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So I've had two Dutch style bikes and I keep breaking the spokes on them. The last time I had a custom wheel built using good components by a well known shop here (sapim and mavic components)... the spokes loosened after just one week. Even the shitty stock wheels I had on before lasted for longer.

I'm basically giving up on Dutch bikes and having other people built parts for me or repair my bikes. It just seems that I'm so far off the scale (literally) that no one has any experience with building working bikes for people my size (370 pounds).

From reading online it seems that the only working solutions have been 29er Mountain Bikes with freakishly large tires or cycles from this company in the US called Workman. I'm just wondering if there is not a middle way, I can't see myself using one of those riding the streets of London just yet. Even though the potholes here probably are comparable to offroad usage...

Any suggestions? One thing I have not yet tried is basically getting a full on Tandem hub and back wheel with 40 or maybe even 46 spokes.

I'd appreciate input from the few riders my size that I've seen on here.

  • You can get large smooth tires, which should be fine for riding through a city. Your height may be relevant as well, but you're beyond what most companies officially certify. At 370 pounds, you're not in good shape if you hit any potholes -- you really have to avoid them, even with a well built wheel. – Batman Nov 1 '15 at 22:09
  • (6'5'') I'm actively avoiding them believe me but this is an old city and the streets reflect that. I think the main problem I might have is also about tyre pressure. I was riding my first bike with 60psi which left me very slow but the wheels didn't break for a long time. I think when I ride the bikes with 80 PSI which gives me a good speed it leaves the spokes nowhere to go basically and it just crushes them. I had a guy make me a custom wheel and the spokes not only loosened they just broke. picture – Nico Nov 1 '15 at 22:24
  • Part of this may be riding style as well. If you stay on the seat when going over bumps that's going to be very hard on the bike. At your weight you are pushing the envelope, so you need to be a bit careful of the bike. And if you're fat rather than a giant ball of muscle, riding will slim you down pretty quickly so it won't be an issue forever. If you're a ball of muscle... um... it's custom bike frame time. 20mm through axles, 48 spoke wheels, a Rohloff, twin front disks, you name it. – Móż Nov 1 '15 at 22:52
  • I get up from the seat or even stop when I'm facing an unavoidable pothole or so. It's not realistic that I'll ever be less than 300lbs tbh. I've been riding for a while and while I'm getting fit I'm not really loosing weight from it. – Nico Nov 1 '15 at 23:07
  • with 40 or maybe even 46 spokes - wheels have multiples of 4 spokes, so that would be 44, 48, 52 spokes or more. You can get a custom wheel builder to drill a new hub and rim for any number of spokes (within reason). You can find custom Rohloff's online drilled for 48 spokes. – andy256 Nov 1 '15 at 23:34
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My experience is with load bikes rather than people who are loads, but the principle is the same. A tandem rated wheel is your best bet, and possibly a heavier frame. Unfortunately most Dutch bikes are built for tall Dutch people who are generally not that heavy. 370 pounds is about 170kg, which is heavy. Pacific Island rugby player heavy.

What I would do is another custom wheel for your current bike, but with everything focussed on the weight. You can get hubs that are rated to a lot of weight, and Rohloff for example rate their hubs for tandem use even with only 32 spokes. But you should try for more spokes, I think, like the DT Swiss 540 Tandem with 36 or 40 spokes, or if your bike will take it the Halo Dozen with 12mm axle. Pair that with a heavy eyeletted rim like the Velocity Chukker or Mavic 719 and get it put together by someone who builds a lot of wheels.

Getting a custom wheel built with exact components can be mildly annoying, and not necessarily cheaper or better than finding a decent bike shop and letting them recommend something for you. That way you get their warranty. I suggest a load bike shop like Practical Cycles (found via google, I've never been there or to any part of the UK). If you do that and they get it wrong, it's on them to fix it. The magic words are

fit for purpose The goods should be fit for the purpose they are supplied for, as well as any specific purpose you made known to the retailer before you agreed to buy the goods.

(italics mine) Which incidentally means you should be able to get a complete refund for your current wheel if they can't fix it.

When we had this problem with a customer at the bike shop I worked at we first re-tensioned their existing wheel, but it broke more spokes the same day he got the bike back. Luckily he came back, because we were at least the third bike shop he'd been to, and even though I said "look, this probably won't work but I think it's worth trying" I wouldn't have been surprised to have him disappear. So we put together the heaviest duty rear wheel we could find, a downhill MTB hub we had in the shop with a 36 hole Chukker and somewhat oversize spokes (3mm straight gauge instead of butted just so it looked stronger). When I built it I took extra time to get it exactly right, and ran over it again after a test ride. He rang a few months later to say he hadn't had any more problems and just wanted to tell us.

(editing in some comments)

My feeling is that you can spend a lot of time and money trying to avoid just paying for something that will work.

The derailleur wheel is dished it's not as strong, as Rohloff discuss here and this Rohloff fan page might help :).

Use a 26" wheel in whatever frame you have as you will be using disk brakes so it's easy. A slightly smaller wheel is slightly stronger. Also, look closely at the rear wheel of this thing. That's a 9 speed 20"/406 wheel with 36 spokes that I threw together the night before I left on that ride. Normally it had four large panniers plus stuff on the rack, but a band is more interesting to look at. It was still going strong several years later when it was stolen. Smaller wheels make everything easier. If I could suggest a 406 wheel bike for you I would

  • So the wheels I've had so far were all 36 spokes. I think I should definitely go beyond that. It's great that you actually took the time to build that guy the wheel he needed. I haven't really felt like that with bikeshops here just yet even though I was always very upfront about what I weight. The current wheel I have on is a Mavic A719 with Sapim Race spokes (I think they used race instead of strong because the hub is a Shimano Nexus 3 Speed). – Nico Nov 1 '15 at 22:55
  • The main reason why I gave the 36 spokes built a chance was because I couldn't find tandem hubs with internal gears for affordable prices. The Rohloffs aren't exactly cheap, are there any alternatives? How could it work with gears when I buy one of the hubs you recommended? – Nico Nov 1 '15 at 23:01
  • It's not even that I mind spending money on the bike - it's more about - do I want to invest 1500+ $ and then have it on its own in some alley. Well there's insurance for that I guess. – Nico Nov 1 '15 at 23:10
  • @Nico Because you're outside of the range most bikes are built for, the price goes way up. Using race components designed for 65 kg guys (as one example) is not the way to go. The advice Mσᶎ gives here is sound. – andy256 Nov 1 '15 at 23:18
  • But is there no alternative to getting a 1000$ Rohloff Hub? – Nico Nov 1 '15 at 23:20
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Give tandem wheels a try. As tandem teams go you're not all that heavy.

Have the wheels built (or build them yourself) using rims meant for heavily loaded touring, Velocity Dyads in a 40- or 48-hole drilling would be one example. Velocity Chuckkars might be another option, but I'm pretty sure that the most you can get is 36 spokes. In any case what you're looking for is a wide rim with a relatively deep section.

For hubs I'd be tempted to go with Phil Wood's freewheel tandem hub – the price is only shocking as opposed to heart stopping, but I think the narrowest they come is 140 mm OLN. I'm not sure how that would work with your bike. Rivendell carries a Phil Wood freewheel hub for singles that might be an option. Or, if you can afford it, get the cassette versions.

Tandems East has an extensive list of wheel parts that may be helpful.

Peter White also has a good page on tandem wheels.

  • Any product recommendations? – Nico Nov 1 '15 at 23:11
  • Sorry, I was writing while waiting in the rain with the bikes while my partner was shopping… Added suggestions and some links. – dlu Nov 2 '15 at 0:54
  • The current frame I'm on is this bike: dutchie.co.uk/bicycles/men/dutchie-dapper-three-speed I think the hub is 105mm. I would consider moving to a whole new bike tbh...Going through the lists you send now. – Nico Nov 2 '15 at 20:12
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So I finally got lucky and this solution has worked for a few months now. I ended up with a Mavic A719 with Sapim Strong spokes and a spoke freeze as well as the thickest Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyre they could fit on the wheel. It was built by Mamachari Bikes in Dalston, London. I've been having no problems with it since a few months now.

I think using the rigid components with a thick tyre PLUS the spoke freeze made this possible. I think the spoke freeze was key here.

I'll see how long it lasts and post again when it fails and how it did.

  • Thanks for reporting back, it's always good to hear when people solve the problem that brought them here. Was that combo the bike shop recommendation? – Móż Feb 7 '16 at 9:55
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    So the first bike shop I went to put it together with regular spokes and no spoke freeze. Despite me asking them for Sapim Strong. I then went to another bike shop and he used Sapim Strong and spoke freeze - that did the trick. The first bike shop had the right mixture in mind but the person building the wheel fucked up by using regular spokes and no spoke freeze...that's what happens when there is no proper communication with the customer I guess. Mamachari Bikes on the other hand understood what I needed. – Nico Feb 7 '16 at 13:04
  • At least you got something that works eventually. Here's hoping the wheel holds together for a good few kilometres! – Móż Feb 7 '16 at 21:53
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    Just reporting back - wheel is still working fine. However I'm getting some odd problems with the coaster brake/internal hub gear bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/40397/… – Nico Jun 7 '16 at 9:50
  • Reporting in again - bike is doing great still. Spoke freeze and good components are key! – Nico Apr 1 '17 at 20:01
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Just want to point out that 48 spoke hubs, and 14mm axles are very common in the BMX world. I have also seen 14mm axles on downhill mountain bikes with 32 spoke wheels. Both street BMX and downhill MTB take a tremendous pounding and survive.

I also note your broken spokes wheel was wired standard 3 cross method. It also looks like you had straight gauge spokes, which are not very strong. There are other methods that are stronger, check out a downhill MTB (such as Giant Glory) which have a 32 spoke 8*4 arrangement and triple butted spokes. This type of bike can easily hit 35mph, jump 100+ft with a 200lb rider and bottom out 8" of suspension repeatedly.

Doing the math, a 90kilo downhiller doing 60km/h has a kinetic energy of 12,400J. A 170kilo rider doing 20km/h has an energy of just 2570J. The downhiller is hitting things far, far harder than you are.

I suggest you look beyond the dutch bike market - maybe the type of bike you've chosen just isn't suitable? At they very least, get your wheels built by a shop that knows downhill MTB or park BMX.

  • I used to ride a custom Albuch Kotter MTB when I was younger. It was a very high quality German brand but the company is not around anymore. I was considering refurbishing it but the Aluminum seatpost had gotten stuck and I've gotten taller and heavier. I was however riding it at 300+ offroad! Unfortunately I don't really have the means to do complicated operations like reaming an aluminium saddle and the bike is in Germany. I'm really thinking the next step should be looking for a high quality MTB. Are there any other high quality MTBs out there in the Surly price area? Any EU brands? – Nico Nov 2 '15 at 20:17
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    BMX hubs are typically single speed (I don't recall ever seeing one set up for derailleur gears), but there are a few 14mm axle MTB hubs out there. As you say, the problem is finding one that will take 48 spokes. Any suggestions? – Móż Nov 2 '15 at 21:04
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Kalkhoff makes a XXL bike for total load 170 kg. https://www.kalkhoff-bikes.com/de/bikes/2018/bikes/city-1/agattu-xxl-8.html

I bought one of those in 2014 (they had Alfine hubs back then) and retrofitted a Bafang 500W motor in 2016. My weight is "only" 285 pounds but it's often loaded up with groceries + the motor and battery is almost 10 kg. No problems so far except the Continental tires weren't very good so I use Schwalbe Marathon Plus now. The bike feels very solid and safe.

Kalkhoff also has a XXL e-bike https://www.kalkhoff-bikes.com/de/e-bike/e-city/dynamic-image.html

1

I know I am seeing this post very late and I hope you found something that works but if not he is my answer. I am 6'8" tall and around 370lbs and recently had a bike built to replace my Magnum recumbent for touring. This bike is built on a Soma Saga DC and has custom wheels built from Velocity Cliffhanger rims with 40 + spokes in the rear and 36 up front. Works great running Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires 700x1.75

  • Cool, thanks for contributing. What did that run you? I myself moved countries and live on the countryside now. Very hilly. So I'm driving by car most of the time. For summer I am planning to buy this ebike -> ktm-bikes.at/fileadmin/user_upload/ktm_v1/pdf_bikes/798422.pdf It's officially rated up to 375lbs and the emotor will help me get up those damn hills if I run out of steam. haha. – Nico Mar 8 '18 at 20:02
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You might consider a recumbent tadpole trike. A lot of the brands have models that will carry 400lbs.They're also more comfortable and easier on the joints. Good luck. Ed

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    Could you fill in some detail here and ideally link to resources for (or reports of) people riding recumbent trikes in London? I suspect it's not as straightforward as "spend 3000 pounds, ride your trike". Stack exchange doesn't really work with one-line answers that have no detail. – Móż Nov 12 '15 at 1:30
  • I'd rather walk before buying a trike. Apart from looking ridiculous it's also very unpractical in traffic. Big NO. – Nico Nov 12 '15 at 8:26
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Actually, the main problem that leads to broken spokes is not overall load, but uneven tension. I don't know the procedure that you or your LBS used to mount the spokes, but even small differences in spoke tension are a big problem.

If you have somewhat of a musical ear, you can easily check this: Just hit the individual spokes with a screwdriver and listen for the tone they make. If the different spokes are more than a quarter tone apart, that's your problem.

When I need to respoke a wheel, I've taken to just playing a sine note on my computer, and tuning my spokes to that tone. Takes a while because you also need to ensure that the rim ends up straight, but the result is surprisingly robust.

  • I dealt with two well known wheel builders and they couldn't get it right. The third dealer used spoke freeze and that worked. So while you are probably right in general - it does not seem to be applicable for my situation. – Nico Apr 7 '18 at 21:22

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