As adventure motorcycling evolves, more and more flagship models are running ‘adventure-look’ spoked wheels, usually with an ‘off-roady’ 21-incher on the front, but designed to run tubeless. The Africa Twin is a baffling exception.
These days manufacturers do this because spoked wheels are a signifier of ‘off-road adventure’, as well as perceived as being repairable, lighter, stronger, more shock absorbent and darn cool. Meanwhile tubeless is just plain safer and infinitely easier to repair. On a CRF450R motocrosser running rim locks and tubes at 10psi a tube is fine – the van’s nearby. On a quarter-ton Adv battleship halfway down Ruta 40, getting a flat is a pain.
OEM spoked tubeless wheels
Making a spoked tubeless wheel rim is complicated and expensive but it has been done for years, right back to the mid-1980s Honda XL600M (left), and almost certainly before that. Recent bikes which come with them stock include the BMW 1200GSA, the original Aprilia Caponord (below), Suzuki V-Stroms, Yamaha XT1200Z, KTM V-twins, Triumph Tigers and Explorers (above left) and now 1200 Scramblers. Even Honda’s oddball X-ADV scooter (right) has small spoked TL wheels.The picture above of a 2005 Caponord shows the main ways of designing a spoked tubeless rim. On the rear: spokes attached to an ‘outboard’ flanges. The front uses a less well triangulated ‘inboard flange’ but V-Stroms (left) have paired flanges also up front.
BMWs, including the current 850GS twin (below), run 40 straight-pull spokes directly into the protruding rim edge – there is no flange. I’ve noticed this relatively exposed edge can get scuffed about from stony terrain, although it would take a lot to damage the spoke.
Such wheels can be heavier than same-sized cast wheels. Weight is saved by not using inner tubes, but additional unsprung weight on any wheel is the last place you want it. It takes more force to get that mass turning, more brakes to slow it and better suspension to control it.
You could buy rims from those bikes to fit on your hub, but new, expect to pay hundreds and hundreds. A 21-inch rim for a 1200 Scrambler (left): nearly £800 please.
You could try and hunt down a used set of Honda XL-M wheels, but 1980s alloy has not stood up well to the test of time (right).
You could track down TL trials bike rims, which were a fashion for a while, but they’re made for lighter bikes with no bigger than WM3 (2.15”) rims and which are usually 32 spoke.
Most road bikes run 36 spokes or more. DID 36-hole rims do or did exist, but so far only in pictures (left) or cruddy corroded used ones on ebay, When changing the spoked rim you are guided by the number of spoke holes the stock hub because changing that is a right faff. Fitting a new spoked rim is easy. Missing out a few spokes to make a standard 36-spoke hub use a 32-spoke trials rim is a bodge too far, even for me.
Branded or otherwise, it’s hard to find less expensive spoked TL rims off the shelf. The only ones I’ve seen are in China: Risun (Risen?) outboard tubeless rims in 17 or 18 inches only (left) and just $60 a shot. Problem is, you have to order a minimum of 200 plus units. Anyone for a Groupon?
Beautifully forged after-market Italian Kineo tubeless rims, popular with custom builders. They’re the only ones I know of and for a Transalp will be at least €1000 each. You’re welcome.