Cliffhanger, $240, custom-built, 36 double butted spokes, rim cracks after 1 yr, what to do next?


New Member
Aug 9, 2023

A year ago I was 280lbs, 1998 Cro-Mo 4130 rigid steel frame, don’t own a car, sometimes 60lbs groceries… I lost 42lbs and keeping it off and hope to lose 60lbs more… but at 238lbs still need a very strong wheel. A year later my rim cracked. Minnesota has bad pot holes, maybe a pot hole. I had it pro built with Cliffhanger rim, double butted spokes... hoping to finally ride with confidence and not keep breaking spokes. One year later, just discovered crack at spoke hole in rear wheel. $240 is a lot of money for me on low Social Security but that was the price I paid to have a custom wheel. I emailed the employee at the larger company in another state, the guy in that company who actually built my wheel. Before he called Velocity (they make the Cliffhanger rims) about a warranty deal he asked me the following:

What tire size are you using? 26 inch 2.0 Marathon Plus in summer, 1.9 Marathon studded tire 240 studs in winter

What tire pressure do you normally use? 55lbs

How much weight, rider & gear? (example: let me know if it’s normally 20lbs gear with ‘X’ amount of trips with 50lbs) I weigh 240lbs. Usually about 20lbs or total weight of 260 whenever I'm not hauling groceries, but when I get groceries sometimes 60lbs or with my weight a total of 300 and that's only some grocery runs. In winter I'll make the 60lb runs because of the weather and in one year probably 10 times hauling 60lbs since July 2022, all the other days count around 10 times carrying 45lbs about 10 times the past year and the rest of the times 20lbs all with my same personal weight of 240.

About how many miles do you have on the wheel? For a year with an average of 75 miles per week is about 3,900 miles.

Have you ever had it retensioned? I don't think so but had flats into various shops in the past year and I think they would check but not sure. I took it to a pro wheel builder too with the crack a few days ago and he checked tensions and all fine. In June after I fell off my bike a local pro builder through a local shop did a slight alignment to my rear wheel, although he was humored I brought it with such a slight misalignment and in a few minutes trued it and didn't charge me. It appeared he checked all tensions and it was fine. He mainly works for a local nationally known wheel builder, a company that does high end wheels for shops to fulfill their alignments and wheel building needs, but the company he mainly works for doesn't serve regular customers like me. He works 2 hrs a day twice a week for a very nice shop I go to sometimes, thus I was able to have him inspect my wheel.

Thanks for looking into it.


Individual builder in company emailed back:


Velocity said that with the use that you put your bike through, the rims (especially the rear) will eventually crack from metal fatigue. They will send a rim to me at no charge. To cover my out of pocket costs for shipping, spoke nipples, etc I’ll need to charge you 75.00

This will be re-using your existing spokes & hub. I’ll want you to remove the cassette, tire/tube and the quick release skewer before shipping.

OR I can just ship the rim to you & you can have your local mechanic replace the rim, at no charge.

If you want to have me do the repair, I can email a return shipping label to you if you have a way to print one.


You'll notice he said, “I can just ship the rim to you & you can have your local mechanic replace the rim, at no charge.”

I wondered and thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask, please see my return email to him… I would like to know if my following email was “fair” to ask, or was I being unreasonable? I’m of course asking after I sent the email, but just wondering and also any advice. Every point I make is important and hope you have time to read it, but my most important point of all… I say “asking just in case.” as I didn’t want to make him angry if he thinks I’m not fair. It’s mainly about when he said the charge would be $75, but the rest is important to me too...

Hi _______!

Does this mean I need a stronger rim as it sounds like it's just going to crack again, or is a 40 spoke rim stronger? If it was a fluke I'd go with the same rim, just asking.

Would they send a better stronger maybe different upgrade kind of rim as a no charge replacement? Again just in case asking and if not I'd go with the same rim again.

Do a lot of bicyclists tour with that rim? I plan to right away go on a 1,500 to 2,000 mile trial trip, then next fall or winter start on my around the world journey as my bucket list and start riding for South America and then to Africa etc. just cheaper countries on my low income Social Security.

If they do have a stronger rim could I use the same spokes, and if not would Velocity send the right spokes too?

How can the local mechanic replace the rim at no charge as he assumes to me in his email? Who would pay a local mechanic for the work, Velocity?

Isn't it where your company was the original purchaser and would it then be rebuilt at no charge instead of $75, or Velocity pay you the $75? If not I'll pay you, asking just in case.

I don't have a printer but I would just go to the public library for the shipping label. That would be a paid label for shipping the hub and spokes and nipples to you, right?.

Also if I take the wheel apart am I supposed to do it in a graduated way or can I just take out a spoke at a time and work my way around the wheel?


I’m worried I might have made him angry. It was the $75 he wants me to pay him or he says to have that local mechanic build it for nothing. I don’t know why he thinks the local builder would do it for nothing and wondering why he doesn’t do it for nothing since the wheel he built cracked.

What if I had him send the new rim to me and I just removed spokes and hub off original wheel and laced them on the new rim and then had a local mechanic true it? Would it be better I had one of those companies that have an automated truing machine do it to even tension and even better than a fallible mechanic doing it a spoke at a time?

Also all around the inside of the rims of both the front and rear wheels I had him build was a strange edge as sharp as a knife. I almost cut my finger putting my tires on. I emailed him and the owner of the wheel building company he works for and both wrote back saying that sharp edge was normal and said to call Velocity and ask them. I called Velocity and the secretary wouldn’t transfer me to one of their technicians etc and said that sharp edge was normal. I was at a local shop that was repairing my flat tire and asked about it. The mechanic said that sharp edge is definitely not normal. He took a wheel down, a Velocity Cliffhanger they sell, and showed me there was absolutely no knife-sharp edge anywhere. He said definitely call the company about it. Since I already had and faced the same circular situation I never called… then after that about a month later my rim cracked and the rest of the story…

Any input I’d greatly appreciate!


A year ago, I weighed 280lbs, I have a 1998 Cro-Mo 4130 rigid steel frame Diamondback mouintain bike, don't own a car, and occasionally carry 60lbs of groceries. I lost 42lbs, aiming for a further 60lbs weight loss. Despite reaching 238lbs, I still require a sturdy wheel. A year later, my Cliffhanger rim-built wheel developed a crack. I initially had it built by a nationally known wheel building company with a Cliffhanger rim and double-butted spokes to avoid spoke breakage. Now, a year later, I've found a crack near a spoke hole in the rear wheel. The custom wheel cost me $240, a significant expense given my low Social Security income. I contacted the employee from the distant company who actually assembled my wheel. He inquired about various factors:

  1. Tire size: 26-inch 2.0 Marathon Plus for summer, 1.9 Marathon studded (240 studs) for winter.
  2. Normal tire pressure: 55lbs.
  3. Weight (rider & gear): My weight is 240lbs. Typically, the total weight is around 260lbs when not carrying groceries. Occasionally, I carry 60lbs of groceries, totaling 300lbs. During winter, around 10 times a year, I carry 60lbs due to weather; other times, about 10 times, I carry 45lbs, and the rest of the time, it's 20lbs, all with my weight of 240lbs.
  4. Mileage on the wheel: Approximately 3,900 miles in a year, averaging 75 miles per week.
  5. Retensioning: I'm uncertain but various bike shops may have checked tensions during the past year. Recently, a pro wheel builder inspected it and confirmed tensions were fine. He also did a slight alignment in June after a bike fall.
Appreciate your assistance in investigating the issue.

Best regards,



Velocity said that with the use that you put your bike through, the rims (especially the rear) will eventually crack from metal fatigue. They will send a rim to me at no charge. To cover my out of pocket costs for shipping, spoke nipples, etc I’ll need to charge you 75.00

This will be re-using your existing spokes & hub. I’ll want you to remove the cassette, tire/tube and the quick release skewer before shipping.

OR I can just ship the rim to you & you can have your local mechanic replace the rim, at no charge.

If you want to have me do the repair, I can email a return shipping label to you if you have a way to print one.



In a prior email, he mentioned, "I can just ship the rim to you & you can have your local mechanic replace the rim, at no charge."

I thought it wouldn't hurt to inquire. Please see my follow-up email below. I'm wondering if my response was reasonable or not. The main focus is asking "just in case," so as not to upset him if he finds my inquiry unfair. My main concern is about the $75 charge, but the other points are essential too.

Hi _______!

Does this mean I need a stronger rim, or would a 40 spoke rim be stronger? If it was a fluke, I'd consider the same rim. Could they send a stronger, possibly upgraded rim for free? Again, just asking; if not, I'd stick with the same rim. Is the rim commonly used by touring bicyclists? I plan a 1,500 to 2,000 mile trial trip, then a world journey through affordable countries on my limited Social Security income.

If a stronger rim requires new spokes, would Velocity provide the right ones? Regarding the local mechanic's no-charge replacement, who covers the cost? Velocity? Isn't your company the original purchaser? Shouldn't it be rebuilt at no cost, or would Velocity pay the $75? I'm willing to pay if needed. For the shipping label, I can visit the library. Is this a paid label for sending the hub and spokes to you?

Also, for disassembling the wheel, should I take it apart progressively or is it okay to remove spokes one by one?


So I'm concerned about making him angry, particularly about the $75 he wants me to pay him, or he says to have the local mechanic do it for free. I don't understand why he assumes the local builder would work for free. Why doesn't he address this since the wheel he built cracked?

If he sends the new rim, could I transfer spokes and hub myself and have a mechanic true it? Or should I use an automated truing machine from a big wheel building company do the final trueing?

Additionally, both original wheels they built had sharp knife-like edges inside. I was told it's normal, but a local mechanic disagreed. He showed a Cliffhanger rim, proving there should be no sharp edge. I never called back after the circular response from the builder and from Velocity saying the sharp edge is normal... and then the rim cracked a month later.

Any insights would be greatly appreciated!

I think your builder meant if he is ONLY going to ship you the replacement rim and do nothing else, he won't charge you anything.

But your local mechanic would still charge you for labor and replacement parts.

Rephrasing, maybe this is what he really meant to say:

OR I can just ship the rim at no charge & you can have your local mechanic replace the rim.

Ofc, it won't hurt to clarify what he really meant.

They might also be reluctant to upgrade you to 40 spoke wheel as they may not have any stocks of it. It's an uncommon wheel. It may also be significantly more expensive, same for the 40 spoke hubs.
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Hi cobbwheels!

Very nice of you to take the time with my long start with my thread! Yesterday afternoon I rewrote it all more concisely but I can't find an option to edit my own writing at this website. There is no clear "edit" choice. If you or anyone here might know how to do it I'd appreciate any way to edit your own stuff. I did a keyword search for info on that here and nothing relevant popped up. The next best thing to do was to write it all again as another post, thus my #2 post is more concise. I searched in topics with "how to edit my own thread" with no luck. I even went to YouTube and didn't find any tutorials on how to edit at this particular website. Thanks for your input and giving examples. I didn't think of that builder's wording in that way, great! I think though that I made him angry, the builder, because several days pass and he doesn't answer my email and he knows I need my wheel as I plan to go on a long touring journey as a preliminary one before my round the world journey I hope to go on this fall or winter.

Thanks for your help!
Hi Cobblewheels!

I forgot to ask... Is paying the $75 a good deal? If you don't have time to read this I understand. So I paid him $240 to build the wheel. I wanted an extra strong one so double butted spokes and the Cliffhanger rim and a nice hub. He said for the rebuild for me to disassemble the wheel, save the spokes and the hub (Shimano Deore XT) but not the nipples, and mail that to him. He will charge $75 parts and labor. So parts would be the nipples. Why does he not want the nipples?

I'm surprised he's doing anything as the wheels he built, the rear with the crack, a year ago, and the front two years ago, both front and rear at $240 each both have inside the rim a knife sharp edge all the way around. He wasn't all that nice when I very nicely said I almost cut my fingers on the edge and wondered if it was a defect. He took a long time to answer and said the sharp edge was normal, also the owner of the company he works for said the same. One of the two said to contact Velocity if I'm not satisfied.

I called Velocity and the secretary would not transfer me to one of their technicians and said the sharp edge is normal. Months went by and I had a flat. I went to a nearby bike shop and along the bead or lip (not sure of the term for it) of my tire I could in parts see through the tire and could see the fabric threads in the rubber. I forgot to ask the mechanic what she thought about the sharp edge as somehow she never noticed, just said the tire was old and sold me a new tire (expensive studded tire).

A few months passed, another flat in summer with my summer tires, and this time I remembered to ask about the sharp edge. This time I told the mechanic to look out for the sharp edge when repairing my flat. I asked him if it was normal. He said it was bad and definitely not normal. He said they sell Velocity's Cliffhanger wheels. He took one off their ceiling rack and showed me how it didn't have a sharp edge and said I should call the company. I didn't tell him I already had done that and never did.

So now my rim cracks and I said again to the owner of the nationally known wheel-building company and to his his employee, in my emails to them about the crack and what that local mechanic said about the sharp edge and about the secretary at Velocity and they completely ignored what I said. In a way I feel trapped into their rebuilding my wheel again as I don't have much money.

With the crack it was the same original builder (employee) that contacted Velocity and said Velocity said they will send to him a replacement rim no charge. One local shop said $300 to put it back together, another said $100. The one that said $100 is a big shop I had been to before but the same mechanic is for some reason in recent times the one who works at the front counter and he has not been nice in the past. I don't really trust he will charge $100 as he charged me way too much for a simple job he did for me in the past. When he said $100 I asked if their mechanics have built a lot of wheels, and I asked nicely. He was arrogant and turned the question back to me saying they have a lot of experience adding "why not"?

I only asked a simple question but really their shop really botched installing my fenders, when they told me it would take an hour to install my fenders and to wait. I waited in their store for 4 1/2 hours before they finally finished ignoring me and dealing with other customers who have expensive bikes and a lot of money as they are located in an upper middle class suburb. As far as I've ever seen I'm the only one coming to them wearing old clothes and with a 1998 Diamondback mountain bike.

I paid them a lot for my metal fenders and the front fender they cut so far into to foolishly get it to go under my fork the front about 12 or more inches vibrated and a crack formed and it fell off. Their arrogant front bench mechanic said they wouldn't replace it with the original manufacturer's fender (A Portland Design Works expensive metal fender), that he'd just replace it with whatever he might find. So now with the wheel rebuild I just feel I'm trapped in a way and will go with that company that originally built my wheel but wondering if you think I was okay in my email to them, meaning sounding reasonable, and if $75 is fair in my case or not. You can be objective with me if you think I wasn't reasonable. Again I understand if you don't have time.