• winkybiker

    The Campag/Fulcrum 2:1 rear lacing is the best solution to this uneven tension issue, in my view.

    • A lot of the wheelbuilders I know also see this lacing strategy (aka triplet lacing) as the best way to put the rear wheel together.

      • winkybiker

        Yes. You get good tension in the NDS spokes, and lots of strength on the DS. Plus you get to have the crossed spokes on the DS which seems to be preferred (although with a stiff-enough hub, I don’t really see how this would matter too much).

        I like having 11 speeds, but not much more than I liked having 10. I kind-of wish that the standard was to use the narrower cog spacing for less dish and stronger wheels, rather than for the extra ratio.

        One of the downsides of the big-flange/spoke-head-to-the-inside strategy is that the rear mech is just that bit closer to the spokes. This doesn’t matter 99.9% of the time, until it does. Say, after a crash, or even if you just drop your bike on the DS, slightly bending the hanger. Then it can matter a lot if you don’t check before shifting to the largest sprocket.

        • Bobby Sweeting

          There’s no doubt that we run a tight clearance! It’s roughly 1.5mm in the “worst case scenario,” which is a SRAM Red drive train in the 53×28. It certainly doesn’t rub, but we wanted to get that bracing angle as wide as possible!

  • Eat More Lard

    What a world we live in eh? “lawsuit was brought against the two by a Californian cycling club. Sweeting had overlooked the importance of the club’s rights to the name “Alto Velo” when deciding on a name for the company. The complaint was eventually settled however the racing team had to be scrapped at short notice.” What happened to the days when we just had a conversation and worked things out. Lawyers, courts? This benefited precisely no-one, except the lawyers of course…

    • RayG

      Must have been Mike Sinyard’s club.

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    • Mark

      In this day and age it was probably a stupid choice of company name… which is kind of the point with wheel companies these days.

      I’m starting to think the barriers to entry are so low, that anyone can grab a cool sounding name off the internet, print some decals, order some generic hubs and rims and call yourself wheel builders / retailers.

      But I take it, that is what the negative comment (ie lots of competition from other brands is about – which by the by, as written doesn’t mean anything).

      • Bobby Sweeting

        I would absolutely agree with the low barriers with regards to starting any company within the cycling industry. If nothing else, it’s certainly dangerous. We try to differentiate ourselves in a lot of different ways, but R&D is definitely at the top of that list.

    • Bobby Sweeting

      You can say that again, man, lawsuits suck. I’m just glad it’s behind us!

    • hornk

      To be fair Alto Velo is an absolutely massive club, the best known in the bay area probably. Membership is really large, and you can’t head out on any of the popular cycling routes in the south bay without seeing an Alto Velo jersey. And the Bay Area is one of the 5 or 6 most important cycling markets in the country.

      So missing the fact that the name was effectively taken is a pretty big oversight. It’s not a surprise they got sued…

  • Dude pedalling

    Just get hyperons

  • Ashok Captain

    Matt, this is one of the best reviews I’ve read because of –

    “However, all of the experienced wheelbuilders I spoke to still worry about the wisdom of using radial spokes for the drive-side of the rear wheel. In this regard, it’s worth noting that Mavic, Zipp and Shimano have all abandoned this strategy.”
    “Before I started riding the wheels, I was interested to compare the average spoke tension for the drive- and non-drive-sides of the rear wheel, and found that it was 120kgf and 60kgf, respectively. I was expecting a much smaller difference in tension (again, Alto claims 35%), but this wheel only managed 50%. For comparison, I measured the spoke tension for a Shimano RS21 rear wheel, which has an asymmetrical rim for alleviating the tension differential, and a Campagnolo Bora Ultra 35mm rear wheel, which employs a triplet-lacing pattern for the same reason. The Shimano wheel exhibited 41% difference (110kgf versus 65kgf) between each side of the wheel while the difference for the Bora 35mm wheel was 36% (110kgf versus 70kgf).
    When I mentioned the results to Bobby Sweeting, he was surprised that the tension differential was so low, but couldn’t explain why that would be.”

    Apologies for ‘copy-pasting’ the text above, but I couldn’t figure how to highlight the most important bits. Without the above, this would just be a sugar-coated review. I’m old school – drive side gotta be tangentially laced. Please keep such reviews coming. Cheers!

  • winkybiker

    The spoke tension differential ratio is an easy statics problem. The rim is in lateral equilibrium, being pulled equally by each side. The tension in the spokes is a function of the effective bracing angle. You need to take into account the longer spokes needed for the crossed pairs, not just think of a cross section of the wheel. Easiest to think in terms of spoke length and distance from wheel centre-line of source. If it is calculated properly, there should be no surprises when measuring the tensions.

    I practice, the wheel is elastic and spoke tensions vary wildly during riding. That’s a much harder thing to figure out, but paradoxically, the lower tensions on the NDS seem to cause more breakage than the more highly stressed spokes on the DS, presumably due to cyclic loading.

    • velocite

      Agreed, about the statics problem. I just measured a wheel of mine with a tape measure, so pretty rough. After a little trig, I work out that the non-drive side spokes are at 9.16 degrees to the diameter and the drive side at 4.36 degrees. I did assume that the rim was centered between the dropouts. Given that lateral equilibrium requirement the ratio of the drive to non-drive spoke tensions should be the ration between the sines, which is 0.23 or thereabouts. But given that there are twice as many drive side spokes, the ratio between the tensions would be more like 0.46, ie the non-drive side tensions would be 46% of the drive side tensions. Based on measuring the pitch of a plucked spoke using an app on my phone, this is not far off! It’s my non-drive spokes that are radial, but I don’t think that will affect things much.

      So, I can’t see how you can get a surprising spoke tension. Also, given that the angle of the drive side spokes to the diameter is so small, increasing the drive side flange would not increase the angle much, so not result in much of a tension reduction – if that was in fact the design goal.

      And Matt, your text is a bit confusing in parts. If the measured tensions are 60 and 120 and the difference is 50%, that’s clearly the proportion that the non-drive tension is of the drive tension. But at the top you say that Alto claims that the drive side is 35% more than the non-drive side. Also, you said that Sweeting was surprised that the differential was so low. Did you not mean high?

      • Thanks for the feedback @velocite:disqus I’ll have a go at cleaning up my expression now.

      • Bobby Sweeting

        There are quite a lot of variables that go into the material science of wheel manufacturing. Unfortunately it isn’t just hub geometry alone. We have to assess the heat treatment variances, material grain structure, carbon modulus, laminate structure, etc. If any of those processes were manipulated by a worker on accident or were out of tolerance, it will effect the spoke tension. Matt’s finding were much different than our builders find day-to-day, so it’s important that we find out exactly what the issue was!

  • Bobby Sweeting

    Thanks for the review, Matt! I love the great dialogue here, and definitely want to talk more about the spoke tension balance on our wheels. We tested many, many different lacing patterns, and settled on the radial/2x system for a few reasons. Mainly the fact that it does help to balance spoke tension. As a spoke becomes more tangential to the torque tube, more tension is require to dish the wheel. This means more tension required by the non-drive side, and a more balanced system. We believe many brands went away from this design in order to pursue better torsional stiffness and reduced “wind up” during accelerations. But in our testing we found that there to be almost zero torsional deflection in the torque tube during acceleration, which means the load is transferred equally between the drive and non-drive spokes. The improved lateral balance not only decreased side-to-side deflection at the rim, it actually improved torsional stiffness as well (albeit by a negligible amount). As for why this particular demo set didn’t show a better tension balance for Matt? I honestly have no idea! We have to cut it open and see exactly what caused this inconsistency, but I’m sure that whatever we find will help us to continue dialing in on every aspect of our design and manufacturing!

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    • FLater Rider

      I have a question Bobby.
      How come every time I hop on eBay I see the
      exact same rims profiles that you guys have? It looks like I can buy the
      rims for about $140, what’s up with that?

      Also, I am confused on
      your claims better spoke tension on the non drive side making for a
      stiffer wheel? Can you elaborate on how spoke tension affects the wheel

      • Bobby Sweeting

        I can assure you that our rims can’t be bought as an open mold product, simply because Topkey does not sell open mold products. You’re welcome to call them and ask, but unless you provide the 3D model and FEA, they won’t make anything for you. Regarding the spoke tension, it’s essentially an optimization problem that relates multiple variables, including spoke tension balance, flange diameter, flange spacing, etc. It’s incorrect to say that a more balanced spoke tension will result in less lateral rim deflection, because it would be very easy to shorten the center to non-drive flange distance and achieve perfect 50/50 tension balance. But the wheel would perform poorly. Likewise, a super wide flange spacing allows the non-drive tension to drop so dramatically that all of the structural integrity of the wheel lies with the drive spokes. This also creates a lot of rim deflection. The proper geometry is somewhere in between, which does create a more even tension, and is precisely what we’ve done. If you’re interested in the Matlab code used to program it, I’d be happy to share some segments.

        • FLater Rider

          So, if your stuff is not open mold. . .why does it have the exact same shapes as all the rims that were around from Dengfu and such in 2013?

          Not to be a Negative Nancy, but the fact that open mold Chinese rim companies are selling your exact shaped rims (you even used to have the exact same rim cross section images on your website until you recently changed them), and had them around a couple years before you opened up shop kind of makes it hard for me to believe that you went through the 3D model, FEA and had them make new molds specifically for you.

          In fact in the BikeRumor article from when you launched you claimed :

          “Alto Velo ended up at major Asian rim manufacturer that met those needs,
          which allowed them to save costs by using an existing mold while
          they specified the layup, which is what really dictates the ride
          quality. Sweeting said at some point they’ll likely open up their own
          tooling, but only to save on production costs and that it’ll keep the
          same exact shape.”

          Also, at the end of your reply, it’s not “precisely what you’ve done”. It’s precisely what you claim. . .but this article kind of proves your claims wrong.

          • Bobby Sweeting

            Thank you for being so interested in our brand, I’m more than happy to share as much detail about our manufacturing processes as you’d like. Our 2014 rims were being made at Hodaka, another high end composite manufacturer in Taiwan, using their molds and our laminate structure. But as we experimented with a new EPS technique, centered around a clam-shell mold and silicone bladder, it was amazing how much better we could get our compaction at the brake track during curing. We created that mold at Topkey, as they’re the only manufacturer (as far as I know) capable of that process. Our rim profile did not change, but the wall thicknesses and weights did change slightly due to the new technique.

            Regarding our Solidworks models and FEA, I’m surprised to hear that you find both of those things so difficult. It’s a fairly straight forward process, and Shawn is typically able to run through one design iteration every few days. It takes a while to optimize a design and get it through testing, but the actual modeling and FEA work is fairly quick for a competent engineer.

            Please let me know if you have any other questions at all. And again, I’m more than happy to send you any information directly. I’d hate to have falsified information about us in the market place, as the “dime-a-dozen” brands are killing the wheel industry and we’re working ridiculously hard to create unique products that will help drive the industry forward.

        • Il_falcone

          thank you very much for your interaction here even with some very critical readers.
          Would you mind explaining why a rear wheel with perfectly balanced spoke tension (same spoke angle on both sides) would “perform poorly”. I would really like to understand what you found out about that when analyzing it with Matlab. Or did you even build prototypes to try it out.

          • Bobby Sweeting

            I’m more than happy to chat about bikes! It’s no fun designing something if you don’t get to talk with you customers about why you think it’s special.

            To answer your question, in order to get a perfect 50/50 balance on a rear wheel you would have to move the non-drive flange to a very narrow position. Essentially, the spokes would have to have the same bracing angle on both sides. The issue is that the spokes are acting as force vectors on upon the rim, with a vertical component that pulls the rim inward and a horizontal component that pulls it outward (there is also a 3rd force that pulls in int he direction of the lacing pattern, but that can be ignored for this example). The horizontal component of the spoke tension is what determines how much energy it will take to flex the rim in the opposite direction. So with a larger spoke bracing angle, and thus a larger horizontal force, you get less deflection at the rim. The problem is that if you go too wide with the flange, spoke tension drops so much that the horizontal force becomes less. We called it the “break even” point, and it’s essentially the flange diameter and flange width that produced the larger horizontal force at the rim in order to yield the best stiffness results. So it isn’t all about even spoke tension and it isn’t all about wide flange spacing, the correct answer to a proper hub geometry that will result in the best ride quality is somewhere in between, and that’s what we believe we’ve done. And the front wheel is a piece of cake, since it’s obviously perfectly balanced! But you’ll notice on our disc brake wheels that we’ve incorporated a similar design on our front hub in order to account for the rotor and inherent offset flange spacing. That is the exact same principal as our rear hubs.

            I hope that helps! Sometimes it sounds better in my head than on the screen, so if any of that needs clarification just let me know and I’ll try to explain it in a different way. Thank you!

            • Il_falcone

              Thank you Bobby,
              maybe I should have mentioned that I’m a mechanical engineer and a wheel builder. So I’m very familiar with all (?) the details of that problem. But I still struggle to understand why a rear wheel with balanced spoke tension should perform poorly compared to a rear wheel where the spoke tension on the non drive-side is much lower because the bracing angle on that side is bigger. With regards to the wheel’s resistance against lateral deflection we only need to look at the weaker side of a traditionally designed rear wheel, right? So we’re talking about a situation where a lateral force pushes against the rim from the drive-side. It’s obvious that any measure which increases the bracing angle of the drive-seid spokes increases the lateral stiffness of the wheel on this “weaker” side. And that’s why your approach with the large diameter drive-side flange absolutely makes sense. But if you then combine this with a much smaller diameter for the non drive-side flange and move it inwards as much as necessary in order to reach a balanced spoke tension ( which is identical to having the same bracing angle as long as you use the same number of spokes on both sides) I don’t see how this would affect the performance of the wheel. Ultimately you would reach the same lateral stiffness on both sides but with equal spoke tension on both sides which reduces some fatigue (and noise) problems that occur with many rear wheels where the non drive-side spoke tension is much lower than on the drive-side.

  • Il_falcone

    With so much thought going into the design of the hub it’s even more disappointing to see them use such bad skewers. If you don’t have the budget to add some decent and safe skewers (which don’t have to be very expensive) to your wheelset then sell them without skwewers. But don’t sell them with a design which has proven to create little clamping forces, thus causing a lot of creaking in rear wheels and becomes outright dangerous when the plastic thrust washer finally gives up.

    • This is a great point @Il_falcone:disqus and one that I really should have included in my review. However, the majority of wheels from small brands come with this kind of external cam skewer, so I’ve given up on repeating myself.

      It’s interesting to note that while Shimano, Campagnolo/Fulcrum and Mavic typically supply decent internal cam skewers with their wheelsets, premium hubs (eg. Chris KIng, White Industries, DT Swiss) overlook the skewers altogether, so buyers opting for custom-built wheels are left to ponder a pretty bland aftermarket. The development of aftermarket skewers seems to be driven by weight or cost, neither of which makes much sense given their importance to the rider (ie keeping the wheels on the bike).

      • Il_falcone

        Right, those skewers are a consistent nuisance since 25 years. And although everyone in the industry should know by now how flawed they are, they are still in production. I’m mystyfied why product managers don’t choose the only marginally more expensive internal cam versions made by companies like KT and others which are offered to OEMs for a few dollars. Customers don’t seem to pay enough attention. That’s where you guys come into the equation. Although it seems to be a really hard nut to crack keep critizising them so that more customers know what they are about to buy when they see those skewers.

    • Bobby Sweeting

      We appreciate the feedback! We test our parts extensively and I must say that we’re happy with the performance of our current skewers. You’re right that nylon is not as robust as a metal cam, but much of the skewer market is driven by price and weight. It’s tough to convince customers otherwise! That being said, we’re always looking to make the most robust part possible without everything becoming super heavy or breaking the bank. It’s a fine balance, no doubt about it!

      • Il_falcone

        these skewers https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/029163287ed3f4c90c4ca3ae9190745f26f47302e0670e938dc9ab96884a8aba.jpg
        cost less than $6 when buying them from the manufacturer in Taiwan. And while they are no Campy skewers they work great and reliable and don’t loose their tension due to heat and after some time. And I’m sure their 60 g weight (per piece) is only marginally more than what your skewers weigh.
        My point is: In the wheel market with already myriads of options it’s hard to believe a new brand emphasizes quality and wants to improve wheel design if they sell skewers like those with their wheels.

        • Bobby Sweeting

          We appreciate your input! We’ll continue with our internal testing and data to determine proper skewer design and manufacturing.

          • Spider

            just drop the skewers!!!! tell the customers to go over to fairwheelbikes – read the skewer tests and buy what rocks their boat! Shimano for the engineers, Tune for the weight weenies!


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