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Rec.Bicycles Frequently Asked Questions Posting Part 3/5
Section - 8c.4 Ideal Wheel Sizes

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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 12:07:59 -0800

> I'm getting a custom frame built and wondered what people thought of
> using 26 inch road wheels.  Smaller wheels ought to be lighter and
> stronger.

...and goes on to list advantages and disadvantages that aren't as
clear as the writer assumes.  The main reasons for using 700c or 27"
wheels, the common sizes for most adult bicycles is better understood
by smaller riders who have a hard time fitting these wheels into their
smaller bicycle frames.  On the other hand, the larger the wheel the
better the ride by averaging road roughness.  Riders who encounter
cattle guards can best explain this.  Don't try that with roller
blades.

Cross sectional area of the rim limits total tension of its spoke
complement, whose individual spoke tension limits how much weight the
wheel can support.  Two to four spokes near the ground contact point
of the average wheel support the load at any moment.  For this reason,
larger wheels would require more spokes that would require a heavier
rim to withstand total tension of a greater number of spokes.

> It seems to me that the most obvious reason for using 27" wheels is
> tradition, but I'm not sure the advantages make it worth trying to
> swim upstream.  What do you think?

Fortunately "standard" wheel size was arrived upon in days when
economics played a role and produced a design that optimized many
aspects of performance, weight and economy.  Hub width was one of
these criteria because as the wheel gets larger the hub must become
wider to offer reasonable lateral stability.  Today much money is
spent by people who want the best, or at least better than their peers
without consideration of durability and safety.  Riders often buy
exotic wheels spending more than double than what would serve them
best.  Most of these wheels offer no advantage other than that a
famous racer won a major race on them.

If enough riders ask for 24", 25" and 26" wheels, manufacturers will
increase prices as their product lines expand, total sales remaining
constant.  Tires and spokes would follow as a whole range of sizes
that were not previously stocked become part of inventory.  Meanwhile,
bike frames will come in different configurations to take advantage of
the special wheel sizes.  Sizes whose advantages are imperceptibly
small but are touted by riders who talk of seconds saved in their last
race or while riding to work.

Fat tired wheels generally use 26" rims that give the same outside
diameter of the 700c road wheel.  The wheel size we ride today was not
an idly chosen compromise.

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Top Document: Rec.Bicycles Frequently Asked Questions Posting Part 3/5
Previous Document: 8c.3 Reusing Spokes
Next Document: 8c.5 Tied and Soldered Wheels

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