As some of you might know, I've been having some terrible problems with my rear wheel and keeping it in working order. Just to recap:
Bike: 2001 59cm LeMond Poprad (cyclo-cross bike). Bought it in April 2002 and immediately replaced drive train with all Shimano 105 componets and after 3 months had a new rear wheel built because the original 32 spoke wheel was falling apart.
Wheel: Mavic T519 rim, Ultegra hub, 36 spokes, 4 cross pattern, 14-gauge 297mm spokes with a 9 speed Ultegra cassette (12-27) and Specialized Armadillo Turbos (700 x 26c) tires. Wheel was built by my LBS in July 2002. No spoke prep was used in the building of the wheel.
Me: Clydesdale (285lbs, 6'2"). Ride roughly 90 to 120 miles per week mostly on bike trails. Did 3 centuries last year. Ended up with 3500 miles last year (April to end of Dec).
Problems so far: Wheel made it roughly 550 to 600 miles without incident before spokes started breaking at a regular intervals. Usually, I will ride and hear a strange sound from my wheel. I'll check the spokes and usually find one or more non-drive side spokes very loose. Sometimes so loose the nipple is spinning freely. After re-tightening and a quick true by eyeballing it, a spoke will usually break within 30 to 50 miles. It was lasting as long as 300 miles to 400 miles before spokes would come loose, but recently (in the last two months), spokes have been loosening within 100 miles of the last retensioning and retruing.
It was getting to the point that I would ride on Saturday and have to take it into the LBS on Saturday night because several spokes were loose and the wheel was untrue, or I had broken a spoke(s). Then I would take it out for a ride on Sunday, and again I would be back at the LBS on Sunday evening to correct the same problem.
So the LBS finally said they would rebuild the wheel and use spoke prep. I was cool with that. So they rebuilt it and I got it back 2 weekends ago. The weather finally cooperated and I got it out for a ride today. Didn't even make it 45 miles before I felt the wheel wobbling and the rim rubbing the brake pads. Checked it out and there were 4 non-drive side spokes loosen enough that the nipples where spinning freely.
So I took it back to the LBS and said, "This isn't working, what gives?"
Well, they now think that maybe it's the tire. I am using the Specialized Armadillo Turbos, which while being very flat resistant, are also very very stiff and nonflexible. Basically every bump and shake from the road goes directly into the rim. They think that might be causing the spokes to loosen (which then makes the wheel untrue, or worse causes a spoke to get over tensioned and fatigued and then breaking). They feel that it's due to the very stiff sidewalls in this tire. Plus I run it at 120lbs tire pressure.
I didn't really like this answer because I really love those tires. I had a rash of flats before I got them and have not had a flat since. They felt I should try a bigger tire as well as one with softer sidewalls that allow the tire to have more "give".
So they suggested I try the Specialized Nimbus EX 700 x 38c tires. This tire is not the Armadillo type, but it does have the flak jacket technology. This means it's still flat resistant just not as flat resistant as the Armadillos. Plus it is only rated at 80lbs tire pressure. And the sidewalls are much more plyable. So they re-trued the wheel (but did not retensioned it) and put on this tire. I'm willing to give this a shot to rule it out before spending more money on a different rim or hub.
He suggested that if this doesn't work I might want to try a tandem hub with 40 spoke holes and 40 hole rim (possibly the same type I have now). He didn't say whether I should stick with the 4 cross pattern or go to the 3 cross pattern. He also didn't say if I should go to double-butted spokes. But when he was going to rebuild the wheel 2 weeks ago, I asked if maybe I shouldn't switch to double-butted and he said absolutely not. That kinda goes against what I've heard, but I went ahead and let him use single gauge spokes.
I just wanted to ask you all if this (the bigger, softer tire) sounds like a reasonable reason for the tire not being able to hold true. I've talked to a lot of people that know bikes pretty well, not to mention all the mechanics at my LBS, plus the mechanics at another LBS, and they all say this tire, as it was originally, should be darn near bulletproof. My LBS is kinda bumfuzzled as to why this wheel isn't holding up for me.
A buddy of mine has suggested that I give up on this LBS because this shouldn't be happening. But I'm not quite to that point yet. I've had several other wheel builders suggested to me. That same buddy suggested that I go get myself a second set of wheels from one of these other wheel builders, and definitely go with a 40 spoke wheel. I'm kinda tempted to do that just so I have a back up. But also because I would kinda like to get a beefier wheel and put cyclo-cross tires on (700 x 32-38c with some knobs on them) and then I'd be able to ride in light snow as well as on the C&O Canal Towpath. That towpath is a pretty famous towpath around here, but it's hard packed dirt/packed gravel. I usually only use my mountain bike/commuter when I ride on that towpath, but it is not nearly as comfortable as this bike on long rides, nor is it as light and as fast.
How many of you keep a second set of wheels for your bikes? I do keep a second set for my mountain bike/commuter bike, but that is because one set is slicks and the other is knobbies.
Anyway, sorry to ramble and thank you for any advice/knowledge you can give me. This is really getting frustrating for me. I've had the bike since last April, and I don't think I've had one month of worry free riding or where I haven't been to the LBS at least once or twice, if not 5 or 6 times. Too bad I can't just have a support van following me everywhere.