Mailbag Wednesday - Spoke count and ceramic coated rims

aerodynamics rims spoke count tech

Today we resurrect one of Mike's inventions - Mailbag Mondays. Except we're doing it on Wednesday because our mailbag has been quite full lately, we want to reintroduce the convention, and we didn't have another topic for today. 

I think this is a wonderful picture that we posted to Instagram yesterday

We get quite a few emails. Quite a few. And we do try to extend ourselves in answering. I answered a spoke type and lacing email yesterday, which cost me about 10 minutes I guess, from which there's no chance we'll ever see a dime. It's against our nature not to answer these things, which isn't an invitation to all the wing nut wheel questions out there - everyone has limits and even I was close to demurring on the wheel question above. But here's another thing - if you send us an email and don't get a response within at absolute most one business day, it's almost certainly in your spam filter. I lie awake at night concerned about how often these detailed thoughtful responses go to junk mail, and instead of us getting credit for being super attentive, we get hammered for being unresponsive jerks. Also, I wonder how bad the typical (in all industries, not just bikes) company is, because the #1 first line in responses to our responses is "Wow! Thanks for that response!" 

Anyhow, today we have two emails about very popular topics - spoke count recommendations and if ceramic (not really ceramic) coated rims are worth it. Enjoy.

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Q: Hi guys - Any guidance on weight limits/spoke count? I'm around 195lb, 6'3". I've been riding Mavic Ksyrium Sl for years with no issues.
A: Hi O - It depends on the rim and (to a lesser extent) the hubs you'd like to use. Experience is a great guide, but Ksyriums are sort of a unique design and rims in particular have changed a lot since 3/4 of everyone rode Ksyriums.
The thing about Ksyrium SLs is that their spokes are gigantic - the spokes have at least twice as much metal in them as more normal spokes. And the wheels wind up at just under 1600g, with quite narrow rims and not being particularly aero. So they do some things quite well - supporting a broad range of rider weights with one low spoke count - and others not as well. 
If you wanted to stay with a similar depth of rim, then you could do a Boyd Altamont Lite with White Industries T11s, laced 24/28, and knock the better part of 100g off of your current wheels. These will be almost 50% wider (20mm internal width versus 14) and somewhat more aerodynamic than your current set. I don't recommend 20/24 lacing for you with Altamont Lites. 
If you wanted to stay with 20/24, you could also go with a HED Belgium+ with White Industries T11s or Easton R90Sls with White Industries T11s, laced 20/24 with thicker Sapim CX Sprint (bladed) or Sapim Race (round), and wind up with a wider, deeper rim that's signinficantly better aerodynamically than your Ksyriums, for a slight weight decrease. Or you could go 24/28 with Sapim CX Rays and wind up in almost exactly the same place weight-wise, give up about .5w of aerodynamic performance compared to the CX Sprint build (but make a small gain compared to the Race build - bladed spokes are usually faster than round), and have what I think is a better build option. 
And then you could go with an Boyd Altamont or AForce Al33, which are both much deeper and wider than your Ksyriums, and in a different aerodynamic league entirely, and stick with 20/24 if you wanted to by using CX Sprints on the back and CX Rays on the front. These would be a few grams heavier than your Ksyriums but I think they're overall a huge improvement.
That gives kind of the lanscape view of things. There are other hub options of course, though we typically lead with T11s. Happy to go through any of these with you in more detail.
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The next one is a follow up exchange about ordering a set of AForce wheels while they're still available
Q: Thanks Dave
Are the ceramics worth it? I hear the talk that they perform exceptionally initially, but wear out/come off pretty quickly (and can become a bit ugly in the process). Are the machined versions comparable to any other machined rim (or better or worse)? - R
A: Hi R - There's no one clear answer to are ceramics (which aren't actually ceramic) worth it. They brake better in all conditions and markedly so in wet. We've had remarkably positive durability results from the coating - a few shiny spots after 8000 or 9000 miles is about normal. We were the first to figure out that SwissStop BXPs are THE pads to use with them, and supply a pair with every AForce build. We've seen precisely one "well that didn't work right" durability issue with ceramic (not actually ceramic) rims, and those actually weren't AForce. Apart from that outlier, I think the people who have poor durability with the coating must be using harsh pads (ceramic pads for the old kind of true ceramic rims will kill any rim in short order) or perhaps rocks. I just don't get it.

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  • Robert Wade on

    Well, this is probably one of the dumbest comments you will see, but in spite of the fact that I am not even close to buying new wheels I really like reading everything that you and Mike put out. You see I bought a 2020 Trek Emonda SL6 Pro (price was GREAT) with the Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3 TLR Disc wheelset. I probably don’t even want to know what your thoughts are on those, but I still love the knowledge y’all share!



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