Plenty of factors play a role in choosing the number of spokes for a cyclocross. In the end, it comes down to personal taste.
Commonly, 24/28 and even 28/28 spokes are good enough. Spokes on a CX bike have a lot to do with personal preference, but on average, these bikes have a maximum of 32 spokes and a minimum of 16. You can increase the spokes to 48 as well if you want. A higher spoke count translates to added strength and improved durability.
What are Bicycle Spokes?
A bicycle spoke is a lightweight, thin piece of steel connected to the wheel’s hub, which provides enough force to hold the rider’s weight. A higher spoke count means more connections between the rim and the hub, which allows for a better weight distribution among the spokes.
Many bikes have 24 spoke wheels or less, which are good enough for a person of average weight. However, if you have cargo or any other additional weight with you, then 28 spoke wheels should do the trick.
Having a solid wheel is very important for cyclocross. If you’re into racing, 18 or 20 spokes are good enough, although having more spokes won’t affect your speed or riding experience.
For the wheel to support the rider’s weight, many manufacturers put fewer spokes on the front than on the rear wheel since the latter bears most of the weight.
As a result, the ideal number of spokes for your cyclocross depends solely on your body weight and the amount of weight you need to carry when riding the bicycle.
Materials of Cyclocross Spokes
Early spoked wheels were made out of wood to support and provide additional strength to the wheel. Nowadays, the spokes are mostly made of carbon fiber or aluminum. These materials provide extra strength to the wheel and give you a better riding experience.
You will also find metal spokes being used, but it is important to know that they can increase the weight, requiring you to put more strength into riding.
Many famous bike manufacturers also often use materials such as carbon composite or ceramics for spokes. However, most bicycles have carbon fiber or aluminum spokes since they are durable and lightweight.
Therefore, the best materials for spokes are those that are anti-corrosion, lightweight, and durable.
Front Wheel, Back Wheel Spokes
The total number of spokes on a wheel directly affects the cycling experience. Usually, cyclists recommend 24/28, which means that 24 spokes in the front wheel and 28 in the back wheels. The load is divided between the two of them.
The spoke count of the rear and front wheels varies. Rear wheels usually have more spokes as more force is applied to the rear. Hence, a lightweight front wheel will have around 18 to 24 spokes, while the rear wheel may comprise 20 to 28 spokes.
For the wheels to work correctly, the spokes need to be tensioned properly. Front-wheel spokes need equal tensioning on each side. On the other hand, rear wheel spokes are asymmetrical and are tensioned twice as much. For a smooth ride, the wheel spokes between the front and rear need to be divided proportionally to balance the load equally.
Spoke lacing refers to the positioning of spokes in a wheel. There are many ways to lace the spokes. The most common way for a wheel to be laced is with 32 bend spokes arranged particularly in a three cross pattern, which means that every spoke intersects three others between the hub and rim of the wheel.
High-end wheels use a two-cross-spoke pattern with around 24 to 28 spokes to save weight. Another common lacing pattern is the Mavic isopulse, which uses a radial non-cross pattern that allows the spokes to bear greater tension.
There are various spoke lacing techniques for racing bikes that allow for fewer spokes and more significant support.
Spoke lacing depends on the use of the bicycle and the amount of weight or type of terrain you plan to ride the bicycle on. Consequently, the best lacing is up to your personal preference and usage of the bicycle.
Better Spoke Sets
If you are looking for a good spoke set, then some working and efficient sets that most people use are:
- For disc road and CX wheels, 24h is commonplace.
- For people that weigh 170lbs, the Bontrager Affinity disc wheels are a good option since they work on CX bikes with no issue.
- If you plan on getting CX training, racing, or gravel rides, then spoke 24/28 with light American classic alloy rims are good.
- For people weighing 165lbs, 24/24 spokes and 2x lacing cross are ideal
- For those with 158lbs weight, 28/28 DT RR 1.1 is ideal on cyclocross
- Another acceptable spoke choice is 32h 3X lacing cross
Not so Good Spoke Sets
These are some spoke sets you should avoid, at least for racing:
- HED Belgium rims with 18/24 spoke set are not ideal and can feel stiff in the corner
- Avoid 20/24 since this spoke set is significantly less, which is especially not ideal for racing
Both of these options can work, but they are not the ideal choice if you plan on racing. For little cyclocross bike use, you can go for these sets.
For the perfect spoke set, you can opt for a 28/28 spoke set, or you can have 24 spoke in the front wheel with a 2x lacing cross on the front and back. This set works for people with an average weight of 190lbs.
So in our opinion, you should either use 28/28 or go for 24/28 to achieve an efficient riding experience.
This article discusses and recommends widely preferred spoke sets. However, at the end of the day, it all comes down to personal choice. So make sure you choose the spoke set that is ideal for your needs and lets you enjoy riding your bike whenever you want.