What I Wished I Knew Before. - A Tale from a Heavy Cyclist.

For those of you reading this who have not ridden with me before, I'm a big, heavy rider of 118kgs (260lbs). I have no problem in saying I have always struggled with my weight and cycling has been something I could do to help this.In practice this means I mean ride around slowly and stop at most of the bakeries in the Fleurieu, which can be sort of counter productive (but really enjoyable)! Still, the bike and gearing I have allows me to participate in some of the social group rides and even get up almost all of Adelaide's hills.

I have been cycling about once or twice a week since 2006, firstly on a mountain bike, then on a road bike. I bought the road bike from a local LBS and started popping spokes, mostly on the rear wheel, almost immediately. The wheels were  Shimano WH-R 500 and after a rocky start, the wheels seemed to 'settle down''. They stayed on the bike for the best part of five years with only the occasional loss of a spoke. Then came time that they had to be pensioned off through wear and tear.

Then came a set of Easton rims (their lowest priced wheel), which I bought over the net from Cell. The rear wheel buckled almost immediately (going downhill through California Road on one of the first SSRC 'L' rides springs to mind). I took the rear wheel to a LBS and they fixed it. It buckled again. The LBS fixed it again. Then the spokes started breaking. By this stage I'm starting to think that maybe these wheels have a weight limit! I persisted with these wheels for a year.

I was starting to be known by the LBS owner by this stage and the discussion about weight limits came up. They suggested that a Mavic Open Pro Rim would be the way to go as a custom build. They indicated that a suitable rear wheel could be built for around $250. I checked on the net and found what I thought was the same thing, an Open Pro rim with a Shimano 105 hub, for approx $170. It seemed like a no-brainer, so I bought the wheel and waited for the arrival. Karma took a very short space of time to bite when two spokes snapped in the first 6 rides, the last one causing a buckle severe enough to stop the rear wheel from turning whilst on a descent of Willunga Hill. I went back to the LBS that fixed this new wheel the first time. I was very surprised to be told the following two things.

1) That ALL Mavic rims are weight rated to aroung 95kg-100kg

2) That the 'new' Shimano 105 hub that came with the wheel was running pretty rough and it would be advisable to purchase a new hub.

These two pieces of information floored me. Firstly because I had been told that this rim would take my weight by one of the local LBS' (admittedly his build was not what I bought). Secondly, as there was no evidence on the website from which the wheel was purchased that there is a weight limit of any sort. Thirdly, the hub was assumed to have been brand new.

I let the LBS know the recency of the purchase. They asked me if I'd purchased the wheel off the internet? I stated that I had. I was then faced with two knowing looks and a comment of "...we see this everyday." They then went on to tell me;

3) Many of the parts that are sold on internet sites are, in fact, dummy parts. I questioned what this meant and was told to imagine the local mobile phone shop. There are display items that look exactly like the real thing, but are for display use only and are not intended for actual use.This does not stop some sites from selling them as genuine and ready for use.

4) Some internet suppliers will purchase a shed load of old stock,regardless of whether it is factory seconds or non-genuine just to flog it off (I'm not so surprised by this to be honest).

I left the LBS taking the broken wheel with me as it seemed pointless to get it fixed. I just pondered what this all meant. Could I trust the information from the LBS (who have a hard earned fantastic reputation and support local riders and racing extremely well)? 

My take-away points from this experience:

1) All wheel sets should have their maximum weight rating displayed as part of the advertising (and I plan to agitate for this with all suppliers). If you don't know this number and you are a heavy rider, don't buy the wheels.

2) Just because something has the right labels on the components and it is being sold really cheaply (especially over the internet), doesn't mean that you are getting a genuine bargain.

3) Get to know more than one LBS if you are able to do so (in the course of telling the above story I am referring to two different LBSs). That way you are able to gain more information.This can get confusing when advice clashes but at least you can get the bad with the good and postpone purchases until the situation becomes clearer with even more information.

4) Do your own research. The net can provide some assistance but ask fellow heavy cyclists. They may have been through the same thing, or know the right LBS to ask advice from. The website www.superclydesdale.com  also seems fairly useful for the heavier rider (I'm categorised as a 'Pachyderm' according to this site).

5) I should probably learn to build and true my own wheels. To some extent any wheel, through use, will fall out of alignment no matter what you weigh. Being heavier adds to this process and learning to correct this should, in theory, save additional money.

If anyone has anything to add by way of online resources for the heavier rider, feel free to add by way of reply.

Go well. Wattsy

Views: 21976

Comment by RD6 on March 17, 2013 at 18:36

Just read this - worth investing custom built wheelset with bigger spoke count - I know of few wheel builders

Comment by rossmg on March 17, 2013 at 18:44

Nice write up Wattsy! Good advise for anyone looking to the interwebs for a "cheap" purchase.

Comment by Teddles on March 17, 2013 at 18:51

Great write up! Usually you only hear about how much faster or smoother the new wheels are. This is a great perspective for the "every-day" cyclist. 

Comment by Gus on March 17, 2013 at 19:10

Where does your biggest issue lie? With the rims or the hubs or the spokes?

I wonder how much grief you might have saved with a custom build with Mavic open pro rims, 32 or 36 hole hubs and some solid spokes, maybe DZ Swiss, laced in the strongest pattern, I think it's 3 cross.

It must be very frustrating. Thanks for sharing. I am sure it's hard and many others like you have found themselves in the same position.

I agree stock can be bought in bulk but I'm not sure about items being fake or copies. These stores have a worldwide market and they wouldn't last long selling fakes.

Comment by Matt Brennan on March 17, 2013 at 19:14

I'm pretty sure most of the pre-built wheelsets have weight guides on their websites - I know I've seen a few.

I've also heard the story from a LBS about some of the mass market interneters selling some products that are..well not what they should be.  Particularly wheelsets with hubs that have failed very early on.

Comment by Matt Brennan on March 17, 2013 at 19:22

Good site too Wattsy.

I notice they had this table - which should be credited to http://www.superclydesdale.com/

Comment by Andrew Watts on March 17, 2013 at 19:55

@Gus, I know that we've kind of chatted regarding this before and in truth it may well be a spoke issue. Although the Open Pro may also be an overall quality issue of the job. The Open Pro was a 32 spoke wheel with a 2 cross pattern on the drive side and radial on the other and to paraphrase Geoff Neal, I turned it into a prawn cracker. However,  I have been told by one LBS that this rim will not take my weight regardless, another LBS has told me this is the rim to get, so do I take the punt on getting it rebuilt with the 3 cross or not?

One of the most frustrating things (aside from the escalating expense), from a heavy rider's perspective, is the lack of disclosure of maximum weight limits.

Wiggle can do it in their Q&A sections, but you have to ask if no one else has. Otherwise the info is not there. 

Merlin Cycles do not give maximum weight limits. 

Cycling Express do not give maximum weight limits.

Pro Bike Kit do not give maximum weight limits.

Torpedo 7 do not give maximum weight limits.

Evans Cycles do not give maximum weight limits.

Chain Reaction do not give maximum weight limits.

Ribble do not give maximum weight limits.

I could go on (but I won't)!

The only weight related information provided is the weight of the wheel set itself.

Comment by Andrew Watts on March 17, 2013 at 19:59

Nice find Matt. Its a small cross section, but at least its something.

Comment by heather on March 17, 2013 at 21:24

Andrew, the Bike Co-op has a wheel jig where you can true your wheels for a donation.

My MTB rear wheel often buckled. Would like to blame it on the weight of my shopping (up to 32kg), especially when I hit an uneven road surface. Tried better spokes and eventually bought a wheel with more spokes. Gus might be on the right track although I am unfamiliar with the brands.

Comment by Gus on March 17, 2013 at 21:28

I must say that anything is better than those Shimano WH-R 500 wheels. They are terrible!

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