Looking for a touring wheelset

First, the good news: I had a fantastic time riding around Japan’s Kansai area last week. Three days, 386 km; a bit far, perhaps, but it was worth it: I saw mountains, coastline, temples, farmhouses, castle ruins, and the biggest lake in Japan. If you’re thinking about doing a bit of touring in the Land of the Rising Sun, I highly recommend Japan Airlines. They allow you to check two 23-kg bags for free, and although their rules state that there’s a 10,000 yen fee for oversized baggage, I got my bike bag there and back without getting charged extra at all. (Plus, their food and service are amazing!) I’m so glad I finally managed to pull off an international tour. If you’re considering a tour in Japan, feel free to PM me.

Now, the bad news: I broke a spoke on my rear wheel at the end of the second day, and since I couldn’t find a bike shop that could fix it (nobody had the right sized spoke), I rode the entire third day without a spoke. This did quite a number on my rear wheel: by the time I got back into Kyoto and found a bike shop, the mechanic pointed out to me where the rim had cracked under the extra strain. So I guess this means I need a new rear wheel. And since I have a bad bearing in the hub of my front wheel, I figure I might as well spring for a front wheel as well.

I don’t know who made my hubs, but my current rims are Alexrims Ace-19; the rear wheel has 32 spokes, and the front wheel has fewer, I think (I still haven’t unpacked it). I weigh 85 kg, and I can imagine myself carrying 15 kg of stuff on a longer trip. This means I need a good sturdy wheelset suitable for touring. I’ve done a bit of research online, and it looks like Mavic and Velocity make the best rims; what’s more, the price doesn’t look too high. (My budget is US$200, maybe $300 in a pinch.) Anyone know where I can find these in Taiwan? Or are there other wheelsets I should look at? I was planning on heading over to my favorite Merida store in Neihu tonight to ask about wheels, but I’m open to other suggestions. I can’t wait to get back on my bike again!

look for a minimum of 36 spokes front and rear. And three or four bearings per hub… 40 spoke hubs are available, but you’d probably have to go custom. If I was still in Taiwan I could knock up a set for you in a few days, but the only good wheelbuilder I know there has a waiting list of months, the lazy bastard…

As a minimum, look for larger (wider) box or double wall clinchers, with nipple washers in steel for strength, and 14 gauge unbutted spokes. Note there will be a weird four metal combo that will promote corrosion at the rim:nipple washer:nipple:spoke junction, especially if you use the normal combo of anodised alu rims, steel washers, brass spokes with nickel plating, and stainless spokes, so they won’t last forever. It’s unavoidable, though, no matter what you use. Do NOT use aluminium nipples for a touring bike.

Cheers, urodacus, thanks for the advice. I went to Specialized and Merida tonight to ask about touring wheels. Specialized said they might be able to order some Mavic rims for me (I’m thinking A719 in the rear and A319 in front, or maybe just A719 for both), but they don’t know a Velocity supplier. The guy I know at Merida wasn’t there, so I had to content myself with leaving my name and phone number. I also left a message on 185 Warehouse’s FB page; maybe I’ll have better luck there.

I’m thinking this is going to cost upwards of 300 bucks, but I’m justifying the expense by telling myself that these wheels should last for years to come if I take good care of them.

Now, if I could just learn how to replace a spoke and true a wheel…

If you can replace a spoke you can build a wheel. Touring, never go less than 3 cross. if you can find a 40 hole rear and a 36 front you’re gold for 100 kilos load.

your choice looks like Mavic A719 and DT Alpine III spokes, on a variety of hubs. some cheap hubs out there are great but i’m not an expert on touring hubs so do your own Internet searching. the Dyads seem not to be as strong as Mavics. OTOH, high power, high cost Mavic racing rims have been known to explode recently so maybe they’re not the be all and end all these days. Avoid Bontrager and Trek wheels for durability concerns.

Oh, and if you do build your own wheels, high and even spoke tension is your friend. Even if you buy cheaper machine built wheels, always tighten all spokes a quarter turn, then another quarter turn, until things sound really really tight. Spoke tension release by leaning on all parts of the rim with the hub placed on the ground (no skewer inserted) to relieve spin-up from some twisted spokes, then recheck true and round and tension before adjusting individual spokes for correct tension (tension can be checked with a machine or by checking the sound of the ‘ring’ when you hit the spokes with a spanner). Or you’ll hear spokes ping back into place when you ride hard, and then you’ll need to retension the spokes when you get home.

My LHT is Mavic A319 front & rear, 36 spokes on each. Coming up to 10 years usage, rims are now a little chipped in places but still seem good enough.

Just taken the bike apart for a good clean, and the back wheel needs re-tensioning.
We all have things we’re good at. Mechanics, any kind, isn’t on my list - so I’ll be getting them tensioned / trued by someone who knows.

Nuit, have you ever broken a spoke while on tour? I suppose you could carry a few spare spokes and head to the nearest bike shop, but you have to admit it would be nice if you could fix it on your own. It wouldn’t require many tools, just a spoke wrench and possibly whatever tool you need to remove the rear cassette.

even Mavic rims can have a bad day. this is an unfortunate example of an MTB rim, which broke on the weld.

Nasty broken rim there, hope that never happens to me.

No. I’m sure when it happens, it will kick my ass to learn how to do it properly.
I toured with a friend who broke a rear spoke - he knew even less than me, I got the replacement spoke in there, but the wheel wasn’t quite true, and I think that’s a skill that’s hard to learn by the roadside. In the end we took the wheel back by bus 2 hours and got it done properly :uhhuh:.

Yeah - don’t you really need a hypercracker (NBT2) or similar, to correctly replace a rear spoke, anyway?
http://www.m-gineering.nl/shopg.htm

what an awesome little touring tool!

warning: never ever use that on a lightweight aluminium racing frame or heaven forbid, any kind of carbon frame. touring frames in steel or heavy alu only.

but any means of getting of the cassette (conventional cluster tool and a large spanner for cassette hubs, chainwhip for freewheel hubs) would work. And in most cases you may not even need to remove the cassette for a non-drive side spoke replacement, only for a drive side spoke. It’s often possible to wiggle the spoke out and back in on the non-drive side, sometimes with a little judicious bending.

Find yourself a dead wheel (from a junked bike, etc) and see if you can remove all the spokes and rebuild it some day. even learning to true a wheel is a satisfaction, no need to go the whole way. Josh Brandt makes one of the best wheel building books out there, but there are heaps of guides on the Interwebs and the Youtoob now.

I think that’s what we had, a rear non-drive side spoke which snapped. It was just possible to get the old spoke out / new one in.

Would like to. I’ve highlighted the key words in that sentence, mind.

Wheels going out of true are a big vote of support for disk brakes on a touring bike.

Well, so far so bad. Nobody’s been able to order Mavic rims for me, nobody’s even heard of Velocity, and the shops I call keep telling me to leave my name and number and they’ll call me back. And so begins yet another saga of trying to find a simple thing that for some reason is nearly impossible to find in Taiwan. :fume:

I had the same problem with breaking spokes on my rear wheels. I just went ahead and had Alan’s Bike Shop put together a 36-spoke wheel set consisting Shimano 105 hubs, deep rim touring Kenda rims and good quality tapered spokes (thinner in the middle than the ends). It’s not the lightest of wheelsets, but they’re sturdy, and the deepness of the rims do a great job dissipating the heat on loaded long descents. It’s been almost three years now, and not a broken spoke for the duration.
You could do the same mix and match approach. Ask Alan to recommend a suitable combo.

[quote=“Wookiee”]I had the same problem with breaking spokes on my rear wheels. I just went ahead and had Alan’s Bike Shop put together a 36-spoke wheel set consisting Shimano 105 hubs, deep rim touring Kenda rims and good quality tapered spokes (thinner in the middle than the ends). It’s not the lightest of wheelsets, but they’re sturdy, and the deepness of the rims do a great job dissipating the heat on loaded long descents. It’s been almost three years now, and not a broken spoke for the duration.
You could do the same mix and match approach. Ask Alan to recommend a suitable combo.[/quote]
Kenda makes rims? I only knew they made tires.

At this point I’m thinking that the best available short-term solution will probably be some kind of 36-spoke setup with a Shimano hub like you describe. I think I’ll only get a rear wheel for now because my front wheel still works, and when the front hub bearing does give out, I’d like to spring for a dynamo hub so I can finally have a nice bright headlight. By that time I’ll be back in the States and (hopefully) employed, and therefore able to afford better components.