Since we started Boyd Cycling 10 years ago, one thing has remained the same in all wheels. We had always built with Sapim CX Ray spokes. The CX Ray is widely considered one of the best spokes on the market and we’ve built tens of thousands of amazing wheels using those spokes.
So, let’s not mess with a good thing. . .right? Wrong.
Well, it took a lot to change our mind, but for the past year we have been testing the Pillar Wing 20 spokes and there are enough benefits to where we just had to make a change if we wanted to keep making the highest quality wheels.
Now, all spokes start off as a steel wire. The best spokes are made from Sandvik steel, and the steel for these spokes is made in the same factory. It’s then pulled, shaped, and treated to make the spokes we are used to seeing. Having toured multiple spoke factories, it’s a pretty amazing and automated process as most places are pumping out tens of thousands of spokes per day.
Spokes are actually one of the best ways to dictate the stiffness of a wheel. Of course the wider the hub flanges, the better the bracing angle of the spokes. However, spoke thickness really affects the stiffness of the wheel; a larger spoke will deflect less and will cause a stiffer wheel. This often comes at a weight and aerodynamic penalty. One of the primary differences between most bladed spokes and the Pillars is the wing shape the Pillar takes. Most bladed spokes are flattened, leaving a very thing cross section that can deflect more.
With this wing shape, and thicker cross section we are seeing less spoke deflection, which builds up a stiffer wheel. In fact, on a fully tensioned wheel, the drive side spokes deflect .6mm less with our tension meters to read the same kilograms of force.
There has been wind tunnel testing which has shown both the Pillar and other aero bladed spokes to be equal.
The big decision influencer:
Everybody hates a broken spoke. While we do our absolute best to get consistent tensions, stress relieve the wheels properly, and use the highest quality products, the wheels are still going into rough environments. Some people are putting tens of thousands of miles on their wheels. A broken spoke is an inconvenience, and something we have been fortunate to keep to a minimum. However, we know it’s something that has a chance of happening. This is why we build with external nipples, and standard J-bend spokes that are super easy to replace.
If we made a spoke change and our customers started having broken spokes, it would fall back on us for making a bad decision. So we tested the Pillar spokes under 4 different pro teams last year. We built all their training and race wheels with the Pillar spokes (and didn’t tell them). Under 40 different pro priders, riding and racing a full year, we were pleased to see zero broken spokes (that weren’t caused by crashes and getting skewers through wheels).
This is because of the new reinforced elbow on the Pillar spokes. All other double butted spokes have thick ends and a thinner middle section (for example 2.0mm, 1.8mm, 2.0mm). On the Pillar Wing the bend of the elbow, which sees the most amount of stress, increases to 2.2mm thick. This adds no weight, but makes a much more durable elbow on all the spokes. This image shows that elbow reinforcement.
To summarize (TLDR):
- Same Sandvik steel as before
- Thicker cross section
- Same aerodynamics
- Same weight
- Reinforced elbow
- Stiffer wheel
We have been happy with the change, and we feel like our customers will also appreciate the better stiffness and durability.