We know, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. But there are some questions you might not want to ask your local shop or riding buddies. AASQ is our weekly series where we get to the bottom of your questions – serious or otherwise. Hit the link at the bottom of the post to submit your own question!

No matter what the product, if it’s even a bit proprietary, that means that reusing it in the future might be a challenge. And if you’re like our reader, Jason, you might find yourself with a number of older paired spoke hubs sitting in your spare parts bin that could be built up into complete wheels:

I’d like to know how to go about building up older hubs onto newer rims. Primarily, older “paired spoke” design hubs as you’d find on older Bontrager RaceLites/Rolf’s etc. I am proficient at building wheels (500+), but haven’t tackled these hubs that I have sitting in my bin. I would like to re-use them as the main reason they were unbuilt was cracked rims, but am not quite sure how to go about calculating the lengths I’d need or if there is a different approach to them versus a standard non-paired spoke design. -Jason

To get the best answer, we of course went to the current expert on everything paired spokes, Rolf Wheels. Rolf’s owner Brian Roddy was more than happy to take the question head on, and had this to say:

Rolf: If a hub is labeled “Rolf” it is important to distinguish if it says just “Rolf” or “Rolf Prima”. Our hubs say “Rolf Prima” and we can rebuild virtually any of our hubs. Trek-made Rolf wheels from the late ‘90’s and early ‘00’s had hubs labeled only with ‘Rolf” and for those we recommend that customers contact Trek since Trek made those wheels. That said, we know Trek stopped supporting the Rolf wheels they built almost 15 years ago and any Trek-based Rolf hub is at least 17 years old since the last time Trek made Rolf wheels was in 2001. Based on age, we generally wouldn’t recommend the time/expense of rebuilding on hubs of that vintage. If it is a Bontrager hub it is more recent and I would imagine Trek still supports those and would be able to supply a rim.

Of course, this leads to the question of whether or not people/shops can buy rims directly from us to rebuild on these older hubs. We can do this but we don’t like to for a couple reasons. One, we have tried to keep ourselves separate from the Trek-made wheels. Secondly, we pride ourselves on support and we can’t provide much build support because we do not know the Trek hubs. Trek hubs have different pitch circle diameters, flange spacing, spoke hole spacing, nipples etc., and while we can provide spoke length specs for Rolf Prima wheels, hubs and rims, we can’t do the same for Trek-made wheels. We can give you estimates of lengths but you’ll be trial building to dial it in.

TL/DR? Check to see if it is a Rolf Prima hub. If yes, call us and we’ll give you some options. If it just says Rolf or Bontrager, call Trek. If you get no where, call us. If we have a rim that works for you, we would be happy to help, but unfortunately we’ll only be able to give you estimates for lengths building on Trek hubs.

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  1. Crash Bandicoot on

    Don’t those Rolf Bontrager/Trek hubs fail all the time? Cannot see why anyone would want to put them in a wheels when Shimano hubs can be had for so cheap

    • suede on

      Agreed, I’ve done the reverse. New hub (powertap) into Race Lite rims, but I would never reuse Race Lite hubs. A seemingly high number have broken off whole sections of the spoke flange. Hard to say what the actual percentage of failure is as I know I’ve sold many many bikes equipped with those wheels, maybe seen 8-10 with the broken flanges. Failure rate could be well within normal, just seen enough that I would prefer to just start fresh.

  2. Pete on

    It sounded as though the question was whether those paired hubs could be used with new but regular-spaced rims (as opposed to the oem paired-spoke rims).

    The answer from one private wheelbuilder to another is yes, as long as you’re talking J-bend spokes and not straight-pull.

    Consider the unequal distances between the spoke holes on the paired flanges, and you will have your answer as to spoke lengths. Often just a case of a few mm different than what a regular spoke calculator will suggest for a normal build.

    • Jason on

      Yes, Pete, THAT was my original question and one that was not answered. I appreciate your input on this. I guess the reasoning for wanting to build these “old” hubs into new rims is that there is nothing wrong with them. Sure, they are old; yes, I too have seen plenty of flanges break; but I have also seen that with standard flange designs too. Plenty of failure items out there, but there are just as many that are still rolling.

  3. Leon on

    Yep, the comments has the real answer. I’ve thought about the same thing, as I’ve got some of the bontrager wheels with the DT 240s based hubs. Way too nice a hub to languish in a box. On the other hand, they are 10 speed, so I’d also need a freebie upgrade (assuming DT conversion kit would fit), so I have to wonder if it’s really worth it…

    • Mike Williams on

      The DT Swiss 11-speed freehub bodies fit just fine and they are relatively cheap (e.g. Jensen). I converted my Race XLs to an XD 11-speed (so I could run a 10-42T cassette).

      Prior to that I just used the original DT Swiss 10 speed freehub and a Suntour 11-speed 11-36T cassette. You just need to make sure the big cog will clear the spokes so I’d guess a minimum of 32T is required (e.g. the new Shimano 11-34T cassette).

  4. Jack on

    I remember once seeing a link on Sheldon Brown’s site to another site that showed how the math for spoke lengths for non-standard lacings, things like using 40 hole hubs with 32 hole rims, and other weird combos. I don’t know if that would help with the spoke length calculations for using paired spoke hubs with regular rims or not.

    I was a bit disappointed in the “answer” to the original question. I hesitate to even call it an answer. I’ll see if I can find a link to the site I seem to remember, if that’ll help.

  5. Ricky Bobby on

    My experience with paired spoke Bontragers has been pretty positive. I’ve run one for a long time on my steel road bike, and it’s held up well, and I’ve seen many roll through my shop with lots of miles on them.
    You can likely get paired spoke rims from Trek reasonably priced and rebuild with those hubs. I’ve been buying Bontrager rims for my builds since they’re inexpensive and durable. Plus tubeless compatible.

    • Loki on

      Thread drift but… the theory is that it’s dependent on which side of the road one drives on. In the USA and Europe they drive on the right hand side and so the right hand controls the rear brake and left hand free for signalling turns and stops (on the traffic side). Conversely the brakes are reversed by South Africans, Australians etc.as they drive on the left hand side (right hand free for traffic signalling).

  6. Dauber Jenkins on

    Intriguing that so many are speaking of broken hub flanges. What about those super cracky rims they were attached to?

  7. Robert W on

    I would contact the Asian rim manufacturers and get a carbon custom drilled rim or undrilled rim and just drill the spoke holes myself.


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