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  1. #1
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    How to beefen up rims, hubs, spikes and possibly more for fat boy touring.

    Wondering if anyone has any suggestions for a replacement wheelset, and possibly a new drivetrain (if this is possible) on a Trek MTB (6900)? Or, is better to just replace the bike?

    Last year, I bought my Trek and toured across E. Thailand, through Cambodia, Vietnam, and S. China - loaded w/about 50-75 lbs of everything from clothing to laptop to water and me, at 315 lbs. I rode about 2100 miles.

    Let it suffice to say it was miserable dealing with the spokes breaking and chain snapping. When I got back to the US I went to three NYC LBSs and had new chains (2), and cassettes put on. I didn't know there were different numbered spokes out there (40+ I hear), so it never occurred to me to ask for replacement wheels.

    The chain still breaks. It only happens when I go to really step on it, e.g., just at bottom of hill, as I get out of saddle.

    But I know as soon as I load up panniers for another tour, the spokes will be toast again. (This is brutal when touring, esp when they break often as they do for me, and I am not a mechanic).

    A new touring bike can run $5k+. There are cheaper ones, e.g., Surely LHT, but I like my MTB. So, can I swap out wheels and drivetrain or what are my options to beefen up? I can't put 700ccs on this bike right? What are max spokes on a MTB? Any thoughts much-appreciated.

  2. #2
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    There are several burly rim options. One, the one I use, is the Sun-Ringle MTx33 in 36 spoke. Get some good quality double butted spokes and have the wheels hand built. They should last you just fine. You'll want a good hub to match. Depending on budget, you can go on the lesser expensive end with Hope which has been a great heavy weight rider hub, or on the highend, look at Chris King. There's a couple inbetween that work as well such as Hadley, White Industries, and possibly some stuff from DT Swiss though there's mixed reviews on them.

    If you have a 29er, you can use 700c wheels on it. Max spokes on a mtn bike, Most you generally see is 36. White Industries makes hubs drilled for 40 and 48 spokes but I have no idea what rims are available for that spoke count. I'd guess you'd be looking at wheel made for tandom bikes.

    Drive train, it should all be upgradeable. There's tons of options out there. It mostly comes down to how much are you willing to spend.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the help, Nubster! Is there a preferred wheel builder that most here would agree is good? I have 26" tires on the Trek 6900, so I'm guessing that means it is not a 29er.... Can I go from 26>29?

  4. #4
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    36 rear hub from shimano, the 36 fronts are getting hard to come by. I got a DMR front.
    look for a rim in 26mm stock is often 19. I went with dtswiss M480 rims
    unlike above i would skip the double butted and get straight 14 gauge spokes, as the double butted means they have thin portion to save weight (correct me if i am wrong on that). want to go stronger...brass nipples instead of aluminum

  5. #5
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    Oh for what it's worth chain breakage is more often than not
    operator error, no bashing intended, knock on wood, i haven't broken a chain in 10 plus years. You simply CAN'T shift under load. As you said aproching the climb. you need to try and be in the correct gear before you start putting a lot of force to the pedal.
    Cheers and good luck

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by PitchCrew View Post
    36 rear hub from shimano, the 36 fronts are getting hard to come by. I got a DMR front.
    look for a rim in 26mm stock is often 19. I went with dtswiss M480 rims
    unlike above i would skip the double butted and get straight 14 gauge spokes, as the double butted means they have thin portion to save weight (correct me if i am wrong on that). want to go stronger...brass nipples instead of aluminum
    I was 320 pounds when I had my wheels built and double butted was what MikeSee recommended. My local builder that I just recently had a wheel built by also recommended double butt and he's a proclaimed clyde-worthy wheel builder since he's a clyde himself.

    You can get 36h fronts from Hope all day long. Chris King, Whites, Phil Wood, Hadley are a few more that offer them.

    Shimano has a bit of a rep for blowing up under the power of us clydes. Maybe a front would be ok, I'd avoid the rear.

  7. #7
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    20 years ago I was toasting rims all the time even 36 hole rims I was bending, so my wheel builder made me a bomb proof pair of wheels, 4 cross the spokes and do what they call tie and solder. Basically tie wire around the cross point of your spoke and then solder the joint. Basically takes the spoke and cuts it in half so the wheel acts like a 13 not a 26 if you get my meaning. Strong as hell, they never ever warped, ever.

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    I am 6'5" and hover between 330-340 and I built up a Surly Ogre a while back so I could have a bike that I can take my daughter on rides with me. She weighs in at around 44 pounds right now and along with the kid seat on the back, it's probably close to 50lbs of additional weight. I took my set of the original Stan's Flows laced to CK hubs (32F/36R) that I used on my Niner WFO for 2 years and put them on the Ogre. So far, so good. I put a lot of abuse on those rims and they held up with not even a broken spoke so I trust them with the extra weight with my daughter on back.

    As for chain breakage, even at my weight I have yet to ever break a chain (knock on wood). But you could try putting on a Wipperman Connex chain on. They're not cheap but are really good. I just put one on all three of my bikes for the summer riding season.

  9. #9
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    How to beefen up rims, hubs, spikes and possibly more for fat boy touring.

    Just got Sun Ringle MTX 33 36h with triple butted Sapim spokes and hope pro 2 Evo hubs. Thy feel solid.

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    I got these from Spinergy for my road bike. They have no weight limit. I just bought the Bad Boy 9, still working thru what I might need to alter.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails How to beefen up rims, hubs, spikes and possibly more for fat boy touring.-image.jpg  


  11. #11
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    Good point

    Quote Originally Posted by PitchCrew View Post
    Oh for what it's worth chain breakage is more often than not
    operator error, no bashing intended, knock on wood, i haven't broken a chain in 10 plus years. You simply CAN'T shift under load. As you said aproching the climb. you need to try and be in the correct gear before you start putting a lot of force to the pedal.
    Cheers and good luck
    You know no one ever told me that I couldn't switch gears while pedaling. Frigging 50 years old and I still don't know that?? What a moron. Pitchcrew, thank you for the very obvious suggestion. I will probably never break a chain now. Thanks to you.

  12. #12
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    You can get butted spokes that are 2.3mm at the j-bend end and 2.0mm at the other end. They are made with tandem wheels in mind. They are called Sapim Strong and were recommended to me a few years by Dave Thomas @ Speeddream (a very respected wheelbuilder).

    You need to pedal while switching gears, just not under full load. It's a bit of an art to be able to let up the load just a tad, and for a fraction of a second to facilitate good, non-destructive shifting. Try to anticipate before you're under full load on a steep hill, and if you still need to shift on the hill, try give a couple of strong pedal turns to get a little momentum built up, and then hesitate/slow the cadence so you shift smoothly before applying the power again. With a little practice, it becomes second nature and most people watching wouldn't even know you're doing it.

  13. #13
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    i had a set of wheels built for me at the lbs. sun inferno 27's. i had 3 or 4 spokes break on me in about 5 rides, all on the crank side rear wheel of the bike. they changed the spokes on that side of the wheel to a thicker gauge and no problems since.

  14. #14
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    Thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by jeffj View Post
    You can get butted spokes that are 2.3mm at the j-bend end and 2.0mm at the other end. They are made with tandem wheels in mind. They are called Sapim Strong and were recommended to me a few years by Dave Thomas @ Speeddream (a very respected wheelbuilder).

    You need to pedal while switching gears, just not under full load. It's a bit of an art to be able to let up the load just a tad, and for a fraction of a second to facilitate good, non-destructive shifting. Try to anticipate before you're under full load on a steep hill, and if you still need to shift on the hill, try give a couple of strong pedal turns to get a little momentum built up, and then hesitate/slow the cadence so you shift smoothly before applying the power again. With a little practice, it becomes second nature and most people watching wouldn't even know you're doing it.
    Thanks for the help. I was out yesterday trying to change as I climbed, mindful of not stressing, and I get it. Just tricky bc u have to keep pedaling to change but can't put load on either, which is hard on steep climbs.

    I wonder: could I put those Sapim Strongs on my existing wheels? Is it harder than swapping out a regular spoke? I have never tried to true a wheel. I have replaced spokes on road, but never checked if out of round, which I suspect my front wheel is....

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by fahza29er View Post
    20 years ago I was toasting rims all the time even 36 hole rims I was bending, so my wheel builder made me a bomb proof pair of wheels, 4 cross the spokes and do what they call tie and solder. Basically tie wire around the cross point of your spoke and then solder the joint. Basically takes the spoke and cuts it in half so the wheel acts like a 13 not a 26 if you get my meaning. Strong as hell, they never ever warped, ever.
    Old wives tale. Tying and soldering doesnt actually make a wheel stronger. Makes sense that it would but just makes it harder to replace spokes on the road. For a touring bike I'd recommend highly against it as you'll end up having to replace spoke pairs rather than individual spokes and will have no way to solder them on the road.

    Is your bike disc brake or rim brake? If you're disc brake then you'll have clearance for disc brake 29er wheels with smaller touring tires (700x30-35mm). However, if you're touring in third world countries, you'll always be able to find a 26" schraeder valve tube, possibly not a 700mm tube.

    36 spokes on a strong rim should be plenty enough for touring, not many companies make 40 or 48 spoke wheels. I think Phil Wood is the only company that makes geared hubs with that many spoke holes. The new Shimano SLX hubs are bombproof, cant recommend them enough if you're on a budget, they're cheap and really reliable.

    If you're on rim brakes I'd recommend the Sun Rhynolite XL rim, if on disc brakes the Sun MTX31 would be a great option. MTX33 is probably unnecessary for touring.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by GTscoob View Post
    I'd recommend highly against it as you'll end up having to replace spoke pairs rather than individual spokes and will have no way to solder them on the road.
    I see what you mean. Yes, I was all over Cambodia and Vietnam and can tell you parts were not easy to come by. In fact, I can tell you I had a guy in one city in Central Vietnam try to help me fix broken rear spoke wo the lockring tool. It was a three hour nightmare as we didn't speak each other's language. I now have three of those puppies. So no, anything to avoid any unnecessary material or hardware is helpful.

    Quote Originally Posted by GTscoob View Post
    Is your bike disc brake or rim brake? If you're disc brake then you'll have clearance for disc brake 29er wheels with smaller touring tires (700x30-35mm). However, if you're touring in third world countries, you'll always be able to find a 26" schraeder valve tube, possibly not a 700mm tube.
    It is a stock Trek 6900 with Shimano Deore XT M785 alloy hubs; Bontrager AT-850 disc 32-hole rims, and Shimano SLX M666 hydraulic disc brakes. I had asked (somewhere I don't remember) if I could put 29ers w/room for much-needed fenders but never got a clear answer. I am not so sure 29ers are a good idea for touring for the very reason you state, although I carry plenty of tubes just in case now. I hear mixed reports on 29ers. Some say they aren't all that much better. Your opinion is valued.

    Quote Originally Posted by GTscoob View Post
    36 spokes on a strong rim should be plenty enough for touring, not many companies make 40 or 48 spoke wheels. I think Phil Wood is the only company that makes geared hubs with that many spoke holes. The new Shimano SLX hubs are bombproof, cant recommend them enough if you're on a budget, they're cheap and really reliable.
    So the current wheels are 32h. Is it wise to put $1k into wheels when this (now discontinued) bike retails for $1350? (I paid $400 more for this bike in Bangkok as it was already there and trying to ship one in and set-up (I was a real newbie) was overwhelming given I had made a rash and unplanned decision to go on trip....

    Is it smart to buy new wheels or look for a comparable bike with better hubs and more holes? Does one even exist?

  17. #17
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    Look at something like the surly troll (26") or the Surly ogre ( 29" ) for touring. I 'm 245 lbs and like my 1x1 and Karate Monkey from them. Both are burly steel bike set up for touring with eyelets and multiple rack mounts. If you like your current bike enough, go with some custom hand built wheels, 36 hole, beefy rims and some what wide tires 2" or bigger.

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