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  1. #1
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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!

  2. #2
    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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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.

  3. #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?

  4. #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.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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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.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
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    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DRietz View Post
    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.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
    "If you’re new enough [to racing] that you would ask such question, then i would hazard a guess that if you just made up a workout that sounded hard to do, and did it, you’d probably get faster." --the tiniest sprinter

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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?

  8. #8
    fair weather cyclist pjcampbell's Avatar
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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 06:17 AM.

  9. #9
    My idea of fun kensuf's Avatar
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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.
    Putting the Duh in Floriduh.

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    Yeah, I hate Al nipples...

    Atleast go brass on the rear drive side.
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  11. #11
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    I weigh 125pounds.

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    Fatty.
    Truth, like light, blinds. Falsehood, on the contrary, is a beautiful twilight that enhances every object.
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  13. #13
    fuggitivo solitario echappist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ridethecliche View Post
    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

  14. #14
    fair weather cyclist pjcampbell's Avatar
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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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    Quote Originally Posted by mcjimbosandwich View Post
    exactly. A lot of deep dish wheels are configured this way. Some have alloy front & brass rear
    Deep dish, huh?
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    fuggitivo solitario echappist's Avatar
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    say it three times, and richinperoria will show up

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by DRietz View Post
    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.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcjimbosandwich View Post
    say it three times, and richinperoria will show up
    Nom nom nom!
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  19. #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.

  20. #20
    Writin' stuff ZeCanon's Avatar
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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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  21. #21
    fair weather cyclist pjcampbell's Avatar
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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.
    Last edited by pjcampbell; 11-09-10 at 05:47 AM.

  22. #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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  23. #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.

  24. #24
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    Brass all around for me. I'm conservative like that though.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by ridethecliche View Post
    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?
    Truth, like light, blinds. Falsehood, on the contrary, is a beautiful twilight that enhances every object.
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