Advantage of spoke count?

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by rideforfun

I currently ride on a pair of 32 spoke HED Belgium+ rims with Ultegra hubs and they have run very smoothly over the past 1500km. I use them for almost all my riding. I was wondering if anyone could advise if buying a pair of the campy shamal mille wheels with 16/21 spoke count would offer any advantages especially since I would like to start racing? Or would deep sections be a better investment? I have tried carbon wheels and have to say I much prefer the braking on alu brake tracks. Any advice would be welcome!

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by rideforfun

I forgot to add i weigh 160lbs and I am willing to spend up to USD$1500-$2000.

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by Marin

I'm 15lbs heavier and I ride 20/28 spokes with low-profile wheels, and 20/24 with 50mm profile.

For your budget, I'd definitely go for a sub-1400g 38mm or 50m profile carbon wheelset.
Last edited by Marin on Wed Oct 29, 2014 3:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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by bm0p700f

1500km is nothing for that wheelset. It is a good training wheelset. for racing the more aero the wheel the better so go for a wide rim with lower spoke count. 18F or 20F/24R 50mm deep carbon rimmed wheels on DA9000 hubs if you pick the 18H front or White industries T11 hubs in 20F/24R would be my choice for high end hubs. Novatec A291/F482 SB-SL hubs are alo cheaper, light and fine for racing. The last hubs would allow 1500g for 50mm deep carbon clincher build. consider tubulars though they will be lighter and allow a 1400g build.

I would buy the carbon wheels/get them built for racing and keep your current wheels for training as they will do 15000 miles or more if they have been built right.

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by davidalone

I'm not a wheel builder, but I've spoken to a few when building my own custom wheels.

there is little to no advantage gained in going with ridiculously low spoke counts below 20. your wheel is lighter ( by less than 50 grams, depending on what exactly you're comparing against. ) and you have theoretically an aero advantage, but I remember some zipp engineers saying they've tested this and the difference is so small that it's difficult to seive out from the errors between runs.

there is, however, a great tradeoff in servicability and longevity of the wheel. with lower spokes, spoke tensions are WAY high ( given the same spoke patterns) to get a rideable wheel, which means that if you happen to break a spoke, you probably won't be riding home, let alone completing your race. if you break a spoke on a 32 hole wheel, you can probably open your brakes and still ride it. There is also a higher chance of permanent damage because one spoke 'controls' a larger portion of the rim, hence there's less 'control' of the rim in truing.

Now I realise for a racing wheelset theres always going to be a comrpomise somewhere- we want it to look cool, feel fast, and make us feel badass on race day. you're also relatively light, so low spoke counts are not that much of a problem for you. I wouldn't go anything below 20, though. I like my race wheels to last a long time.

The shamals are nice wheels, if abit expensive. The zondas are only slightly heavier, and very very similar to the shamals, at a much cheaper price. The G3 lacing patterns does have it's unique properties, which are nice. Keep your current wheels for training, they are perfectly fine and will last you a long time. For racing I'd save up for something handbuilt from a good wheelbuilder. if you like alloy braking surfaces there are options from HED (jet) and bontrager (aura) which are both aero and relatively light. Get one of those and have your local wheelbuilder do a pre-ride tune up by checking spokes for even tension, etc.

FYI, EVERYONE prefers the braking on alu brake surfaces. but that's just one of your considerations for a race wheelset. is it your primary consideration?

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by MattSoutherden

I would like to start racing?

Unless your first race is going to be an IM or 100mile TT, then upgrading those HED/Ultegra wheels with the expectation that they will provide a measurable competitive advantage will be a complete waste of time. (That's upgrading to a disc and deep front, not just swapping alloy wheels)
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by sawyer

Avoid Shamals - they look great in the Grazie Mille format, have great hubs and tough as f*** but they ride harshly and catch the wind with the big alu spokes

Zondas are better full stop ("period!" :lol: )

TBH though that isn't really an upgrade vs your current set up. Agreed with bmpf ... go for some carbon hoops. Check out the cheaper factory built efforts such as FFWD or Vision Metron etc. if budget is a concern ... these are ridden by top pro teams
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by Slagter

^^^+ 1

Higher spoke count makes a stiffer and stronger wheel.

AFAIR their´s also a link in there to a stiffnestest. And the stiffest wheel is a 36h wheel.

Fewer spokes means less weight and better aero. But as mentioned above, there´s no need to go too low. 24h/20h is the winning combination for a wheelset intended for racing.

Breakingabilities are not too important while racing. The braking in racing are mostly small adjustments. You go so fast in a race, that when you stop pedaling, it almost feels like braking.

Going full carbon for racing wheels is no problem since you´d want all the performance you can get. And a rim profile with a toroidal shape with a hight between 40 and 60 mm, and width around 24-28 is preferable. Unless you do a lot of climbing, then you should focus more on a lighter wheel set.

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by Rick

I will corroborate the advice above.
From my experience, even the lowest spoke-count wheels seem to work well...for a while.
But there is no question that higher-spoke count wheels last and stay true much longer and more reliably.
There is a very small theoretical advantage to the low-spoke wheels, but a broken spoke or massive loss of true can ruin a race or long ride. Also, during a race you typically stress the wheels A LOT more than in training and hit a lot of unexpected bumps and road debris. So the probability that you will "find" the wheel's weakness increases dramatically.
So I go for 28 spokes for training and maybe 24 for race wheels. The same moderate approach goes for the rims. Light rims end up fatiguing and cracking at the worst possible times.

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by kulivontot

Please raise your hand if you weigh 160 pounds or less and have broken a spoke ever.

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by Raineman

158lbs and I broke 2 on my training wheels doing accelerations up a hill climb. After the second my lbs just rebuilt the wheel with new spokes :D 24 spokes for the record.

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by NiFTY

My 120lb girlfriend has broken a ksyrium spoke. (They were my old wheelset so i might own some of that, i am 72kgs/160lbs)

But no, i've never broken a spoke.

Agree with above, any wheelset isn't going to make a big difference, especially if going from box rim -> box rim.

If looking to upgrade for racing i would go deep carbon. You will get used to carbon braking very quickly.
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by rijndael

kulivontot wrote:Please raise your hand if you weigh 160 pounds or less and have broken a spoke ever.

hand raised.

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by Valbrona

It is not just the number of spokes: Spokes are not created equal - you get fat aluminium ones and thin steel ones.

The Shamal is a very stiff wheel.

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by rideforfun

Hi all, Thanks for the great advice! I am able to look for a wheelset with some knowledge at least. I get the main message here. That box-section to box section change with just a reduction in spoke count is not going to do anything much and that a deeper section would be a better, more noticeable change. I would say i value functionality over looking badass, but the latter certainly doesn't hurt! I love the wide rims on my current wheelset and was looking for something similar but racier.
Spoke to my LBS and he told me not to bother with the shamals or with lower spoke count alu rims. He suggested a pair of either hed jets or stingers 40mm as being suitable and around my price range (stingers would be a little more) but the main consideration would be clinchers/alu brake track vs tubulars/carbon braking. He said, like many above, that the difference in braking between the two is not such a big deal during racing which I knew from you guys!
I asked him about handbuilt with dura ace hubs (he built those belgium+ for me) and he said he could do it with a reynolds assault slg rim(24/24) rim or unbranded taiwanese rim(24/24) (clincher or tubular) with sapim cx-ray spokes. He said he would have to use dt swiss or novatec hubs for a lower front spoke count. All very tempting!

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