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  1. #1
    Senior Member SaiKaiTai's Avatar
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    As experienced 50-plussers, does spoke length matter?

    No, seriously.
    After swapping out the cluster on my LeMond this weekend, I am flushed with confidence and excitement and am ready to tackle rebuilding my Kaitai's rear wheel. My useless ex-LBS who delivered to me a rear wheel in pieces and with no idea what size spokes they used to build the front ("Uhhh... I don't know?" Yes, that is an actual quote when I asked them. Idiots). So, I pulled one of the spokes off of the front wheel and measured it. Seems to be about as close to 292mm as I can measure. But I read somewhere that the driver side spokes should be 2mm shorter. Does that really matter? If I'm going to buy a box 50 spokes, can't I just use them all the way around?
    '13 Felt Z3 - '08 Jamis Aurora Elite - ('07 Giant OCR C2)

  2. #2
    Senior Member big john's Avatar
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    No, the rear wheel uses 2 different lengths. You might want to consult Sheldon Brown or a book called "The Bicycle Wheel" by Jobst Brandt. My LBS has a machine to cut and thread spokes in any length.

  3. #3
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SaiKaiTai View Post
    No, seriously.
    After swapping out the cluster on my LeMond this weekend, I am flushed with confidence and excitement and am ready to tackle rebuilding my Kaitai's rear wheel. My useless ex-LBS who delivered to me a rear wheel in pieces and with no idea what size spokes they used to build the front ("Uhhh... I don't know?" Yes, that is an actual quote when I asked them. Idiots). So, I pulled one of the spokes off of the front wheel and measured it. Seems to be about as close to 292mm as I can measure. But I read somewhere that the driver side spokes should be 2mm shorter. Does that really matter? If I'm going to buy a box 50 spokes, can't I just use them all the way around?
    Yes, size matters.


    And the length of your front spokes have nothing to do with the length of your rear spokes. And half your rear spokes will be one size, the other half will be another.

    Here's what Sheldon Brown says.
    http://sheldonbrown.com/wheelbuild.html

    http://www.geocities.com/spokeanwheel/index.html


    Also check out "The Bicycle Wheel" by Jobst Brandt.


    Good building. It's a very satisfying feeling to build a wheel and have it last and last.

  4. #4
    Senior Member SaiKaiTai's Avatar
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    Yeah, I've read through Sheldon's page a couple of times. I don't see where it says anything explicit about front vs rear spoke length. Maybe I'm just being thick this morning. Also, while I will grant that the rear drive side spokes might need to be shorter than the non-drive side, how do you figure -given the same rim and hub sizes as the front- that the rears spokes aren't the same size as the fronts?
    '13 Felt Z3 - '08 Jamis Aurora Elite - ('07 Giant OCR C2)

  5. #5
    Senior Member howsteepisit's Avatar
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    The front is a narrower hub thus will have shorter spokes than the rear wheel. I have build many many rear wheel with the same length spokes, it can work just fine. You have to be sure that the spokes are fully engaged in the nipples on the non-drive side, and that the spokes do not protrude from the ends of the nipples on the drive side. THe
    Recycle, Reclaim, Reuse and Repair
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  6. #6
    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    At the end of Sheldon's article there is a list of spoke length calculators. Given the model of hub and rim, one can get a listing of spokes that are appropriate for any given wheel. I was going to recomend the spoke calculator at DT Swiss but it appears that at the present they are building a new DT Swiss USA web page and none of the existing links work.

    Chances are that your front wheel is symetrical (non disc) so right and left spokes are the same.
    The rear is not symetrical and may not even be the same as the front. There is a hub spec called "offset" for both the drive side and non drive side flanges. this will result as you noticed in different spoke lengths for left and right rear. If the front "offset" is not the same as either of the ones for the rear then it is possible that a 3rd length spoke is necessary. Best you refer to one of the calculators for an answer.

    It gets worse if disc brakes are involved or non centerline spoke holes in the rim like some of the Ritchey offset units.

    You can order spokes in quantities less than 50 from many online retailers like JensenUSA, Performance, Nashbar or some others but they do not always have what you want in stock (packs of 18 or 20)

  7. #7
    Senior Member SaiKaiTai's Avatar
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    This *does* get complicated, doesn't it? And, actually, they *are* disc brakes.
    I do know about those calculators and have looked at them. Unfortunately, my rims and hubs are OEM parts and not listed so I have to take all the measurements. I worry if I don't get those right that I will be in trouble. I have contacted Bontrager to see what they can tell me. Assuming they get back to me. I'm not optimistic about that.

    Looks like I either (a) better find a reputable shop to do it or (b) buy a new built wheel


    And thanks for all the input guys.
    '13 Felt Z3 - '08 Jamis Aurora Elite - ('07 Giant OCR C2)

  8. #8
    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    You might search the Mechanics Forum. There are semi-frequent posts about spoke length. It seems that "typically", rear spokes vary by about 3? MM from 1 side to the other.

  9. #9
    Senior Member SaiKaiTai's Avatar
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    I think I'm gonna take the coward's way out
    '13 Felt Z3 - '08 Jamis Aurora Elite - ('07 Giant OCR C2)

  10. #10
    Senior Member Terrierman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SaiKaiTai View Post
    I think I'm gonna take the smart way out

    There. Fixed.
    It's all downhill from here. Except the parts that are uphill.

  11. #11
    Senior Member SaiKaiTai's Avatar
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    Yeah... that's what I meant to say. Thanks T'man!
    '13 Felt Z3 - '08 Jamis Aurora Elite - ('07 Giant OCR C2)

  12. #12
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    I am particular about my wheels and use a very good wheelbuilder that you haven't found yet. Sometime I will have to get a decent Wheel building jig and try rebuilding one myself- but untill then- My LBS sorts my major wheelbuilding problems.

    On the MTB's-My wheels used to get abused and Used so much that in one year- They would be needing major rebuilds. I found it was cheaper to buy a new wheel than have it re-rimmed or respoked. I was using the standard XT hub- 32 spokes and a lightweight rim- but with my LBS- they would charge me more than than I could send away to my Wheelbuilder and buy one of his stock replacement wheels. All that has changed as my wheels have gone upmarket and got more expensive and it is now cheaper to re-rim or spoke most of my wheels than buy a replacement. My LBS give me a "Price-Match" for what I can find on the net for rebuilds- or at least come somewhere near it.

    I would suggest Finding a wheel builder to replace the wheel that is now in bits- but have a try at rebuilding your own wheel- just to see if you can do it.

    In that way- You will be able to pass the Spoke length back to us in a few years time for when we want to build wheels up.

    And the server is slowing up again tonight
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  13. #13
    Senior Member Thrifty1's Avatar
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    Lickbike has all of the 29os siizes in stock.....$13.00 per 20 spokes including nipples. All you need to measure determine your rim ERD is 2 spokes and a 30 inch ruler (preferably in mm incriments) and a set of calipers to measure your hub specs. Once you measure the flange and hub spacing, plug the numbers into one of several calculators. Always round down.
    I jus finished a wheelset with XT (6 bolt disc) hubs, DT Comp spokes, and Mavic XC 717 Disc rims....3 sizes total... length 1 for left front (disc) and drive rear......length 2 for right front...and length 3 for non drive (disc) rear. Left front was 1mm shorter than right front and non-drive rear was 2mm longer than drive side......all spokes were no more than one thread below flush with nipple.
    Go for it.....tis fun and very gratifying.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Hmmm. Isn't Kaitai a mountain bike? 292mm sounds to me like a 700c spoke size. Generally 26" wheel spokes will be 260 something.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    If you get it over here to The Bicycle Garage in Fremont, they do a nice job on wheels.
    Silver Eagle Pilot

  16. #16
    Senior Member SaiKaiTai's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    Hmmm. Isn't Kaitai a mountain bike? 292mm sounds to me like a 700c spoke size. Generally 26" wheel spokes will be 260 something.
    It is a hybrid with 700c wheels, actually.

    I guess I'm not ready to invest in a dish gauge and calipers.
    I don't have any spokes right now... the wheel is in pieces (see the OP)

    I'll be trying out a shop in SF that's supposed to have a very good rep. We'll see.
    Maybe I'll do the next set of wheels. It's not like I haven't done them before, though it was 20+ years ago.
    '13 Felt Z3 - '08 Jamis Aurora Elite - ('07 Giant OCR C2)

  17. #17
    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SaiKaiTai View Post
    It is a hybrid with 700c wheels, actually.

    I guess I'm not ready to invest in a dish gauge and calipers.
    I don't have any spokes right now... the wheel is in pieces (see the OP)

    I'll be trying out a shop in SF that's supposed to have a very good rep. We'll see.
    Maybe I'll do the next set of wheels. It's not like I haven't done them before, though it was 20+ years ago.
    Now you have learned one of lifes important lessons..................size always matters... and yes, it does sometimes get complicated. You can always get a better job by hiring someone else to do it but its more fun to do it yourself



  18. #18
    Erect member since 1953 cccorlew's Avatar
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    Just gotta say that when i saw this question about "does spoke length matter" I was sure it was not about spoke length.
    WANTED: Not a darn thing. I've got it all. Life is good.
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  19. #19
    dck
    dck is offline
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    There are a number of spoke lenght calculators on the web. Do a google search on "spokecalc". Building wheels is not all that difficult.

  20. #20
    Senior Member SaiKaiTai's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dck View Post
    There are a number of spoke lenght calculators on the web. Do a google search on "spokecalc". Building wheels is not all that difficult.
    I know. Read the rest of this thread.
    '13 Felt Z3 - '08 Jamis Aurora Elite - ('07 Giant OCR C2)

  21. #21
    Senior Member SaiKaiTai's Avatar
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    Well, now... hold on a second.
    I contacted Bontrager yesterday and, after I explained that I had no existing rear spokes to measure, they talked to the wheel engineering group and came up back with some lengths for me. Rear drive side is 261mm, rear nondrive side is 263mm. I measured the front at 292mm. Wow, a 3cm difference between front and rear? I'll say length matters.
    '13 Felt Z3 - '08 Jamis Aurora Elite - ('07 Giant OCR C2)

  22. #22
    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SaiKaiTai View Post
    Well, now... hold on a second.
    I contacted Bontrager yesterday and, after I explained that I had no existing rear spokes to measure, they talked to the wheel engineering group and came up back with some lengths for me. Rear drive side is 261mm, rear nondrive side is 263mm. I measured the front at 292mm. Wow, a 3cm difference between front and rear? I'll say length matters.
    Has to be the result of oxygen starvation........................remeasure the front....

  23. #23
    Senior Member SaiKaiTai's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maddmaxx View Post
    Has to be the result of oxygen starvation........................remeasure the front....
    Yeah, sounds wrong to me, as well.
    I'm pretty confident in that 292mm figure.
    I laid the spoke sown on paper and marked the end and the bend.
    Then I put the ruler to it... 292mm.
    Maybe Bontrager is really helpful but not very clueful?
    I've sent them a followup, let's see if they get back to me again. I don't want to push them.
    '13 Felt Z3 - '08 Jamis Aurora Elite - ('07 Giant OCR C2)

  24. #24
    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    292 is in the range for 700c wheels and the 260's are appropriate for MTB wheels. That must be one strange looking bike. Maybe this is why you think your always climbing hills!

  25. #25
    Senior Member SaiKaiTai's Avatar
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    It's good climbing practice for sure... especially when I throw the bike on the trainer.

    Hm Good observation on the wheel sizes. These are both 700c wheels... partly why it's classified as a hybrid, I guess. Since he confirmed that drive side is 2mm shorter than the non-drive side, maybe I could go with 290/292 (respectively)?

    Or just take it to the shop.
    If they can do it in 2 days as they say, I might lose out on the experience but I'll have a bike I can ride again much sooner. I haven't been able to take the Fisher out for 2 or 3 months now
    I miss it.
    '13 Felt Z3 - '08 Jamis Aurora Elite - ('07 Giant OCR C2)

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