Featured photo for Broken Rolf Wheel
Photo: Steve Wickland

Broken Rolf Wheel

“I was working on the bike today,” my friend Steve wrote me, “and I thought of you. Not in a good way either.”

I laughed out loud. What had I done this time?

Apparently, even though I had moved to Colorado, my knack to mysteriously inflict complete structural failure on seemingly solid, indestructible mechanical parts remained with the Tri-City Triathlon Club. Only this time, it was transferred to Steve.

How did I get this reputation, you might ask. I guess it goes back to college in ME130, a class regarding the theory of internal combustion engines. In that course, I was accidentally breaking tools left and right bewildering even our professor, who for some reason did not eject me from the lab. (Click here for the full story.)

Anyhow, back to Steve’s incident. He explained,

I remember coming down Mt. Hamilton 4 or so months ago and felt a shake in the rear of the bike. I checked the wheel at home on the stand and could see a wobble in the rim. I was surprised but figured that I would get it straightened at some point. I rode it 6 or 7 times after that. I took it off the bike tonight and pulled off the tire and was going to take it in as I am not sure about truing of the Rolf wheels.

What Steve saw after inspecting the wheel was not exactly what he expected.

I am really surprised! I am in the 160 lbs. range and probably can’t get much over 250 watts peak. It shouldn’t have failed. I checked the rim for any dings; I thought maybe with a flat it could get a solid hit, but it looks fine.

Please see the photos below for the failure point (click on them to enlarge):

... a pronounced crack in the hub!
Photo: Steve Wickland
A closer view of the crack in the hub.
Photo: Steve Wickland

Commentary: This is the first time I have ever seen a hub cracking like Steve’s, although I have heard that some hub flanges can be really stressed in the case of radially laced wheels. (From the photos, Steve’s wheels had a spoke pattern of at least 1-cross, if not 2-cross.) Like Steve, I would have expected the rim to be damaged or the spokes breaking before the hub did. This is not to conclude that “Rolf wheels must be crap,” although this is probably not the greatest testament to their durability!

Steve continued,

Rolf Prima as they are now called say they were contracted to Trek between 1996 and 2001 so they have nothing to do with those wheels. [Steve’s were probably built in 2000 or 2001.] You must contract Trek for any warrantee, repairs or the kiss off.

It just shows you that even a top of the line wheel fail.

It also shows that I am not the only one breaking bike parts anymore. You can check out more photos of broken bicycle parts here.

Photos not created by Felix Wong may be subject to copyright.
Steve took his Rolf wheel off of his Kestrel to check its alignment.  Upon closer inspection he was surprised to see... Photo: Steve Wickland.
Photo: Steve Wickland
Steve took his Rolf wheel off of his Kestrel to check its alignment. Upon closer inspection he was surprised to see...