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Old 02-11-09, 07:43 AM   #1
kranz
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Four Cross or Three Cross?

I'm planning to build a 27" rear wheel with QR skewer for my son's road bike. I'll be using a NOS 36H Wolber 58 and a NOS late 80s Maillard hub with sealed bearings. According the Sutherland charts, I'll need 301 mm spokes for this combination for a 3 cross lacing. I looked through my parts stash and all I can come up with are some Wheelsmith DB14 308mm spokes. I then noticed from the Sutherland charts that if I laced this wheel 4-cross, I'd need 308mm spokes. Just what I have on hand! I could save some $$ if I can use these 308s.

I've never built anything other than 3-cross wheels, so the question I have is what is the upside and downside of using a 4-cross configuration? Should I do it, or bite the bullet and spring for 301mms? Will 4-cross disqualify me from ever serving on the President's Cabinet?
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Old 02-11-09, 08:04 AM   #2
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Back in the day, a 4 cross wheel was considered to be more comfortable. I don't see anything wrong with it, it will look a little different than what you are used to.
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Old 02-11-09, 08:18 AM   #3
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The spoke lengths you quote would indicate you are not dealing with large flange hubs, so 4 cross should be fine. The two problems that often surface with 4 cross are too radical an angle at the nipple, or a cluster at the flange, neither of which should be a problem for your wheel.
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Old 02-11-09, 11:52 PM   #4
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Thanks, guys. I'll give the 4-cross a go.
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Old 02-12-09, 01:37 PM   #5
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I've heard that at higher tensions 4 cross wanted to taco.
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Old 02-12-09, 01:50 PM   #6
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I've heard that at higher tensions 4 cross wanted to taco.
Must be something you heard on the internet....
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Old 02-12-09, 01:54 PM   #7
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Must be something you heard on the internet....
Like never get involved in a land war in Asia? Or an ano rim anywhere else?
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Old 02-12-09, 11:22 PM   #8
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With four-cross on a low-flange hub, the spokes may be so close to tangent that the shaft of each spoke overlaps the head of its neighbour. This seems OK when you are building the wheel with the spokes starting out all slack but if a spoke breaks later, it may be impossible to get the broken spoke head out from under the tensioned spokes or thread the new one into the hole.

With high-flange hubs, yes, the spoke does meet the rim at an uncomfortable angle but if you "improve the spoke line" as Jobst Brandt advises in his book, it should be fine. I'm just an amateur builder but our 40-spoke 4X high-flange tandem wheels have been bomb-proof through several years of loaded touring.
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Old 02-13-09, 02:18 AM   #9
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From Peter Whites website-
"If the spoke is long enough, a right angle at the spoke head will cross the line of the hub axle behind the axle, and the result is less lateral bracing of the wheel. That's why I don't build 36 spoke wheels at cross four. With enough side load, the spoke tension can suddenly drop, and the wheel warps. Not a pretty sight."
Almost 1/2 way down the page-
http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/Wheels.asp
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Old 02-13-09, 04:21 AM   #10
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A 3X-Laced wheel, with 36 spokes, is going to carry a good, heavy load without a problem IF it was properly built, trued lateral & vertical, and stressed. Spoke-tension should be as close as possible to equal without compromising true in any remarkable way. Spoke, rims, and hubs have their personal idiosyncrasies - so any wheel built will have a unique "personality" to it. The thinking that 4X wheels are tougher than 3X has largely been discarded.

I always build 3X-laced and haven't had a wheel die on me, or anyone else. So I'd suggest building 3X to most people who ask my opinion.

Happy Wheelbuilding!
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Old 02-13-09, 08:40 AM   #11
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From Peter Whites website-
"If the spoke is long enough, a right angle at the spoke head will cross the line of the hub axle behind the axle, and the result is less lateral bracing of the wheel. That's why I don't build 36 spoke wheels at cross four. With enough side load, the spoke tension can suddenly drop, and the wheel warps. Not a pretty sight."
Almost 1/2 way down the page-
http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/Wheels.asp
Pure nonsense. I guess that explains why high end bikes were built with 4X high flange back in the day.
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Old 02-13-09, 08:46 AM   #12
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3x is the generic "I want to sound like a wheel building expert so I'll give the best generic answer that no one can argue with me answer so I'll sound like and wheel building expert even though I've only built 1 wheel and I did it worng but i read somewhere on the internet and in a book based on conjecture and theory that 3X is good and 4X is bad even though 4x isnt realy bad and I dont why 3X is realy good because that what I heard.....I think"

To the OP...lace it 4X if you have the spokes. Manufacturers have been doing it that way for decades. Decades.
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Old 02-13-09, 09:15 AM   #13
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While ^^^ is correct that 4X has been around for ages, somewhere along the road, 3X took over. I'd put this at around 1980. When I got a decent bicycle back then, it was a Motobecane, it came with 3X. Curious - I looked at the other bikes coming out and they were mostly 3X as well. 4X was mostly seen on bikes called 'Touring' this or 'Touring' that.

Either way, we are back to square 1. Toss a coin.
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Old 02-13-09, 09:18 AM   #14
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Yes, 4 cross is an older style: nothing wrong with it, except doesn't work well on a small flange...
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Old 02-13-09, 09:23 AM   #15
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We had a name for that back in the day. The day being when small-flange hubs caught on as "weight-saving"* and a fashion statement. Building a 4X on the new, improved little hubs was known as a "rats' nest."


* Thus began the March of the Weight-Weenies.
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Old 02-13-09, 09:45 AM   #16
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The day being when small-flange hubs caught on as "weight-saving"* and a fashion statement.
Which decade was that day? High and low have gone back and forth in fashion since at least the 50s, up until the 80s. Highflange may be making a comeback!
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Old 02-13-09, 10:00 AM   #17
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To the OP- Lace it 4X if you have the spokes. It will be fine. It might weigh one or two ounces more than a 3X wheel, but otherwise I doubt anyone could tell the difference in terms of longevity or strength. We're picking nits here.
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Old 02-13-09, 12:16 PM   #18
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Which decade was that day? High and low have gone back and forth in fashion since at least the 50s, up until the 80s. Highflange may be making a comeback!
In this incarnation, there were only 2 brands of bicycle helmets on the market - Bell & Bailen - and it was late 1970's into the 80's. Yes - I have noted the resurgence of the high-flange. Want to buy my old Bailen?
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Old 02-13-09, 01:05 PM   #19
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I've read this thread. Now I know I now zero about wheel building.
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Old 02-13-09, 01:28 PM   #20
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I've read this thread. Now I know I now zero about wheel building.

3 or 4 cross refers to how many of the opposing spokes another spoke crosses on the same side of the wheel. The crossing one goes under the last one, forming the "lacing". Other than getting the spoke lengths right, and truing, you now know all there is to know...
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Old 02-13-09, 02:19 PM   #21
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I've forgotten, between which two points on the spoke is the length measured? Is it from the threaded tip to the inner diameter of the shank, just before it mushrooms into the head?
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Old 02-13-09, 03:23 PM   #22
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With four-cross on a low-flange hub, the spokes may be so close to tangent that the shaft of each spoke overlaps the head of its neighbour. This seems OK when you are building the wheel with the spokes starting out all slack but if a spoke breaks later, it may be impossible to get the broken spoke head out from under the tensioned spokes or thread the new one into the hole.
To complement the rear wheel that I'm building, I purchased a front wheel on the web that was already built. It is NEW with NOS Wolber 58 rim, NOS late '80s Maillard small flange QR hub, and straight steel spokes. It was this incoming wheel that dictated my choice of rim and hub for the rear wheel. Well, the front wheel arrived today and low and behold, it is laced 4-cross.

Mr. Cmus observation that the spoke may overlap the head of its neighbor is correct in this case. There is overlap and a spoke repair would be a bit more involved than one might be used to. It remains to be seen if this will also be a problem with the rear hub. It has a larger diameter flange. I'll give it a go this weekend and will report back.
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Old 02-13-09, 06:17 PM   #23
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I've forgotten, between which two points on the spoke is the length measured? Is it from the threaded tip to the inner diameter of the shank, just before it mushrooms into the head?
Measure from the threaded end to the elbow where it turns 45 degrees to it's head. Park Tool, and others, make a spoke-length ruler with oval holes at the end where you hang the spoke at the elbow. That's the correct place to measure from.
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