Q:

Which road-bike wheels will support a hefty guy?

I’m a hefty guy (210 pounds) who’s transitioning from mountain biking to road biking. What should I look for in a wheelset that will support me without constant truing? Jes College Station, Texas

Sep 6, 2006
Outside
Outside Magazine
Mavic Ksyrium Elite 700 wheelset

Mavic Ksyrium Elite 700

A:

Bicycle wheels, of course, are asked to do quite a bit. To roll well, first and foremost. But also to not weigh much even though a rider and bike may put 100 pounds or more on each wheel, in a contact area of little more than a square inch or two, with much higher pressures when you hit a bump or a rock. So, yeah, big guys will tend to beat wheels down faster or more frequently than little guys.

Maybe a little obviously, what you should “look for" are wheels that can stand up to abuse. On the high end, I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest a pair of Mavic Ksyrium Elite 700s ($619; www.mavic.com). Even though they have a spoke count of only 18 in front and 20 in back, they’re exceptionally sturdy. The only caveat is you have to be careful not to nick the semi-flat spokes, as they can then be vulnerable to breakage.

That said, you can spend less and get what you need. I think, for instance, that a well-built pair of Mavic Open Pro wheels with 36 spokes front and back is as close to a lifetime install as you can get. And they’re quite reasonable—around $250, depending on a couple of options, from Colorado Cyclist (www.coloradocyclist.com), and that’s with excellent Shimano Ultegra hubs. I have a ten-year-old wheel on one bike, an Open Pro built by Colorado, that has never even needed to be trued.

Alternatively, you can look into wheels that are simply intended for heavier use. Sun’s Rhyno Lite 700c (www.sun-ringle.com), for instance, is a wheel that is sized for road use and that is based on Sun’s super-tough Rhyno Lite mountain-bike wheels—wheels that perhaps you’ve used. They’re about $40 each, a bit less than unbuilt Open Pros, so depending on hubs and other options, you’d be looking at $200 to $300 for hand-built wheels. They’re somewhat heavy, but plenty rugged.

Once you have wheels in hand, it always pays to have them professionally trued and re-tensioned once a year or so, just to ensure that they don’t start getting wobbly on you. But a good pair of wheels should provide many years of reliable service.

Check out this year’s more than 400 must-have gear items, including a comprehensive biking section, in the 2006 Buyer’s Guide.

Filed To: Road Bikes

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