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Gear Guy

Will fatter tires on my road bike prevent the spokes from breaking?

Last year I completed the 340-mile-long Trondheim-Oslo bike ride. I was in great shape but broke no less than four spokes on my fairly new Trek 1200 road bike. This left me concerned about weight and now I'm considering dropping the rear rack and rack-top bag in favor of a lighter hydration system like the CelBak M.U.L.E. I think I'll also switch to 28-millimeter tires to spare the rims, but is this worth the extra weight and drag? Jarle Bergen, Norway

A: That's quite a ride, Jarle. But breaking four spokes indicates some sort of problem. You don't mention your own weight, but I imagine that if you can ride 340 miles at one go, you're not a tremendous heavyweight. Besides, taking off the rear rack and rack bag won't make that much difference—after all, you're just shifting weight from the bike to your back. I've been touring, mountain biking, and hard road-riding for 30 years, and I've broken this many spokes: Two.

Shimano Ultegra

I'd advise two things. First, get new wheels. The Trek 1200 ($830; is a perfectly decent bike, but its wheels are not the best. Spend $225 U.S. (or thereabouts) and get a pair of wheels built on Shimano Ultegra hubs using Mavic Open Pro CD rims. Assuming the wheels are built correctly, that is an absolutely bombproof combination.

And certainly, switching to a fatter tire will help. In fact, very skinny tires (around 20 millimeters) may not roll as well as fatter ones because the tire deforms more on the surface. Materials, air pressure, and other factors also play a big part in how well a tire rolls. In the end, I'd go to maybe a 25-millimeter tire as opposed to the 28-millimeter width because this is more of a touring-type size and offers a good mix of rolling ability, comfort, and resistance against pinch-flats.

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Lead Photo: courtesy, Performance Bike