Author Topic: New wheels for the Paragon?  (Read 603 times)

Svend

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New wheels for the Paragon?
« on: October 24, 2012, 05:08:51 pm »
Time for some feedback from the bike guys here....

Ever since buying my Fisher Paragon 3 years ago, I have noticed an annoying flex in the rear end when giving full-throttle to the pedals, and a distinct and related lack of zip when accelerating and doing short, steep aggressive climbs.  It feels like the rear end is buckling and flexing under the torque.  I don't like it, and it detracts from the fun of an otherwise great bike. 

At first I thought it was the frame, as the rear triangle is not the best-engineered piece of alloy I have seen....there isn't even a cross brace at the top of the seat stays.  But then I started looking at the wheels as the possible culprit.  A quick note to Liam here confirmed that this was worth checking out, so I starting polling a bunch of bike shop techs for their opinion.  All agreed that the Bontrager wheelset that came stock on the bike (Rhythm Comp) is not up to carrying the weight of a 220 lb rider.  They have 28 spokes (lower than most), and those look pretty thin to me.

So the question is, what to do about it?

Replacing the wheels was my first thought, but this can be pricey, and the overall quality of the frame may not be worth it.  I really like the bike, however.  The handling is great -- it has about a 69 or 70 deg. HTA, which feels very natural -- not too twitchy, but still agile enough for tight trails.  And the other components are good (Fox fork; SRAM X-9 drivetrain; Avid brakes).  The least expensive aftermarket wheelset I could find was a WTB Laser Trail for about $350....pretty decent price.  I looked at these in a shop and they are certainly more solid than my Bontragers -- thicker spokes, and 32 count.  If I sell the Bontragers for, say $100 or so, net cost is reasonable.  But reviews on the WTB Lasers seem to be mixed - some good, some very negative.

My concern is that the performance gain may only be marginal, and unless I buy a heavier all-mtn. wheel like a Haven, I may not notice much difference.  FWIW, the Bontragers weigh about 1900 grams the set.

Re-spoking the Bontragers with burlier spokes is another option, and would certainly be economical, but then I am still limited to only a 28 spoke count.  Is this a deal breaker right from the start, and the spoke count is just too low? Or can I make the wheel significantly stiffer just by using stronger spokes (bladed) even with only 28 spokes?

The stock wheels have held up very well, I must say.  They have stayed very true, with only minor tweaks to the spokes to cure a tiny wobble or two.

I guess a more general question is, are all 29er wheels, when ridden by big guys like me, prone to this problem? I just don't have enough experience with different bikes and wheels to know.

Looking forward to some insight into this.

Thanks!

Svend


bushwacka

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2012, 07:05:22 pm »
there is no reason to not get a tubeless wheelset if your going to upgrade. also there is no reason your new wheelset can not go on your next bike.

Currently I have 2 different sets of wheels

Handspun Stan's Flow /on hope Pro2
WTB i19s/laced with Dt swiss 1.8/2.0s on my single speed hubs.

the flow/shope pros 2 could be had for probably 500-600 dollars are future proof in the fact the hubs can be any combo QR/15mm/20mm/10x135/12x142. The rims themselves set up tubeless super easy and weigh less about 1800 grams. which is actually closed to 600 grams of weight saving since you do not have to run tubes anymore...

I could not see the Flows built 3 cross bu someone who knows what they are doing being any sort of problem.

and if your not getting a tubeless compatible wheelset I am not posting anymore since its not worth talking about.






Svend

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2012, 07:23:28 pm »
Josh, you crack me up with the tubeless thing again!  ;D  Too funny...  The answer is Yes, I will get a tubeless set.  So relax, you can still speak to me.  ;)  The WTB Laser set that I referred to is tubeless.  In fact, my present Bontragers are also tubeless ready.  I just haven't bothered to set them up that way (yet).  But I think we exhausted that topic long ago....

In any case, my questions regarded wheel flex -- whether all riders my size will notice a flexy rear wheel? or whether an upgrade was worthwhile doing for a big guy like me?  And if so, what kind of upgrade? A new wheelset? or stronger spokes for the Bontragers?

Have you noticed a difference in stiffness and performance gain with different wheels on your 29ers? Or even the same rims but just different spokes? I know you're a lot lighter than I am, but maybe you have friends who are my size that have played around with this?


epic

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Svend

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2012, 09:05:47 pm »
Good article -- thanks Epic. 

My take-away from it is:

-- 28 spoke count is not necessarily a bad thing, if the Crossmax are only 20/24; it's the quality of the spokes that matters, and the stiffness of the rims

-- spoke tension matters....this is interesting, as I have not touched the wheels in three years since I bought the bike, other than to true the occasional wobble, so I should probably head to the shop and have them check this on my Bontragers....perha ps they have loosened over the years and are just making the flexing worse.

I will admit that the Bontrager wheels are comfortable to ride, esp. with high volume tires.  Being a hard tail, having more cush in the tail is a plus.  But I would be willing to give up some comfort for more snappy performance (if that's possible).

Weight is not really an issue -- my preference has always been strength and reliability over low weight.  I like the feeling of being able to let the bike take some hard hits and know that nothing will break or bend.  For that peace of mind, I will happily carry some extra grams.

I'm not clear as to what difference rim width makes to flex, other than thinking that wider = stiffer/stronger(?).  And wider = more stable tire seat = better control.  FWIW, the rim width on my Bontragers is 28mm (must be the outside dimension), but they look pretty wide compared to others.

I also dug up some specs on the Bontrager's spokes -- they are DT 14/15 gauge, but I have no idea what that means -- are they thick or thin?

« Last Edit: October 24, 2012, 09:09:37 pm by Svend »

LivingProof

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2012, 06:15:44 am »
Just asking the question, but, if your issues are the, rear wheel, why not just upgrade the rear. Maybe I'm just cheap (and I am in such matters) and not at all bothered by mis-matched wheels. My last roadbike had a hand-built rear where the spoke thicknesss was increased due to my weight plus laced 3 cross, and, that wheel just stayed so true over many, many years. Like you, for me weight is not a big factor.


Svend

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2012, 06:37:51 am »
LP -- having a brain that constantly seeks symmetry in all things (must be the German side of my family gene mix), I guess it never occurred to me to just upgrade the rear.   ;D  Actually, I was intending to sell the old wheels -- easier to sell a set, than just one, it seems.  Still, getting just one wheel, and a darn good one, is certainly an option.  Good idea.

Laced 3 cross? What does that refer to? I'm not too savvy on wheel builds and lacing -- I presume that means a method of weaving the spokes? Stiffer that way?

From some of these comments, I am thinking that perhaps just re-spoking my existing rear wheel with thicker spokes might be an easy way to go.  Those wheels have certainly held up very well, given my weight, frequency of riding (about 4 hours per week; May to November) and some of the things I bash into with them.  I've mentioned before -- the trails here are pretty smooth, but there are some that are littered with roots, with the odd rock garden thrown in to make it interesting.  Like I said, I have only had to re-true the rear wheel only once in 3 years; the front maybe only twice.  Pretty good record, I'd say...


LivingProof

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2012, 07:47:19 am »


Laced 3 cross? What does that refer to? I'm not too savvy on wheel builds and lacing -- I presume that means a method of weaving the spokes? Stiffer that way?

From some of these comments, I am thinking that perhaps just re-spoking my existing rear wheel with thicker spokes might be an easy way to go.  Those wheels have certainly held up very well, given my weight, frequency of riding (about 4 hours per week; May to November) and some of the things I bash into with them.  I've mentioned before -- the trails here are pretty smooth, but there are some that are littered with roots, with the odd rock garden thrown in to make it interesting.  Like I said, I have only had to re-true the rear wheel only once in 3 years; the front maybe only twice.  Pretty good record, I'd say...

Svend

Yes, 3 cross means that each spoke crosses over or under 3 other spokes. 2 cross is more common and lighter. It's something you can discuss with a competent wheel builder along with gauge (stress is on competent). Whell building is cycling's rocket science.  If you are happy with your freewheel, you might consider replacing the rim during a respoking.

Svend

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2012, 08:20:02 am »
LP -- I don't think the Bontrager hubs are all that special.  I have heard that they are prone to self-destruction, but mine have been fine.  As for the freewheel part, I guess it's OK...again, nothing special.  Engagement points are not particularly numerous, and it would be nice to have more instant grab when I need it in technical terrain -- there are some short, rough climbs over big roots and rocks here.  But I'm getting a bit nit-picky on that....I'm no high-level rider or racer. 

« Last Edit: October 25, 2012, 09:08:26 am by Svend »

LivingProof

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2012, 09:05:39 am »
Svend,

I did say freewhel in my post, when I should have said your rear hub. But, if you replace the rear hub, spokes and rim, then one has a new wheel? ;D

Svend

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #10 on: October 25, 2012, 09:40:19 am »
Hmmm, now, let's see here... (counting on my fingers, tongue sticking out in concentration)....hub + spokes + rim = ....  Eureka! A new wheel!   ;D

It seems like I need to talk to a tech who knows wheel building and can advise me on this.  Keep the old wheels and re-spoke; buy a new wheel; or just live with it and buy a new bike in a couple of years?  I really don't want to chuck too much money at this bike, as I will probably replace it at some point.  Seems to me that 29er wheels have really improved in recent years, and prices of decent hardtail bikes are pretty much the same as when I bought mine.  $2000, plus/minus a couple of hundred will get a pretty OK rig -- a Kona or a Banshee -- with better wheels than what I have.  Felt has some nicely built frames too....but I digress....




jim-ratliff

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #11 on: October 25, 2012, 09:56:55 am »
a pretty OK rig -- a Kona or a Banshee -- with better wheels than what I have.
And what wheels come on the bike that you will buy? Go test ride one of those bikes, and if you like the way it feels, buy that rear wheel (and you'll have a spare).
Even better, after riding the bike, ask the sales tech what wheels he would recommend as an upgrade to that bike for a heavier rider, and buy one of those for the rear.
From what I've read, good wheel building and tensioning is (as someone said) the black science of bike building. I would buy a production wheel where they have machines that measure spoke tension and radial runout and lateral runout and all that stuff rather than going with a local wheel builder that may be exceptional or may be average.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2012, 09:59:17 am by jim-ratliff »
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Svend

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #12 on: October 25, 2012, 10:27:21 am »
Some good advice -- thanks Jim.  I think I'd rely on the advice of an experienced tech and avid riders who pay attention to this stuff, rather than solely on a test ride in a shop parking lot.  Off-road conditions such as steep technical climbs are worlds away from tarmac.  But, you do have a point -- at least I can feel if the wheel feels mushy under high acceleration torque.

All in all, this is an interesting area of mtn. biking that I haven't paid much attention to.  But I'm finding out that, together with a good frame, good wheels are probably more important than anything else on the bike. 


jim-ratliff

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #13 on: October 25, 2012, 10:38:03 am »
Yes, just finding out if what you are feeling is specific to your wheels or general with all 29" wheels is what I was looking for a way to attack. And a way to get a feel for the potential new wheel.
My experience with road bikes has been that upgrading wheels (and hubs/bearings) can be an amazingly big increase in performance.
"If you're gonna play the game boy, ya gotta learn to play it right."

Svend

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #14 on: October 25, 2012, 12:18:21 pm »
Yes, just finding out if what you are feeling is specific to your wheels or general with all 29" wheels is what I was looking for a way to attack. And a way to get a feel for the potential new wheel.
My experience with road bikes has been that upgrading wheels (and hubs/bearings) can be an amazingly big increase in performance.

That's good insight.  LP's comment seems to agree, if he got a beefier wheel for his bike.  And I assume that this carries over to mountain bike wheels as well, if not more so in certain ways.  Just curious:  you and Lynn upgraded your mtn. bike wheels to Crossmax....did you notice anything different in their performance?  I know, they're 26 inch, so totally different flex characteristics than 29ers, and you're much lighter than I am, but I was wondering if there was a marked change in how the bikes handled or accelerated?

« Last Edit: October 25, 2012, 12:27:58 pm by Svend »

jim-ratliff

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #15 on: October 25, 2012, 12:31:41 pm »
That's good insight.  LP's comment seems to agree, if he got a beefier wheel for his bike.  And I assume that this carries over to mountain bike wheels as well, if not more so in certain ways.  Just curious:  you and Lynn upgraded your mtn. bike wheels to Crossmax....did you notice anything different in their performance?  I know, they're 26 inch, so totally different flex characteristics than 29ers, but was wondering if there was a marked change in how the bike handled or accelerated?

     The main thing I've seen in road bikes was better rolling from better hubs and bearings, and I "feel" like that was true of the Cross Ride as well, but that effect is less apparent when riding easy trails compared to road bikes on blacktop.
Even on easy trails, the mountain bike is noticeably more effort, but only 60% as fast.
     We went from CrossRide to CrossTrail, so not that big a change.
We were also migrating to tubeless with new wheels and some new tires and changing tire pressures, or same tires without tubes and less pressure, so hard to have a "single variable" comparison.
     I think we are 2 mph faster than we were, and I know that Midwif has several times said "Damn, Bushwacka was right about tubeless" rolling easier. But not all of our feeling of easier rolling can be attributed to just one change.

     Not part of your thread, but the Continental X-Kings are a really easy rolling tire for as versatile as they seem to be.  I'm really sold on them.
     We have one ride where we exit the Mortimer Schiff trail from a Boy Scout camp onto a black top road with a half-mile grade back down to the car. Before the wheel/tire/tubeless change my speed was 27-28 down that hill, no pedaling. Same conditions I now coast down at 33-34 mph (54 kph).  :o
« Last Edit: October 25, 2012, 12:43:47 pm by jim-ratliff »
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Svend

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #16 on: October 25, 2012, 12:41:56 pm »
I think we are 2 mph faster than we were, and I know that Midwif has several times said "Damn, Bushwacka was right about tubeless" rolling easier. But not all of our feeling of easier rolling can be attributed to just one change.
Not part of your thread, but the Continental X-Kings are a really easy rolling tire for as versatile as they seem to be.  I'm really sold on them.

Please, I beg you, no more talk about tubeless!!! I will not tolerate such thread drift (at least in this direction)....   ;D ;D

Just kidding....thanks for the tip on the Conti's.  I think their 29er versions are made in China, or such like, while their 26 inch tires are all made in Germany.  Kind of a turn-off, but maybe moot.  For the moment, I am still liking the Slant Six, even in the damp fall conditions.  They bite surprisingly well on all the damp leaf litter and wet clay, and shed the clay like teflon coated.  I may need a new rear tire next season, as the Slant Six on the back end is wearing fast.


jim-ratliff

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #17 on: October 25, 2012, 12:44:44 pm »



Don't get the "made in China" version of the X-King. (or so I've read). All of the good versions are made in Germany. Their "Black Chili" rubber compound is a big component of the easy rolling and long wearing (also the compound in the exceptional Conti 4000S road tire), and they wisely only build Black Chili tires in Germany.
I say "wisely" since the Chinese are not widely known for their respect of other country's patents and intellectual property.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2012, 12:51:54 pm by jim-ratliff »
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Svend

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #18 on: October 25, 2012, 12:53:15 pm »
Thanks -- I'm pretty sure all their 29er tires are made there.  Which rules out Conti for my bike at least.  I'll stick with Geax for my next tires.  Terryl's bike may do well with an X-King on the back end, though -- I'll check 'em out.  The Mountain King looks good too.

bushwacka

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #19 on: October 25, 2012, 04:54:38 pm »
And what wheels come on the bike that you will buy? Go test ride one of those bikes, and if you like the way it feels, buy that rear wheel (and you'll have a spare).
Even better, after riding the bike, ask the sales tech what wheels he would recommend as an upgrade to that bike for a heavier rider, and buy one of those for the rear.
From what I've read, good wheel building and tensioning is (as someone said) the black science of bike building. I would buy a production wheel where they have machines that measure spoke tension and radial runout and lateral runout and all that stuff rather than going with a local wheel builder that may be exceptional or may be average.

honestly I built (my first)3 wheels this year, and was pretty damn thorough. They are on the lighter side of the spectrum and havent had issues with them. Where as I have had issues with the machine built rims of supposely more durability before. The "handspuns" from QBP are hand assembled and then checked by another wheelsmith.  given the choice between my hand built and someone else handbuilt and some mass produced machine built wheel I will take the hand built everytime. I feel that anyone building wheels takes enough pride in there work to not put out crap. 

The things is IMO for most non system wheel there should be only one way to build and that is cross 3. wheels like the Mavic break that must be built cross 3 as they are built with different spoke thicknesses and to a much higher standard.


epic

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #20 on: October 25, 2012, 05:19:42 pm »
The thing I found interesting about that Mavic article is that the spoke tension can actually be quite low on those wheels, and according to Mavic being able to have lower tension can increase stiffness. Very strange, but the Mavic R-sysy wheels use what they call Tracomp which is some of the wheels are actually in compression while other s are in tension and it makes for a very stiff wheel. You can't do that with most spokes, but on the R-sys with carbon spokes, you can. It's just neat how the whole system works together and not always in the way you might expect.

The question about spoke gauge - 14/15 is kind of a standard double-butted spoke. 14g is 2.0mm, 15g is 1.8mm in another counterintuitive turn, DB spokes are actually stronger than straight-gauge spokes wheel being lighter at the same time. I use 2.0/1.5mm spokes on all of the wheels I build. Lacing - 3-cross is pretty much standard, and it means that on a 32 hole wheel, the spokes are pulling on the most metal at the hub, so **** hub flanges are least likely, most manufacturers won't warranty hubs that have been radial laced. On system wheels, uneven lacing patterns can be used to even out tension. For example, on some of those Crossmax wheels, you will see radial on the driveside and 2x on non-drive (as spoke count drops, 3x lacing can become counterproductive).

Conti tires - I just took mine off of my bike. Bought them last fall the German made Mountain King TLRs, and they did not live up to my expectations. I gave 'em an honest go for a full year, but they weren't very good at holding air, needed tons of sealant, plus the casing was too flexy and most importantly, the Black Chili compound did not live up to my expectations.

Svend

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #21 on: October 25, 2012, 05:23:21 pm »
Thanks Josh -- interesting info.  Did you build the wheels yourself? Seems pretty straightforward, if one follows the sequence and is patient with the lacing and tightening.  Was it an economical way to do this?

I assume that you replaced some stock wheels with the new hand built ones.  Did you notice a significant difference in performance? If so, what?

Something that occurred to me is that if I choose to replace the Bontrager's spokes with thicker ones, that the new ones might not fit in the hub holes.  Gotta check on that....


Svend

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #22 on: October 25, 2012, 05:38:58 pm »
Thanks Epic.

I get the gauge thing; the smaller the number the thicker the wire.  Will I have a problem lacing thicker spokes into the old hub? I am going to check my wheels and see if they are laced 3 cross.  If not, I assume that if I re-lace them and go to 3 cross I may need longer spokes.

The Mavic bladed spokes look pretty cool, I must say, and logic tells me that they are radially stronger.  I am impressed with their wheels, too.  My wife's bike has older Crossrides, and our daughter's has 317's, and for basic wheels, they're both pretty bombproof and nicely finished. 

I need to check Zinn's book...I seem to remember a chapter in there on wheels and lacing patterns.  Bedtime reading tonight....zzzzzz


epic

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #23 on: October 25, 2012, 06:02:33 pm »
14g spokes are pretty much the thickest, and honestly what I am trying to get at is that with tension being equal, I don' think thicker spokes will make your wheel stiffer, they'll just make them heavier. DT does make a butted spoke that is a 13/15/14, and it probably won't fit in your holes, it is usually used for tandems and such. If you look in wheel-building catalogs you may see a reamer for making the holes larger.

Svend

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #24 on: October 25, 2012, 09:23:34 pm »
Epic -- a quick read of Sheldon Brown's page on lacing patterns, and a good look at my wheels, showed me that I have a 2-cross pattern.  Turns out that this is normal for a 28 spoke rim.  The spokes do run off the hub at pretty close to a tangent (90 deg.), much like a 3-cross on a wheel with more numerous spokes.

The bottom line from all this seems to be that spoke quality is good at 14/15 ga., and good material, but the spoke count is low at only 28.  Lacing pattern is as good as it can get at that spoke count.

All this means that if indeed it is the wheel that is flexing (highly likely), then there is nothing I can do with the existing wheels to improve them, other than optimizing spoke tension.  So for better performance, I just need to get a new one (or a set).  Or live with it until I buy a new bike. 

Thanks everyone for their input.  Always great to hear from you all and get some objective advice.

Cheers,

Svend

Svend

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Re: New wheels for the Paragon?
« Reply #25 on: October 30, 2012, 07:45:12 am »
Josh, how do you like your Stans Flow wheels? Good stiffness and solid build? Good performance? Any issues? Can they take a beating?

These are looking pretty good, and I can get a set for a great price.  Build-wise they are pushing all the right buttons:  32 hole; 14/15 ga spokes; 3-cross; 1900 grams total weight (same as my Bontragers); wide rim bed; max. rider weight of 250 lbs; convertible hubs.....it's all good stuff....

BTW, the WTB Laser are not worth looking at.  I found too many rider reviews that reported constant problems with wheels going out of true after only one ride, and that happening over and over again.  Plus hub problems.