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  1. #1
    Breaker of Spokes P. B. Walker's Avatar
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    Next Chapter in my Wheel Woes (long)

    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.

    PBW
    Last edited by P. B. Walker; 01-25-03 at 06:39 PM.

  2. #2
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    Could you describe the sound you heard coming fron your rear wheel? I had a similar experience with a Mavic open pro rim. Spokes were consistently breaking (always in the same area), and a rhythmic creaking sound was coming from the wheel. The wheel could be trued and have loose spokes by the end of a ride. It turned out to be a hairline crack in the rim--radiating out from a spoke hole. This crack was practically invisible without rider weight on the rim. A couple of good shops missed it, until the damaged section got larger and more obvious.
    Im not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said whatever it was.

  3. #3
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    I don't buy the "its the tire" solution. I don't think any tire is stiff enough to cause spoke breakage. Even if it were, running it at slightly lower air pressure should solve the problem.

    I can imagine how frustrated you are. I would bypass the store and go direct to a good wheel builder. The tandem wheel solution might also be a good idea. Our tandem has carried our 375 pounds for five years now and I've never had a wheel problem. I think we are running a 36 in front and 40 in back.

  4. #4
    Senior Member BikerRyan's Avatar
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    I am not sure that you really need more spokes as you have a high spoke count already. The other problem is that using a tandem hub will probably not work because tandems have a wider rear spacing in the rear than a standard bicycle. Maybe some sort of touring hub would work if you want more spokes. Also why did the shop not use any spoke prep the first time? Have they ever built wheels before? Do you know anyone else that rides wheels from that shop? I know that good wheelbuilders are harder and harder to find these days but come on. I have built several tandem wheels and wheels for larger riders using the same rim you have and never had problems. I would probably suggest using double butted spokes next time and probably a new builder. Find someone with a reputation - not just a kid at a shop who "thinks" he knows how to build wheels. Good Luck!

    -Ryan
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  5. #5
    Breaker of Spokes P. B. Walker's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Poppaspoke
    Could you describe the sound you heard coming fron your rear wheel? I had a similar experience with a Mavic open pro rim. Spokes were consistently breaking (always in the same area), and a rhythmic creaking sound was coming from the wheel. The wheel could be trued and have loose spokes by the end of a ride. It turned out to be a hairline crack in the rim--radiating out from a spoke hole. This crack was practically invisible without rider weight on the rim. A couple of good shops missed it, until the damaged section got larger and more obvious.

    Actually the sound I hear is only when the spokes are loose. When the wheel has been retensioned and retrued it doesn't make any sounds at all. But once a spoke or two comes loose I hear a very soft rattling. I think what I'm hearing is the nipple(s) rattling in the rim. Another sound I hear is if the wheel has become untrue enough for it to wobble, I'll hear the brake pad rubbing along the rim.

    Occasionally, after I've gotten it back from the LBS after they've replaced a spoke and retensioned the wheel, I'll hear a creaking as the spokes get broken in. But that sound only lasts for about 10 seconds the very first time I ride it.

    I will definitely examine the rim however. I had not thought about a cracked rim. I do have an update, which I'll post about in a second.

    PBW

  6. #6
    Breaker of Spokes P. B. Walker's Avatar
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    Originally posted by blwyn
    I don't buy the "its the tire" solution. I don't think any tire is stiff enough to cause spoke breakage. Even if it were, running it at slightly lower air pressure should solve the problem.

    I can imagine how frustrated you are. I would bypass the store and go direct to a good wheel builder. The tandem wheel solution might also be a good idea. Our tandem has carried our 375 pounds for five years now and I've never had a wheel problem. I think we are running a 36 in front and 40 in back.

    Well I would agree about the spoke breakage. I don't think that is causing the broken spokes. I think what they were getting at is that the stiff tire is causing too much shock to the rim and it's letting the spokes become loose. Instead of the tire and rim having some "give", it's putting alot of tension on the spokes when the tire hits a bump or whatever. This tension is enough to let the nipple loosen just a little bit each time. Then, as the spoke gets looser and looser, other spokes get over tensioned or less tensioned. This causes some spokes to take on more of the "load" get thereby get over-fatigued. Those over-fatigued spokes eventually break.

    I haven't tried running it at a lower pressure. However, that's something to think about if this proves to be the issue. Course, if it does, then I'll probably continue running with the new tire and save this old tire as a back up to my front tire.

    Well, this LBS has been willing to work with me and I basically have a permenant 10% discount with them now. So they understand my frustration and they want to help, plus I think they are just as frustrated. However, I do have a 2nd set of wheels built (as backups and as cyclocross wheels), then I will definitely go to a different wheel builder. I've already gotten three recommendations for another builder nearby.

    I'll probably definitely go with at least a 40 in the back and either a 40 or 36 in the front. Since they will be cyclocross tires I'll go with some bigger tires also... one's with some knobby-ness to them... if that is a word.

    PBW

  7. #7
    Breaker of Spokes P. B. Walker's Avatar
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    Originally posted by BikerRyan
    I am not sure that you really need more spokes as you have a high spoke count already. The other problem is that using a tandem hub will probably not work because tandems have a wider rear spacing in the rear than a standard bicycle. Maybe some sort of touring hub would work if you want more spokes. Also why did the shop not use any spoke prep the first time? Have they ever built wheels before? Do you know anyone else that rides wheels from that shop? I know that good wheelbuilders are harder and harder to find these days but come on. I have built several tandem wheels and wheels for larger riders using the same rim you have and never had problems. I would probably suggest using double butted spokes next time and probably a new builder. Find someone with a reputation - not just a kid at a shop who "thinks" he knows how to build wheels. Good Luck!

    -Ryan
    I had not thought that 36 spokes was a high spoke count. I think of 40 or 48 as being high. I think the important factor in going to a 40 spoke wheel would be spreading the weight out on more spokes, thereby allowing less tension to individual spokes, which would hopefully keep them from loosening.

    I did not know that about tandem hubs. I'm sure there is a regular hub that has 40 holes that I could use. Like you said, maybe a touring hub. That's another thing, I kinda wanted to use this bike to tour with and commute to work. I've just been riding it with only me on it. I can just imagine the problems I would be having if I stuck a rack and panniers on it, adding 20 to 30 more pounds on it.

    I asked about why they don't use spoke prep. Now I realize everyone has their own ideas about how to build wheels and stuff, so I'm just going to say what they told me and move on. The answer I got was "Only a poor wheel builder needs to use spoke prep". The guy I talked to did say that if anything is to be used it is something called linseed oil (sp?).

    The guy that built the wheel is no longer working there (he wasn't fired for incompetence or anything). But from what I hear about him, he's a very very good wheel builder. This is from both people that work there and from people that work in other stores that have heard of him. So I trust that he is a good wheel builder. Now that guy that rebuilt the wheel, I'm not so sure about and it doesn't say much that the wheel didn't make it 45 miles without spokes coming loose (after a full rebuild). I was surprised to hear the new guy say not to use double-butted spokes. But another mechanic there said he would have used them, but he doesn't build wheels.

    The guy I've gotten recommendations for is supposed to be very good. He's works at a different store that is a bit further away from where I live, but I'm willing to travel. I've even gotten a recommendation from someone that knows him personally and is riding on a couple of wheels he has built for her.

    PBW

  8. #8
    Breaker of Spokes P. B. Walker's Avatar
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    UPDATE:

    Well the new tire they put on was a Specialized Nimbus EX 700x38c. Took it out for a ride today and quickly realized something was rubbing. Well after 10 mins figured out it was the tire rubbing on the frame. It didn't do it when I wasn't on the bike. So that tire was too big.

    Took it back and they replaced it with a Continental Top Touring 2000 700x32c. Went and took it out for about 50 miles and it worked out pretty good. No loose spokes. The wheel was slightly out of true when I finished my ride and since I was parked at the LBS, I just had them true it up.

    I can definitely feel the "give" in this tire, especially when I stand to go up a hill. This might only be because the previous tire was so stiff, so I'm used to a very stiff tire.

    I'm not sure how flat resistant this tire is, but it is a touring tire so it can't be too bad. I'll just have to laugh is this is the actual cause of all my woes.

    PBW

  9. #9
    Just ride. roadbuzz's Avatar
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    That sux. Put me in the I don't believe it's the tire column, keep us posted especially if that fixes it! Poppaspoke may be onto something. A 40 spoke build on a T519 should be d@mn near indestructable, don't care what you weigh. Either the wheel was built wrong from the start, or there's some hidden rim damage. I'd say you have two options... keep working with the current shop. They're well intentioned, but you're getting nowhere, right? Or, try a different wheelbuilder and eat the cost. I'm guessing it'll need to be detensioned, to check that the rim hasn't been warped, and effectively rebuilt. I agree w/your shop about the spoke prep. It's not necessary, but makes the wheelbuilders job a little easier.

    Good luck.

    I've never tried TT 2000s, but had the previous model, named just "Top Touring", on my commuter until the sidewalls rotted. They were wonderful tires! They had more rolling resistance than some, but had a lively, bouncy feel that I really liked. I usually pumped them up to the max rated. Kevlar belted tires have a heavy, dead feel, IMO, that I don't like.

  10. #10
    Senior Member BikerRyan's Avatar
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    Originally posted by P. B. Walker


    I had not thought that 36 spokes was a high spoke count. I think of 40 or 48 as being high. I think the important factor in going to a 40 spoke wheel would be spreading the weight out on more spokes, thereby allowing less tension to individual spokes, which would hopefully keep them from loosening.

    PBW
    36 is certainly not the highest, however it is high considering most people ride 28 to 32 hole rims. You are correct about spreading out the load over more spokes but lower spoke tension does not keep the spokes from loosening - does a finger tightened bolt ever stay in its hole? Very rarely. The reason a builder uses spoke prep or linseed oil is to lubricate the threads in the nipple so that the spoke can be wound up to a higher tension (which fights off loosening) without damaging the spoke or nipple. Granted, with todays materials it is less necessary but I would still recommend it if not for the lubricating effect for the "locktite" like effect it has after the wheel is built.
    Your bike mechanic is wise beyond your wildest dreams.

    If you can't be good at one sport then you can be okay at three.

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    It seems quite possible to build a strong wheel using your current components, but why are you using un-butted spokes ?
    My touring wheels are built with 36 13/14 guage butted spokes. The 13g butted sections provide a very tight fit into the flange. Butted spokes distribute the stress along more of the spoke and are usually stronger than plain spokes.


    I think your wheel woes are really wheel-builder woes. Ive used 2 wheelbuilders, experienced LBS owners with good reputations, who give a 2year guarentee on their work.

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    Back in my "fat phase" I weighed in at 235 and rode Mavic Open Pro CD 36 spoke in 3-cross pattern for about 5000 miles without a loose or broken spoke. And I also used Specialized Armadillos the entire time. I still use the Armadillos for the same reason you do and the fact that they are so heavy the make a great training tire. These wheels never even required truing, which always amazed me as I hit some pretty hard holes. Enough to knock me off the bike a couple of times. I would suggest it may be a problem with your LBS's abilities. My even larger riding companion (250+) wrapped the spoke "cross" on his rear wheel with copper wire and soldered to stop his spokes from coming loose. Seems a bit extreme, but he has suffered no problems as a result. You might send your story to Lennard Zinn, the bike technical guru at www.Velonews.com. He is always interested in such things and gives great feedback. Good luck.

  13. #13
    Breaker of Spokes P. B. Walker's Avatar
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    Thanks for the tips everyone. I did notice that those new tires felt quite a bit different. I will stick with them and see how this turns out. I'm out of town on business this week, but I'll be back on the bike this weekend for some more "wheel testing".... as I've started to call my weekends lately. LOL. It's odd, but I've spent the last 4 or 5 weekends going out riding, going to the LBS, then back out for a ride on sunday, followed up with another stop in at the LBS. I swear they must be getting sick of me. Most of the sale guys just laugh when I walk in the door.

    I definitely will be going to this other wheel builder that got recommended to me if I get new wheels built. A buddy even suggest that I bring both of my bikes to him and let him see what the wheels look like so he can see for himself. The only reason I'm sticking with this LBS is for this set of wheels only. I haven't quite gotten to the point of "tossing in the towel". If it gets bad enough, I'll just go to the new wheel builder and have him build two new wheels (probably 40 spoke wheels). Once that is done, then I'll let him have a try at this current 36 spoke wheel... maybe he does a better job.

    Anyhoo... I'll keep ya'll posted. Thanks for the tips and advice. I actually went out and bought a book called "The Bicycle Wheel" (it was recommended also) just so I could learn what it was I was talking about. So I'm learning a bit along the way.

    PBW

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    Breaker of Spokes P. B. Walker's Avatar
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    UPDATE:

    Well, I got out on the bike again for the 2nd time after having my tire replaced. Made it about 22 miles before I had a loose spoke (so loose the nipple was spinning freely). I also had 2 or 3 slightly loose spokes. I tightened them all up til they all felt as tight as the rest (by squeezing spoke pairs and trying to get them to match the other spoke pairs by feel). The wheel was slightly out of true... almost to the point where the rim rubs the brake pads, but not quite. So I finished my ride and took it back into the LBS. They trued it up and I'm going to try it again tomorrow.

    I asked the guy that re-built the wheel about maybe switching to double-butted spokes. I know they are harder to use and harder to true, but I've heard they are much better for clydesdales like myself since they have some "give" to them, and they don't allow the spokes to loosen up so much. The wench flat out REFUSED to rebuild the wheel with double butted spokes. After all this time, they won't even let me try a different solution. This is a bit disturbing.

    Does this sound reasonable to you all?

    I have no doubt that I will be back in there tomorrow with the same problem. And they just keep saying they'll try something different. I think I've been very patient with them. Everyone else I've talked to (and a few of you here) have suggested I go to a new wheel builder. I realize that all new work will cost, but I'm thinking it's worth it just to have a wheel that will last more than 100 miles.

    Anyhoo... I'll keep ya posted. I'm still kicking around the idea of getting a second set of wheels anyway.

    PBW

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    Order a pair of Mavic 36 spoke Open Pro CDs on your favorite hub and end your problems. Just let them know your weight when ordering. Your problems will go away along with your LBS.

  16. #16
    Wide Load HalfHearted's Avatar
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    If I was in your shoes and considering a second set of wheels, I think I'd get that second set of wheels (built by someone else, of course) and try them out. If they didn't give me any trouble then I'd go back to the LBS with them and say, "Look, John Doe built me wheels that last, why can't you guys do the same?"

    John

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    Ooops....I neglected to mention that you should order from Colorado Cyclist. They are probably the largest wheel builders in the U.S. and stand behind their products.

  18. #18
    Zippy Engineer Waldo's Avatar
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    Oh dear god, not Colorado Cyclist. Our shop has had a bunch of their wheel builds in recently for work. Pretty shoddy quality if you ask me.

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    My two sets from Colorado Cyclist have gone over 6000 miles without a tweak required. Perhaps you should send them to Waldo's shop.

  20. #20
    Zippy Engineer Waldo's Avatar
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    One thing I forgot to recommend would be to see if there are any LBS in your area that deal with Quality Bike Products (which they most likely do). If so, have them order up some wheels from them. They build excellent wheels.
    As for the Colorado Cyclist wheels, I guess I came off a bit harsh there. We've had a rash of them in lately for work but it seems like before that they were building solid wheels.

  21. #21
    Breaker of Spokes P. B. Walker's Avatar
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    UPDATE: Well the rear wheel held up today, but I only did about 14 miles on it. Long story. Unfortunately, a spoke in the front wheel broke. I'm totally sick of this.

    I've decided to go to a different wheel builder, the one that was recommended to me. I'm going to bring him what I have and see what he says. I'd like two wheelsets, one for road riding/commuting and one for cyclo-cross type riding (hard packed dirt trail). I'll see what he says.

    I'm hoping he (the new wheel builder) can maybe reuse my old wheel for the new front wheel. I assume since the 32 spoke front wheel isn't working either, he'll recommend a 36 spoke front wheel. I'm guessing he'll recommend a 40 spoke rear wheel. But I'll just have to see.

    I did talk to my current LBS today about my options. The service manager immediately suggested going to a 48 spoke wheel. And he wasn't too sure about that. I didn't get that "warm and fuzzy" feeling from him, so I think it's time to move on. Unfortunate.

    Worse case, if I do have to buy 4 new wheels, I can save these old wheels in case I do lose all the weight I want to. They might still be ride-able in the future.

    Thanks for all the advice everyone. Hopefully I'll have better luck with this new wheel builder. I'll let ya know.

    PBW

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    I've noticed that alot of guys are so full of themselves that they have lost touch with reality. I guess some girls are the same but in a different way. The problem with this attitude is they can't learn from their mistakes if they can't admit them. The only way to teach them is to force them. Some of the best teachers I've ever had showed me just how far I fell short of the mark. It sounds like this wheel builder is wayyyyyy short. Gently let him know just how short he is from being a good wheelbuilder. Prove it by going to a wheelbuilder with a good reputation, go with his recomendation ( you don't need 40 spokes ), and when you have a 1000 miles of troublefree riding on them drop by and let him know. It might be the best thing that ever happened to his wheelbuilding. By letting him get away with this behavior, you are doing his job, and he will never learn how to do it well.
    That's my rant and I'm sticking with it.
    the incredible lightness of being

  23. #23
    Senior Member Dougmt's Avatar
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    PBW,
    This won't directly help your situation but it may encourage you to go with another wheelbuilder.
    If I remember correctly your a larger than average rider
    I tip the scales ABOVE 260 and I have bolted everything from the kids trailer to a childs carrier seat to the back of my two-wheeled giddy up. I've driven off of foot high curbs with 80 PSI in my tioga street slicks, I've mountain biked all over MT. I've ridden miles and miles and miles on wheels built by my old LBS in Minot, North Dakota (not exactly a cycling meca) the wheels are LX hubs and sun rims... inexpensive sun rims
    I have NEVER broken a spoke... in my life. I tacoed a wheel once in a nasty crash and my rear sun rim (as of last night's 30 mile ride with the new front and rear panniers) is just now starting to get a little squidgy.
    My point in this is that you should not be breaking spokes like this... somebody, not you, is doing SOMETHING WRONG.
    Doug

  24. #24
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    You know, there are wheel builders, and there are wheel assemblers. This guy sounds like he's the latter.

    My advice to you is, if you can't find a good wheelbuilder around your area, call peter white in MA. He's one of the best wheelbuilders around. Many people will attest to that fact. I bought a wheel from him once, and I'm very pleased with his work.

    www.peterwhitecycles.com
    Je vais vlo, donc je suis!

  25. #25
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    Dude.... it sounds to me like you just need to bite the bullit and buy a new set of hoops. It sounds like the spoke eye-lets are stripped, and even with a dab of loc-tite wouldn't hold.

    I'd suggest trying a different manufacturer, or replacing all the eye-lets on your current rims. A friend of mine had a wheelset that was the same way, no matter what you did to it, it'd come back in like 2 hours with approx 6-8 loose spokes. It was rather ludicrous.

    Your best bet is to probably just buy new rims, and get those current "Voodoo infested" rims off your bike.

    Got Nine Inches ? Cuz I do. http://67.19.50.55/forums/images/smilies/eviltongue.gif

    AIM: MtnBikeHucker

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