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Old 11-07-10, 07:11 PM   #1
DRietz
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Racing Wheelset: Aluminum or Brass nipples?

Alright, the title is almost self-explanatory, but I'm curious to hear what some people from the race forum have to say about this.

I'm building up myself a race wheelset and it's not going to be anything special. I scored a Mavic 280, 330 rim pair, both 28hole. They're incredibly light rims (those numbers pertain to the weight) and I'm going to build them up with some Velocity Pro Road hubs (rear is hi-low flange, they aren't available to unsponsored teams). I have a ton of quality double butted spokes in varying lengths, so I'm set there.

But what I have been able to come up with an answer to this question: brass nipples or alloy nipples? People have been arguing for years that alloy nipples suck because they need to be replaced in 6 months if you ever want to true the wheels. Is there any truth to this fact? I mean, can't I just build the wheels with spoke prep or some other oil in order to keep everything from seizing up?

Is weight savings really one of the only reasons to be using aluminum nipples? What do you guys use? Do you true and service your own wheels? How does that go if using aluminum nipples?

Does it really actually matter at all?

I'm just looking for some basic guidance here. Thanks for any and all help!
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Old 11-07-10, 07:43 PM   #2
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I'm fine with aluminum nipples. Use a quality spoke wrench, make sure its seated fully before you torque on it.
I haven't had a problem with aluminum nipples seizing on the spokes, even on the wheels I use on my rain bike. But some light oil would take care of that.
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Old 11-07-10, 09:14 PM   #3
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So, really, the benefit that's proposed with alloy nipples is just a weight savings?

Do most contemporary modern racers use alloy nipples in their wheels?
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Old 11-07-10, 09:31 PM   #4
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Brass nipples.

The weight savings of aluminum nipples are not worth the possibility of them rounding off. They don't need to be replaced every six months, but I've rounded off enough of them to hate them. If you're careful, they won't round off, but I'd rather not worry about it.
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Old 11-07-10, 10:45 PM   #5
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Aluminum works fine, but use a wrench like the spokey spoke wrench that grabs three sides of the nipple to wrench on it. Don't use the cheap two sided wrenches. Make sure the nipples are anodized, and use some sort of lubrication or spoke prep when you build the wheel (I dip the spoke threads in vegetable oil; lubricates when building, then dries into a kind of sticky consistency so the spokes don't loosen over time). That'll keep them from binding up on the threads.

FWIW, I have rounded off plenty of brass nipples as well. I think it has more to do with the spoke wrench you use than the material of the nipple.
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Old 11-07-10, 10:49 PM   #6
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So, really, the benefit that's proposed with alloy nipples is just a weight savings?

Do most contemporary modern racers use alloy nipples in their wheels?
Just weight savings. In every other aspect, brass nipples are superior to aluminum.
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Old 11-08-10, 12:33 AM   #7
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Well, let's see here.

I have two wheels, 28hole each. Brass nipples, as advertised by DT are a gram each. Alloy nipples - .31grams each.

28hx2=56hole wheelset.

56x1=56grams for a brass-nippled set.

56x.31~18grams for an alloy-nippled set.

56-18=38grams weight savings.

38grams~0.08pounds of rotating weight.

Is this really that big of a difference?

What do you guys think I should do?
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Old 11-08-10, 06:58 AM   #8
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Well on a 28 hole wheelset - you are not necessarily that worried about weight?

38 grams is 38 grams at the edge of the wheel.

if you are worried about weight why not go fewer spokes - lighter spokes (Sapim Laser) AND alloy nipples?

Last edited by pjcampbell; 11-08-10 at 07:17 AM.
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Old 11-08-10, 06:59 AM   #9
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how heavy are you? At 175 I break al nipples like they're going out of style, but brass holds up.
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Old 11-08-10, 08:50 AM   #10
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Yeah, I hate Al nipples...

Atleast go brass on the rear drive side.
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Old 11-08-10, 09:23 AM   #11
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I weigh 125pounds.
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Old 11-08-10, 09:24 AM   #12
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Fatty.
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Old 11-08-10, 10:22 AM   #13
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Yeah, I hate Al nipples...

Atleast go brass on the rear drive side.
exactly. A lot of deep dish wheels are configured this way. Some have alloy front & brass rear
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Old 11-08-10, 11:13 AM   #14
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prety sure my ZIPPS have alloys but I could be wrong. I have used them for 3 years without touching the spokes.
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Old 11-08-10, 11:25 AM   #15
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exactly. A lot of deep dish wheels are configured this way. Some have alloy front & brass rear
Deep dish, huh?
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Old 11-08-10, 11:45 AM   #16
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say it three times, and richinperoria will show up
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Old 11-08-10, 11:46 AM   #17
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What do you guys think I should do?
Use marine antiseize on the threads and eyelets and they'll turn like butter 10 years later. If you live and ride in a very corrosive environment, brass might make sense.
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Old 11-08-10, 11:47 AM   #18
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say it three times, and richinperoria will show up
Nom nom nom!
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Old 11-08-10, 10:21 PM   #19
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OK, I guess my actual question here is: is .08pounds of rotating weight really going to make that much of a difference for a 125pound, 5' 8" 16 year old racing in cat 3's? I honestly don't think it'll be that big of a deal, but if there's a definite bonus or noticeable difference with that weight reduction I'm really all ears.
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Old 11-08-10, 10:28 PM   #20
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Can't get purple anodized brass nipples. End of story.



But really: no, there is no difference you are going to feel. Go brass. Unless you need colors, in which case go aluminum. Either way, you will forget which you chose for a few years if the wheels are properly built.
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Old 11-09-10, 06:37 AM   #21
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DRietz, why are you getting 28 hole wheels as a 125 # rider

Go for the alloys and lose some spokes. at 125#, I'd get the lightest wheels you can.

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Old 11-09-10, 07:42 AM   #22
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This doesn't sound like a blingy wheelset in general. Just get 28F/32R with brass nipples and enjoy a wheelset that'll take a pounding. Heck, you could probably throw it on a cross bike if you wanted.
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Old 11-09-10, 07:44 AM   #23
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GEL280s are not strong rims. 28H should be okay. At 140 I was bending them left and right, 28 and 32H, and I'm pretty easy on wheels.

I'd go alloy front and non-drive rear. Do brass on drive side so you can tension more.

Don't use too short a spoke - that'll make it easier to pop the heads off the nipples.

You'll love the wheels. I still have a GEL280, a Record Crono (285g claimed), FiR Isidis (330g claimed), some others, all slightly not good. I figure they'd be good for the track bike. Super fast wind up.
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Old 11-09-10, 07:59 AM   #24
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Brass all around for me. I'm conservative like that though.
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Old 11-09-10, 08:03 AM   #25
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This doesn't sound like a blingy wheelset in general. Just get 28F/32R with brass nipples and enjoy a wheelset that'll take a pounding. Heck, you could probably throw it on a cross bike if you wanted.
Oh I totally didn't read which rims you were using...

Try not using them on a cross bike lol.

You might as well use brass though if the rims are going to need to be trued every now and then. With rims that light, it's a possibility?
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