unboxing video I took), follow this link: Unboxing ICAN Cycling’s Aero 40 Chinese Carbon Road Wheelset.
Shortly after the RBR newsletter reached inboxes, two roadies asked versions of the same question.
First was Phil Lehmberg who wrote, “There lots of riders out there who weigh in at 240+ and need an article on the lightest weight wheels that can safely accommodate their dreams of climbing.”
Then, soon after, Jon Ingersoll penned, “I weigh 260 lbs, and was pretty excited about these wheels until the statement came on, “Maximum rider weight is 220 lbs.” Do they make wheels for clydesdales like me?”
You Can Chat With ICAN To Learn More About Their Products
To start with Jon’s question, ICAN Cycling has a chat feature on their site. You should use it to ask whether they offer wheelsets for 260 pound riders. The highest rating I found was 231 pounds.
Yet, it’s possible they offer others wheels or might at some point. Especially if they receive the request enough times.
Types Of Riders
Speaking as a mechanic and wheelbuilder, it’s not just how much you weigh. Equally important when choosing wheels is knowing what kind of rider you are. Some roadies – even bigger more powerful ones have zero wheel issues. While others – and not only big riders, are hard on them, breaking spokes and damaging rims regularly.
Wheel woes can come from many things, such as not paying sufficient attention to where you’re riding (this can be related to poor eyesight, too). Striking rather than avoiding rocks, ruts, grates or even worse, wrecks wheels fast. Riders who spot obstacles early and avoid them or when that’s not possible, rise out the saddle and bend their legs and elbows to ensure they baby the wheels over the rough stuff have far fewer problems.
How one rides matters, too. If you do lots of explosive efforts, such as town line sprints against your friends or accelerations out of corners or up hills, you ask a lot extra of the wheels. Another classic example, you’ve probably been behind riders on climbs who while standing throw their bike so far from side to side that they put massive lateral loads on the wheels – one of the hardest things for rims to withstand.
I’ve ridden with hotshots who can wheelie for miles and bunnyhop tall curbs with ease. Obviously, stunt riding like this takes a toll on even the best wheels.
Any roadie can figure out if they’re easy or hard on wheels by looking back at the rim, hub and spoke issues they’ve had over years of riding. Ideally it would be with several different sets of wheels to rule out one bad set that was causing the problems.
Wheel Features To Look For
When you’ve honestly evaluated yourself you are more likely to be able to choose wheels that’ll work. Among the most important features of any wheelset for a roadie who is hard on hoops is having enough spokes and stout enough rims.
My preference is to stick with 32 double-butted spokes (14/16 gauge) front and rear with 3- or 2-cross lacing. Since they first appeared, I have been a huge DT Swiss spoke fan. The reason I say to stick with 32 spokes is because in my own riding (when I was strongest, I weighed about 170 pounds), I wouldn’t break spokes so long as I had 32. Any fewer and spokes would fail eventually.
For rims, they need to be strong enough radially and laterally to stay true and round no matter how rough the going gets. Aero profile rims are a good choice. The triangular cross section resists both types of loads. The taller they get the stiffer radially they become and more you may experience handling difficulties when it’s windy – though bigger riders stay planted on the road better than lighter folks.
Because more spokes and beefier rims are used in the wheels, they’re not going to be super light. But, they can be a reasonable weight with careful choice of rims and spokes. If you’re not subjecting the wheels to lots of rainy rides or corrosive conditions (such as oceanside riding), you can use aluminum nipples to save a little weight where it counts most right at the rim.
Shopping For Wheels
I recommend going with established wheel companies that you can reach out to and discuss your needs. That way you can talk about any wheel issues you’ve had over the years, the types and brands of wheels you’ve used and go over your ideal new wheels’ wishlist to ensure getting what you really want.
I think of bigger, more powerful riders as having special needs when it comes to wheels. So I would point you toward wheel makers that offer both production and custom wheel models.
Production models will be more affordable and there might be one designed for high performance, at a competitive weight and robust enough for clydesdales. If not, you’ll want to go with the custom option. It’ll cost more, but not if you consider what wheel issues cost with models that break spokes and come out of true a lot. There’s also a lot to be said for a set of wheels that just keeps going and going trouble-free.
Check Our Reviews
We’ve reviewed quite a few wheels at RBR. Use our recently improved search function to find and read up on different companies to learn what they offer, such as Boyd Cycling. Also, earlier this year I met Charles Wells of Jet Bicycle Wheels. Charles is a renowned wheelsmith in the San Diego area. Having watched him build a wheel and listened to him explain every step he takes to produce top-quality wings for your ride, I’m sure he could roll an excellent pair for clydesdales. https://www.roadbikerider.com/?s=Jet+wheels
Can You Help Phil and Jon?
To add value to this article and help Phil and Jon, it would be great if you’re a 220+ pounder who has found a great wheelset if you could leave a comment below and tell everyone about it. Thanks!
Ride total: 9,289
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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.