We can’t deny that in a motorcycle market like ours, we got close to alloys quite late when compared to others. It was about 10-12 years or so from now that we actually started seeing alloy wheels as common after being equipped in motorcycles like Karizmas and Pulsars. So it was natural for us to lean more towards alloys than spokes. But the question is how many of us do actually know the differences between alloy and spoke wheels, and their advantages.
I bet you will be surprised to know that a spoke wheel is in fact sturdier than alloys and this is the main reason leading to usage of these in adventure and off-road motorcycles. Generally these bikes are used rough, say the dirt bikes literally jump from building heights, and so these wheels need to be flexible at the same time strong enough to hold the bike and the rider together.
Spoke wheels are sturdy, heavy and more flexible than alloys. When a bike lands, the shock absorbing duties are performed in various parts. First of all, the tyres do the work of absorbing the shock, which is then transferred to wheels, then transferring the blow to suspension. If the wheels are not flexible enough to absorb the bump then they might bend and on a stronger blow may even break.
According to road conditions we have in India, all the motorcycles should be equipped with spokes but as I mentioned earlier, we being obsessed with alloys, have alloy wheels in almost all the bikes, including even in the cheapest commuter ones. But simultaneously, alloy wheels are also light weight which helps in weight reduction hence boost performance and fuel economy in a way.
At this time you must be thinking if spoke wheels are this strong then why aren’t these used in sports motorcycles? I haven’t seen a single sports bike with spokes on. Make sense right? But that’s where the alloys come in. Alloys are generally made under the process of casting or Forging (for higher strength), and light weight metal alloy (mostly aluminium or magnesium) are used in the making of alloy wheels.
Alloys are comparatively lighter and when it comes to sports bikes, they are engineered to shed as much weight as they can because it is important to be light to be fast. And at the same time, alloys provide greater stability at higher speeds which lacks in spokes and this being the main reason why sports bikes are equipped with alloys and dirt bikes with spokes. There is one quite a big advantage of alloys, Spoke wheels cannot accommodate tubeless tyres while alloy wheels can.
If you live in an area with bad roads or love to jump off roads on you bike, I suggest you to switch to spokes instead of alloys. Alloys might look cool, but you won’t have to worry about breaking your wheels with spokes on. Not only this, spokes are cheaper, spokes will make your off-road ride better and you won’t need to empty your pocket for the alignment as it will be cheaper than alloys. And let’s pretend you spent your last weekend going bonkers while off-roading and bent your wheels, (in case you have alloys, nothing can be done) but spokes can be serviced quite easily on your nearest mechanic shop.