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I'm a heavy man, and I find I'm breaking spokes on my rear wheel fairly often. Is there a particular wheel I can buy or anything I can do to prevent this?

Edit: I was having the problem with a hybrid with 700c wheels, but I gave up and sold that bike in preparation for my move to LA. I'll be looking to purchase a new bike to use for commuting once I get out there, but I'm open as to style. I gather we'll have Surly dealers out there, so I'll definitely be checking those out.

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You can narrow this down a bit; are you on a mountain bike? A road bike? A 16" folding bike? –  Neil Fein Aug 25 '10 at 21:43
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5 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I had the same issues riding on pre-built 26" mountain bike wheels. I'm 6'5" and weigh ~400lbs, so I break stuff left and right (including frame welds). I have found two things that broke my wheel-breaking streak.

The first thing I found was the Surly Pugsley and the Endomorph (or Larry) tires that fit on it. The 26"x4" tires are massive, and absorb any blow without threat to the wheels. At the same time, I also went with wheels based around Large Marge rims, which have never needed to be trued (even through the frame break!).

The other thing I found was beefy, hand built, wheels. My second bike is a Surly Karate Monkey (a 29er) which I had wheels built for using 36 hole hubs (again a Surly product). This wheel shows a bit more wear and tear (after 5 months of riding), but it hasn't broken anything. I also run higher volume (but nowhere near the Endomorph) tires on this bike, with a pair of Schwalbe Big Apples.

Bottom line: If your current equipment can't work for you, go big. It will cost you a lot up front, but save a ton in the long run.

(I swear I don't work for Surly, though my bikes make it sound like I do.)

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My hat is off to you! I thought I was a big guy! Good for you! –  geoffc Aug 25 '10 at 21:43
    
@geoffc: Thanks. =-] –  Jack M. Aug 25 '10 at 21:44
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Depends if you're riding a mountain bike or a road bike. Ultimatley I'd think that the wheel isn't built right. A good rule of thumb is that if you break 1 spoke replace it. If you break a second one have the wheel rebuilt. A good wheel builder should be able to build a normal 3 cross wheel that can handle anyone able to ride a bike hard.

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I am a big guy. Usually 230-270 lbs. (Alas currently at the high end).

I feel your pain. My solution has been to get a 32 or 36 hole hub and rim, with the heaviest gauge spokes they make.

Once you go to this level, it is 'heavy' and light weight racers will point and mock you, but it will stop breaking spokes.

Until I did this on my two regular road bikes, I was breaking spokes monthly. Drove me nuts.

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After my last rear wheel bent under my weight, my LBS hooked me up with a 36-hole rhynolite (rinolyte?)-based wheel. It has done pretty well so far. I am 260-270lbs.

Your riding style matters. If you slam in to curbs it's a lot harder on the wheel than if you pop over them.

Build quality matters. Machine-built wheels strain the components while building, and that means they're weaker. They may also not be evenly tensioned. But they are so much cheaper than custom-built wheels that the shorter lifespan may be acceptable.

Tires matter. I use big, fat tires with relatively low pressure. I don't believe they slow be down substantially, but I rarely get flats.

If 36-hole wheels fail on you, you can get 40-hole wheels for tandems.

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Single-butted spokes are what you need, such as Sapim Strong. Used on tandems and heavily-laden expedition touring bikes. That also means hand-built wheels, naturally.

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