The number of holes that are found in a rim or hub dictate how many spokes will be used to construct the wheel. The spoke hole count on the rim and hub need to be identical in order to build a wheel properly.
For example: A wheel with a 32 hole rim and a 24 hole hub could technically be built but the rim would have a spare 8 holes. In this example, both the rim and hub need to have 32 holes so the spokes can be laced symmetrically and provide even tension/stability to the rim.
The spacing between each hole will vary depending on the circumference of the rim and how many holes there are. The exact same premise is applicable to the hub flanges. Having equally spaced spoke holes allows the spokes to apply even tension to the rim and hub if the wheel is constructed properly. This creates a wheel that it equally as strong throughout the entire 360 degrees.
For example: If you were to take three different rims with a 26" diameter and 32 holes, the space between holes on each rim should be identical.
The higher the spoke count, the stronger the wheel should be since there are more spokes to provide structural integrity. This obviously comes with a slight weight penalty. Since most bicycles place the majority of the rider's weight over the rear wheel it is common for the rear wheel to have more spokes than the front wheel so the rear of the bike is stronger.
Some common spoke hole counts found on bikes include:
- Road (Rim Brake): Front 20 holes, Rear 24 holes
- Road (Disc Brake): Front 24 holes, Rear 28 holes
- Mountain (Cross Country): Front 28 holes, Rear 28 holes
- Mountain (Downhill): Front 32 holes, Rear 32 holes
- Touring (Rim or Disc Brake): Front 36 holes, Rear 36 holes
Many touring bikes are required to carry heavy loads which can include the riders sleeping & cooking equipment, food and personal hygiene accessories so it's important that the wheels can support the extra weight.
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