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  1. #1
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    Vintage tubulars, what's the cause of spoke loosing all tension?

    I've been having some troubles with my rear wheel (Fiamme Hard Silver) going out-of-true after a single 50 mile ride. I've built several modern wheels before with no problems whatsoever, but for modern wheels I've always gone high tension (120+ Kgf).

    I built the Fiamme Hard Silver at low spoke tension (~80 Kgf). Perhaps too low. Dunno. I read old tubulars like these can't handle high spoke tension.

    I'm finding a single spoke will lose all tension (like the nipple comes unscrewed). I've always used grease on spoke threads and never had a problem with them coming loose like this.

    Seems either I need to up the tension, try to get them more uniform, or apply some kind of lock-tite to the spoke threads instead of grease.

    Any thoughts?

  2. #2
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    Fiamme rims never liked high tension. If you go too high, the rim just distorts at the spoke hole and the tension drops.
    If that has started... Time for a Mavic or Super Champion.
    Most often, when ONE spoke goes limp, it is an impact that caused a flat spot.
    Another Fiamme tradition.

    Can't help with a numeric value on spoke tension. I am of the time where one just were taught and got a feel for it.
    Way back as I could build wheels fast I would build a set per hour, I got $2., the shop got $35. From the customer for the labor...
    I built a lot of wheels.

  3. #3
    Senior Member trailangel's Avatar
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    80kgf on the drive side rear? huh? What could be the problem?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by trailangel View Post
    80kgf on the drive side rear? huh? What could be the problem?
    Is that a red flag to you?

    I don't think the rim distorts. It is like the nipple came completely unscrewed such that the spoke looses all tension. Maybe I just have a bad nipple or something.

  5. #5
    Senior Member crank_addict's Avatar
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    They have eyelets so wind them suckers up - slowly and evenly. Push to 100kg+, but also depending what spokes and condition. Also you might have a really tight fitting tubular tire affecting it plus add high PSI. I've had identical tubular brand and model but fit differently.
    Last edited by crank_addict; 06-07-15 at 09:43 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by crank_addict View Post
    They have eyelets so wind them suckers up - slowly and evenly. Push to 100kg+, but also depending what spokes and condition. Also you might have a really tight fitting tubular tire affecting it plus add high PSI. I've had identical tubular brand and model but fit differently.
    Yes, double eyelets but the alloy is not that strong compared to other brands.

    Yank the tire, get the wheel on a Turing stand and judge the roundness.
    Test, don't guess.
    If the spokes are that low on tension, the tire should be off to watch things as the tension is increased anyway.
    That and monitor the dish, equal turns on a rear wheel will move the rim over.
    Last edited by repechage; 06-07-15 at 09:52 AM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member RobbieTunes's Avatar
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    Hard Silvers have to be finessed, everything in moderation, baby steps, or you get ovals.
    Other than that, they're fine. Theoretically, if you do everything right, and incrementally, the build process will hold them in round shape.

    I have a friend running them on a 1985 bike. They were rebuilt and he used red Loctite, new nipples, and he's not had a problem with them going out of round or true.
    He "lets the spokes do the work." I have no idea if he's right or not, but he's not had any problems.

    I have other friends that threw them away after each criterium, so go figure.

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  8. #8
    curmudgineer old's'cool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by repechage View Post
    Yank the tire, get the wheel on a Turing stand and judge the roundness.
    Is a Turing stand anything like a Turing test? Maybe the wheel is smarter than we credit...
    Geoff
    "I think that I think, therefore I think that I am"

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    Senior Member miamijim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trailangel View Post
    80kgf on the drive side rear? huh? What could be the problem?
    Quote Originally Posted by crank_addict View Post
    They have eyelets so wind them suckers up - slowly and evenly. Push to 100kg+, but also depending what spokes and condition. Also you might have a really tight fitting tubular tire affecting it plus add high PSI. I've had identical tubular brand and model but fit differently.

    High tension may work on modern rims but old 70's and 80's rims cant handle it. I've built thousands upon thousands of wheels and can get then properly tensioned by feel alone. The single biggest mistake an occasional wheel builder can do is use a tension gauge.
    WWW.CYCLESPEUGEOT.COM 1984 Schwinn Paramount; 1987 Schwinn Paramount; 1975 Tom Ritchey, 198X Vitus

  10. #10
    Senior Member trailangel's Avatar
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    Hundreds of thousands?
    By feel alone.....
    Last edited by trailangel; 06-07-15 at 01:29 PM.

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    Senior Member crank_addict's Avatar
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    Jim- I hear you and don't have near the experience as you or others.

    I do get edgy on some of the old stuff but have 1950's - 60's era 'softer' alloys and have had no issues pulling up the tension. As Robbie said, baby steps. Just have to be super patient and quarter turn's at a time. One pair is a 50's Weinmann aluminum 28" clinchers / 36 hole - single walled, no hook beads at 100kg. Added washers and using the same era steel hubs. Though I'm a little extra cautious too riding them yet for other reasons.
    “If the constellations had been named in the twentieth century, I suppose we would see bicycles.” ~ Carl Sagan

  12. #12
    Senior Member miamijim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trailangel View Post
    Hundreds of thousands?
    By feel alone.....
    You know exactly what I meant. But somewhere around 3 thousand.
    WWW.CYCLESPEUGEOT.COM 1984 Schwinn Paramount; 1987 Schwinn Paramount; 1975 Tom Ritchey, 198X Vitus

  13. #13
    Senior Member miamijim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crank_addict View Post
    Jim- I hear you and don't have near the experience as you or others.

    I do get edgy on some of the old stuff but have 1950's - 60's era 'softer' alloys and have had no issues pulling up the tension. As Robbie said, baby steps. Just have to be super patient and quarter turn's at a time. One pair is a 50's Weinmann aluminum 28" clinchers / 36 hole - single walled, no hook beads at 100kg. Added washers and using the same era steel hubs. Though I'm a little extra cautious too riding them yet for other reasons.
    Pulling anything up to tension is Ok....its just knowing when to stop. A tension gauge doesn't tell you that...
    WWW.CYCLESPEUGEOT.COM 1984 Schwinn Paramount; 1987 Schwinn Paramount; 1975 Tom Ritchey, 198X Vitus

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by miamijim View Post
    High tension may work on modern rims but old 70's and 80's rims cant handle it. I've built thousands upon thousands of wheels and can get then properly tensioned by feel alone. The single biggest mistake an occasional wheel builder can do is use a tension gauge.
    That's a load of hoey. Mechanical engineering is not an art. Neither is building a wheel.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Sir_Name's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ppg677 View Post
    That's a load of hoey. Mechanical engineering is not an art. Neither is building a wheel.
    Each is a mix of art and science if you ask me.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sir_Name View Post
    Each is a mix of art and science if you ask me.
    Something is considered an "art" if there is little process or understanding of how something works. I recall taking a tour of Generic Electric's facility for manufacturing X-ray tubes. They talked about how the tube-making was considered an "art" for years. Then a big-wig came in and demanded to significantly reduce tube failures and threw all kinds of engineering resources at it. They turned the art into a science. Six Sigma, rigorous data analysis, rigorous process and control. They met their goals.

    I agree that building wheels without a tension meter is more of an art-form. Whereas building wheels with a tension meter and a process/algorithm...yup, way less of an art but the results will likely be better.

    Since there seem to be no specification available on old Fiamme rims, I guess art is the only game in town.

  17. #17
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    The OP didn't say, but spoke gauge is a very important factor here. If a rear wheel is built to 80kgf on the right side, the left will be much lower, possibly as low as 40kgf. (the exact R/L ratio is slightly higher than the L/R CTF distance ratio).

    Now 40-50kgf is fine for a light spoke in the 1.55-1.6mm range, and probably OK for a 1.7-1.8mm, but will be inadequate for a 2mm spoke, which will barely be elongated. That means that very little rim flex will be needed to completely slacken it and allow the nipple to back off. Once nipples begin to loosen, it's a short time before the wheel slackens completely.

    FWIW - those Fiamme rims were produced when builders were using 1.8/1.6mm butted spokes, and 2.0mm plain or butted spokes were considered extremely heavy duty and saved for "truck" wheels.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member Citoyen du Monde's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ppg677 View Post
    That's a load of hoey. Mechanical engineering is not an art. Neither is building a wheel.
    Once you have built enough wheels using parts from back in the day, you will realize that there are far too many variables to be able to use modern engineering aids and principles. The extrusions used for making of the rims varied tremendously, the same for the butting on the spokes, the bend on the spoke near the head, the interaction between the eyelets, the "slipperiness" of the spoke to spoke interaction at the spoke cross-over, plus, plus plus... There truly is an art that can not overcome with simple tools. Just as in the case of General Electric that you cite, it is indeed possible to develop a system where you could eventually overcome these variables, but back in the day it was simply not possible. Even today, an experienced builder can produce a wheel by feel that fully satisfies all required values in a fraction of the time used by those blindly trusting mechanical aids (and who as it happens have their wheels loosening up on them...)

  19. #19
    Senior Member RobbieTunes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by miamijim View Post
    You know exactly what I meant. But somewhere around 3 thousand.
    We do, Jim, but there's fun here, and some silly stuff, at times.


    Quote Originally Posted by trailangel View Post
    Hundreds of thousands?
    .....
    Nerdwise: he said "thousands upon thousands," so 2,000 makes thousands, and another thousand makes thousand upon thousands....He's only one "s" off.

    Quote Originally Posted by trailangel View Post
    thousands upon thousands?
    By feel alone.....
    Otherwise: Wilt Chamberlain comes to mind.....


    Quote Originally Posted by trailangel View Post
    thousands upon thousands?
    By feel alone.....
    I've also heard of the sound test. For someone with perfect pitch, it should be good.

    I'm bad at building wheels, but the only instructions I could decipher were those of my tension guage. One of the few things where I understand the theory but not the practice. Generally, I understand neither. Suffice it to say I consider all bikes to be suspended. Rather than continue to suffer my own poor craft, I attempted to give my guage to a wheel builder. He turned it down, said "I don't use one," and he guarantees his builds for life (his, I think).

    I'd let Jim build me a wheel any day.
    Last edited by RobbieTunes; 06-08-15 at 04:26 AM.

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  20. #20
    Senior Member RobbieTunes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trailangel View Post
    Hundreds of thousands?
    By feel alone.....
    thousands upon thousands
    which actually qualifies if 4,000 is reached.

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  21. #21
    Senior Member miamijim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ppg677 View Post
    That's a load of hoey. Mechanical engineering is not an art. Neither is building a wheel.
    Now we know your wheels are bad.

    Signing off. Good luck.
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  22. #22
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    When I am teaching I always tell the students that they are fortunate to be building wheels with modern components.

    Building with vintage rims is why some refer to this as an art.

  23. #23
    Señor Member USAZorro's Avatar
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    I wish I could un-see the invocation of Six Sigma here in Bike Forums. At best, it's overhead to compensate for incompetence. At worst... well I'm not sure I've seen it's worst, but it tends to shut down analytical processes and foster a culture of "following the checklist". I guess it can work if ALL the variables involved are understood, and protocols are effectively spelled out. Introducing human thought/action can either improve, or ruin the result.

    I'm hopeful that the OP can resolve the tension issue, and I'm eager to see what the cause is.

    Six Sigma...
    In search of what to search for.

  24. #24
    What??? Only 2 wheels? jimmuller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by USAZorro View Post
    I wish I could un-see the invocation of Six Sigma here in Bike Forums....

    I'm hopeful that the OP can resolve the tension issue, and I'm eager to see what the cause is.

    Six Sigma...
    Ugh, and I don't mean Un-Geared Hub. USAZ, you are spot on the money with this. But since that's not C&V-related or even bikes-in-general-related I'll say no more.

    I'd like to know the OP's cause of de-tensioning too. It could be something as simple as not pre-stressing the spokes after the are strung up. The trouble with following a "procedure" is that you never know if the procedure is complete or inaccurate, or if some features are more critical than others. Nothing beats good judgment and an intuitive grasp of how things should work. Experience is one excellent way to develop those things.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by USAZorro View Post
    I wish I could un-see the invocation of Six Sigma here in Bike Forums. At best, it's overhead to compensate for incompetence. At worst... well I'm not sure I've seen it's worst, but it tends to shut down analytical processes and foster a culture of "following the checklist". I guess it can work if ALL the variables involved are understood, and protocols are effectively spelled out. Introducing human thought/action can either improve, or ruin the result.

    I'm hopeful that the OP can resolve the tension issue, and I'm eager to see what the cause is.

    Six Sigma...
    So it goes. I guess this is one reason besides shipping that unbuilt hubs sell for as much or more as built wheels.

    I had to think about how many wheels I have built, probably over the course of time, 2,400 to 3,000, but that seems to matter not.

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