Typically, if someone asks me how many spokes I recommend for city riding, I usually say 36 for the rear wheel and 32 for the front. For many years I rode mostly on 36/36 handbuilt wheels and I can’t recall ever needing to even true a wheel. In recent years I’ve had a couple of bikes with 32/32 production wheels, and the fact is, those wheels stayed perfectly true as well. Of course, the fact that a wheel is well-built has more bearing on its durability than the number of spokes.
What’s required of a wheel varies dramatically based upon the rider’s weight and how much cargo is being carried on the bike, but at least for riders of average stature carrying typical commute loads, it may be time to drop my recommendation down to a 32 spoke minimum for the rear wheel.
I’m curious to hear from you. How many spokes do you run for commuting and city riding? Have you had issues with wheels that have 32 spokes or less?