Which Bicycle Wheels Are Best for Heavier Riders?
Recently we got an email asking which wheels we’d recommend for a cyclist around 250lbs.
Well, we didn’t know, so we turned to several wheel manufacturers to see which of their models they’d recommend for everything from road to mountain bike to cyclocross, even downhill and touring bikes. We also asked ENVE and Chris King how they’d build up wheels for bigger riders, just to get the opinion of folks that only make part of the wheel build.
Here are the answers from American Classic, Mavic, Reynolds, Rolf Prima, ENVE and Chris King…
BROOK @ ROLF PRIMA
Road: The Echelon or Echelon SL model are built with thicker rim walls and increased spoke counts of 16/20 and would work great for the heavier rider. Our 58RSC and 38RSC have a carbon rim with alloy brake track and are very strong wheels, too, and work well for the heavier rider looking for something more aero.
Cyclocross: The VCX (disc version shown at top of post and covered here) and ECX models are built similar to the Echelon models with a thicker rim wall for increased durability.
Touring: We do not really market any of our models for touring, but light touring or credit card touring could be done on our Echelon models.
XC/Trail: As we just started doing mountain bike wheels I don’t have a beefier option just yet, but stay tuned as this category will grow for us.
COMMENTS: When it comes to a wheel there are many factors to consider than just the spoke count. With our paired spoke technology we are able to built up to three times the tension in our spokes than a traditionally laced wheel. What this means is as the wheel rotates and comes in contact with the ground, each spoke is going from full tension to less or even a negative tension number, causing stress on the spoke, rim and hub flange. If a wheel starts with higher tensions you do not stress these parts as much in the fluctuation of tension as the rim rotates. Heavier riders then can benefit from our higher tensions as well.
LEN @ REYNOLDS CYCLING
Road: 66 SLG or Strike/Assault mixed depth.
Cyclocross: Assault CX
XC/Trail: Carbon mountain CX and Carbon Mountain 29er. Our carbon rims for each category are built to provide extra strength and stiffness.
Freeride/DH: Carbon AM
COMMENTS: Overall, our wheels are made for 250 lbs riders. We build this into the lay up and laminate structure of each model. The taller rims typically have more layers and are laid at an angle to increased the rigidity. For ride performance, we have found that the deeper rims are better for heavier riders due to the added stiffness of the carbon and the shorter spokes.
ELLEN @ AMERICAN CLASSIC
Road: Carbon 58 Clinchers
Cyclocross: Carbon 58 Clinchers
Touring: Carbon 58 Clinchers or Hurricanes
XC/Trail: All mountain 26 or 29
Freeride/DH: All mountain 26 or 29 or DH 26
COMMENTS: We call these riders big and powerful riders! The secret to building a wheelset for the big and powerful riders is to avoid gimmicks such as straight pull spokes, proprietary spokes and hidden nipples. Bill Shook believes that the small details in wheelbuilding make the biggest difference to our powerful riders. We have time tested spoke technology meaning j-bend spokes. Our American Classic spokes are made to design of the finest Sandvik stainless steel from Sweden with uniform butt lengths all made for each wheelset. The wheels are all hand finished by our trained wheelbuilders to our tension specs unique to each wheelset and stressed and re-tensioned several times to build a stronger wheel and eliminate the spokes from making noise as they settle in after initial use. The wheels we recommend have all the best AC hub technology and are chosen for the rim strength to make a wheel system that is the balance between strength, responsiveness and weight.
ZACK @ MAVIC
Road / Cyclocross: We generally suggest Ksyrium Elite for heavier riders doing road or Cyclocross. But depending on how hard the guys ride, even our strongest wheel systems will have a finite lifespan. The systems wheels like Ksyrium and R-Sys are built to accommodate the middle of the bell curve when it comes to rider weight and style. 250-pound riders for sure fall to the extreme end of the bell curve.
Therefore, quite honestly most heavier (250 lbs+) riders will be best served with custom built wheelsets.
For these guys and for anyone touring, especially loaded touring, we suggest building a really strong custom wheelset, with 36 or more spokes, laced 3-cross, and using a sturdy rim like the A719. A719 is the benchmark rim for the trekking and tour market (All Road). It uses all the signature Mavic technologies: SUP welding, 19mm internal width, UB Control machined braking surface, Maxtal alloy. It’s double eyeleted and super strong.
Mountain Bike / DH / Freeride: It’s the same story for DH and Freeride applications. Big dudes can always ride DeeMax, DeeMax Ultimate, Crossmax SX, or Crossline, but again, these wheel systems are built for riders in the 125-225 lbs weight range. The middle of the bell curve.
For heavier riders, the best, most durable and longest-lasting solution will be a custom wheelset with a lot of spokes and a stout rim. EX 823 Disc is a cool, UST compatible 23mm wide rim for DH and FR applications. It’s welded, machined, and uses FORE drilling to keep the tire bed intact. The result is an airtight rim bed and a stronger rim.
JAKE @ ENVE COMPOSITES
Road: 45 Clincher, 65 Clincher 28/28, Chris King Classic Road, Alchemy, DT Competition spokes depending on level of aggressiveness… If just a pleasure rider Sapim CX Rays would do the trick no problem. For Tubulars a large guy would be happy with our Smart ENVE System wheels preferably the 6.7s built with a King R45 and Sapim CX Ray spokes.
Cyclocross: 2.65 Tubular, 28/28, King Classics, w/ DT Competition Spokes or 29” XC Tubular with Disc Hubs for Disc compatible CX bike 32/32 hole count.
Touring: 65 Clincher, Chris King Classic, 28/28, DT Competition Spokes
XC/Trail: 26 or 29” AM. These are tubeless now which make them more user friendly for big dudes (no pinch flats). The AM is wider and stiffer, better suited for larger tires which = more traction etc…, King, Project 321 are stiffest builds. DT Competition spokes.
Freeride/DH: We will be launching a DH specific wheel/rim soon. The Santa Cruz Syndicate team has been helping us develop them and we sorta showed them at Eurobike. These are so bomber rider weight is really no issue. ENVE DH Rim, 32/32, Chris King or DT 440 hubs, DT Competition Spokes.
BRIAN & JONAS @ CHRIS KING
From Brian Schultz – Product Engineer: I only have relevant experience with touring wheels. I was at about 250 lbs including bike and gear, so I opted for a solid setup so I wouldn’t have to worry. I think a Stainless Steel driveshell is important for touring. The weight penalty is more than offset by longevity when you’re a long ways from service or parts. I used solid, wide rims (like Mavic A719 or Velocity Dyad) and 36 hole, 3x lacing with double butted spokes. The Cross hubs (shown above) build great rim-brake touring wheels, with their symmetrical high flanges. I had no problems with this build and it was probably overkill for me. I’m confident that it could handle much more weight. After ~5500 miles of loaded touring and another 3000ish commuting/riding/gravelling, the wheels are still solid and true.
From Jonas Johnson – Warranty Technician: I’m with Brian. A lot of it has to do with how it’s built also. I do agree, for any Clydesdale application, even flange diameters, or what ever combination brings your wheel as near to dish-less and even tension as possible the better. Double butted spokes are plenty adequate for most application, though our hubs are compatible with some thicker gauge or triple butted spokes, if someone desires. With our hubs I would recommend for heavier applications to avoid using spoke count under 32h. Most heavier builds prefer 36h. Also recommend no less then 3x to prevent wheel flex, and stress directly on the flange and bearing bores. 4x in most cases is excessive, since, depending on the flange diameter it causes spoke overlap which really has no advantages and makes it harder to replace spokes. Unified and reasonable spoke tension recommended 90-120 Kgf (120Kgf being the max recommended) Rims will vary to discipline, but with aluminum opt for welded seams as opposed to pinned. Also eyeleted are preferred over non-eyeleted (double eyeleted when available), to prevent cracking from poor tension or other stresses.