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  1. #1
    Banned. BugsInMyTeeth's Avatar
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    Strongest Spoke On The Planet

    Hey guys..

    I was planning on building my first wheel with the strongest spokes I could find. I had thought that the DT Swiss Alpine III Triple Butted were among the toughest, but a mech at the lbs tells me that I don't need triple butted, and the only thing they're good for is to have strength, while reducing weight.

    I'm new to this game... and I'm getting different opinions which doesn't help.

    Please, wheel builders chime in. Tell me, if weight was no matter (which it isn't, I weigh 250 lbs), what is the strongest spoke money can buy? (errr.. within reason, I'm not ready to build my first wheel with titanium).


    edit: mtb, rear wheel.

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    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BugsInMyTeeth View Post
    Hey guys..

    I was planning on building my first wheel with the strongest spokes I could find. I had thought that the DT Swiss Alpine III Triple Butted were among the toughest, but a mech at the lbs tells me that I don't need triple butted, and the only thing they're good for is to have strength, while reducing weight.

    I'm new to this game... and I'm getting different opinions which doesn't help.

    Please, wheel builders chime in. Tell me, if weight was no matter (which it isn't, I weigh 250 lbs), what is the strongest spoke money can buy? (errr.. within reason, I'm not ready to build my first wheel with titanium).


    edit: mtb, rear wheel.
    Your mechanic is steering you wrong. He probably thinks, incorrectly, that the strongest spokes are straight gauge and thick. While this is true in an absolute...and static...sense, a bike wheel isn't static. It is a dynamic mechanism that flexes and bends with use. When a straight gauge spoke's section of the wheel impacts the ground will translate the force from the ground to the hub in a linear fashion. Hit it on the end and it will put just about all the force at the hub. But the way that the spoke attaches to the hub is through a sharp bend of the wire that makes the spoke, so the force isn't translated completely to the hub but a substantial amount of the force goes into that sharp bend. Sharp bends of metal aren't strong points. In fact they are very weak points and subject to fracture and failure.

    A butted spoke (single butt for our purposes) has a thinner center section. This is obviously a weaker section because it's thinner. But, since the spokes work together and the thinner section has no bends in it, this isn't too much of a problem. However when the wheel section impacts the ground, the thinner section can compress and bend a little, taking energy out of the impact to the hub. The spoke head doesn't see as much force and thus doesn't fracture as easily.

    The problem with all spokes is that the threads of the spoke are rolled on, not cut. This retains the strength of the spoke at the rim but it also makes them larger in diameter. For a 2.0mm spoke, the threads expand the diameter to about 2.3mm. The holes in the hub have to be 2.3mm to let the threads pass. But most 2.0mm spokes, straight or butted, are 2.0mm at the head. This 0.3mm difference means that the spoke - remember that the wheel is dynamic - can move in the hole at the hub flange. Even when properly tensioned, the spoke will move slightly. Enough cycles on that weak head and the spoke will break. The more weight you put on the bike...and more deflection of the wheel...the more likely the spoke is to eventually fail. I've had this happen way too much on loaded touring bikes. I've even heard the spokes 'tink' in the hub and known that the spoke had come loose (I fixed it)

    That's where the Alpine comes in. It's head is 2.3mm (about) which nicely fills that hole. The head doesn't move in the hub and the head doesn't fatigue as quickly. The middle butt takes up the force of the impacts and the wheel ends up being stronger and longer lasting.

    I've built wheels with Alpines for several years now. I have a mountain bike wheel that is over 5 years of hard riding old and it's never had a problem. They work and they are strong...stronger than anything I've ever used...including some 12 gauge spokes on a tandem I had once. Those broke like dried spaghetti...even on the front wheel
    Stuart Black
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  3. #3
    Senior Member MrCjolsen's Avatar
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    When I was going through a similar trip a year ago, someone said that the .3 mm gap between the thickness of the spoke head and the size of the hole was to allow for the machine building of wheels. They also said that Phil Wood hubs were better because they had smaller spoke holes.

    Does this mean that:

    1. You can only hand build a wheel with a Phil Wood hub
    2. You cannot use DT swiss alpine spokes with Phil Wood hubs?

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    Banned. BugsInMyTeeth's Avatar
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    Thanks Cycco, that's awesome. I was sort of miffed when he said what he did, but with my lack of experience, I couldn't outright deny what he was saying.

    Wish I could find a decent mech, at least until I become one myself.

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    Banned. BugsInMyTeeth's Avatar
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    Another thing that irked me about this lbs.. the hub/rim combo I'm using to build my first wheel are just spare parts that I have kicking around.

    A Rhyno Lite rim, and a low end Shimano hub (fh-m475).

    The wife of the owner of the lbs, who's a nice lady btw, tells me that the Rhyno is basically lame, and suggests I buy a Sun Rim Single Track wheel like the ones they sell on their freeride bikes. I go over to check it out, and it's sportin' the same lame-ass m475 that I'm holding in my hand.

    I know that this hub isn't very good, and I'm sure I could find a better rim.. but this is what I have. I'll probably spend too much for the spokes.. but that's ok. It's my first build... if I pull it off, I'll consider investing in some better hardware for the next one.

    BTW: best place to buy DT spokes online? (I'm in Canada.. not many online options up here, eh?)

  6. #6
    one less horse cryptid01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    YWhen a straight gauge spoke's section of the wheel impacts the ground will translate the force from the ground to the hub in a linear fashion. Hit it on the end and it will put just about all the force at the hub.
    And all this time I thought dynamic loading of spokes was tensile, not compressive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gastro View Post
    And all this time I thought dynamic loading of spokes was tensile, not compressive.
    This can get into a real semantic argument; does a bicycle wheel hang from the top spokes or stand on the bottom ones? Go argue with Jobst Brandt about this and get back to me on the outcome.

    Obviously the static loads are all tensile but under weight and riding forces the bottom few spokes come under compressive loads so they lose some (sometimes all) of their tensile loads. The upshot is that the load changes from tensil to less tensile or, for a low tension wheel or a hard bump, even a compressive load.

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    hey I just wanted to warn you guys about something..

    the sun rhynolite rim is an while being a strong rim, the are an absolute ***** to get tires on or off

    I just purchased a set of rhyno's with shimano deore hub for last years winter riding with studs, flatted in the middle of nowwhere and couldn't get the tire off with my existing levers...broke both
    had to walk it home in thew middle of a storm
    when I got home, still couldn't get them off so bought a park metal levers..still a ***** to get on and off

    I got rid of them....so watch out if you decide on the rhyno....ant tire you try on will be a *****

  9. #9
    Banned. BugsInMyTeeth's Avatar
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    You got that right doco...

    Although it seems to depend on the tire as well.. I've had problems with one tire (wire bead), and was fine with another (kevlar). I broke at least 4 irons on the wire bead tire/Rhyno.

  10. #10
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrCjolsen View Post
    When I was going through a similar trip a year ago, someone said that the .3 mm gap between the thickness of the spoke head and the size of the hole was to allow for the machine building of wheels. They also said that Phil Wood hubs were better because they had smaller spoke holes.
    The gap has always been about the 0.3mm as far as I know because of the way that spokes are threaded. Rolling the threads on adds width to the spoke. If you cut the threads, the spoke would lose strength at the rim. If you go over to Sheldon Brown's site and get a copy of SpokeCalc, it has the listed hub spoke hole diameters. Phil's have a 2.4mm diameter. That seems to be about average. Shimano hubs are listed at 2.6mm and there are a few disc hubs that have a huge 2.8 diameter hole. You could almost pass the whole head through those

    Quote Originally Posted by MrCjolsen View Post
    Does this mean that:

    1. You can only hand build a wheel with a Phil Wood hub
    Kind of a moot point. Who's gonna use a $300 hub in a machine?

    Quote Originally Posted by MrCjolsen View Post
    2. You cannot use DT swiss alpine spokes with Phil Wood hubs?
    I've got a set of Phil's with Alpines. I had no problems in building them.
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  11. #11
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BugsInMyTeeth View Post
    Another thing that irked me about this lbs.. the hub/rim combo I'm using to build my first wheel are just spare parts that I have kicking around.

    A Rhyno Lite rim, and a low end Shimano hub (fh-m475).

    The wife of the owner of the lbs, who's a nice lady btw, tells me that the Rhyno is basically lame, and suggests I buy a Sun Rim Single Track wheel like the ones they sell on their freeride bikes. I go over to check it out, and it's sportin' the same lame-ass m475 that I'm holding in my hand.

    I know that this hub isn't very good, and I'm sure I could find a better rim.. but this is what I have. I'll probably spend too much for the spokes.. but that's ok. It's my first build... if I pull it off, I'll consider investing in some better hardware for the next one.

    BTW: best place to buy DT spokes online? (I'm in Canada.. not many online options up here, eh?)
    AE bikes and Jenson list them. Not a great selection, however, at either place. Try googling it.
    Stuart Black
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  12. #12
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BugsInMyTeeth View Post
    I was planning on building my first wheel with the strongest spokes I could find.
    Define "strong" for me.

    If you're referring to "tensile strength", then a thick, straight gauge spoke is definitely stronger. Thicker spokes will hold more weight before they start to stretch and ultimately break.

    If you're referring to "resistance to breaking", that might not be true. I've never seen a spoke break anywhere except at the elbow or at the top thread where the spoke enters the nipple. Designing a spoke to yield a little sooner in the center can reduce the stresses to the breakage prone zones and, consequently, be more resistant to breaking.

    Reversing the logic, would you add material to the center section of a spoke to reduce failures at the elbow?

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    I think all spokes are strong, butted, straight guage, as long as the wheel is properly built. Its a well built wheel that prevents spoke breakage. Low tension on a wheel will cause spoke breakage because the spokes are constantly going slack and then tightening, which will break any spoke.

    And the wheel lacing makes a huge difference. A wheel that is built with crossed spokes is much stronger laterally than a radial built wheel. Look at what happened in the Tour this year with the guy that broadsided the dog. He was almost stopped, not going very fast at all, when he nailed the dog, but his wheel was slightly turned and the lateral forces on the radially laced wheel made the wheel buckle and spokes break. Some attributed this to the fact he was riding carbon wheels, but a radially laced alu rim would have buckled also.
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    While butted spokes are technically the better type to use, you can still get good results from straight gauge spokes. Other things that determine the ultimate strength/durability of the wheel are the quality of the rim, number of spokes and the amount of dish needed. Also, as above, the spoke lacing style used. Also, having the wheel built by a skilled practitioner can make a world of difference for the strength/durability.

  15. #15
    Banned. BugsInMyTeeth's Avatar
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    Thanks guys.

    By 'strong', I suppose I mean 'greater resistance to breaking'.

    I understand that my best bet would be if a pro built my wheel, with the best hub/rim combo going. Thing is, I want to have a crack at it myself, and am sitting on this hub (cheezy Shimano m475) and rim(Rhyno Lite). I need to buy spokes, period, and since I have to buy those, I'd rather spend alittle more and get some 'stronger' (strongest?) kind.

    And by 'strong', I mean less likely to break.

    Yeah, to date, all my spokes have either broke at the nipple...,


    or at the hub (sorry.. no pic).

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    Unless you wreck, all spokes break at the head or nipple.

    The only time I've broken a spoke in the middle was when I wrecked into someone infront of me and hit a curb laterally in a crit (totally his fault in a bad corner). I broke about 6 spokes and it looked like the spokes just stretched to the breaking point. I was using 2.0/1.5 spokes and it was laced radially so its partially my fault for lacing it that way.

  17. #17
    coffeeeeee p4nh4ndle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    This can get into a real semantic argument; does a bicycle wheel hang from the top spokes or stand on the bottom ones? Go argue with Jobst Brandt about this and get back to me on the outcome.

    Obviously the static loads are all tensile but under weight and riding forces the bottom few spokes come under compressive loads so they lose some (sometimes all) of their tensile loads. The upshot is that the load changes from tensil to less tensile or, for a low tension wheel or a hard bump, even a compressive load.
    Not quite obviously all of the loads on a tensioned bicycle wheel spoke are tension and sheer loads; tension in the middle section of the spoke that we test with our ear or tensometer, a sheer force at the elbow (yes also a slight compression force there too). I don't need to argue with J.B. He'd back me up in saying that bicycle wheels hang from the upper spokes and the bottom spokes may have a reduced tension due to the load placed on the axle, but they are not in compression. I think its been said already, but I'll reiterate that a bicycle wheel is a system of dynamic tension loads. The theory of butted spokes is to keep the same amount of material at the rim and hub flange where most breaks occur, but reduce material in the center to save weight and possibly to also provide more elasticity. The only wheel (bicycle type) that loads its spokes compressively on purpose (other than spin,aerospoke,spynergy,etc) is this new mavic money grabber (http://roadmag.blogspot.com/2007/06/...take-note.html). I'm not trying to flame anyone (uh oh, I've probably just started a war with that comment ) but its science.

    I've always been pleased with Colorado Cyclist's prices, selection, and service for ordering spokes.

    Edit: I was wrong. At some point I must have been told, and bought, the old "hanging from the middle" story. Testing the spoke tensions on a loaded wheel does not bear this out. The bottom spoke is definitely the only one that experiences an appreciable change in tension (less).
    Last edited by p4nh4ndle; 08-20-07 at 06:05 AM.

  18. #18
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by p4nh4ndle View Post
    Not quite obviously all of the loads on a tensioned bicycle wheel spoke are tension and sheer loads; tension in the middle section of the spoke that we test with our ear or tensometer, a sheer force at the elbow (yes also a slight compression force there too). I don't need to argue with J.B. He'd back me up in saying that bicycle wheels hang from the upper spokes and the bottom spokes may have a reduced tension due to the load placed on the axle, but they are not in compression. I think its been said already, but I'll reiterate that a bicycle wheel is a system of dynamic tension loads. The theory of butted spokes is to keep the same amount of material at the rim and hub flange where most breaks occur, but reduce material in the center to save weight and possibly to also provide more elasticity. The only wheel (bicycle type) that loads its spokes compressively on purpose (other than spin,aerospoke,spynergy,etc) is this new mavic money grabber (http://roadmag.blogspot.com/2007/06/...take-note.html). I'm not trying to flame anyone (uh oh, I've probably just started a war with that comment ) but its science.

    I've always been pleased with Colorado Cyclist's prices, selection, and service for ordering spokes.
    If the bicycle is hanging from a hook, then the bike is hanging from the spokes. Otherwise there has to be some component of the wheel in compression. Simple gravity is going to compress some part of the wheel from the load being placed on the bike. If there is no compressive forces on the spokes, then why does the tire squish under weight? That force has to be translated somehow.

    As for the bike being under a system of dynamic loads, I'll agree. But the load at the bottom of the wheel where it contacts the ground is probably less than the load at the top of the wheel which isn't in contact with the ground, this reduction in tension comes from the load pushing down on the wheel and compressing it, thereby reducing the tension on the individual spokes. If not, where does the reduction in tension come from?

    I'm not flaming and I can be convinced otherwise but it's going to take a lot of talking to do it
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  19. #19
    Banned. BugsInMyTeeth's Avatar
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    Silly question.

    From what I've gathered.. there can often be a need to use 2 different lengths for the left and right side spokes.

    If the spoke length calculations turn out to say you need 260 on one side, and 261 on the other, is it cool just use one length for both sides? Is there a threshhold measurement difference between left and right that can allow one to use one length of spoke? 1 mm? 2 mm?

  20. #20
    Mr. Dopolina Bob Dopolina's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nitropowered View Post
    Unless you wreck, all spokes break at the head or nipple.
    I've seen spokes broken where they were butted. More than once. There were in radial and crossed wheels and not as a result of a crash. So it does, sometimes happen. Although I do agree that almost all spokes break at the elbow (most common) or at the top of the nipple.

    I think these breaks occur because of how the spoke is bent as it is fed through the hub flange and then woven into place. If the spoke gets slightly kinked during this process it will introduce a stress riser and this area will be prone to failure. So be careful as you lace the wheel.

  21. #21
    coffeeeeee p4nh4ndle's Avatar
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    cycocommute:

    Oops! I should have been more careful in my language. I should have never said the word "wheel"; Oh well, I left myself open. I wanted to confine my argument to spokes only.
    I'll concede that some element of the wheel has to be in compression; the rim and tire obviously come to mind.

    "...but it's going to take a lot of talking to do it"
    ah, but I'm not a Ph.D. So I can't convince anyone of anything just by talking about it.
    I'll try to come up with a convincing analytical argument for you (with some math too eek).
    If there's one thing I've learned it's not to be too convinced of your own ideas. I'm going to do some tests on a shop castoff wheel and see if I can get any evidence of compression on the spokes.

    The one thread I'm grasping at concerning spokes and compression is that they're not really anchored to the rim in a way that allows one to push on the rim and the spoke at the same time. In fact the thing we cyclists want least is spokes pushing into our inner tubes. G'night

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    For christs sake, just build your damn wheel on double butted spokes and we're done.
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  23. #23
    The Red Lantern Rev.Chuck's Avatar
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    Before you get a bunch of Alpines test fit one. I have had a quite a few hubs that would not take an Alpine with out drilling and chamfering the holes.

    The wheel you have pictured looks like it had nipple failures, all the failed spokes you can see still have the nipples on them at any rate.

    A whel cannot "stand" on the lower spokes for the simple reason there is nothing to stand against. Insert a spoke in a hub, thread it thru the rim, put a nipple on it. set it up with the wheel straight up and down and push down on the hub check the results. The other 31 spokes complicate the issue, but you still can't push down on a hole.

    Conventional butted spokes (14/15/14g) are easy to get and plenty strong.
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    Senior Member smurf hunter's Avatar
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    I'm around 200lbs and am thrilled with a rear wheel I just built (32h 3x) using DT comp DB spokes. If you tension your build well, all the mumbo jumbo about flange hole size etc. matters less.

    I'm really tempted to build a front wheel radially laced with the same spokes. I just can't get over the eye candy appeal of a radial spoked wheel spinning. Somebody stop me if this is insane.

  25. #25
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BugsInMyTeeth View Post
    Silly question.

    From what I've gathered.. there can often be a need to use 2 different lengths for the left and right side spokes.

    If the spoke length calculations turn out to say you need 260 on one side, and 261 on the other, is it cool just use one length for both sides? Is there a threshhold measurement difference between left and right that can allow one to use one length of spoke? 1 mm? 2 mm?
    If the spokes are that close, I'd go with the same size and just end up tightening the drive side more to get the proper dish. For more than a 2mm difference, you should use a longer spoke.
    Stuart Black
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