How to select road wheels if you’re a heavy rider

How to select road wheels if you’re a heavy rider

Are you a heavier rider that is sick of replacing spokes or wheels much more frequently than normal?

The unfortunate reality is that many of today’s road bikes were not built with heavier riders in mind.

We probably won’t see manufacturers address this more specifically with future models but that doesn’t mean there aren’t solutions for heavier riders.

Interestingly, a team of researchers at the University of Colorado are designing bikes with heavier riders in mind.

While it’s unlikely those bikes will go into mass production, thankfully, there are a number of wheelsets available to accommodate heavier riders who are looking for a more robust, durable wheel option that holds up over the long term. 

What factors should you consider before buying new wheels?

Prevailing wisdom is that heavier riders should look for “clydesdale wheels” that feature higher spoke counts and hubs with larger axle diameters. For most riders that means selecting wheels with the below features:

  • A 36 spoke count in the back and a 32 upfront
  • A hub with a wider flange
  • 3 cross spoke patterns

One of the positive trends for heavier riders is the move by many manufacturers to wider rims and tires. The added width makes for a stronger rim & improved handling and opens up wheel choices that may not have been an option a few years ago. 

There are many wheels to choose from but as a first step, I’d recommend finding a reputable wheel builder from a local bike shop to help you work through the available options. More than likely, they’ll be able to build a custom set of wheels for you that won’t cost you a fortune.

A wheel builder will get to know you and your riding style and be able to fit you with wheels tailored to your needs.

Just as importantly, if anything goes wrong, you have someone nearby who can help fix any issue typically without having to wait for replacement spokes etc…

I own a set of Ksyrium wheels and they’ve been bombproof. But, for my next set of wheels, I will look to get a custom set of wheels that fit me and my riding style. 

If you don’t want to go through the process of working with a local bike shop and prefer an off-the-shelf option, the below wheelsets are favored by heavier riders who want to ensure they have wheels that will last them more than a few months!

What else to consider before buying clydesdale wheels

You may be concerned with weight limits for particular wheelsets. Each manufacturer has guidelines for this but use it as a guide only.

Work within an acceptable range based on their numbers and focus on getting the right rim, hub, and spoke build for your particular situation.

Side loading is often brought up as an issue for heavier riders. This is where wheels experience the most stress as you get out of saddle and rock side to side.

If you opt to work with a local wheel builder, I’d ask them how to best factor this in with your particular situation.

Busting spokes especially in the rear wheel is a common occurrence.

Proper riding style and technique definitely plays a factor and it’s best to stay as “light” as possible on your bike. Anything you can do as a rider to dampen the load on your wheels helps in the long run. 

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