Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


More on big wheels

Reader G.K. offered some additional data about buying bigger diameter wheels by writing, “In reading your article this morning regarding tire/wheel sizes, you neglected to point out one very important consideration. For two wheel sizes with the same overall tire diameter, the larger wheel will be more susceptible to wheel damage. For the larger wheel with a lower aspect ratio tire, the shorter sidewall will be less capable of absorbing road shocks than that of a smaller wheel with a larger aspect ratio (and larger corresponding sidewall). Given the sad state of Spokane roads and frequent potholes, one needs to take this into consideration, especially considering that the typical larger optional wheels are considerably more expensive to replace when they are damaged. So it isn’t just a matter of ride comfort vs. handling, but also one of real-world considerations of overall road conditions that the tires will be exposed to.”

It is true that tires with low aspect ratios offer less wheel protection from potholes, obstacles and curbs.  And that should certainly be a wheel choice consideration for those who are concerned about it.  I “neglected” to include that information because while it may be a deciding factor for some drivers, it is not for me.

Driving around Spokane for 40 years, I’ve never experienced wheel damage from road hazards.  I have seen many potholes, but steer to avoid them.  I’ve advised that for winter use, the taller sidewall with the less expensive wheel is a good choice for a likely traction advantage and better resistance to the elements.  So, if drivers wish to avoid a winter tire “changeover,” the smaller diameter rims with the higher profile tires are the better choice for our climate.  Drivers prone to distraction or other oblivion should also consider the “standard” wheel for G.K.’s cautionary reasoning regarding road hazards like potholes.

While motorcycles suffer adverse consequences from contact with potholes, it does not deter me from owning and operating one.  When riding, I know that it is crucial to avoid objects in the roadway, such as potholes, and that I must be vigilant to accomplish that.  I don’t consider the chance of contact with a pothole great enough to prohibit my enjoyment of a motorcycle.

Similarly, I have low-profile (45 series) tires on my car, and accordingly, steer around hazards.  I know that in the dark, or at an inattentive moment, I could still strike a pothole, but it has not happened yet, so I am comfortable running those tires and wheels.  I personally place more weight on the handling and appearance of the optional tire/wheel package than the greater shock absorption of a taller sidewall, and I don’t use the “low-profilers” during the winter.

Though we do have potholes, I think Spokane gets unfair criticism over it from local residents. I have driven roads in almost every state, and notice that all regions with freeze and thaw cycles develop potholes (especially in the thaw mode).  Here, where potholes are inevitable, the only choice is diligent temporary filling with expedited repairs each spring and summer, which I regularly witness happening around Spokane.  Every locale with roads and a winter must exercise the same annual effort.

As G.K. states, bigger rims with lower profile tires are more expensive (initially and for replacement) than their standard counterparts.  Maybe that extra cost alone would be a determining factor in some peoples’ choices.

Readers may contact Bill Love via email at