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Thread: spoke quality

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    Senior Member saturnsc2's Avatar
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    i have had many problems with snapping spokes on the rear wheel of my road bike. a spoke will snap for no apparent reason. i will got it fixed & then shortly another one will go. it's only on that rear wheel. the wheel's aways repaired by a bike shop who uses a tension meter. my mountain bike never snaps spokes nor does the front wheel on this bike snap spokes. i was just looking at the spokes closely & discovered that the rear wheel spokes are just chrome plated no name spokes. my mountain bike has dt spokes, on the front wheel that was rebuilt around a hub dynamo. the rear spokes are wheelsmith's. on the road bike, the front wheel spokes are dt's also & it was rebuilt around a hub dynamo. i just was compairing the no name spokes against a dt spoke & discovered that the bends on the dt are smaller & the ball at the ends are thicker. i tried a dt spoke in an old hub & compaired the fit against a no name spoke. the dt fits tight, while the no name has play & fits sloppy. is this causing flex at the hub with the no name spokes? this is where they are always snapping. would it make sense to rebuild this wheel with dt spokes? it's a sun double wall rim that's only a year old & the hub is new also. most bike shops use quality spokes, but this wheel was built with generic spokes by some company, not a bike shop. is the dt spokes that much better? they are stainless, & the generic spokes are chrome plated steel...
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    are you busting over hardy terrain when your spokes go?

    are the spokes interwoven with each other creating high tension areas?

    are you busting drive side spokes only?

    whats you back wheel spoke count?

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    Senior Member saturnsc2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by whoo-flung-poo
    are you busting over hardy terrain when your spokes go?

    are the spokes interwoven with each other creating high tension areas?

    are you busting drive side spokes only?

    whats you back wheel spoke count?
    they snap on the drive side. mostly on smooth ground. i think it's just cheap spokes. the wheel was just rebuilt with all dt's. we'll see what happens...
    "DO IT IN A SATURN!"

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    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Your spokes were suffering fatigue failure accelerated by poor material and/or construction. you did right to rebuild the wheel using quality spokes and will probably not break another spoke for a long time.

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    Senior Member saturnsc2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by supcom
    Your spokes were suffering fatigue failure accelerated by poor material and/or construction. you did right to rebuild the wheel using quality spokes and will probably not break another spoke for a long time.
    not break another spoke for a long time? that sounds like a dream. i am so sick & tired of removing this wheel off the bike. this must be the problem. i can't think of any other reason...
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    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by saturnsc2
    not break another spoke for a long time? that sounds like a dream. i am so sick & tired of removing this wheel off the bike. this must be the problem. i can't think of any other reason...
    Spokes almost always break from fatigue. If I recall correctly, Jobst Brandt claims the force required to break an otherwise good spoke is about three times larger than the maximum force a wheel will ever see. Spokes that break from fatigue break most often at the elbow. Those that don't break there, break at the nipple. Since your spokes were breaking at the elbows, it points directly to fatigue.

    Normally, a good spoke will last many thousands of miles before it fatigues. Spokes that break when young are obviously defective. If your wheel breaks two or more spokes, then, good quality or bad, you can be sure that others are getting ready to break and it's time to rebuild the wheel with new spokes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by saturnsc2
    they snap on the drive side. mostly on smooth ground. i think it's just cheap spokes. the wheel was just rebuilt with all dt's. we'll see what happens...

    just curious, how heavy are you and what is the lacing pattern and spoke count for your rear wheel?

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    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Biggest factor in fatigue failure is the spoke-tension. Lose spokes under go wider range of tensions from zero tension to 60% full-tension every time the wheel turns. This accelerates fatigue-failure much, much faster than a tighter spoke that goes between 40-100% full-tension. The total spoke tension of all the spokes should be constant, so wheels with lower spoke-counts will have more tension per spoke.

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    You are correct in believing the breakage was the result of poor quality poor material, poor fitting spokes. The rear wheel drive side spokes are under more load than any others and are always the ones to fail first. Bad ones sooner, good ones much later.

    Have the wheel relaced with DT, Wheelsmith or Sipam spokes and your worries should end.

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    Senior Member saturnsc2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by whoo-flung-poo
    just curious, how heavy are you and what is the lacing pattern and spoke count for your rear wheel?
    i weigh 247# but i'm losing weight. the wheels are 36 spoked the lacing pattern is the same as on any old bike....
    "DO IT IN A SATURN!"

  11. #11
    My bike's better than me! neil0502's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by saturnsc2
    lacing pattern is the same as on any old bike....
    Is it fair to interpret that as "I don't know?"

    EDIT: the following may help answer the question:

    "Spoke Lacing Patterns: Spokes can be laced in a variety of different patterns that can enhance appearance, strength, and durability. Spoke patterns are usually designated by the number of times each spoke crosses other spokes. Common lace patterns are zero-cross or Radial (0x), one cross (1x), two cross (2x), three-cross (3x), and four-cross (4x). These spoke patterns are sometimes combined on rear wheels. Additionally, there are many exotic lace patterns, which are not commonly used in racing wheels. Some of these include the Crows foot, Three leading-Three trailing, and patterns that use spokes twisted about themselves or other spokes. These and other interesting patterns can be found on the web.

    As the number of spoke crossings increase the angle in which each spoke leaves the hub approaches 90o (tangential). Wheels with 3x or 4x lace patterns will usually transfer power more efficiently than those with 2x patterns. As the number of spoke crossings increase the length of each spoke increases. Longer spokes are more flexible and contribute to decreased radial stiffness, which improves ride quality. Consequently wheels with more spoke crossings have lower lateral stiffness, which is important to cornering stability.

    The ideal number of crossings is not easy to determine since the stiffness of the rim plays an important role in the overall stiffness of the wheel. Generally 2x and 3x patterns can be used successfully on road wheels. 3x and 4x patterns should be used for wheels subjected to higher torque inputs, such as track racing. Radial lace patterns should only be used for front wheels since they tend to twist when the hub is subjected to torque inputs from the rider.

    Mixed spoke patterns can be found on many modern race wheels. These patterns commonly consist of a 2x pattern on the drive side mixed with a radial pattern on the non-drive side. One exception is Mavic's Isopulse lace pattern used on their Ksyrium wheels, which uses a radial pattern on the drive side. Mavic claims this pattern helps transfer load from highly stressed spokes on the drive side to the spokes on the left side of the rear wheel. This system is intended to improve the poor distribution of loads caused by the asymmetric geometry of the rear hub."

    http://www.wheelbuilder.com/tips/Spokes.asp

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    Senior Member AD-SLE's Avatar
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    Three things; experience, feedback and question.

    Experience: Back in '83 I built a pair of wheels at the suggestion of my local LBS (The Bicycle Exchange, Harvard Square, MA). Gentleman handed me a $3.95 softback book and said follow these directions exactly and anyone can build a wheel. So, based on current knowledge as a 17 year old kid I spec'd out a pair of dump picked Normandy high flange hubs, a dump picked Avaya rim (27" back then) and headed back to the store to purchase the right spokes for a 4x wheel and an extra Wobler 58 rim for the rear as I was heading for a 2 week tour of Nova Scotia. Great being young and unfettered! He sold me a box of Union spokes, a good Park spoke wrench and I was off. Back then I was 180, today I am 220 and still riding those same wheels 6,000 miles later. They were steel spokes, cheap. Even to this day I marvel at my handy work as I ride to work with 220 plus laptop, gear and more gear. Never once broken a spoke!

    Feedback: Sheldon Brown's phenomenal web site says anything less than SS is junk? This thread suggests SS spokes fatigue after a few thousand miles? I'd like to build a lighter set of wheels (except 27" to 700cc is a waste of $$$ and I don't see building a 27" set again due to availability) but all I can say is I have a very different experience from what I am reading. Did I get lucky? Is the old stuff more durable than the new stuff? 6,000 heavy loaded miles just starting to break in?

    Question: Sadly I loaned that wonderful $3.95 ~How to build a wheel~ book to a dorm mate and never saw it again back in 1985. I'd give a left preverbial to find a copy. IIRC it was all pencil illustrated with a picture of a wheel and a cup of coffee on the cover. The theme being, sit back and take you're time and success will occur. Just a wild shot.

    PS: 4x back then was because advice was high flange hubs would be harsh for 100+ mile tour days with load. To reduce the transfer of the road to arse and hands 4x would soak up some energy. Seems what I got is a heck of a strong set of wheels that have survived great abuse!

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    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Good job on your wheels! I've got a set of 15-year old training wheels with MA40 rims that have over 30,000 miles on them including a trip across the US. Since I was a starving student working in a shop to pay tuition, I certainly didn't have the funds to buy new racing parts. So I took a set of trashed 27x1-1/4" commuter wheels with taco'd Weinmann rims out of the dumpster. Bought a used set of MA40s from another racer and carefully disassembled the trashed rims. Trimmed off 12mm from the zinc/cadmium-coated 1000-series non-stainless 14ga spokes, and cut new threads with a Hozan spoke-threader. Rebuilt it with my new/used rims in 3x and they were the best $20 pair of wheels ever!

    There's definitely is a trade-off between strength & weight though. These monster wheels have lasted through everything while I've gone through a set of race wheels every two years...
    Last edited by DannoXYZ; 10-21-05 at 09:49 AM.

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    Senior Member miamijim's Avatar
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    Spokes break at the heads due to an im-proper fit in the hub. It the spoke head is loose it moves back and forth every time the wheel rotates. This movement eventually snaps the head off.

    DT Alpine spokes for the big boys....

    Jim....over 2,500 wheel builds and counting....very slowly
    WWW.CYCLESPEUGEOT.COM 2005 Pinarello Dogma; 1991 Paramount PDG 70 Mtb; 1976? AD Vent Noir; 1989 LeMond Maillot Juane F&F; 1993? Basso GAP F&F; 1989 Terry Symmetry; 2003 Trek 4700 Mtb; 1983 Vitus 979

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    RidesOldTrek
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    Question: Sadly I loaned that wonderful $3.95 ~How to build a wheel~ book to a dorm mate and never saw it again back in 1985. I'd give a left preverbial to find a copy. IIRC it was all pencil illustrated with a picture of a wheel and a cup of coffee on the cover. The theme being, sit back and take you're time and success will occur. Just a wild shot.

    I believe have the same book: "Building Bicycle Wheels" by Robert Wright, illustrated by Karen Lusebrink, World Publications, Mountain View, CA. Mine says $1.95, copyright 1977. Library of Congress Catalog Card #75-35277, ISBN O-89037-106-7. About 45 pages, 8-1/2x5-1/2 format. Don't know when I got it, but probably between 77 and 81. Very folksy style pen illustrations typical of many "alternative" type books of the day, and yes, a bike on the cover, looks like an inner tube used to hang it from the seat, and there's that cup of coffee, oil can, spokes, etc. Barnes & Noble has it available from their used booksellers - from $13.98 up to an unbelievable $165. Looks like mine is a first edition.

    I built a set of wheels in '82 following the instructions in Jobst Brandt's book. I was building for touring - Weinmann concave rims, but I used campy record hubs and DT stainless straight gauge spokes. I'm pretty serious about detail and precision, so I really worked to get the wheels true. Didn't use a tension gauge, just paid attention to number of turns, feel, and lots of time. Used my frame and makeshift guides, no truing stand. Wow, I still ride those wheels after all these years, and several multi-week tours with fully loaded panniers, camping, all the gear. They are still as true as I could want. The weinmanns are heavy rims, but very durable.

    I think Jobst Brandt does a very good job explaining the factors involved with spoke fatigue and failure (from an engineering standpoint, which I am also).

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    IMO when spokes start to go you're better off just rebuilding it with new spokes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AD-SLE
    Back then I was 180, today I am 220 and still riding those same wheels 6,000 miles later. They were steel spokes, cheap. Even to this day I marvel at my handy work as I ride to work with 220 plus laptop, gear and more gear. Never once broken a spoke!

    Feedback: Sheldon Brown's phenomenal web site says anything less than SS is junk? This thread suggests SS spokes fatigue after a few thousand miles? ..... Did I get lucky? Is the old stuff more durable than the new stuff? 6,000 heavy loaded miles just starting to break in?

    Question: Sadly I loaned that wonderful $3.95 ~How to build a wheel~ book to a dorm mate and never saw it again back in 1985. I'd give a left preverbial to find a copy. IIRC it was all pencil illustrated with a picture of a wheel and a cup of coffee on the cover. The theme being, sit back and take you're time and success will occur. Just a wild shot.
    Hate to tell you but 6000 miles on a bike wheel is still nearly new. Let's compare notes in another 20,000 miles or so.

    I had an '86 Bridgestone and the factory wheels were 27" Arya rims, 36 hole laced 3X with 14 ga cadium plated spokes. I began to break drive side rear spokes at about 9000 miles. Since then I've always had wheels with DT or Wheelsmith stainless steel spokes, either 14 ga or 14/17/14 (Wheelsmith 14XL), and I've NEVER broken a spoke in almost 100,000 miles of riding and over 28,000 miles each on two sets of wheels.

    I also have a copy of the Robert Wright book in it's 1981 printing with the same cover drawing as described by ridesoldtrek and the listed price is $2.50. Useful, but Jobst Brandt's book is more informative, if more controversial, e.g. does a wheel hang from the top spokes or stand on the bottom spokes?

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    Did you drop your chain over the large cog in the cassette and chew up the drive side spokes?

  19. #19
    RidesOldTrek
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    Phantoj - yes, that happened to me, and the "spoke guard" was a recent topic of another thread. This happened once, it chewed up the spokes a bit, but surpisingly, none broke, and the wheel is still true and round. I was very surprised that it could look so bad and not cause a problem in the wheel (for now). But I am not super hard on my equipment, and am not a super high-mileage rider. DT straight gauge stainless spokes were involved. Someboody will shout that I should learn to adjust my derailleurs... well, I know how, but mistakes can be made...

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    Senior Member saturnsc2's Avatar
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    just for the hell of it, i took a stainless steel dt spoke & a generic chrome plated steel spoke, put them side by side in a vise & bent them back & forth until they both snapped. not to my surprise, the generic spoke snapped first. it took 5 more bends to snap the dt spoke. that confirms what one of the problems was on that wheel in addition to the lousy fit of those generic spokes. i guess the moral of the story is use name brand spokes on a wheel rebuild or be very sorry!
    "DO IT IN A SATURN!"

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    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by saturnsc2
    just for the hell of it, i took a stainless steel dt spoke & a generic chrome plated steel spoke, put them side by side in a vise & bent them back & forth until they both snapped. not to my surprise, the generic spoke snapped first. it took 5 more bends to snap the dt spoke. that confirms what one of the problems was on that wheel in addition to the lousy fit of those generic spokes. i guess the moral of the story is use name brand spokes on a wheel rebuild or be very sorry!
    Your test proves nothing. You cold worked the metal until it hardened and failed from stress concentration. This is not what causes spokes to fail. However, your conclusion to use quality spokes is valid.

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    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by saturnsc2
    just for the hell of it, i took a stainless steel dt spoke & a generic chrome plated steel spoke, put them side by side in a vise & bent them back & forth until they both snapped. not to my surprise, the generic spoke snapped first. it took 5 more bends to snap the dt spoke. that confirms what one of the problems was on that wheel in addition to the lousy fit of those generic spokes. i guess the moral of the story is use name brand spokes on a wheel rebuild or be very sorry!
    1. what instrumentation did you use to ensure that you bent each spoke to exactly the same angle?
    2. in both directions?
    3. what instrumentation did you use to measure the force on those spokes
    4. did both spokes bend to the same angle with the same amount of force?
    5. double-blind with controls?

    If you had done that same test with a non-stainless 1000-series cad-plated spoke, it would have outlasted both of the stainless ones. Use some kevlar fishing-line or dental-floss on that same test, they will all be of higher "quality" than either of those stainless spokes!
    Last edited by DannoXYZ; 11-03-05 at 01:18 PM.

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    Senior Member saturnsc2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ
    If you had done that same test with a non-stainless 1000-series cad-plated spoke, it would have outlasted both of the stainless ones. Use some kevlar fishing-line or dental-floss on that same test, they will all be of higher "quality" than either of those stainless spokes!
    dental floss spoked wheels? maybe your on to something!
    "DO IT IN A SATURN!"

  24. #24
    me have long head tube TallRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by saturnsc2
    dental floss spoked wheels? maybe your on to something!
    Actually, to my understanding there are some wheels that use kevlar string and such things as spokes. Spokes don't need to be unbendable, they just need to not stretch much.
    Main problem with kevlar/string type spokes is that they're not torsionally stiff.

  25. #25
    Senior Member saturnsc2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by timcupery
    Actually, to my understanding there are some wheels that use kevlar string and such things as spokes. Spokes don't need to be unbendable, they just need to not stretch much.
    Main problem with kevlar/string type spokes is that they're not torsionally stiff.
    the same results would apply. broken spokes, snapped strings, so where are we ahead? i think people go to far in search of a light wheel....
    "DO IT IN A SATURN!"

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