26″ vs 700c wheels for a touring bike: The definitive answer

The other day, a group of friends was sitting around talking about mistakes we’ve made over the years.  My first reaction was that we didn’t make any mistakes – uh uh – not us! But that may not be entirely true… Maybe we did make a mistake or two at random points along the line…

As I think back now, I realize our first mistake (or maybe I should say our first BIG mistake) goes way back to choosing our bikes.  In the interest of the almighty dollar, we chose bikes that weren’t the best choice.  I know… I know… You would think we’d know, but…well, sometimes even though you know, you don’t know. We knew the debate about 26″ vs 700c wheels, but we didn’t understand the depth of the problem.

We knew we wanted steel bikes with 26” wheels.  Those were our two basic criteria.  Steel. 26” wheels.  Pretty basic, right?  Everything else we could swap out if we didn’t like it, but those two items were fixed and could not be changed.  Easy peasy – head out and buy a bike.  How hard can it be?


The tandem, due to its special sizing, had to be custom built so we had it built to spec and got it the way we wanted.  Davy’s and my bikes, however, were not so easy.

The situation has changed now, so Americans buying a touring bike today will not face this dilemma, but in 2008 when we were buying our bikes there were no large size touring bikes with 26” wheels available in the USA.  Trust me – I looked.   I made phone calls; I researched online.  I contacted bike shops and posted on forums.  I was sure there was a way to get a steel touring bike with 26” wheels.  There had to be.

Time marched on and I came to the conclusion I was wrong.  *gasp* Yes, I was wrong.  A steel frame with 26” wheels did not exist in America.  Nor, by the way, did an aluminum touring frame with 26” wheels.  In my size, anyway.  If I had been 5’2” I could have gotten the smaller wheels, but I guess their thinking was that a large body needs large wheels. Or something silly like that. Even 10-year-old Davy had pretty much outgrown the size they were putting 26” wheels on.

Our options were three:

  1. Order bikes that were exactly what we wanted from Europe (approximate cost: $5000 X 2 = $10,000)
  2. Get custom made bikes built in the USA (approximate cost: $5000 X 2 = $10,000)
  3. Buy bikes with 700c wheels (approximate cost: $1000 X 2 = $2000)

Our reasoning was solid and I stand by our thought process today – for the $8000 we would save by buying 700c wheels, we could fly back to the USA and pick up new wheels.  Many times. And we could pick up other supplies while we were at it.  We opted for an REI Novara Randonee for me and an REI Novara Safari for Davy – both with 700c wheels.

Davy getting his bike

For those of you unfortunate folk who are not cyclists, let me explain:  there are basically two wheel sizes available on bicycles.  26” are smaller and typically hold fatter tires.  They are the wheels you have on your mountain bike.  700c are bigger and generally have skinnier tires – that’s what racers use and you probably have them on your road bike.  Touring falls somewhere in the middle.

We don’t need the great big fat mountain bike tires (although they do come in handy sometimes), but we don’t want the itty-bitty skinny racing tires either.  We want the middle ground.

And in the USA and Canada, that middle ground is easy to find.  In these two countries, it makes absolutely no difference whatsoever which size wheel you have – every bike store in the continent stocks both.  They carry spokes and rims for both sizes.  Both sizes work equally as well and there is no reason to choose one over the other for a touring bike.

In the USA and Canada.

But the rest of the world isn’t like the USA and Canada.  The rest of the world believes in 26” wheels. Period. And that was a problem when we showed up with 700c.

Yes, we knew it would be an issue.  Yes, we planned ahead and made sure we carried plenty of spare tires and tubes and spokes.  Yes, we knew that in the event of a catastrophic failure we would have to either fly up to the USA to get a new wheel or would have to have one sent down which could delay us for a long period of time.  We were willing to accept those risks in order to save that $8000.

As it happened, my rear wheel was the cause of many weeks of worrying when the spokes started popping in Bolivia. We replaced them one by one, but my supply of spares was dwindling rapidly.  We needed to completely rebuild the wheel but – you guessed it – there was no way to find spokes my size.  If I had been riding 26” wheels I could have had the wheel rebuilt just about anywhere, but there was nothing I could do with my 700c except keep replacing spokes and pray that I didn’t reach the end of my supply.

Busted spokes

That’s where road angels sent by the good Lord above came to our rescue and offered to bring a box of spokes down when they came on vacation.  We hung around a couple of weeks until they arrived and all was well.

What we failed to consider was this: we would have to make route choice decisions based on my wheels. Although my wheels were functioning, we didn’t trust them.  They had shown no indication that they would fail, but what if?  What if we headed out into the wilds of Patagonia and were days and days from the nearest anything and my wheel failed?  If I had had 26” I could take the wheel on a bus to the nearest town, get it fixed, then bus back out to where John and the boys would be waiting. But that wasn’t an option with my 700c wheels.

We made route decisions keeping us on the main roads with more towns available just in case.

I will say it now: making route decisions based on wheel size is a very stupid thing to do. We had no choice, but wheel size is a silly thing to base route decisions on.

So now we know.  If we take another bike tour outside of the USA and Canada, we will get 26” wheels.  Even if we have to pay an arm and a leg for them. For us, the 26″ vs 700c wheels debate isn’t even a debate.

PS: I should add that both the Randonee and Safari were awesome bikes and we had very little trouble with them.  If you plan to tour around the USA, Canada, and Europe, I highly recommend these bikes. If you plan to head into South America, Asia, or Africa, they are not the bikes for you.


books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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53 Responses to 26″ vs 700c wheels for a touring bike: The definitive answer

  1. stephen jubb April 30, 2011 at 4:37 am #

    could you not have flown to europe, buy the bikes and fly back with them on the plane as sports luggage?

    would this have been cheaper than getting them shipped?

    we have had in the UK for years a 26 inch Dawes Steel (prior to 2008) Sardar that sold for 900 dollars and is good for expedition tourers.

    That would have been 2 bikes at 1800 dollars plus 2000 dollars for air fare.

  2. nancy April 30, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    That could very well have been an option – if I had known about them. I did a quick search of the bikes available in Europe and the only ones I found were in the $4000 range. Although it’s really hard trying to research what’s available in other countries, it’s clear now that I should have pursued that option a bit longer before abandoning it.

  3. Colleen Welch April 30, 2011 at 8:22 am #

    What about the Salsa Fargo? It takes both 26″ and 700c. Maybe it wasn’t available when you started 3 years ago?

    • Zack October 10, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

      @Colleen Welch,

      What are your thoughts on the salsa fargo? One of my local shops has a 2009 and they’ll make me a deal, and replace the 700c’s with 26in. It seems built more for trekking than road…but I’m going to be doing a good chunk of Eurasia and don’t know what to expect.

      • Nancy October 10, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

        @Zack, I’ve heard good things about the Salsa Fargo. If you feel you can get the bike to the specs you want, then just about any bike will work. Have fun!

  4. nancy April 30, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    I didn’t hear about the Salsa until the following year – once we were on the road. It’s possible that it had just come out and I didn’t find it, but I suspect it came out in 2009.

    There was a definite gap in 26″ bikes that year – lots of comments about it on the bike touring forums. By the following year, there was at least one and maybe two bikes out – but that didn’t help me!

  5. Tim April 30, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    After you bought the 700 wheeled bikes, you could have taken them to a bike shop that had a good shop and had them put 26 inch wheels on them. They would have had to revised the brake mounts but on a steel bike, that would have been fairly straight forward, just move the pivots down a little.

    • Steve February 19, 2012 at 2:30 am #

      Yea, cannondale tandems for example, use the same aluminum frame for the mtn version and the road version.

  6. dsepatt May 12, 2011 at 7:24 pm #

    co motion pangea tour bike!!!! made in USA

  7. BALER May 12, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    Not buying it. Even in 2008, they could easily have upgraded the wheelset on their $900 bike for a much stronger 700c wheel. And they could have bought a Surly Karate Monkey, and put the fattest 700c wheels on it their hearts desired. It comes with rear rack mounts, and there is multiple ways to add a front rack to it (added braze-ons, old man mountain, etc). Anytime somebody claims to have the definitive answer, it probably means they haven’t done their homework.

  8. nancy May 12, 2011 at 8:13 pm #

    Baler – you’re missing the point. Yes, we could have gotten “stronger” 700c wheels, but that wouldn’t have solved our problem. We would still have 700c wheels and that was the problem.

    Having the strongest, fattest 700c wheels wouldn’t have helped when spokes popped or we ran out of tubes or our rim started to crack – and there were no 700c wheels in South America!!! The issue is that 700c is not the best choice if you plan to leave the USA/Canada.

  9. jesse May 15, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    A steel mountain bike with a rigid fork is the best option for 3rd world touring. The bike does NOT have to be labeled “touring” for it to accept racks or trailers. REI is a great store, but the employees may not know what’s best for a fully loaded tour. Old steel mountain bikes can be bought for very cheap. Get fitted at a bike shop and find what size bike to look for. Ride on (without breaking spokes)!

    • Reg January 19, 2016 at 11:05 am #


  10. Andrew Kent May 29, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    i’m touring on a singlespeed to avoid the wheel dish.

  11. Anna July 6, 2011 at 5:13 am #

    Would it not have been an option to buy a new bike with 26” wheels in any of the countries you travelled through?

  12. James September 19, 2011 at 9:24 pm #

    Just a thought. I am thinking of a 2011 Safari. If I upgrade it to disc brakes (it’s back to v-brakes), couldn’t I run a 26″ wheelset with discs and keep the 700c disc set for US touring? Because it’s disc, I would think you could just run either.

    • Nancy September 19, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

      I’ve heard of people doing that, but have no idea how it affects the handling of the bike. It seems like it should work just fine, but ask around. That’s an interesting solution anyway.

  13. Erik E October 10, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    How did the disc brakes on the Safari hold up? Were they OK? The reason that I ask is that I’ve read articles similar to yours regarding the use of disc brakes in less developed countries. That is to say disc brakes are fine for the US, Canada and most of Europe but not for South America, Asia, Africa.

    • Nancy October 10, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

      @Erik E,
      The disc brakes themselves are OK, I think. REI redesigned the disc brakes for this particular model (2009) to put them inside the frame so the rack could fit more easily. However, in doing so, they had it designed so water could get in and pool – which caused rust to build up. We had a non-stop series of problems with the brakes and my son went a large portion of the journey without rear brakes.

      I don’t think the problem was the disc brakes themselves, but the way they were mounted on this particular bike.

      That being said, disc brakes are not standard and there are a gabillion different kinds – what are the chances that you’ll be able to find your particular kind in a remote bike shop somewhere? Cantilevers use standard pads that are more available.

  14. Ian December 25, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    Wheels and frame materials are always a hot topic lol. I have a Vivente World Randonneur, Steel frame/fork touring bike. I would go steel framed every time to be honest. I prefer the compliant ride.
    As for wheels……………Well, being a heavy rider, even when I am light { 105 kilos / 220lbs on a good day }, I have always had my wheels hand made. Obviously there is an extra expense involved but in my experiences thus far, it has easily been worth it. On my flat bar road bike, I have a set of Velocity “Deep V”, 36 hole rims, laced to Shimano 105 hubs, in which I installed some ceramic bearings. Been running these wheels in all weather here in Australia for FIVE years with out a single issue RE: Broken Spokes/Buckled Wheels. Built by a wheel builder that once worked for Mavic, these wheels have never even had to have a spoke re-tensioned…………….I kid you not Ladies and Gents !
    The wheels on my Tourer, again, are hand built. Don’t see the point of 36 hole wheels on a Tourer to be honest. Not strong enough. @ least not for me as I am heavy. I opted for Phil Wood Touring Hubs. 40 hole front and a whopping 48 hole rear ! Some will cry “OVERKILL” ! but again, not a single issue with either wheel and I have done about 4000 kilometres on them now. I truly beleive these wheels to be bomb-proof and the hubs themselves are a sealed bearing effort that are easy peasy ro strip and rebuild. Not that I have had to as yet !!
    It’s the old adage………………You get what you pay for really. Cutting costs is understandable but that cost cutting usually comes with it’s own hidden cost that will rear it’s head at the most inconvenient of times.
    I only tour in Australia { The best country in the world imho } so 26 inch or 700c is not really an issue for me.
    Also. As for buying a tourer. I find that buying them off the shelf is something of a waste of money as the components are average and/or not right for the job. I bought my Vivente as a frame and fork only and did the rest myself. Ordering the parts online with massive savings when compared to my Local Bike Shop. It pays to shop around basically. All up, my Vivente cost me AUD$2500 and that’s with Tubus/Nitto top end racks too. Everything is top end on the bike XT/XTR. Off the peg in a shop ? They were asking AUD$2250.00 and the spec was horrible. The bike had road gearing etc etc
    Gone off on a tangent here a little bit lol. SORRY ! Merry Xmas everyone !!!

    • Nancy December 25, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

      I’m of two minds about the 40- or 48-hole rims. People say they are stronger and that’s a possibility. However, they are also hard to find. It’s a tradeoff for sure.

      We toured in South America with 36-hole rims and they were plenty strong enough. My rear one started to crack after 13,000 miles of heavily-loaded touring, which I think is a perfectly acceptable expectation for a rim. My front rim made it the whole 17,300 miles.

      We had friends who traveled South America with 40-hole rims and had nothing but problems with them. Over the span of two years I think they had something like 4 sets of rims sent out – each time at considerable expense. Not only did they have to pay for international shipping, but they also had to pay customs tax in the country. On top of that was the time spent waiting for the rims to arrive and the hassle of finding someone to rebuild their wheels.

      If you will only be touring in populated areas where you can fairly easily find replacements, going with 40- or 48-hole rims can make sense. If you plan to be out in remote areas, it might be better to stick with something that can be more easily replaced if need be.

      • Ian December 25, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

        @Nancy, Hey Nancy. I think with any wheel, you really want someone that knows how to acually build a wheel. With “Factory Wheels”, more-so on a Tourer, you are asking for trouble as they are basically machine built. YUK ! Horrible things lol.
        The guy I use, uses a spoke tensioner on every single spoke and all spokes are tensioned equally. Cracking of the rim around the spoke eyelets, is a sure sign of a poorly built wheel. Far too often, have I been in a bike shop, only to hear the “mechanic” say “You really don’t need a spoke tensioner”, as he tests the spoke tension by tugging @ the spoke with his hand……………!!! Basically, you are asking for trouble. It is this method that got me into having my wheels hand built. I did less than 100 kilometres on smooth black top and the rear wheel went out of true ! Grrrrrrrr, never again lol
        I use Velocity Rims. Have had no issues thus far with them. Am going to, in the new year probably build up a 26inch frame/fork Surly Long Haul Trucker and will be going the same hub route { Phill Wood Touring Hubs are simple and brutally durable ! I have a friend who is in his 7th year of running a pair with no isses at all } but will use Rigida Andra Css rims. The braking surface is similar to a ceramic braking surface but basically does not wear out as it is shot blasted into the rim { hope that makes sense lol } so is part of the rim itself not added on like say Mavic ceramic braking surfaces. You need special pads for these which are not cheap but last well.
        Rims for Touring ? Velocity Dyad or Chukker, Rigida Andra CSS or Mavic A719’s. That is about all I would consider using personally.

        • Nancy December 25, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

          We had Velocity rims on our tandem when we started our Alaska to Argentina ride, but they split within three thousand miles. Velocity replaced them for us, but that set started splitting in less than a thousand miles. In the end we opted to switch to the Rhino Lites and they were fine – no problems at all for the whole rest of the journey.

          Our friends who had all the problems with their rims also had Velocity rims.

          I have to say the Velocity customer service is awesome -they paid to ship new rims to us overnight and paid to have our wheels rebuilt. They even paid to put us up in a hotel while we waited. They did the same for our friends – paying to ship the rims to other countries.

          That said, I would rather use the Rhino Lites and not have any reason to even speak with the customer service people!

  15. Nelson January 19, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    We toured in West Africa and South America (two separate trips – total of 18 months) on 1980’s era Trek 970s with heavily-loaded front and rear racks. Steel, full rigid frames + 26″ wheels, and only slightly heavier than regular “touring” bikes. We popped fewer than ten spokes total, and rarely worried about finding tubes, tires, or spokes. This is still my set-up of choice for international touring where there are rough roads involved.

    • Nancy January 20, 2012 at 10:49 am #

      I also have a Trek 970 from the early 90’s and used that to tour Yemen, Mali, and a year around the USA and Mexico. It’s a great bike and will hold up to just about anything. Unfortunately, the handlebars are too low on it and it’s now causing all sorts of problems for my hands. I’ve raised the handlebars as high as we can figure out how to – wish I could add another three inches!

  16. Steve February 19, 2012 at 2:53 am #

    Like one other person stated….there is no definitive answer here. No one here took into account some other important factors: rider weight, style of riding, experience, bike handling skills, and total bike and pack weight. Also, amount of time desired for the trip. Yea, that too. If you have years to bike around, then, go for a 26′ wheel and larger tire, and tour a little more slowly. Few stores abroad will have 26 inch street specific tires, so, putting in longer rides on knobbies might not be ideal or fun on hard packed dirt, or asphalt. There is definitely some personal preference here, and no right answers for everyone.

    • Nancy February 19, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

      @Steve, I will never head down into Latin America with 700c wheels again. Or Africa. Or Asia. I would have no problem taking 700c within most of Europe, Canada, or the USA. Given that we tend to travel around quite a bit, I won’t be buying another 700c bike – they are just too limiting.

  17. Jim Bond February 24, 2013 at 4:58 am #

    I think you’re wrong!

    The reason 26″ are standard in South America is because that is the standard in the USA.

    For much of the rest of the interesting world, cycle touring-wise, e.g. Africa, India, Europe etc, the good old 28″ is the traditional size, i.e. 700C.

    Carrying a spare, foldable tyre, inner tubes and spokes is only sensible on an expedition. And for most countries, you can always have a rim sent out by DHL within a few days, so flying home for a wheel is just plain silly (and bad for the environment).

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel February 24, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

      @Jim Bond, I haven’t cycled Europe, but spent a lot of time in Africa (lived in Ethiopia for 7 years) and it seemed to us that 26″ was much more common than 700c. Maybe it was a quality issue – the good quality tires were available in 26″, while cheap ones were larger? I honestly don’t remember.

      As for South America, 700c simply isn’t available – good quality or poor. I was extremely fortunate to stumble upon a shop in Argentina that happened to have some spokes to fit my wheel way down in the bottom of a box somewhere – at first he told me he didn’t have them but went digging in his stash and found them. Taking 700c wheels to South America is a very bad idea.

      As for having rims/tires/spokes sent out – yes, it’s possible. However, depending on the country you are in, it could take a LONG time to get there, and you also risk paying many times the value of the item in custom duties. Some friends of ours had six tires shipped to them in Honduras – the fee to get them out of customs was going to be $1023. Needless to say, they didn’t bother with them. I picked up new tires for them when I flew back to Miami from Honduras.

  18. Mike March 10, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    I am currently touring through Central America. I think I would have gambled with a 700c/29er knowing what I know now. While not very widespread I have seen a fair share of 700c tubes and tires. If you get a set of quality hand built wheels you should not experience any broken spokes. I have been riding on very rough terrain for nearly 6 months and have had zero flats, maybe I am just lucky. In many parts of South America road cycling is very popular and the 29er popularity has spread down this way. It seems to me you should be ok going 700c with quality wheels, tubes, tires and spares. Now Africa, from my experience, would pose a different problem but i have read of people pulling it off.

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel March 12, 2013 at 1:40 am #

      @Mike, My decision to go with 26″ next time came gradually. What sealed it for me was the stress and worry we felt down in Patagonia because of my wheels. We all have different tolerance levels for sure, and each person needs to make their own decisions. When I was in Central America, I probably would have said it wasn’t a big deal. By the time we got to Patagonia, I was singing a different song.

  19. Joseph October 26, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

    The REI Safari in 2007 was designed to hande the Great Divide Mt Bike Route. It has 26 inched wheels. Aluminum framed. disc brakes. Cro-moly fork. Great bike I love mine.

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel October 26, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

      @Joseph, And the 2008 was awesome as well. For 2009, they changed it so that it really wasn’t all that different from the Randonee – which was a big mistake. I am not sure what they are doing with it now.

  20. stephan January 6, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

    Well I have yet to get into the sport,but I am very grateful for you’re review.I think I am gonna go with the 2014 disc trucker 26″ wheels.

  21. stephan January 7, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

    Oh I will…bought my bike today :)Now I just have to sell my motorcycle and I’ll be debt free and good to go.I gave almost everything else I owned already.thx again

  22. mike February 28, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

    700c wheel is not the problem! 36 spokes is the problem. i would have chosen a phil wood 48 spoke hub—–yeah!

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel March 3, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

      @mike, We actually had some friends with Phil Wood 48-hole hubs, and they had WAY more problems than anybody else. We met a few people with 48 holes and it seemed that the consensus was that it was more hassle than it was worth.

  23. Tim April 14, 2014 at 12:53 am #

    Hello Nancy…

    I took the plunge the other day and ordered a Bruce Gordon Rock n’ Road Tour bike:


    … I always wanted one, and finally got one. I got the 700c version (he has a 26in version) because all my other bikes are 700c and it just seemed easier to go with something I knew, and that I could use in the US, Canada and Europe (the places I’m most likely to tour).

    Now that I’m reading this blog (and other sites), I am wondering if I should change my order to the 26in version (the “Road n Road Tour EX” – I guess EX for Expedition). I can’t say that I would definitely be touring in Central/South America and other more remote places where 26in is the standard, but it MIGHT happen.

    Then again, I am spending a lot of money on this bike, and wondered if I should bring a handmade, very expensive touring bike on a trip like that, or, instead, have a cheaper (but still good) 26in wheeled bike to use for those kinds of expeditionary ventures.

    What do you think about that, and about the price of the bike you bring on a tour to places where there are likely more theft and damage worries than other places?

    – Tim

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel April 16, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

      @Tim, Good question. We debated that one a lot. In the end, we decided to get good bikes and never, ever leave them unattended. Of course, with four of us that is easier to do than it would be for a solo traveler.

      If *I* was going back down to Central or South America, I would go with 26″. I prefer steel, but I would take an aluminum bike if I couldn’t find steel with 26″ wheels. That said, it’s a personal decision. If you take 700c, just know that you won’t be able to find replacement anything down there.

  24. Art August 20, 2014 at 7:48 am #

    Hi i was looking in to touring around south america in Chile and the over to Bolivia, I was looking at the SALSA FARGO 29er (2014), would having a 29er be hard to find parts just like a 700cc?

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel August 25, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

      @Art, I suspect so, yes. I can’t say for sure, but 26″ seems to be the only size widely available in that part of the world.

  25. Dr. Stephen Wilson August 23, 2014 at 10:19 pm #


    I am based in Querétaro, central Mexico, and have thoroughly enjoyed your blogs. I have traveled all the way to Patagonia, but not on a bike. I admire and congratulate you and your family. I only wish your books could be purchased as PDF files.

    As to your handlebar position problems,have you considered something like this?



  26. David October 5, 2014 at 10:29 am #

    This whole business sounds strange… wheel after wheel failing, to me that says wheel is too close to its limit in load, if you are skilled enough to rebuild your own wheels then why not find a source that has extra heavy wheels and extra heavy spoke made for cargo bikes or tandems that carry 2x the load, and simply live with the heavier wheels rather than carry spares.

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel October 5, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

      @David, I really didn’t have many failures at all! I was amazed at how long my wheels lasted, actually. I cycled from Alaska to Peru on the same wheels. In northern Peru, my rear hub started making noises and we discovered tiny cracks in my rim, so we decided to replace the whole wheel. I feel that 12,000 miles on a heavily loaded rear wheel is a fantastic distance!

      Unfortunately, the replacement wheel was built with really cheap spokes, so those started popping within 700 miles. Once I got the wheel rebuilt with good spokes it was fine – and it’s the wheel I still use here in Idaho now.

      My front wheel made it all the way from Alaska to Argentina and is the same wheel I’m using today – except for having to replace all the spoke nipples in southern Peru.

      What I was trying to say with this post was that we knew we couldn’t find any replacement anything in South America. If something went wrong with my wheels, we would be stuck until we had items sent down from the USA. If I were to go back again, I would make sure I had 26″ simply because those are everywhere. Rims, spokes, tubes, tires…all available.

  27. ertgfrgft December 23, 2015 at 5:03 pm #

    What you should have done is: keep the bike but replace the stock wheels with specific touring ones. Around here, the absolute standard is Ryde Andra 30 rims. Bombproof. No broken spokes, no rim failure, no nothing.
    A couple of hundred dollars well spent and complete peace of mind.

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel December 24, 2015 at 11:06 pm #

      I was very happy with my stock wheels! In terms of durability, anyway. I used the same wheels from Alaska to Peru, which I think is a pretty amazing distance. My problem came when those wheels wore out and I got a super duper extra durable wheel built – but they used cheap spokes. I didn’t know that until it was too late.

  28. berndb March 30, 2017 at 3:59 pm #

    Good write-up and confirming my own thoughts. Even in 2017, I’d still go with 26″ it is the most versatile wheel size.
    Just a question re the spokes – did you really just replace them “one by one” or did you change the ones adjoining each snapped spoke as well (same side, the one ahead and the one behind as an absoute minimum). Otherwise yeah, they’ll definitely just keep popping.

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel April 2, 2017 at 8:17 pm #

      We tried both. At first, we were replacing three at a time, but they kept breaking and we were running out of spokes. Toward the end, we were only replacing the broken one as we tried to get to where we would be able to get more.


  1. REI Novara Randonee: A review - May 9, 2011

    […] I’ve already written about the stupid route decisions we had to make due to the wheel size on the Randonee, so won’t go into that again. Suffice it to […]

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