To Spoke wheel or not to spoke wheel...
Hey everyone. I am starting to put a plan together for a year long trip down the Pan-American highway. I have not nailed down what bike I will ride yet but I was hoping for a little advice on the advantage\disadvantage of a spoked wheel vs a cast wheel on a F650GS. Newer twins have cast wheels were as the older single have the spoked. Is there any major advantage of one over the other? This will be my first long journey and would appreciate any help you can offer. Thanks.
Hi 30 Helensagree,
Some cast wheel advantages:
Can run tubeless which means easier flat repair for simple punctures with plugs.
Lower maintenance than spokes.
Generally easier to clean and maintain than spokes.
Some spoked wheel advantages:
Can absorb impacts better than cast wheels.
Tubes will hold air even when rims are dented from impact and get you home. (Although you can remove the valve stem and put a tube in a tubless cast wheel to get you home as well if you have a spare tube along).
With a spoked wheel, a dented rim can be replaced with a new re-spoked rim without having to buy a new entire wheel.
Having ridden in Latin America and pounded down some pretty rough roads and over thousands of topes (speedbumps) I prefer spoked wheels with tubes. There is a reason why dirt bikes all have spoked wheels. They can take a beating and are easy to repair in a pinch.
If you are a careful rider and stay mostly on paved roads either wheel type in good condition will likely get you to Tierra del Fuego. But if you hit a deep pothole at speed and taco your wheel or trash your rim, it would be far less expensive and easier to find a rim to respoke on a spoked wheel than to find a spare cast wheel for a big bike south of the border. By big I mean anything over a 250cc.
My thoughts on the subject.
I see this is your first post, so welcome to Horizonsunlimited.
Check out the available tyres too. With a full on trail bike it's easy, they all have spoked wheels and you can get anything from a slick to a sand tyre in a TT fitting. Get a puncture and the worst case is an hour with hand tools to get a patched tube in. A 21-inch motorway tyre is rare but you can live with a middley knobbly set up on most runs. Wear one out and every dirt bike shop in the world can sell you something even if it is often a bit extreme.
With alloys you are limited to TL fittings so depending on the bike will probably get a choice of slicks through to fairly knobbly multi-use. You won't get a 17-inch TL sand tyre though.
The F650 single though had an issue when launched. The rim sizes, swing arm clearance and spoked wheels used a TL tyre to get the tread pattern they wanted and fitted a tube to cure the spoke leaks. No one made a TT tyre that fitted as a pair. If you had a puncture it was impossible to plug from the outside or get the tube out using hand tools. Various chain gang members had various torture type devices along the lines of bolt cutter and extending ten foot pole sized things that could break a TL bead but I never fancied carrying them as they were bigger than my tent and heavier than the rest of the tool kit. The only remaining solution was tyre gloop of some type. Basically you were starting off in limp home mode.
I think this has now been cured as Bridgestone and Heidenau do TT tyres in road or semi-knobbly types although last time I bought some I had to wait a while. Check on the Chain Gang site as I'm going back close to 8 years now, I only remember the tyre sizes and have been buying similar for the Bonneville. You won't find these exact selections in many bike shops and may find BMW dealerships are probably still banging TL tyres plus tubes on.
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