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32 or 36 spokes?


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I am looking at upgrading my hubs to Shimano Deores (M525, primarily for the rubber seal, and they are on special on CRC, anyone else got these and want to comment?), should I consider getting a 32 hole hub or 36? I have been reading up and some riders suggest going 32 front and 36 back? I am pretty heavy and think this may be a good idea? Any thoughts?

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If you are upgrading your hubs I presume that you're keeping your same rims. You will need to get hubs that suit your rims then...

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Was thinking of replacing rims as well. Any ideas of reasonable rims (i.e. not breaking the bank!)

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believe it or not there is very little difference in the strength of 36H vs 32H. It sounds strange but this comes down to the lacing patterns used, there is very little point in running a 36H wheel. The cons far outweight the pro's:


You'll struggle to find 36H hubs

You'll struggle to find 36H rims


Rather build a set of 32H wheels and use a solid spoke with a brass nipple. There are a handful of good wheel builders around so chose wisely and spend your money on the build ;)

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You don't say how heavy you are, Pretty heavy for Kate Moss is 48kgs. Pretty heavy for me is well...lets leave it there.


32-spoke MTB wheels are incredibly strong, much stronger than the equivalent 32-road bike wheel. This is because of the smaller size and the spokes are thus closer together on a 32-er MTB than on a 32-er RB. The sections of rim between spokes act as a bridge span. The shorter between pillars, the less movement etc.


Further, the wheel's strength is determined not only by the spoke count but also by the rim weight. More weight is more meat is more strength. Weight sometimes also tranlates into size. In other words, a big wide, deep section rim weights more and is thus stronger.


36-spoke wheels still make sense for downhill riders and serious freeriders, but 32 is plenty strong for marathon riders.


If you are heavy, as you say, I'd go for 32-spokes with a strong rim. Something like a WTB Speed Disc with I-beam profile. Not a 360 gram lightweight NoTubes rim.


Lacing pattern doesn't come into this since the only lacing pattern acceptable in MTBs with disc brakes is 3X.


With spokes you also have some choices but cosmetic ones only - black or silver.


When you're putting together a quality wheel you don't waste time with straight-gauge spokes. They have no role to play in quality wheels whatsoever. It is a myth that a straight-gauge spoke is stronger than a double butted spoke. Straight gauge for the uninitiated, is a spoke that has equal thickness throughout - usually 2mm. Double butted is a spoke that's 2mm at the two ends and 1.8 or 1.5 in the mid-section. This creates a spoke with some elasticity in the central section where there are no residual stresses and stress risers, which protects the vulnerable elbow and threaded area which have such structural defects by definition.


Straight-gauge spokes are erroneously spec'd by mechanics who don't understand the mechanics of double butting. They're also substantially cheaper and much, much easier to build with since their resistance to twisting up is very high, compared to double butted spokes that twist easily. Twist is bad.



In summary (and if you're not Kobus Wiese putting 160 on the scale):


32-spoke, reasonable rims, double butted spokes and a good wheelbuilder.


If you don't see the option of spokes on CRC, don't risk it. Buy the hubs and rims there and have your wheelbuilder calculate the right lengths for you and supply them locally.


Good luck with your project.

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Thanks for your help everyone, I will try and scratch around locally to find some parts for my wheels (the one shop is only R100 more expensive than CRC for the hubs so that I can live with, at least if there are problems I have some recourse), I don't want to have to do this again for a few years but do want a decent set of wheels should I switch frames sometime down the road.

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