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Old 11-27-05, 07:36 AM   #1
trmcgeehan
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New Spokes or New Wheel?

I have a 1980 Univega road bike, which I bought brand new in Pacific Beach, CA. for $200. At the time, I thought $200 for a bike was a fortune! Over the years, the bike has served me well. It came with steel spokes which soon rusted, so I had my LBS install stainless spokes. Never had any problem until recently, when I started breaking spokes. (3 so far) It looks like my spokes are finally failing after 20,000 miles (estimate). My LBS guy said it would be cheaper to buy a brand new wheel than have all the spokes replaced. Do you agree?
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Old 11-27-05, 08:03 AM   #2
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I don't know about the expense, but just adding a couple of points to consider. I am not a mechanic, but have considered a few issues that may be relevant to you. Some of this is just passing on snippets I have read in the forums.

I make these assumptions on the year of your bike... I assume that it is a vintage 10 speed. I have a Univega Custom Ten from about the same time frame that I bought NOS, although it sounds like it is lower end than your bike.

New wheels with the proper rear spacing may be difficult to find. Since you are riding a steel frame, it could be cold set, but the spacing will be wider for most new wheel sets.

In addition, I assume you are on a 10 speed, so a newer wheel will probably only be available with a greater number of gears which could possibly lead to a need for new derailleurs.

But all this could be pointless because, I assume your current wheel set is 27" and I haven't seen any new 27" wheels available that I would buy (there are some I have seen offered on eBay with chrome rims, but I wouldn't spend money for anything but aluminum alloy). You also might be able to switch to 700c, but you would then have potential issues with brake reach, but this would get you more readily available replacement tires and tubes etc.

If you are going through the work of either, I would suggest alloy rims (whether you have them now or not) I have seen an inexpensive 27" alloy rim on Nashbar if you choose to have spokes replaced, spend the $20 or so to get the alloy rims if your current ones are chrome.

I decided to buy used wheels for my Suburban and got a set from a BFN poster. I also have been scouring the thrift stores, and while my wheels were in transit I found a bike with suitable rims for $20 and bought and stripped the bike.

I hope that what I have written gives food for thought as you consider your next steps. I hope your decisions work well for you, and that you continue to enjoy the ride.
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Old 11-27-05, 09:08 AM   #3
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The mechanic is probably correct. However you should balance the cost difference with being able to ensure you have a quality brand of spokes with the rebuild. Consider also the condition of the hub and the rim. After 20,000 miles, perhaps the brake tracks on the rim are a bit worn? And are the bearing cones still in good shape?
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Old 11-27-05, 10:08 AM   #4
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As supcon noted, after 20,000 miles the brake tracks are probably well worn and you could spend money on new spokes only to have the rim fail. If you decide to have the wheel relaced, I recommend you replace the rim at the same time.


Nashbar has a very inexpensive complete wheel with a 27" rim but it is spaced 130 mm. Depending on your frame, it might be spaced 120 mm (5-speed) or 126 mm (6/7-speed). If it's 120 mm, the spread to 130 mm is really a lot. If it's 126 mm, cold-setting it to 130 is pretty straightforward.

http://www.nashbar.com/profile.cfm?c...eid=&pagename=
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Old 11-27-05, 11:04 AM   #5
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Your bike shop guy is right!

I like to build wheels so I prefer to lace my own. Even at that, however, it's cheaper for me to buy a new wheelset that's already assembled than it is for me to buy the components and lace them myself. Spokes and labor alone are likely to run you more than $50.00. If you decide to replace the rim (my recommendation) and overhaul the hub you'll be in the $75.00 to $100.00 range.

Your shop will probably be able to source a brand new equivlent wheel for around around $50.00 to $65.00. If it was my bike I'd offer to pay a little more to have him retension and true the wheel before riding on it.
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Old 11-27-05, 11:41 AM   #6
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If you really like your old Univega and want to put a bunch more miles on it I would say just do the conversion to a 700c wheelset and be done with it, you will the have a much greater selection of quality tires available. I disagree that cold setting from 120 to 130 spacing is excessive. That's only 5mm per side, any quality steel frame will handle that with no prob. Take a look at the position of the brake pads on the caliper arms and see if you have aprox. 5mm of adjustment (downward), that would give you enough adjustment to reach a 700c rim. Even if you find you need to swap brakes to a longer reach, old diacompe center pulls are a dime a dozen and easily picked off trash pile/goodwill store bikes. I personally love the quality of the 80s era Japanese steel bikes that can be had for cheap if you look around.
As for the number of gears, you likely have friction shifting now; The derailleur (hopefully a decent Suntour with slant parrallelogram design) will probably handle 7 speeds w/o any problem and the shifters will work fine as well. You could go all the way with an indexed system if you just want to throw money at it but I would'nt bother.
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Old 11-27-05, 05:19 PM   #7
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Is it common for stainless spokes to get brittle and break when they reach a certain age? I ask because a few months ago, I bought a 1986 Schwinn Super Sport (lovely Japanese-made steel bike) with very nice Araya alloy rims and straight-gauge #14 stainless spokes, 36 per wheel. I restored this bike for my husband, which didn't take much, because it probably only had about 200 miles on it when it was put into storage. It's immaculate, there is no corrosion issue anywhere on the bike, but today he broke a spoke in the rear wheel for the second time. The first time it happened, about two months ago, I replaced the broken one and retensioned and trued the wheel, so it really surprised me when it happened again today. My husband is only about 160 pounds dripping wet, so he's easy on wheels usually. By the way, we got home thanks to a FiberFix kevlar spoke replacement kit that I bought from YellowJersey! Highly recommended.

These rims are very low mileage, and the spokes *look* fine, but should I replace them all? They must be about the same age as trmcgeehan's stainless spokes were, that have begun to break with such regularity. I just wonder if this is a common thing for stainless spokes.

edit--I should add that the spokes are breaking at the bend where they come out of the hub, not at the crossover point. They don't show any wear where they cross, yet.
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Old 11-27-05, 06:12 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lawkd
Is it common for stainless spokes to get brittle and break when they reach a certain age?
No. Spokes fatigue with usage, not age. Your problem is either poor quality spokes to begin with or a lack of tension on the old wheel. Did you have the wheels trued after you got the bike?
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Old 11-27-05, 06:43 PM   #9
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Are you sure the original spokes were stainless steel? Bikes of that vintage, particularly below top-of-the-line, usually had cadmium plated or galvanized spokes and these are subject to corrosion. Two hundred miles shouldn't break any spoke, no matter what the material, unless they were already weakened from corrosion.

Stainless steel spokes, if laced and tensioned properly, have enormous fatigue life. I've gotten over 30,000 miles on several wheels made with both DT and Wheelsmith spokes and never had one break.
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Old 11-27-05, 07:39 PM   #10
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You can still get good 27" wheels for freewheel setups. Harris Cyclery sells a nice wheelset for $100 (front and rear). With the amount of use you've got in those wheels, the rims may fail on you next, so it's not worth re-lacing them. And the hub bearings probably aren't in top shape, either.
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Old 11-27-05, 11:37 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by supcom
No. Spokes fatigue with usage, not age. Your problem is either poor quality spokes to begin with or a lack of tension on the old wheel. Did you have the wheels trued after you got the bike?
Not before the first one broke. The wheels were both almost perfectly true, the front was close to dead true and the rear was maybe at most a millimeter off true. But I think that the spokes were undertensioned. After that first one broke, I replaced it, and I trued and retensioned the whole wheel at that time. It has stayed perfectly true until today. I am not an expert at wheel truing, but I've done a few and read a lot about proper technique, and really took my time with this one to get it as good as I could. Seems like I'll get some more practice now!

They definitely are stainless steel, unmistakeable. This was a near top-of-the-line bike in 1986, it's not a gaspipe job. It has a full 600 group and a gorgeous, lugged frame. So unless the spokes have a defect, it must just be my inexperience at getting them properly tensioned. I was careful to equalize the tension as much as possible while keeping the wheel true, and I'm almost certain they have enough tension. It may be that they have too much now.

Thank you everyone for your help!
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Old 11-27-05, 11:41 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HillRider
Are you sure the original spokes were stainless steel? Bikes of that vintage, particularly below top-of-the-line, usually had cadmium plated or galvanized spokes and these are subject to corrosion. Two hundred miles shouldn't break any spoke, no matter what the material, unless they were already weakened from corrosion.

Stainless steel spokes, if laced and tensioned properly, have enormous fatigue life. I've gotten over 30,000 miles on several wheels made with both DT and Wheelsmith spokes and never had one break.
I agree. They just shouldn't be breaking. They are pristine and perfect looking, no sign of any wear, and definitely stainless. The break is perfectly clean, no pitting or any type of damage. It must be my tensioning job that failed this time. Thanks again!
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Old 11-28-05, 12:43 AM   #13
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I've had a few spokes break on me recently as well. At one point, several spokes were drastically over-tensioned, (my brother thought he was 'fixing things' and this may have accelerated fatigue at the elbows.

Now I have another question: I'm looking at building a couple of new wheels (wonder why) and I was wondering how wheelbuilders decide what spoke length to use. Is there a formula or rule of thumb to follow? It seems to me that spoke length must vary with the size of the hub flange, number of holes in the rim, number of crossovers and of course, wheel size.

Can anyone give me any pointers beyond 'trial and error'?

A.
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Old 11-28-05, 02:24 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Alox
Can anyone give me any pointers beyond 'trial and error'?

A.
There are several online spoke calculators. I like this one....

Spoke Calculator

.... or you can have a bike shop figure it if you buy your parts from them.

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Old 11-28-05, 03:14 AM   #15
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I have been down this same road with my first bike - a 12 year old Schwinn Hybrid. I got into the spoke replacement cycle (and not listening to the advice of my lbs) and spent lots of time dragging the wheel back to the lbs. When it started it happened once a week. I spent more on gas and down time to have bought a new wheelset. Finally did. Problem solved.

My advice is to find a local bike shop that has a wrench you can trust and listen to him. It has been my experience that a (my) LBS advice is invaluable. I can't think of a time when they have given me bad advice. I can, however, think of times when I have not taken the advice and wished later I had.
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