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  1. #1
    Senior Member tardman91's Avatar
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    Loose Spokes on Back Wheel

    Yesterday on my ride I noticed my bike making a slight clicking noise which seemed to come from the rear somewhere. Today while I was riding I heard it again and decided to investigate a little more. I noticed that a few of the spokes on the rear wheel are a little loose, meaning there is some play to them when I try to wiggle them. I also noticed that the rear wheel might be slightly bent. I suppose if the wheel were slightly out of round that would cause the tension on the spokes to change, making a few loose?
    Bike is a 2010 Raleigh Sport with Weinmann TR18 Double Wall rims, and 32 14g stainless steel spokes. I weigh 270 lbs., down about 10 since I started riding and running. Am I too heavy for the wheels? I have over 300 miles on the bike and this problem just popped up.
    I don't have money to buy custom wheels anytime soon, so how much would fixing the rear wheel run me at a LBS ballpark?

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    Quote Originally Posted by tardman91 View Post
    I suppose if the wheel were slightly out of round that would cause the tension on the spokes to change, making a few loose?
    More likely the opposite: the spokes loosened on their own, because they weren't properly tensioned, and that caused the wheel to go out of round.

    I don't have money to buy custom wheels anytime soon, so how much would fixing the rear wheel run me at a LBS ballpark?
    Nothing? Sounds like you just need to have the wheel trued and the spokes properly tensioned. The bike isn't that old, so I would think this would be covered under the warranty.

  3. #3
    Senior Member tardman91's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    Nothing? Sounds like you just need to have the wheel trued and the spokes properly tensioned. The bike isn't that old, so I would think this would be covered under the warranty.
    Let's hope so. That would make my day tomorrow.

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    I just had a similar issue with my rear wheel. When I went to the LBS, the owner trued the wheel and used some locktite to keep the spokes from loosening up while riding, since this has happened a couple of times.

    I'm not familiar with your wheels, but I'd say at your weight, you shouldn't have too much of a problem.

  5. #5
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    I agree with sstorkel; sounds like the issue is spokes coming loose, and the shop should fix this on warranty. I've been within 10 pounds of your weight and had no problem with a 32h Alex DA16 wheel with 14g spokes; but I tensioned it myself before I started riding, and I gave them a 300 mile check to assure they were staying in spec.
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    Senior Member tardman91's Avatar
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    Thanks guys. I'm going to the LBS after work today (if it's not raining). Hopefully they'll fix this without it costing me. I looked on the Raleigh website and I'm under the max weight for the bike, so they can't try telling me I'm too heavy for it! lol

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    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tardman91 View Post
    Thanks guys. I'm going to the LBS after work today (if it's not raining). Hopefully they'll fix this without it costing me. I looked on the Raleigh website and I'm under the max weight for the bike, so they can't try telling me I'm too heavy for it! lol
    Like the others said, it should be covered. Most new bikes from most shops shold have some sort of 30 day/90 day/ 1 year of free tuneups or service. Many times a shp will true the wheel at this point. Truing the wheel means making it straight. Being a heavy clyde rider, the best thing they can do for us is not only true the wheel but check and readjust the tension on the wheel which most shops tend to overlook. Sometimes they need a reminder, let them know that you are aware of the fact that proper tension is the biggest factor in keeping a wheel in good working order.

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    This is why I ponied up the money for a tension meter and truing stand 2 years ago. They have both proved worth it, though I understand not having the money for such things.

    I would hope they take care of it for you, and tension it PROPERLY. Most shops likely don't re-tension wheels, they might just check true (if that, even) and send the bike on its way. Definitely let the mechanic you talk to know that you realize the wheel needs to be proper tension AND true so that it will hold up, and that if it goes out of true and spokes loosen again, that you WILL be back again expecting them to fix it
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    Senior Member tardman91's Avatar
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    I just dropped it off and they're going to take care of it free of charge. She said that sometimes things like that happen with bigger riders. I'm sure they probably didn't check the tension on the spokes when I brought it in for it's first tune-up either. When I was explaining the problem and showing the shop owner how the spokes were loose one of them broke right off. All they have are silver spokes (and of course my bike has black ones) so I just told them to spray paint it.

  10. #10
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tardman91 View Post
    All they have are silver spokes (and of course my bike has black ones) so I just told them to spray paint it.
    Leave it silver and pretend it's like the fancy red one on high end Mavic wheels.
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    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tardman91 View Post
    When I was explaining the problem and showing the shop owner how the spokes were loose one of them broke right off.
    Excellent! The spokes break due to lack of tension. Without proper tension, the heads are allowed movement in the hub holes and like the "keep bending a wire" theory, eventually they break!

    I wish all cyldes would read and understand this, there would be alot less heartbreak on this forum about broken spokes/wheels if they all demanded the issue be addressed when taking in a new bike/wheel for the free tuneup.

  12. #12
    Senior Member tardman91's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
    Excellent! The spokes break due to lack of tension. Without proper tension, the heads are allowed movement in the hub holes and like the "keep bending a wire" theory, eventually they break!

    I wish all cyldes would read and understand this, there would be alot less heartbreak on this forum about broken spokes/wheels if they all demanded the issue be addressed when taking in a new bike/wheel for the free tuneup.
    I doubt they checked the spokes on the free tune up, which is why I probably have this problem now. They're going to fix the rear wheel and check the front. I guess I should probably have the tension checked every few hundred miles. Or learn how to do it myself...

  13. #13
    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tardman91 View Post
    . I guess I should probably have the tension checked every few hundred miles....
    NO!......if you have wheels retensioned after 200 miles, it will hold for a loooooooooong time! You don't need ot fuss with them. If they retension your front wheel properly, it will last forever (unless you damge it).

    Now the rear wheel, it should be retensioned after 200 miles, then it should be fine.

    Any new wheel, or rebuilt wheel should be retensioned about 200, not much later. If they replace spokes, take it in after 200 and have them check the tension.

    The bad thing is that if they just replace spokes (2 or 3) you could be in for more trouble soon after since some may already be fatigued from the lack of proper tension. Hopefully not but don't be surprised.

    If they replace the wheel under warranty, make sure they retension the new wheel at 200. Usually after the 200 retension, the wheel should not be a problem. If it is, find another wheel guy!

  14. #14
    Senior Member tardman91's Avatar
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    They're not going to replace the wheel, they're just going to fix it. Hopefully they'll replace any other weak spokes when they retension it. I would think if they're weak they'll probably snap off pretty easily when they retension them anyway. Guess I'll find out.

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    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tardman91 View Post
    They're not going to replace the wheel, they're just going to fix it. Hopefully they'll replace any other weak spokes when they retension it. I would think if they're weak they'll probably snap off pretty easily when they retension them anyway. Guess I'll find out.
    Yup! Hopefully but there have been several cases here where they continue to break then the shop replaces with a new wheel under warranty after 2 or 3 incidents.

    If that's the case down the road, make sure the new wheel has the 200 mile retension, not just a basic truing which does nothing for structural integrity.

  16. #16
    Senior Member tardman91's Avatar
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    UPDATE

    I took my bike in and they were really nice about fixing it and I picked it up the next day and all seemed to be well and good. Today I go out on a ride and 10 miles in I hear a loud pop. I finished the ride and checked out the wheel. Popped another spoke and the wheel was bent to hell and a number of other spokes were extremely loose. So I took it back in today and asked about a warranty replacement. She rummaged around in the back and came out with a 36 spoke wheel with a shimano hub and said they would switch it out for free. It's silver spokes but I'm ok with that since it's a stronger wheel. Is the shimano hub probably better than the Alloy Joytech QR 32h hub that came on my 2010 Raleigh Sport?

  17. #17
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    Never heard of joytech... so odds are good your replacement is superior They have a lot of different models though (105, ultegra, duraace, tiagra, sora, etc etc etc). 36 spokes should hold up nicely for you too. And who cares about the color of the spokes as long as they don't snap in half in the middle of your ride!

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    Quote Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
    Never heard of joytech... so odds are good your replacement is superior They have a lot of different models though (105, ultegra, duraace, tiagra, sora, etc etc etc). 36 spokes should hold up nicely for you too. And who cares about the color of the spokes as long as they don't snap in half in the middle of your ride!
    Joytech are a Taiwanese hub maker. They make a huge range of products, ranging from crap to top-end stuff. much of it labeled with someone else's brand name on it. They are quite probably the biggest maker of bike hubs in the world.

    OP: it's clear your shop doesn't know how to build wheels. Get that replacement wheel checked and tensioned by someon who knows what they're doing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tardman91 View Post
    UPDATE

    I took my bike in and they were really nice about fixing it and I picked it up the next day and all seemed to be well and good. Today I go out on a ride and 10 miles in I hear a loud pop. I finished the ride and checked out the wheel.
    There's your first mistake: breaking a spoke and then continuing to ride on the wheel is going to put even more strain on the wheel!

    When a spoke breaks, the appropriate thing to do is stop immediately and fix it. That generally means: removing the broken spoke or at least securing it so it can't get caught in something, checking for and tightening any loose spokes, then truing the wheel "enough" so that you don't further damage the spokes as you limp directly home or to the nearest bike shop.

    Popped another spoke and the wheel was bent to hell and a number of other spokes were extremely loose. So I took it back in today and asked about a warranty replacement.
    Sounds like your shop isn't exactly competent when it comes to wheels. Putting a different, machine-made wheel on the bike may leave you in much the same position as you are now... but with your warranty expired the next time you start to have problems. A better approach might be to take the wheel back, ask them to replace the broken spoke, and ask them to provide documentation for the tension of each spoke on the wheel. If they own, and use, a tension meter this should be easy and will help guarantee that they actually check the tension of each spoke...

  20. #20
    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dscheidt View Post
    OP: it's clear your shop doesn't know how to build wheels. Get that replacement wheel checked and tensioned by someon who knows what they're doing.
    Zactly, the longer you wait, the more damage can be caused with the same results.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tardman91 View Post
    UPDATE

    I took my bike in and they were really nice about fixing it and I picked it up the next day and all seemed to be well and good. Today I go out on a ride and 10 miles in I hear a loud pop. I finished the ride and checked out the wheel. Popped another spoke and the wheel was bent to hell and a number of other spokes were extremely loose. So I took it back in today and asked about a warranty replacement. She rummaged around in the back and came out with a 36 spoke wheel with a shimano hub and said they would switch it out for free. It's silver spokes but I'm ok with that since it's a stronger wheel. Is the shimano hub probably better than the Alloy Joytech QR 32h hub that came on my 2010 Raleigh Sport?
    A bunch of words about spokes, most wheels, including both of these likely are machine built wheels. As you increase spoke tension, a spoke will tend to twist along with the nipple (this is called spoke windup), this is difficult for the machines to detect. Machines have two ways of dealing with this, they either leave the tension low or they ignore spoke windup, and tension the wheel to what it should be. When they ignore spoke windup, as soon as you ride the wheel the spokes will unwind leaving you with low spoke tension. The wheel killer is low spoke tension, because it allows the spokes to bend as the wheel goes around, they don't bend much, fractions of a millimetre, but the result of repeated bending back and forth is that the spoke breaks, just like if you take a wire coat hanger and bend the wire back and forth, it breaks. The broken spoke then puts additional stress on the spokes on either side.

    The general rule, if you break 1 spoke, it should be replaced and the wheel tensioned and trued as soon as possible, if you break another spoke after this, the wheel needs to be completely disassembled and rebuilt with all new spokes, then tensioned and trued by someone who has a clue. You see the the remaining spokes have been over stressed and you will end up replacing them anyway, just you end up replacing them over time, and probably end up replacing them several times over because each one that is installed gets over stressed the next broken spoke.

    As rider weight increases and/or spoke count decreases, spoke tension becomes more and more critical, this is why really any rider in clyde category needs someone experienced to true and tension their wheels by hand before they ride on them. There are a couple of ways of doing this, you can either have a professional wheel builder do it, or take a wheel building course that includes tensioning and truing, and learn to do it yourself. With a new wheel the shop should ask you to bring the wheel back after a specified distance (usually 200 miles/320km) to have it checked.

  22. #22
    Senior Member tardman91's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wogsterca View Post
    A bunch of words about spokes, most wheels, including both of these likely are machine built wheels. As you increase spoke tension, a spoke will tend to twist along with the nipple (this is called spoke windup), this is difficult for the machines to detect. Machines have two ways of dealing with this, they either leave the tension low or they ignore spoke windup, and tension the wheel to what it should be. When they ignore spoke windup, as soon as you ride the wheel the spokes will unwind leaving you with low spoke tension. The wheel killer is low spoke tension, because it allows the spokes to bend as the wheel goes around, they don't bend much, fractions of a millimetre, but the result of repeated bending back and forth is that the spoke breaks, just like if you take a wire coat hanger and bend the wire back and forth, it breaks. The broken spoke then puts additional stress on the spokes on either side.

    The general rule, if you break 1 spoke, it should be replaced and the wheel tensioned and trued as soon as possible, if you break another spoke after this, the wheel needs to be completely disassembled and rebuilt with all new spokes, then tensioned and trued by someone who has a clue. You see the the remaining spokes have been over stressed and you will end up replacing them anyway, just you end up replacing them over time, and probably end up replacing them several times over because each one that is installed gets over stressed the next broken spoke.

    As rider weight increases and/or spoke count decreases, spoke tension becomes more and more critical, this is why really any rider in clyde category needs someone experienced to true and tension their wheels by hand before they ride on them. There are a couple of ways of doing this, you can either have a professional wheel builder do it, or take a wheel building course that includes tensioning and truing, and learn to do it yourself. With a new wheel the shop should ask you to bring the wheel back after a specified distance (usually 200 miles/320km) to have it checked.
    They said to come back in after 200 miles the last time they fixed the wheel. Next time I rode I broke a spoke. I don't doubt thier ability. The shop has been there about 30 years, so I'm sure they're doing something right. I think they cater more to mountain bikes and cruisers though. I'm going to give them another chance with the new wheel. I'll take it back after whatever distance they tell me to have it checked (if the wheel lasts that long). If I have any more problems though I'm taking it to the shop that sponsors the cycling club I just joined, even though it's a 1/2 hour away. They're hardcore into road bikes there and have a huge service department. Hopefully this new wheel will solve the problem though. That and the fact that I'm losing weight.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tardman91 View Post
    They said to come back in after 200 miles the last time they fixed the wheel. Next time I rode I broke a spoke. I don't doubt thier ability. The shop has been there about 30 years, so I'm sure they're doing something right. I think they cater more to mountain bikes and cruisers though. I'm going to give them another chance with the new wheel. I'll take it back after whatever distance they tell me to have it checked (if the wheel lasts that long). If I have any more problems though I'm taking it to the shop that sponsors the cycling club I just joined, even though it's a 1/2 hour away. They're hardcore into road bikes there and have a huge service department. Hopefully this new wheel will solve the problem though. That and the fact that I'm losing weight.
    Often the mountain bike shop knows more about spokes then the roadie shop does, because a 150lb mountain biker who goes off 10' drops on a regular basis is much harder on wheels, then a 270lb guy on a road bike. Most likely with the old wheel, the fact that a spoke broke the next ride, probably means that the spokes were weakened by the extra forces from the broken spoke. As an experienced shop they realized that they would either need to rebuild the wheel or swap it for another one. They had that wheel that would fit, so they swapped it out, might have been cheaper then having a mechanic swap the spokes and true/tension the old wheel. They will probably just return that wheel to the distributor and then let them replace it under warranty to stock.

  24. #24
    Senior Member tardman91's Avatar
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    Probably. I'm happy because it's a 36 spoke wheel with a shimano hub as opposed to my 32 spoke wheel with what I'm sure was probably a bargain basement hub. I think I got the better end of the deal this time around.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tardman91 View Post
    They said to come back in after 200 miles the last time they fixed the wheel. Next time I rode I broke a spoke. I don't doubt thier ability. The shop has been there about 30 years, so I'm sure they're doing something right.
    A good location, competitive prices, and decent service including wheel maintenance for the population weighing under 200 pounds should be plenty to keep them in business but have no bearing on their understanding of bicycle wheels.

    A lot of mechanics take a magical view of bicycle wheels and even do things which will lead to premature wheel death (like "loose spoking"). You aren't going to enjoy wheels adjusted by them.

    I think they cater more to mountain bikes and cruisers though. I'm going to give them another chance with the new wheel. I'll take it back after whatever distance they tell me to have it checked (if the wheel lasts that long). If I have any more problems though I'm taking it to the shop that sponsors the cycling club I just joined, even though it's a 1/2 hour away. They're hardcore into road bikes there and have a huge service department. Hopefully this new wheel will solve the problem though. That and the fact that I'm losing weight.
    Personally I'd get a copy of _The Bicycle Wheel_, a nice truing stand (Minora is pretty solid and self-centering for less than the nice Park stand), and Park tension meter (it's the only affordable one) and deal with the problem myself (The Jobst Brandt method will get you to a correct high tension for a given shallow box rim, but the tension meter is faster and works for modern deep section rims where the rim's elastic limit isn't what's stopping more tension). After you crash a rim you'll be able to rebuild a lasting wheel before the next day using your old spokes instead of a shop insisting on replacements so they can guarantee the work for $70 in parts and labor with a few days wait.

    If you're not going to do that find a shop with a wheel builder. Ask if he has a tension meter and how he stress relieves his wheels. Repeat until he says 'yes' and gives a mechanically plausible answer like putting on welding gloves and squeezing opposing spokes or sticking an old crank in there at the crossing and twisting.

    Being in business for 30 years or sponsoring a cycling team are no guarantees a shop has a competent wheel builder who applies sound engineering principals instead of pseudo-science that results in weak wheels. Being a big shop with a national reputation isn't a guarantee since the new guy may not be up to snuff. As a healthy 150 pound roadie you would get away with a lot of deficiencies; but that's not you.

    Once you've found that wheel builder, have him adjust your spokes to uniform high tension (100-110 kgf front and rear drive side are nice numbers) and stress relieve.

    After that your spokes should last pretty much indefinitely (100,000 miles plus) unless you manage to bring your rear derailleur into contact with the spokes.
    Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 06-15-10 at 10:00 PM.

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