Spoke wheels work on the simple principle of tension. The spokes or wires on the wheel going all crisscross is nothing but the steel wires creating a tension on the wheel rim. This helps the wheel keep its shape and even take on load on itself. This is how the tyres are able to stay on and take the load of the bike. Earlier there were no tubeless tyres and even today not many spoke wheels are compatible with tubeless tyres. Hence for tube tyres, the load carrying capability is pretty much absent. This is where the spokes came into their own. The greater the number of spokes, the better strength the wheel gets. But it also affects the overall aerodynamics of the bike. The higher number of spokes creates a bigger amount of wind resistance. This creates loss of power transmission to the wheels accordingly.
On the highways the spoke wheels are not that advantageous, but where the spokes come shining out over the alloy counterparts is off the road. If you are the off-roading kind and love to get dirty with your bike (pun not intended), spoke wheels are the ones who are going to come to your rescue. These wheels have quite the flex factor with them. This means that when Mother Nature has all to throw up to you, the alloys will misbehave and tend to crack at the first sign of trouble. Add to that they cannot be fixed either by repair work. It needs complete replacement.
But in case of spoke wheels, they can bend and take all the rough terrain they can handle and not just that but handle with ease. The worst case that you might have to face is that one or more of your spokes might not be able to take the extra tension and break off, but overall they can always be replaced individually and you can then keep going further for as long as you want. This is the biggest advantage spokes give you. This is maybe even the biggest advantage that spoke wheels provide you as the roads in India are not really proper roads and hence tend to move towards a bit of off-roading. From personal experience I can very well conclude that the alloys cannot really handle a lot of the broken roads and many cases of cracked rims have come to the fore. On the flipside the spoke wheels can easily take any terrain and do not cause any issues at all. Only disadvantage here is the non-usability of tubeless tyres for spoke wheels.
If we check out all the bikes which have an off-roading nature to it, they all get spoked wheels because it is the only practical choice there. Though with the new technology, it is now possible for tubeless tyres to be fit on the newer spoke wheels. This has made life a lot easier for many bikers. Here the alloy wheels are of absolutely no use because they will not be able to handle all the tension of the rough terrain and add to that the higher horsepower, the alloys are sure to crack open like an egg.
So do understand as to what terrain you are going to be riding your bike and hence go for the wheels accordingly. A wrong choice here and this could result in the termination of your ride a lot sooner than you would have had expected. Ride safe, ride hard and stay tuned to BikesIndia for everything on two wheels.
By: Pratik Patole