Is the 48 spoke wheel going extinct?

I am considering acquiring an overbuilt 48 symmetrical spoke 24" ISIS brakeless Muni. I am much heavier than the average person and want an extra heavy duty setup. I am will get into brakes when I have more experience and am ready for a bigger wheel size. I am guessing that a 48 spoke wheel set is much stronger than a 36 spoke setup. If I am wrong, please let me know.

QU-AX used to have one available at a decent price. that one has been replaced with a 36 spoke Q-Axle. I think the Nimbus II used to be made with a 48 spoke wheelset, but now is made with a 36 spoke. Is this a downgrade?

The only source I see for 48 spoke parts is from QU-AX. They have yellow and red hubs. I don’t know if there is any difference other than color and price. They also have 24" rims with 38 and 45 width. Anything else available out there somewhere?

I have had old square tapered trials unicycles, all chrome with 48 spoke rim setups. Only QU-AX seems to have a 48 spoke Trials uni. Why are these becoming rare?

The difference between the red and yellow hub is their strength, the yellow one is mor heavy duty. Nimbus also has 48 hole hubs available, just not complete wheels as far as I am aware.

36 Spokes is definetely enough for 99% of people, so for 99% of people the lighter weight, of less spokes and the Q-Axle is an upgrade. That’s also why 48 hole wheels are becoming rare… Personally, I have found that the only thing that kills wheels for men is landing long jumps sideways, and sometimes fatigue has made them crack between the holes. (next wheel will be a non drilled 36 hole rim) I’m a lightweight of just over 60 kg, but I do big drops, so take that into consideration.

48 holes is definetely stronger than 36 holes, but I am pretty sure that a non-drilled 36 hole Nimbus Dominator wheelset would easily be strong enough for you. As always with wheels, the most important part is keeping up on maintenance, regularily checking spoke tension and trueing the wheel is key to a long lasting wheelset. You could get a used old 48 hole Qu-ax with Isis cranks, since they are impossible to destroy, they are a good second hand uni.

48 spoke wheels are definitely a thing of the past. Even tandem bikes which used to come with them by default have ditched them long ago. They have some usefulness in polo, or other activities where people are worried about things getting in their spokes (closer spokes=less likely to get stuff in them).

For an overbuilt wheel I would suggest a very strong rim (any Uni rim should fit into this category), double butted spokes like Sapim Race, Brass nipples, and 3 cross. Most importantly, the wheel needs to have the maximum tension allowed by the rim, and the tension needs to be even. In fact even tension should be the priority over absolute trueness.

One thing worth noting is that some 48 hole rims have the holes pretty close together, and that can cause weakness is the rim. In some ways it can be even worse than drilled rims since the extra holes have spokes going through cyclic tension.

I have a Nimbus X 20" wheel with 48 spokes, and I love it. It’s heavy, and it keeps momentum up for practicing gliding, but I really love having a wheel I can take out to a public convention, leave it out, and know nobody can possibly break the thing. It’s an absolute tank. I don’t think I’d ride 48 spokes for muni though.

As wheel size goes down, the rim stiffness goes up, and in theory, you need less spokes. A 24" wheel with 36 spokes will be much more robust than a 36er with 36 spokes. Plus with a muni, you have the big cushy tire to absorb everything.

I was really skeptical about a 32 spoke wheel for my 26" fat-tire build, but I haven’t had any issues, even with pretty frequent 2’ drops out on the trail. That was also my first hand-built wheel, so it’s by no means a perfect build, and it has a single-walled 65mm rim that’s drilled. I’m about 170 lbs.

I would skip the 48 spokes if you can’t find good parts. No wheel is indestructible, and you’re going to break parts eventually if you ride enough. That comes with it being a unicycle. If you want the most robust thing out there, have a local builder get you the best spokes he can and hand-build you one. It’ll be higher tension and longer lasting than what you can buy off the shelf. Of course, a custom build may run you twice what buying a complete uni may cost. The 24" nimbus muni is a real favorite of mine for loaning out to people. It’s not going to die without a good fight, and it’s really cheap compared to your other options.

48 spoke wheels are fading into the past, mostly because rims are getting better and don’t need as much support.

Even at your weight I don’t think 48 spokes would be necessary, especially at the smaller wheel sizes.

I had a 48 spoke 24" Torker DX wheel and it was a pain in the rear to work on. The nipples were so close together that you could not turn a spoke wrench more than a quarter turn at a time as you would hit the adjacent spokes.

There is an argument for more spokes on bigger wheels ridden off-road, but I think they are unnecessary on wheels smaller than 29" (although my 32 spoke 29 with a single walled rim is still just fine. I’m just under 200 lbs.)

This is the kind of feedback I like and find useful. Thanks all.

It seems like the best thing to do with any unicycle, new or used, is to get that wheel aligned and tightened up to the max by a pro.

Good to know that certain rims with 48 spokes will be tough to work on.

For me, this would be reason enough not to mess with 48-spoke wheels below a certain diameter. Being able to tension and true your own wheel is a pretty useful skill, though you probably won’t learn it right away if you buy a new high-quality unicycle because you won’t need it.

I sometimes ride a 24" Schwinn that has 48 spokes on a single-walled rim. It hasn’t needed any truing yet. It is quite sturdy, but my feeling is that the double-walled 36-spoke wheels on my other unis are sturdier.

There was some interesting discussion here a while back about whether double-walled rims are actually stronger than single-walled. Somebody said something about the flexibility of a single-walled rim making it better at adapting to shifting pressures and tensions. The dynamics of weight bearing wheels seems to be a topic that even some engineers and mechanics disagree on, so there may be some merit to what was said about double-walled rims not being necessarily superior to single-walled. I don’t know, but in any case, a good 36-spoke unicycle with no rim drill-outs and a fat tire at high pressure should be plenty strong enough to carry a 300-pound rider, even if he rides off a curb now and then.

A friend of mine who recently passed the 400-pound mark got on my 20" unicycle once, though he didn’t try to ride- unassisted or otherwise. I was a bit concerned for his safety, but I wasn’t too worried about my unicycle.

Get a different spoke wrench? My Qu-Ax Profi has 48 spokes in a 20 inch wheel and my spoke wrench doesn’t even touch the other spokes.

I do wonder why they would put 48 spokes in a 20 inch wheel with double wall rim.

Do you know what is the actual difference, other than price?

I could only find the red model listed on the Qu-Ax site.

In the specs I found at another site they were virtually identical. Both CrMo axle and flanges. The Red is listed as five grams heavier. They look identical except for the colour in the images.

Probably uni hockey? The tennis ball does not get stuked in the narrow distance of 48 spokes.

I’d think they use different grades of steel, possibly the yellow one is hardened, while the red one isn’t. You are right, they look identical side by side, and are probably the same shape.

But maybe QU-ax has been tricking us and sold the same hub for two different prices for years.

Both are 22mm axles. The yellow one shall be made from better material or hardened or sth. like this and thus, has a lager hole through the axle that makes it lighter.

red: M8 bolts, 810g (incl. bearings)
yellow: M12 bolts, 805g (incl. bearings)

The calculated difference between M8 boring (6.8mm inner diameter) and M12 boring (10.25mm inner diameter) shall be a bit over 40g. So when the yellow one is only 5g lighter, maybe they used the remaining 35g to stiffen it at some other point?

My Freestyle uni has 48 spokes. It is overbuilt to professional standards, where strength is more important than weight. The frame is based on a fork design for tandems, and it’s steel. It’s not light, but I did break my previous Freestyle frame from doing stupid, off-angle tricks. The 48 spokes are so close together it’s a pain getting the pump on and off.

But it’s true, a well-built wheel with 36 spokes is going to be just as strong as one with 48 (with the exception of very large wheels). Good components are important, but the most important part is a well-tensioned wheel. Factory-built wheels are usually not such great builds, unless someone works on them post-factory. But you can also get a 48-spoke hub and rim from Qu-ax and it will look cool, but may be a bit of a dead-end in terms of replacement parts. Not that you should need them. I think you’ll be all right with 36 though, especially if it’s a 20" wheel.

Here’s a (tiny) picture of a triple-spoked Schwinn from my Garage Page (that’s 84 spokes for all you Schwinn nerds):


I think I am getting convinced to stick with the going standard 36 spoke setup.

Will probably start a thread on the subject, as to why cycle wheels are still made with spokes at all?

It seems so horse and buggy that good quality pressed solid maintenance free wheels still are not the norm.

For what it’s worth, I think the short answer to that is strength to weight ratio (and/or cost). What’s a pressed solid maintenance free wheel? Sounds nice, though possibly not great in a crosswind… :slight_smile:

Three spoke polycabonate plastic mag cycle wheels :thinking:

What problem are you trying to solve?

It’s funny that you use that reference since mag wheels, even carbon fiber tri-spoke, are heavier, and behave much more like wagon wheels.

As John said, the tensioned spoked wheel replaced wagon wheels because they are much lighter for the same strength.

If you think maintenance is a pain on a spoked wheel what about when the rim blows out on a high tech mag.

Which are heavy and weak compared to a conventional spoked bicycle wheel. A tensioned spoke bicycle/unicycle wheel is an incredibly efficient structure. Anything else as strong and stiff (even something high tech made of carbon fibre) would be heavier. I think a lot of the reason such wheels aren’t used on motor vehicles is cost - pressed steel wheels are a lot cheaper - though it’s also possible that things change with bigger loads, and doubtless spoked wheels aren’t as aerodynamic which is a significant factor at vehicle speeds, less so for unicycles.

The only obvious advantage of plastic “mag” wheels is that they look cool (if you’re into that sort of look).

I think it’s actually to reduce the chances of the ball going through the wheel, as I have seen tennis balls still get stuck in 48 spoke 20 and 24" wheels. However with a 24" with 36 spokes it can go all the way through into your goal lol.

I think 48 spokes are still unnecessary though. With my 24" 36 spoke wheel I used sticky tape to make a wheel cover when competing at European Championships, it worked fine and still works on my wheel.

If I really want I can reapply the sticky tape at some point but currently about 90% of it is still fine. I only reapply it for comps that really matter.