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I need to buy a new wheelset for my bike. I need strong wheels: I am about 18 stone, carry a lot of luggage on the rear rack and go up and down kerbs a lot.

In other words, I need strong wheels.

I understand that spoke count is the traditional way to measure wheel strength, but it is not as good as it used to be because the material used to make the spokes is important, too.

Is there an objective number that can be employed? I don't mind spending a lot of money on wheels, but I want to know that I'm getting something good!

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  • I've never seen any sort of "rating" for wheel strength. And there are many different factors that go into determining strength, some not obvious. For instance, "butted" spokes are probably more durable than the heavier single-gauge spokes. – Daniel R Hicks May 18 '15 at 2:55
  • A downhill wheel. A front rack lets you better distribute the load. Stans ZTR Flow EX is rated to 250. – paparazzo May 18 '15 at 5:35
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Unfortunately, it is less exact process than you hope for. Most important thing would be to locate reputable wheel builder who will build wheels for you. It can be an advantage if he is local to you. If there are some guys you know that went on the large tour of tenths of thousands of km, ask them who built their wheels.

Wheel builder would spec the wheel components according to your weight and riding style, from components he is accustomed to build. He would probably spec something along these:

  • rims that can take at least 35 mm tires
  • heavy duty double walled rims (Mavic A319 or A719 are often used but so are many others)
  • 36 of 2.0:1.8:2.0 spokes
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Don't ride like a numpty -- jumping curbs at 18 stone is not a good idea, especially with a loaded bike. You need to ride more carefully. However, many non-racing bikes these days are rated for around 18-19 stone riders (but of course, heavier riders will be more likely to cause damage).

As for what to look for, a good quality hub (e.g. Shimano Deore), 32 or 36 spokes and a good name rim. It's not just the components that matter, but how they're put together, which means if you're concerned about it, talk to a good wheel builder. Some examples of why its not just the spoke count or whatever are outlined at this page by Peter White (thus, there isn't an objective number that will tell you wheel x is going to be stronger than wheel y -- a poorly built 36 spoke wheel can be much weaker than a well built 32 spoke wheel).

Also, make sure your tire pressure is set appropriately for your weight.

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  • I get what you're saying, but if I can't mount the kerb where I need to, the journey will take as long as walking... in which case I might as well walk. Ok, thanks for your help, looks like I need to look at brand names and reviews... – Ne Mo May 17 '15 at 22:06
  • Assuming you're allowed to ride above and below the curb, just get off the bike and lift it. Or look for a ramp up the curb. – Batman May 18 '15 at 0:50
  • Aside from extremes and exotics, lack of maintenance and build quality are by far the two biggest causes of wheel failure, followed by tire size and pressure. – mattnz May 18 '15 at 1:05
  • I think a good case could be made for abuse, first. – Batman May 18 '15 at 1:12
  • @Batman or stop just short, lift the front wheel while standing over the top tube, and step forwards pulling the back wheel up the kerb, if you approach at 90degrees. Similarly going down (I'll ride down in places where I won't ride up). – Chris H May 18 '15 at 8:25

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