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Old 04-02-08, 09:29 PM   #1
GeorgeinGeorgia
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Recurring broken spokes

It won't take long to figure it out, but I'm not a terribly serious biker at this point and I know very little about bike repair.

But I bought a Trek 7200 for myself and a Gary Fisher Napa for my wife last fall.

Had several broken spokes on the front wheel of the Fisher bike within a short time frame. Spokes weren't breaking at the rim or at the hub - but out in the middle.

After paying to have the spokes replaced several times, the dealer I bought the bikes from called the company rep and they sent a whole new tire, rim and spokes - ready to install - no charge. No problems again on that one for several months.

Went out today for wife and I to go ride, and both bikes had a broken spoke on the rear wheel.

Spokes look like they've been cut with wire cutters (they weren't).

Bikes are kept in a closed garage, on a bike rack up off of the floor.

Any ideas why I keep having these recurring broken spokes?

Tired of paying the cycle shop $15 to $20 to replace them.

Are Fisher and Trek using sorry components? Is it possible a bad batch of spokes was sent out from the spoke maker?

I don't know much about bike repair, but do I need to just learn to repair spokes if we're going to enjoy our bikes?

Any insight or thoughts?

Thanks!

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Old 04-02-08, 11:38 PM   #2
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My guess; bad batch of spokes. that is NOT supposed to happen even on an old wheel (spokes usually break at nipple or elbow as you noted they hadn't). I would warrantee all your wheels, if you can.
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Old 04-02-08, 11:45 PM   #3
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yeah to do it makes sense, the worst broken spoke event was on my first tour with a relatively new Schwinn Ranger 2.6fs just in loading it down when I reached the first part of my destination up a great climb in Monterey headed towards Veterans Memorial Park. I awoke the next day noticing I had three broken spokes on the back wheel whether it was a matter of cheap spokes or a load was not used to I do not know. I was a rookie as far as tours go at that time. I guess the point is it will happen don't give up on it but instead keep going and improve the situation.
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Old 04-02-08, 11:49 PM   #4
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Spokes do have lives. Yours may need to be replaced. Try going with straight gauge. In my experience, once they start going then it will happen more and more often.

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Old 04-03-08, 12:15 AM   #5
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This is happening on from what I can tell are two relatively new bikes and in one case on a whole replacement wheel. That's very fishy for sure. And certainly well within the life of any spokes I've ever seen. And definetly not on two bikes from totally different companies.

I'm not trying to be mean but are you two fairly heavy as in well above the norm? If so the generic spokes they used on your bikes may not be up to the task. Good spokes wouldn't care but the cheapies will.

I'd suggest that you have both wheel sets be hand rebuilt by a shop locally that knows their stuff and that they use regular stainless spokes and tension up the wheels to suit you and your wife if any special consideration is needed (again I'm not trying to be mean if you two are a little heavy, just realistic). From what I've heard the black ones are often not as good a quality of steel as the regular stainless ones. Stick with the good brand silver ones and to heck with style.

Getting the 4 wheels relaced won't be cheap. Spokes are around $30 a wheel and shops usually charge $30 to lace them up. Perhaps they'll cut you a deal for 4. But with a good re-lacing job and good quality spokes you two should be back out riding and not need to worry about this stuff. Outside of the check up visit that is. Most good shops include a free true and tension visit on their wheels after you ride for about 40 to 50 miles just in case they bed in and move around a little.
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Old 04-03-08, 04:37 AM   #6
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Appreciate the feedback.

Also understand the question on weight - it isn't mean, but a valid question. Wife is around 130. Her bike (the Gary Fisher and the one with the most broken spokes) is most often used by daughter, who is around 115. Wife has been on my Trek during the past 2 or 3 weeks (I haven't been able to ride). So don't think that's the problem.

BTW, the wheel that was replaced hasn't had any further breaks.

Hate to spend the money getting re-spoked on bikes that are virtually new, but would rather try that than keep popping spokes.

Think I'll get the cycle shop to see if any relief from Trek and Fisher (aren't they made by the same company?). If not, will just pay to have all the wheels except the recent replacement re-spoked and hope that takes care of the problem.
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Old 04-03-08, 05:51 AM   #7
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I had a shimano 3 speed hub in a 20" rim on a Chopper bike I made.

All the parts were at least 10 years old
Every time I went for a thrash I would find some broken spokes in the back wheel.
Was a sign of how fast I was going...

The bike had a Mk2 Raleigh Chopper seat..so I sat right over the wheel.
Loads of stress on the spokes

Still got the wheel. Not using it just now.
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Old 04-03-08, 06:25 AM   #8
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Short of the supe rare impossibility of poor quality spokes, multiple breakages are the result of uneven tension. Consistent tension is critical to a proper wheel build. Get those wheels trued and tensiond and you should be fine.
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Old 04-03-08, 10:51 AM   #9
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Two things to debunk:

1) Straight gauge spokes have only one thing going for them: They're cheap. They're no stronger and they're a touch heavier than butted spokes. That's it.

2) Colored spokes are not weaker than un-colored spokes. They just have a coating of paint/dye on their surface. Which makes them more expensive than spokes of similar gauge and butting.

I second the retension and true. HOWEVER wheelsets on entry level bikes, in my experience, have been difficult to work with; set to proper tension and true to spec. This as compared to hand-built custom wheels and more expensive off-the-shelf models from such companies as Mavic or Fulcrum et cetera ad nauseum. Part of the problem is lower quality spokes the other part is low-quality rims.
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Old 04-03-08, 11:26 AM   #10
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The spoke failure looks like a shear failure, meaning that the material may be too soft.

Slightly higher tensile strength should fix the problem, but watch out for too high (ie, hacksaw-grade steel) tensile strengths since those will fracture in a brittle manner.

The spoke tension should also be as equal as possible, meaning the rim could have deformations?
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Old 04-03-08, 11:28 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeinGeorgia View Post
But I bought a Trek 7200 for myself and a Gary Fisher Napa for my wife last fall. .....Tired of paying the cycle shop $15 to $20 to replace them. .....Any insight or thoughts?
For being around 6 months old, I would tell the LBS to fix the problem. Definately a waranty issue. More than likely the tension is the problem as these wheels are built on robotic machines.
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Old 04-03-08, 12:05 PM   #12
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Spokes usually break at the "J" bend where they enter the hub due to insufficient tension and repeated flexure. But that's not what has happened to you.
Your broken spokes may be due to poor quality materials, replacement with good quality spokes should be the fix, assuming that the wheel(s) are properly re-built. Looks like a possible warranty issue.
Another possibility might be damage to the rim from hitting chug holes or hard objects but that doesn't seem to be the case here.

Al
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Old 04-03-08, 12:11 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeinGeorgia View Post
Appreciate the feedback.

Also understand the question on weight - it isn't mean, but a valid question. Wife is around 130. Her bike (the Gary Fisher and the one with the most broken spokes) is most often used by daughter, who is around 115. Wife has been on my Trek during the past 2 or 3 weeks (I haven't been able to ride). So don't think that's the problem.

BTW, the wheel that was replaced hasn't had any further breaks.

Hate to spend the money getting re-spoked on bikes that are virtually new, but would rather try that than keep popping spokes.

Think I'll get the cycle shop to see if any relief from Trek and Fisher (aren't they made by the same company?). If not, will just pay to have all the wheels except the recent replacement re-spoked and hope that takes care of the problem.
If the replacement wheel had no further breakage then that would make it appear that somehow both bikes had wheels that came with a common set of poor spokes. The fact that the new wheel hasn't had a failure supports that observation.

And I'm embarrased to note that I didn't see the "last fall" reference in re-reading the first post...

Definetly a warranty issue. And for that matter I'm surprised that the shop didn't cover the broken spokes under warranty or suggest that there was an issue earlier. Go get 'em tiger!
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Old 04-03-08, 12:36 PM   #14
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For being around 6 months old, I would tell the LBS to fix the problem. Definately a waranty issue. More than likely the tension is the problem as these wheels are built on robotic machines.
+1 You shouldn't be out a cent for whatever the LBS has to do to make it right......new wheels, spokes, labor.....nothing, not a cent.........that's what makes a LBS the place to go; any less and they become Walmart...........
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Old 04-05-08, 02:14 PM   #15
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Went to the shop I bought the bikes from today. Owner was very helpful. Is contacting the manufacturers to ask that they replace the wheel sets. Said I should be back in business by the end of the week (I think that's a little optimistic, but we'll see).

My wife told me we've had the bikes a little longer than I realized, but they're still under warranty.

All in all, feeling better about the situation.

Again, thanks for the input.
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Old 04-05-08, 02:46 PM   #16
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[QUOTE=GeorgeinGeorgia;6451991Went out today for wife and I to go ride, and both bikes had a broken spoke on the rear wheel.

Spokes look like they've been cut with wire cutters (they weren't).[/QUOTE]

What makes you so positive they weren't cut? I'm putting all my chips on your bikes having been vandalized. For one spoke to break in the middle like that is ultra rare. For it to have happened on two different bikes that are stored in the same area, we're talking lottery odds.

If they were my bikes I'd be figuring out who's doing it.
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Old 04-05-08, 03:38 PM   #17
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What makes you so positive they weren't cut? I'm putting all my chips on your bikes having been vandalized.
The bikes stay on a rack in my garage, which is closed (locked) except when we're going in or out. Not exactly a high crime neighborhood. If it were vandalism, it'd be either my wife or daughter - and they're both pretty upset that the bikes are out of commission.

My daughter heard the spoke start hitting the frame when she turned a corner on a smooth street a few days ago. I'd bet anything that's when it broke - while she was riding it.

There are several possibilities. Vandalism isn't one of them.
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Old 04-05-08, 06:30 PM   #18
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There are several possibilities. Vandalism isn't one of them.
Several possibilities - name one.

You have spokes breaking in a very unusual place on two different bicycles.
The spokes break on the exact same day.
One of the bicycles has even had a replacement wheel and the problem continues.

I'm sorry, man but objectively I don't see any other likely possibility. I don't have a horse in this race. It's nothing to me either way - I don't care. I'm just not seeing any other cause for these spokes breaking. Somehow somebody is messing with your bikes.
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Old 04-05-08, 09:25 PM   #19
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It's easy enough to tell if the spokes have been cut (the material would be indented at the edge of the cut -- no matter how sharp the cutter -- rather than a clean shear), and presumably the shop has covered that. I'm sure that's the first thing they looked at and would be unwilling to offer a warranty replacement if that were the case.

I've seen spokes break like this for only one of two reasons -- age and poor quality material (or both). These are not stainless steel spokes and they are not old, so I think it has to be the latter reason.

Trek owns Gary Fischer. These wheels are very likely made from the same materials in the same factory, and probably at the same time.
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Old 04-06-08, 01:44 AM   #20
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Several possibilities - name one.

Several have been named in this thread.

You have spokes breaking in a very unusual place on two different bicycles.
The spokes break on the exact same day.
One of the bicycles has even had a replacement wheel and the problem continues.

IF you'll read back, I was very clear that the one single replacement wheel (front wheel on the Fisher) hasn't had any further problems.

I'm sorry, man but objectively I don't see any other likely possibility. I don't have a horse in this race. It's nothing to me either way - I don't care. I'm just not seeing any other cause for these spokes breaking. Somehow somebody is messing with your bikes.

I appreciate you sharing your opinion, particularly given that you don't care - but I just don't think your suspicions are on track. I'm gonna go ahead and take a chance and let Fisher and Trek send new wheels assemblies. Then, if it continues, I'll have the police come investigate my wife and daughter, and if it's not them, maybe they can arrest the troll that's reaching up out of manholes in the street with his ultra sharp wire cutters as they ride by.

(Bottom line - I'm looking for a real solution to a real problem. Not searching for windmills ala Quixote. Khanom is right - you can tell when wire cutters have cut something because it squeezes the metal so that there's a flattened place in the center. It's not as clean a break as this is. These spokes don't have that type of marking. They haven't been cut. They popped. One did it while my daughter was on the bike Wednesday, but she didn't realize what it was when it happened until I pointed out the broken spokes.

Anyway, thanks for the opinion. But I'm gonna stay the course for now. )
...

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