Ask Kevin: Which Are Better In Crosswinds: Spoked or Solid Disc Wheels?

Kawasaki Superbike image

Question: I have had this discussion with a co-worker over the effect of crosswinds on different wheel types. He asserts that you will get less effect from crosswinds if your bike has spoked wheels. I have had both spoked and solid disc wheels, and I can't feel any appreciable difference. Who is really full of it?

Jack Frye

St. Louis, MO

Answer: I spoke with veteran motorcycle team manager/tuner Rob Muzzy, who used the PM (Performance Machine) solid disc wheels for a couple of seasons in AMA Superbike (see photo) but used spoked wheels both before and after. Muzzy says his riders never commented on crosswind behavior with regard to the disc wheels, so he concluded that they weren't a problem. Riders, he recalled, did not say, "Oh, those spoked wheels are much better." They, in fact, didn't say anything either way. Muzzy did say, however, that, as bike got more aerodynamic, "there were some comments that they became more sensitive to side winds."

Compare a 1960s Triumph Bonneville with a modern sportbike. The Bonneville is completely open—wind can blow right through it side-to-side, but a modern bike is completely opaque as seen from the sides. Nobody, though, is saying, "We have to return to the thrilling days of yesteryear."

If it's a windy day, I'd think twice about crossing the Key Bridge near Baltimore, no matter what I was riding or driving. Wind velocity, which rises with height above ground, can be much higher up there.

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