Mountain Bike Reviews Forum banner

28 hole vs 32 hole wheels

11765 Views 10 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  92gli
Hey folks. I have always gone with 32 hole wheels, and never considered 28 hole as I mainly ride aggressive trail or enduro bikes. BUT... I have a new Rocky Mountain Element, and want some fancy/strong wheels that weigh a little less than the standard 1950g 25mm internal wheels. I have been looking at Roval Carbon 29, Nobl TR32/33, Hunt XC Race Wide, and a few others. I have noticed most/all of these wheel sets are shipping 28 hole. My concern is not that these wheels sets wouldn't get along with my Element, but if I moved over to a different bike later on and wanted to bring the wheels, or maybe just hubs to a different bike... are 28 hole wheels suitable for a trail or enduro bike? Is the industry moving toward 28 hole wheels as rims get stronger? Thanks for the input.
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
I would not recommend the Rovals. I don't ride that agressive but I'm a clyde and the wheel build just didn't seem up to snuff. We Are Ones and Bontragers have been pretty solid in 28h from my experience.
I love Roval wheels. They break spokes so frequently that it gives me a substantial amount of business relacing or replacing them.

28h can work if the rims and spokes are appropriate to the application. But in reality they rarely are.
  • Like
  • Haha
Reactions: 5
My Specialized Chisel HT came with house brand Stout wheels, 24 front, 28 rear. I'm a Clyde, weigh 240, have ridden this bike for 2-1/2 years, only trued the rear once. I'm kind of shocked these wheels have held up, but they are surprisingly strong, so I guess there's something to your question that maybe the newer 24/28's are reasonably strong.
I'd consider We Are One w/ Hydras, a little more $ vs Chinese options but lifetime rim warranty and made in US/Canada.

For xc/light trail I'd go 28H w/cx-rays. I feel a vast majority of wheel issues are user-error as far as not maintaining spoke tension, casing jumps or slamming rocks and 4 more spokes wouldn't have helped anyways.
The number of spokes is just one factor for a wheel. For example, DT Swiss makes cross country, all mountain, enduro, and hybrid/ebike wheels that are all 28 spoke. They are rated anywhere from ASTM 3 with a 110KG weight limit, to ASTM 4 with a 150KG weight limit.

But if you want their highest rated downhill ASTM 5 wheels, they only come in 32 spoke.

It really comes down to each individual wheel and what it is designed for, more than just the spoke count. With that said, it is cheaper for a wheel maker to use lower quality parts and use more spokes to make a wheel strong. It is all a tradeoff between cheap, light, and strong. I stay away from cheap 28 spoke machine built wheels. But I've had good luck with hand built pricy 28 spoke wheels.
  • Like
Reactions: 2
I used to run only 32 spoke wheels. My current bike is a 2017 YT Capra that I got a couple of years ago on Pinkbike. It's an enduro bike with 170mm travel front and rear. It came with 28 spoke e*thirteen wheels, which were junk. I had noticed cracks at every drive side spoke hole in the rear rim, so I rebuilt both wheels using the same hubs and DT Swiss E532 rims and DT Swiss 2.0/1.8 double butted spokes. It was a huge improvement. The garbage e*thirteen freehub kept loosening up, though, so I replaced that piece of trash with a DT Swiss 350 hub (with 36t star ratchet, also purchased used on Pinkbike). These 28 spoke DT Swiss wheels are the toughest wheels I've ever had, they are simply superb. Also, Maxxis tires with DD sidewalls are the bomb!

Here is an example the type of terrain I ride for context: (YMMV)

  • Like
Reactions: 1
IMO this is a pretty subjective topic because everyone's riding, conditions and gear are so different. That being said, I can give you my own personal rules for this and you can interpret it for yourself. FWIW, I am an aggressive rider, but line selection is one of my better strengths. I've detensioned and killed plenty of wheels over the years, but most of them were from specific instances of bad life choices and not persistent abuse/neglect/gear failure.

I digress... for me it works like this.

Enduro bike:
-Minimum of 2.0 - 1.8 - 2.0 double butted spokes no matter the rim material. (I will pop/break 2.0 - 1.6 - 2.0 and 1.8 - 1.6 - 1.8 spokes)
-28h front/rear on carbon wheels is totally fine.
-28h front / 32h rear for aluminum wheelsets. I've gotten by with a 28h rear on an ex511 in 27.5 size, but I did manage to de-tension, or severely screw up that wheel at least once a year riding in bike parks. So for me, 32h rear on alloy is now my new minimum, especially on 29rs.

Trail/XC bikes:
-same 2.0 - 1.8 - 2.0 double butted spoke rules. I have tried a light weight build with 2.0 - 1.6 - 2.0s and it was ok, but required more truing and baby sitting then i'm ok with
-28h front/rear carbon minimum (I have never gotten a 24h front wheel to work)
-28h front / 28h rear on alloy can work for a trail bike with a high quality alloy hoop. For example, i9 trail S wheelset is a good example of a 28h alloy wheelset i could run on a trail bike. I have also done well with an xm481 and an xm421 in 28h builds for trail bikes

It should be noted that this is where rim quality really starts to matter. For example, I had an oem wheelset on my megatower that was 28h f/r with rf arc30 hoops. I de-tensioned those multiple times in the first year of ownership despite constant checking. This was the first time I had ever de-tensioned a front wheel. Ultimately, I replaced that with a 28h F / 32H rear set of ex511's and I they have been nearly perfect since with minimal truing despite, nearly countless rim strikes. I use these as my bike park wheels and for general local area trail riding I use a 28h f/r carbon wheelset on that same bike with no issues.
See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 2
The industry might go for the 28 hole wheel set because it looks good on paper. It saves 50-60gr which looks great when you are advertising a wheel set. However, that weigh saving is not where you will notice the difference since it is quite far from the tyre.

On the other hand, you will lose 15% on the wheel lateral stiffness and 10% on wheel strength. You can have some fun with the following simulation tool:

In my view, the trade-off is only worth for someone who is competing on a high level.
I still prefer 32h builds for my all of my (non-competitive) riding that can be anything from local 2 hour fun to all day adventures of 90+ miles.

With some number of spokes less than that, a single detensioned or broken spoke can lead to serious tire rub rather than a mere wheel wobble. A couple of folks I ride with have lost one or even two spokes during 100 mile bike races and were able to finish.
OE wheels with 28 spokes on trail bikes has been a thing for years (and speech with their BS 24/28 combo). I firmly believe it's solely to save a few cents in materials and a few minutes in assembly time. Multiplied by tens of thousands of bikes per year it adds up to real money. Most OE wheels on bikes up to 6k are total garbage anyway, they know it and don't care.
For aftermarket wheels, it's just bravado. If specialized says their 28 spoke $2k wheels are strong enough for all mountain, Santa Cruz will say the same. So on and so forth ..
I only build my wheels with 32 and brass nipples. And they last until I want something different or have a catastrophic impact.
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.