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Spoked Motorcycle Wheels - The Best Motorcycle Wheels

December 30, 2018

Wheels on a motorcycle are much more important for the overall look than one first imagines.  Many hobby custom builders overlook this important aspect. To draw a quick parallel, think about any car you have ever fallen in love with, or even any car you have modified or worked on yourself - aren’t mag wheels in the style, design and finish you like, one of the first things you notice or buy?  It should be the same with bikes, but unfortunately isn’t.

 

The infamous Toyota AE86 from Initial D (or Trueno or Sprinter) with different colours and styles of mag wheels - what a difference they can make.

 

There are two big points I would like to raise when it comes to motorcycle wheels; One, spoked wheels, and two, wheel size.

 

Spoked wheels?  Yeah, they are, in my very humble opinion, the only option for a custom bike. Mag (short for magnesium) or cast/forged wheels (often actually in different blends of alloy) should be reserved for sports bikes only (again, imho).  Mag wheels can be made much lighter and more rigid - which are huge benefits when handling and precision is paramount - like on a sportbike. They also allow much easier installation of tubeless tyres - which saves precious rotational and unsprung mass and provides better feel and feedback for the rider.  However spoked wheels have been and will likely always be, the wheel design of choice for offroad riding - they are more forgiving than cast wheels - they can flex and stretch both radially and axially and come back into shape - think harsh berms, big jumps, potholes etc. Plus they can be repaired and rebuilt much easier than cast wheels.  

 

Another huge bonus with spoked wheels is that you can play around with different rim materials, diameters and widths in order to attain different handling characteristics, accommodate different tyres and also to achieve different looks with a certain bike - being able to reuse the same hub and mix and match spokes and rims (for sizes, finishes, colours etc).

 

Soo many options for spoke, nipple, hub and rim combos - for all tastes and styles.

 

You can also have two different sets of wheels for the same bike - with the same dimension hub - think Motocross set plus SuperMoto set.

 

These are the practical reasons for my love for spoked wheels…  then there is looks. This is much less an objective point and is almost completely subjective.  Although I do think that the desired look that is accomplished with spoked wheels is partly a heritage thing from cool motorcycles from the past - almost all of which of course had spoked wheels.  It is also the lack of visual weight that spoked wheels have that create a sort of light on its’ feet, nimble, elegant look and feel that mag wheels have a hard time replicating.

 

Cool bikes from the past.  The classic BSA Gold Star, with 18'' wheels and a vintage Indian Board Tracker with 21'' wheels.  (Both bikes have even wheel size front and rear!).

 

Onto the second point, wheel size.  Or more specifically, even wheel size.  I will likely offend a few people here and baffle others when I say, odd sized wheels on a motorbike look shite!  Again, my humble opinion.  But check out these visual comparisons below.  

 

Here's the Harley Sportster.  The Seventy Two Sportster to the left, with a 21'' front wheel and a 16'' rear, and the Forty Eight Sportster to the right, with equal 16'' wheels front and rear.  Which looks cooler?  For me it's no question.

 

And here, perhaps an even more relevant comparison, the Yamaha SR250 Special to the left, with 19'' front wheel and 16'' rear, compared to the SR250 Classic on the right with 18'' wheels front and rear.

 

I know off road bikes have odd sized wheels but in this case it just makes so much practical sense that this trumps looks all day every day.  It may also make sense when the stock shocks are rubbish and the rear tyre actually helps with road bump damping a bit - as in the wide 16’’ rear tyre on many factory customs.  But when it comes to built customs, (Cafe racers, bobbers, scramblers, bratstyle bratbikes, street trackers, even street fighters), even wheel size is king!

 

The Yamaha YZ450F beast with uneven wheels front and rear - where it makes sense!

 

It doesn’t matter if the rim sizes are 16’’, 17’’, 18’’, 18’’ or 21’’, as long as they are even in size, front and back, they look damn cool!  There is obviously plenty of logic in this visually - the front and rear of the bike is balanced. But is there more reasons this is the case? It is again, possibly a legacy thing from times past.  But I also venture to say that it is or has been driven by some form of regulations from the racing world - I can think specifically of 19’’ dirt track racing tyres and 17’’ supermoto tyres, plus there is also strong ties to vintage road and track racing with 18’’ and 19’’ wheels/tyres.  In those times, racing bikes may also have had even wheel sizes for cost reasons - it is easier to manufacture items in the same size than in two different sizes, plus for tyre choice and availability reasons.

 

Here are some examples:

 

All Yamaha's, all even wheel sizes, 16'' for the SR250, 17'' for the YZ450 Super Moto, 18'' for the SR400 and 19'' for the XS650 Flat Tracker.

 

Right, now we have established these subjective and objective views about spoked wheels and wheel size, what does that have to do with Jadus?  Well, it explains why we offer spoke kits.  We offer both a 18'' and 19'' front wheel spoke kit (for the single sided drum brake hubs only), and a 18'' rear wheel spoke kit - which suits both the stock SR250 Classic rear wheel and converts the stock SR250 Special 16'' wheel into an 18'' one.  We have developed the kit with Cross Center in Sweden and they offer a custom drilled 18'' rear rim to go with the set - to complete the conversion.  Otherwise, it is completely possible to pick up a 36 hole, 18'' steel or aluminium rim from ebay or any other online retailer selling motorcycle rims.  Buchanan's in the US is one and Central Wheel Components in the UK is another. 

 

So will your custom have even sized spoked wheels now?

 

 

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