Our FSW and RFSW wheels are made for people in the heart of the bell curve. Go to a bike race and look around – a huge majority of people are between about 120 and 180 pounds. So unless you were trying to hit a niche on a side of that bell curve, it makes sense that you’d focus your products on that range of people. That’s how we chose our spoke drillings and lacings for the FSW and RFSW. Fewer spokes makes a lighter, more compliant wheel at the expense of some stiffness and ultimate strength. More spokes does the opposite. I like stiff wheels, but if you built a set of wheels with RFSW rims, 32 spokes and 3 cross lacing, an average sized bike racer would feel like a jackhammer was being driven into his shoulder and butt every time he hit the tiniest imperfection in the road surface. For this pleasure, the rider would also pay about a 100 gram weight penalty. Our standard RFSW and FSW builds are right in the sweet spot of comfort, stiffness and weight for the majority of bike racers.
On the other hand, there are plenty of people who are on the right hand side of the bell curve who want sweet wheels, or who do silly things like ride road bikes around muddy forests and soccer fields, and we want to make sweet wheels available to them. Which is why we’ve introduced out RFSW SOB (Side Of Beef) build. The SOB is laced 24 holes in the front and 28 out back, all 2 cross. This gives extra stiffness and strength for bigger riders, and gives more strength and torsional support for cross racing. You only take about a 40 gram hit on weight for this build, so if you’re a heavier rider or race cross, the SOB build is a great option for you.
You’ll notice that we suggest a 190 pound rider weight limit for the RFSW, and a 225 pound limit (for on road usage) for the RFSW-SOB. This has as much or more to do with the ride you’ll experience and wheel longevity as it does with eliminating the catastrophic event. A 200 pound animal sprinter is going to want a REALLY stiff set of wheels. The SOB build will provide what that guy's looking for. The extra few grams don't matter too much because, let's face it, unless said 200 pounder is on his way to a pro contract, there's no way he's making it to the end of Lost River in the front group anyhow. The extra spokes spread the torque that big powerful riders put into their wheels. Put 1500 watts into a set of 20 hole wheels enough times and your spoke beds aren't going to last forever.
People who’ve ridden with me a lot know that I have a slightly perverted habit of aiming at road “features” on training rides. It helps me sleep better at night to know that I’m basically trying to wreck the wheels and haven’t yet. But the right pothole at the right speed WILL have its way with a rim – no matter whose. I was riding next to a decidedly not heavy team mate who was riding a brand new set of aluminum wheels (not ours – I don’t even think we had prototypes yet then) on the 830 ride one day this spring, and he NAILED a pothole on Falls Road. Bent brake track. Fortunately it was an easy fix. Not so lucky was the guy on a (brand spanking new, again – and not ours) set of carbon clinchers on this ride I did like six weeks ago. The road we were on was pretty awful, bad enough that I had just double pinch flatted on a pothole on my FSWs not 15 minutes before. Anyway, our other ride mate, who is about my size so about 165 to 170, smacked a pothole and pinch flatted his front. Later we found that he’d put a worrisome ding in the carbon brake track. None of which is to suggest that our wheels are bulletproof and others aren’t. My point is that the right pothole is pretty much a smart bomb aimed at your wheel. Basic physics dictates that, for heavier riders, there are more “right potholes.”
Having fully climbed on board the train of high volume, low pressure mountain bike tires, I’m doing my winter training this year on 25c tires. Bigger dudes should take a serious look at going wider is better. More tire volume yields the same “float” per psi, so you don’t have to pump your tires up to heinous pressure to avoid pinch flats. It’s really comfy, has been shown to be zero amount slower, and is less brutal on your wheels.