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  1. #1
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    Broken spokes... Do I have a right to be mad at my LBS?

    I had 2 wheels ready to be taken in, they both suffered some broken spokes. One wheel because the chain was thrown in, and the other just from ordinary use.

    Anyways, so I take the wheels in to my local LBS. I ask them to replace the broken spokes and true the wheels, which would be about $25 each wheel. I came back to get my wheels and they looked good. I discovered an axle was replaced on the older wheel - bringing the total higher than the cost of a brand new wheel. No big deal I thought, I had a good wheel now.

    So I'm riding a bike with Wheel 1, and very shortly after I realize the wheel is coming out of true, badly. One of the spokes had somehow broken!! I took the wheel back to my LBS and dropped it off with my receipt. I came back to a newly fixed up wheel and they said they wouldn't charge me. Good, I thought.


    So fast forward 2 days... Both wheels break another spoke or two and come out of true. Frustrated, I return BOTH wheels to the LBS and explain what happened. Then, I'm told that there are apparently "weak" spokes in my rims which will break because they compromise the wheel. Well then, why in the hell did they not replace the screwed up spokes when they were fixing the wheels the first time around? =/


    I'm thinking about going back and trying to get them to make things right. Is it appropriate to do so? I'm in college right now and money isn't something I have a whole lot of.. I can't afford to be paying for the same things over and over

  2. #2
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    spokes breaking at the heads? inadequate tension will fatigue the spokes rapidly and they will break, usually at the head. low tension can unscrew the nipple from the spoke too. history of the wheel?

  3. #3
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    Not sure if they're breaking at the "heads", but the nipple-end is still intact, the part that attaches to the hub is off the hook. Sorry if I meant "broken" spokes as in they snapped in half, but in my situation, they just came unhinged from the hub. Just as bad to me...

    One wheel is an araya from an 80s nishiki modulus. The other is a lower end mavic from a 90's specialized allez.

  4. #4
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    Do you have the right to be frustrated you broke spokes? Sure you do. Is it the shop's fault? Probably not. It is not an uncommon situation at all. The wheels went out of true when the spokes broke, this stressed the other spokes in the rim, weakening them. New spokes get put in and wheel gets trued, this stresses the already weakened spokes more, and the domino effect begins. This can be made even worse if the wheels are ridden on with the broke spokes. Why the hell didn't the shop replace the weak spokes? There is really no way to tell which ones are weakened, when they break they break. This is not the shop's fault in my opinion. How about specifics? What kind of bike, how old? I would have appreciated the shop calling me if they had to do extra work {axle replacement** especially if it would have been cheaper to replace the wheel.

  5. #5
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    To me it sounds like you are right to be a little annoyed that they didn't fully diagnose the problem. But it also sounds like when you brought the wheel back once, they tried to make it right. And when you came back twice, they let you know you have a more serious problem... I dunno. Probably the wheel should be rebuilt totally.

    I do think you have a right to be mad that they replace the axle without asking you. They shouldn't be doing work that costs you more money without informing you. But it might be a little late to go down that road.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member bhchdh's Avatar
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    Seems to me that it is time to have these wheels rebuilt with all new spokes, depending on the condition of the rims and hubs it may be better to get all new wheels. I understand that new wheels or even a rebuild may be out of the question for you, but I think that is the only thing that will end your frustration.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbruening80 View Post
    Do you have the right to be frustrated you broke spokes? Sure you do. Is it the shop's fault? Probably not. It is not an uncommon situation at all. The wheels went out of true when the spokes broke, this stressed the other spokes in the rim, weakening them.
    Nope.

    Spokes fail due to fatigue, with the number of cycles survived dependent on average stress (tension plus stress in the parts of the elbows which weren't taken past their elastic limit during the forming operation) and magnitude of the variation (about 750 times a mile spokes pass the bottom of the wheel and see their tension drop based on how much of your weight is carried by that wheel).

    All the spokes have seen the same number of cycles and all of the spokes in one group have seen about the same average stress so you can expect them to break about the same time.

    Neither the tension changes resulting from broken spokes (even if you tighten their neighbors to compensate) nor the fatigue cycles from a few days or months are significant compared to that.

    Why the hell didn't the shop replace the weak spokes?
    One broken spoke might be a fluke. If that's all it was as a paying customer you'll be happiest paying whatever they charge for spoke replacement instead of whatever they charge for a full wheel build (can be $70-$90 + spokes at $1.20 each in expensive areas).
    Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 10-18-11 at 07:24 PM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Digital_Cowboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbruening80 View Post
    Do you have the right to be frustrated you broke spokes? Sure you do. Is it the shop's fault? Probably not. It is not an uncommon situation at all. The wheels went out of true when the spokes broke, this stressed the other spokes in the rim, weakening them. New spokes get put in and wheel gets trued, this stresses the already weakened spokes more, and the domino effect begins. This can be made even worse if the wheels are ridden on with the broke spokes. Why the hell didn't the shop replace the weak spokes? There is really no way to tell which ones are weakened, when they break they break. This is not the shop's fault in my opinion. How about specifics? What kind of bike, how old? I would have appreciated the shop calling me if they had to do extra work {axle replacement** especially if it would have been cheaper to replace the wheel.
    Hmm, I've put almost 9k miles on my Hardrock and have not as yet broken a spoke on it. I have put 2,400 miles on my Seek. Again no broken spokes. I have friends who work at my favorite LBS who have also have put on impressive amounts of miles on their bikes/wheels without braking spokes. So how common is it for cyclists to brake spokes?

    I ride on streets that are paved with cobblestones, with cracks in the pavement.

    On my Seek I average between 120 - 140 miles a week. As I said riding on streets that are paved in cobblestone, or roads with cracks in them and on the local rail-to-trail the Pinellas Trail.
    Last edited by Digital_Cowboy; 10-18-11 at 09:18 PM.
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  9. #9
    I bike in the nude BikeMech's Avatar
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    As others have said,it's not the shops fault. Once you break spokes and replace them,the tension gets thrown off on the other spokes. The only way to really fix the problem is to re-tension all of the spokes. The problem is,it's not cost effective.

    The shop should have explained this to you though.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by snipe2k5 View Post
    I'm thinking about going back and trying to get them to make things right. Is it appropriate to do so? I'm in college right now and money isn't something I have a whole lot of.. I can't afford to be paying for the same things over and over
    Hard to say since it depends on exactly what you told the LBS and asked them to do in the first place. They had no way of knowing exactly what shape the existing spokes were in when you brought in the wheels. So if you asked them to replace the broken ones and true the wheels then they just did what you asked them. If the remaining spokes had been in good shape then that would have been the appropriate action. But if those spokes were also near their fatigue limit then it would have been best to have the whole wheel rebuilt with all new spokes.

  11. #11
    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    +1 with Drew.

    Your spokes are old, all of them. Replacing one broken spoke does not autmatically place the others in new condition.

    The only real fix is to replace all the spokes and rim (they're old). Shop tried to save you money hoping for the best, didn't work out.

  12. #12
    Insane Bicycle Mechanic Jeff Wills's Avatar
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    Rule of thumb: once spokes start breaking, suspect all of them. As Drew said, spokes fail through fatigue. They don't fail all at once (usually), but when one goes, the rest are ready to go.

    Replacing one or two spokes might have resolved the problem. What they should have told you when you came in the second time is "All of the spokes are toast. We can either replace all of them for $XX or sell you a new wheel for $XX." If they wanted to be nice to you, they would pro-rate the cost of the rebuild or new wheels by what you'd already spent.

    FWIW: I've built wheels for 30 years. Once I learned how to build them right, I didn't break spokes through fatigue. Ever.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member mrrabbit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Wills View Post
    Rule of thumb: once spokes start breaking, suspect all of them. As Drew said, spokes fail through fatigue. They don't fail all at once (usually), but when one goes, the rest are ready to go.

    Replacing one or two spokes might have resolved the problem. What they should have told you when you came in the second time is "All of the spokes are toast. We can either replace all of them for $XX or sell you a new wheel for $XX." If they wanted to be nice to you, they would pro-rate the cost of the rebuild or new wheels by what you'd already spent.

    FWIW: I've built wheels for 30 years. Once I learned how to build them right, I didn't break spokes through fatigue. Ever.
    Ever?

    and the related word...

    Never?

    Sure about that? Come on, be honest...

    =8-)
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  14. #14
    Warning:Annoying to jerks RaleighSport's Avatar
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    You know... a guitar tuner and a spoke wrench would have avoided most of this.. in my uninformed opinion.
    “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”


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  15. #15
    30 YR Wrench BikeWise1's Avatar
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    I'll fix one broken spoke- with the warning that this may the beginning of more trouble. 1 spoke might be a fluke, but 2 are a symptom. If it comes in again, I advise looking at a rebuild, or replacement with a more suitable wheel.

    Problem is for us shop guys, that kind of honesty often creates a shopper, who is now going to spend hours "researching" AKA "becoming hopelessly mired in a profusion of choices" online, rather than go with a tried and true and well-backed wheel that we offer (usually at very comparable prices, I might add).

    I can understand why the shop kept trying to fix it, but without an upfront explanation of the possibilities of future problems, I can understand why the OP is concerned.

    It's also becoming clear that in our throw away culture, even when something can be repaired well, it is often chucked for a "new" thing, often of inferior quality. I recently had a gentlemen who had commuted for years on an old Raleigh 3 speed. It came in with every symptom of broken pawl springs in the rear hub. I stock them, and quoted $60 for parts and labor and told him he'd probably get another 30 years out of the hub! He was aghast, and left grumbling. He returned with a Roadmaster BSO from Walmart bragging how he got a "brand new" bike for only $20 more....."oh, and it doesn't shift very well, and the brakes aren't working, so I need you to fix them. He didn't seem to mind spending more money on it! In the end, he spent more than double my estimate for a bike that might last a year as much as he rides.....crazy.....

  16. #16
    Senior Member zukahn1's Avatar
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    The history and age of the wheels would help. If they where older badly worn wheels with a lot of weak spokes the shop should have considered selling you new or good used wheels as it would likely be cheaper than replacing the spokes and relacing the wheels at LBS labor prices. I would definetly go back and see if the shop is willing to do something to fix the problem.

  17. #17
    Senior Member kamtsa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RaleighSport View Post
    You know... a guitar tuner and a spoke wrench would have avoided most of this.. in my uninformed opinion.
    Guitar tuner? Or an Android app that accepts the spoke length and compares the pitch from mic to the calculated optimum.
    Happier than a camel on wednesday.

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    Get a spoke wrench and a handfull of spokes. When one breaks just replace it yourself and true it as best that you can. This is a low cost approach and you get to learn something at the same time. Wheels don't need to be perfect to roll.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrrabbit View Post
    Ever?

    and the related word...

    Never?

    Sure about that? Come on, be honest...

    =8-)
    There are people with no fatigue failures after 200,000 - 300,000 miles on a set of spokes.

    Those of us riding a more moderate 4000-5000 miles annually should be able to make it to our graves without such a failure, especially if we adopt new technology like cassette hubs, power meter hubs, disc brake hubs, etc. as it comes along.

  20. #20
    Senior Member mrrabbit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt View Post
    There are people with no fatigue failures after 200,000 - 300,000 miles on a set of spokes.

    Those of us riding a more moderate 4000-5000 miles annually should be able to make it to our graves without such a failure, especially if we adopt new technology like cassette hubs, power meter hubs, disc brake hubs, etc. as it comes along.
    And went through the trouble of posting a straw man because?

    =8-)
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  21. #21
    Can'tre Member 3alarmer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrrabbit View Post
    And went through the trouble of posting a straw man because?
    =8-)
    To see if he could get yet another jackass, trolling comment
    in a wheel related thread out of you ?

    Am I close ? C'mon now, be honest.
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  22. #22
    Senior Member Digital_Cowboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrrabbit View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt
    There are people with no fatigue failures after 200,000 - 300,000 miles on a set of spokes.

    Those of us riding a more moderate 4000-5000 miles annually should be able to make it to our graves without such a failure, especially if we adopt new technology like cassette hubs, power meter hubs, disc brake hubs, etc. as it comes along.
    And went through the trouble of posting a straw man because?

    =8-)
    As I've said I've put almost 9k miles on my Hardrock and haven't broken a spoke yet. The bike that I am currently riding has almost 3k miles on it 2,500 of those I have put on myself. And guess what, still no broken spokes on it either.

    So please explain how it is that people can log substantial amounts of miles on their bikes without ever breaking a spoke.
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  23. #23
    Ride, Wrench, Swap, Race dddd's Avatar
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    You didn't say if your spokes were a top brand like DT or W.

    A shop has no way to know if the wheel's spokes are well-used to the point of having reached their FATIGUE LIMIT. At that point the spokes will no longer endure the large numbers of stress cycles of normal use.
    A wheel that breaks a second spoke is a prime candidate for spoke replacement, or the broken spokes may become a weekly or daily occurrance!

    Cheap, generic spokes often have a service limit of less than a few thousand miles, where every spoke becomes unreliable.
    Quality spokes last easily ten times that long. It's all in the metal and the processing that turns the wire into a spoke.

    Another considerations is un-evenness of the spoke tensioning. If the rim has ever been bent, this is more likely, since the trueing process can introduce wildly varying spoke tension. Note that left-side and right-side spokes normally have a different tension specification (kilograms force tension).

    The other consideration is the suitability of the particular wheel for the load and usage it is subjected to. A lightweight rim or cheaply-made single-walled rim will not handle heavy loads (or abuse) as well as a heavier, double-walled, heat-treated rim. Spoke count and tensioning are another big consideration.

    All in all, it sounds like the work was a reasonable gamble on your part and the shop's part, but it doesn't now sound like the wheel is worthy of repeating the repairs.
    Take the wheel back and ask them for their opinion. Be sure the person you talk to is up to date on the wheel's recent history. Perhaps they'll cut a little slack on the cost of a better wheel?

  24. #24
    Warning:Annoying to jerks RaleighSport's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kamtsa View Post
    Guitar tuner? Or an Android app that accepts the spoke length and compares the pitch from mic to the calculated optimum.
    Neat! I should have known they'd have one by now.
    “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”


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  25. #25
    Ride, Wrench, Swap, Race dddd's Avatar
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    Jeez, just buy a Park tensiometer. I bought one and it's some of the best money I've spent.

    And either way, with the tensiometer or with sound pitch methods, you've got to know the spoke mid-section diameter, so a $10 digital caliper from Harbor Freight will be useful here, plus will measure seatposts, handlebars, ball-bearings, bolts, washer thicknesses, even chain wear (quite accurately if you know what you're doing).

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