I was leaving the beach the other day and I saw a lady taking a roadbike out of the trunk of her car. I was at the public beach on Jupiter Island, a very scenic, incredibly expensive pleace to live, with one main road running the length of the island (about 7? miles), and one bridge at each end. There are a lot of people that bring their bikes to one end of the island, ride the length of it, go over the bridge, ride down US-1 to the other end of the island, and back to their car. Overall, it is probably a 20mile ride.
I couldn’t help but notice that her bike had no more than 20 spokes on each wheel. Does this just make the bike lighter? Easier to go over bumps? I figured I’d ask someone with more experience, and what better place than here on the forums?
Road bikes are not only built to be as light as possible, they are built to flow trough the air with the least possible amount of resistance…
Less spokes means less air resistance… so does thinner tyres (20/23 mm is the standard), so does aerodynamic seatposts… The wheels doesn’t only have few spokes, often they even are flat, to cut trough the air more effective…
For most bicyclists, it’s no more than fashion. However, spokes are rotating weight, so they have a bigger effect on acceleration, braking and (on the front wheel) turning than fixed items like the frame or seat.
Spokes move faster through the air than the frame, handlebars etc, so their aerodynamic drag is more significant, and if the number of spokes can be reduced, or the spokes can be made slimmer, or more aerodynamic, that’s also good.
But, let’s not miss the basic point: it’s fashion, for 99.9999% of people daft enough to pay the extra. You can save weight by eating less, or not carrying a cable lock, or not having a full bottle of water (1 litre = 1 kg). You can save drag by wearing tighter clothes, or riding in a better posture.
At what point on the spoke? Each point along the length of the spoke has a different speed when the bike is moving. Only the ends of the spokes at the top of the wheel are moving not quite twice as fast as the bike. To be exact.
I know what you are saying jagur, but a couple of years ago I bought the budget Bontrager road wheels that are spoked 20 front / 24 rear.
I am more than a a tad overweight but in all my years of riding, I’ve never had a more solid set of wheels - they’ve not needed truing since I’ve bought them.
I think that improvements in design through computer simulation and materials science, coupled with advanced CNC machining, produce wheels and other components in styles and configurations that were undreamt of a few years ago.
I am not saying that style and fashion are not factors, but the bike market is huge and this allows for big R&D budgets to make the “dream” components for the consumer.
This kind of technology will eventually filter down to the unicycle market (just look at the CF saddle base and CF frames), but ultimately these innovations are driven by demand from a consumer base that can sustain the development costs.
Oh yes - I must not forget the other key factor which is the extremely cheap labour market in the far-East. Without that factor your budget uni would probably cost in the region of several hundred quid! Where will we be when those countries start getting richer and demanding higher salaries?
Enough of my ranting.
In summary, a properly built set of 20/24 spoked wheels are perfectly adequate for road use, even by fatties like me!
But on the equipment/fashion/function point, Aspenmike, who posts in this forum, achieves rides on a 36 spoke single speed direct-drive fixed wheel unicycle that most people would find difficult on the lightest best quality multi-speed bicycle.
I ride in Sherwood forest regularly, and see people (usually men) on 21 (or more?) speed bicycles with front and rear suspension and disc brakes. They typically stand on the pedals, pedal for 3.5 revolutions in top gear then coast for a bit. Equally typically, they are followed by a wife or girlfriend on a basic heavy 12 speed “mountain bike lookie-likie”, painted pink (the bike, not the wife) and with a big heavy child seat with a big heavy child in it.
Purchasing decisions clearly made on the basis of fashion and status.
In the wacky world of motorcycling, it is possible to buy self-adhesive sheets of carbon fibre to make your bike look lighter (whilst making it very slightly heavier).