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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

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Old 04-26-12, 08:07 AM   #1
mlander
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LBS Truth-O-Meter: spoke issues

I popped a spoke on my back wheel yesterday for the fourth time since I owned it (~1300 miles). When I had my last one repaired the dude at the bike shop said it might be time to think about a new wheel. He effectively said all you're doing is wrestling a bent wheel back into shape, which is causing too much strain on the spokes. Is this BS?

Relevant facts: I'm a hefty 230. It's a BD Motobecane USA. Maybe they threw some crap rims/spokes on there? They are stainless steel spokes. Rims: XRP COMP Vuelta, 6061T6 Double Wall aluminum with machined brake track.

Thanks for any replies!
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Old 04-26-12, 08:10 AM   #2
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Is it the same spoke breaking every time or different ones? When you get the spokes replaced are the tensioning the wheel? If you have broken four different spokes then I would have to say it's time for a new wheel. Just my opinion of course.
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Old 04-26-12, 08:12 AM   #3
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Retruing a wheel after you break a spoke is, I think, meant to be a shorter term fix. The spoke tension forces the hoop to return to the right shape, even if it isn't in that shape to begin with. If it's out of true, the spokes pull the wheel back so that it spins true again, which may or may not actually repair the hoop. So yes, essentially it's only wrestling a bent wheel back into shape, which can put a lot of strain on the wheel itself. Anyone, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, which I very well could be.
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Old 04-26-12, 08:14 AM   #4
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Different ones.

I believe they are tensioning the wheel, yes. Is that the same thing as aligning it? Because it comes back straight as an arrow.

Seems a couple breaks were just RANDOM and other ones happened when I hit a pothole.
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Old 04-26-12, 08:16 AM   #5
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Sounds like good advice to me. I dont know about the rim being bent. More likely all your spokes have the same amount of stress cycles on them and its reasonable to assume that you may continue to break spokes going forward. If you like your wheels, relacing them with new spokes might do the trick. (assuming you rim is not bad). If they're cheap wheels, its probably best to just look for an upgrade.
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Old 04-26-12, 08:16 AM   #6
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Oi. Looking like new wheel. REALLY don't want to fork out the scratch right now...
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Old 04-26-12, 08:19 AM   #7
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If you like your wheels, relacing them with new spokes might do the trick. (assuming you rim is not bad)
Good idea. Maybe I'll have them do this. At the very least, if they continue to break at least I'll have my answer. Way cheaper than new wheel too.
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Old 04-26-12, 08:22 AM   #8
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First, what type of wheels are you running? i.e., what's the spoke count? Are the breakages all drive-side spokes or other-side spokes? Due to the "dish" of the wheel, the drive side spokes on the rear wheel are under more tension (that is, the rim isn't centered between the hub flanges -- it's closer to the drive-side flange then it is the "other" side, which means the drive-side spokes are under higher tension).

Secondly, replacing a spoke should result in a wheel that's just as strong as it was before.

Basically, replacing a spoke and getting the wheel true is easy. Building a wheel so that it stays true is another story. My guess is that you need to have that wheel rebuilt, from scratch, by somebody who REALLY knows what they're doing. And that "somebody" might tell you that your current wheel simply isn't worth the trouble (i.e., it just can't hold up to somebody of your size).
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Old 04-26-12, 08:25 AM   #9
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Whats the spoke count?

If they are low count wheels and at 230 lbs this may be an ongoing problem. I was riding a set of 20/24 eastons last year and I'm 225 and within a month I broke my first rear spoke, about a month later a second. I threw in the towel and sold them and contacted Psimet who built me a sweet 28/32 count wheel that is rock solid and even lighter than the lower count eastons.

Just something to think about
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Old 04-26-12, 08:38 AM   #10
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Yes, my comment above about relacing assumes your wheels are appropriate to your size. Of course, the very best option is to lose weight, but that takes time and you probably need this wheel for that. I still have about 20-30lbs to go myself.
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Old 04-26-12, 08:39 AM   #11
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I'd start fresh with a new wheel rather than pay for all new spokes and labor. Sounds like the rim took a hit or two and is somewhat bent now. If so, it becomes a game of evenly tensioned spokes and a rim that is out-of-true vs. true only with some uneven tension (which is when spokes break). Your mechanic is saying that balancing act isn't working. If you want to try one more time - I'd suggest to the shop that you are more worried about even tension and not breaking spokes even if it means a wheel that is slightly out of true. Retensioning the spokes is a bit different than replacing one spoke and truing the wheel.
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Old 04-26-12, 08:40 AM   #12
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Are these your wheels: http://vueltaxrpwheels.com/comp.asp ?


20 spoke front / 24 spoke rear.

With your weight being 230 lb, it may make more long-term sense to buy a stronger wheel with higher spoke count then to keep pouring money into the current wheel.
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Old 04-26-12, 08:48 AM   #13
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"A bicycle wheel is a very strong thing, but only if all the elements are perfect" Paraphrase of Greg Lemond-

I would have to agree with your LBS on the wheel. I have seen this before. Low/lower quality wheelset and broken spokes.........pop/fix/pop/fix/pop/fix, 200 bucks later, same wheel.

This isn't some isolated incident, others have gone through the same thing. I do hear you about not wanting to fork out the dough, but cycling is like that. Replacing a $300 cassette (due to wear) is no fun at all, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet.

Basically, I can say with almost certainty that your wheel will continue to "bust" spokes. This is my opinion of course.
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Old 04-26-12, 08:48 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mlander View Post
Different ones.

I believe they are tensioning the wheel, yes. Is that the same thing as aligning it? Because it comes back straight as an arrow.

Seems a couple breaks were just RANDOM and other ones happened when I hit a pothole.
No, a wheel can be trued without being properly tensioned. I can get a wheel straight, I can not get it straight and properly tensioned.
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Old 04-26-12, 08:53 AM   #15
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Also, not all spokes are created equal. When a customer's OEM-quality spokes start to go, one by one, I often suggest having the wheel rebuilt with DT Swiss or Wheelsmith spokes (assuming the wheel's salvagable and suited to the customer's uses). Do the math, how much are you paying each time and how much inconvenience is it causing you? Compare that to getting the wheel rebuilt and being done with the problem.

However, as the guys said, if you weigh 230 and are riding a lot (and hitting potholes) then you might be better off with a higher spoke count. If you want a suggestion... Velocity A23 rims, Tiagra hubs, 36-spoke rear, 32-spoke front, DT Swiss 14-15ga spokes rear, straight 15 gauge front.
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Old 04-26-12, 09:04 AM   #16
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Also, not all spokes are created equal.
I hadn't thought of that part. That might give a little more weight to the "replace 'em all" route.
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Old 04-26-12, 09:19 AM   #17
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Different ones.

...

Seems a couple breaks were just RANDOM and other ones happened when I hit a pothole.
After a spoke breaks, do you finish the ride that way, or do you walk/drive your bike home, pull the wheel off, and take it into the shop? If you ride on it, minus the busted spoke, that's putting an awful lot of strain on the other spokes, which is why they're dying. It's kind of like dominoes.

Also, truing and tensioning a wheel are different things. And some spokes are stronger than others.
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Old 04-26-12, 09:20 AM   #18
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same thing happening to me, actually. i've cracked 3 spokes on my rear wheel. i'm looking into new wheels, but my LBS also suggested that they can rebuild my wheels with new/stronger spokes. i'm going with new wheels.
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Old 04-26-12, 09:32 AM   #19
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Thanks everyone for the informative responses.

Yes, telebianchi, those are my exact wheels.

Also, Seattle, hate to say it, but every time I have broken one I go ahead and ride it home. Causing more damage I'm sure.

I guess now I'm leaning toward a stronger wheel with more spokes.

Thanks for the suggestion mechBgon, I'll check it out...
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Old 04-26-12, 09:56 AM   #20
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I would de-tension the entire wheel, check that the rim is not bent, install the new spoke, and re-tension the whole wheel. If you're getting the wheel back right away, the LBS is not doing this. Maybe suggest it to them, or do it yourself if you can. If you can't do that yourself, there's no time like the present to learn! If you pop another spoke after that, I would go to a stronger wheel with more spokes. Personally, at 190 myself, I don't like riding less than 28 spoke wheels.
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Old 04-26-12, 09:59 AM   #21
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Also, Seattle, hate to say it, but every time I have broken one I go ahead and ride it home. Causing more damage I'm sure.
On the other hand ... it beats walking. I'd do the same thing.
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Old 04-26-12, 10:35 AM   #22
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On the other hand ... it beats walking. I'd do the same thing.
I've been the bearer of bad news to people whose tire has sawed halfway through their carbon chainstay by riding home with a broken spoke. It's a particular problem with low-spoke-count wheels, and some carbon frames don't have a lot of clearance to start with. So that would be something to keep a close eye on, if you've broken a spoke mid-ride.
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Old 04-26-12, 10:41 AM   #23
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Quote:
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However, as the guys said, if you weigh 230 and are riding a lot (and hitting potholes) then you might be better off with a higher spoke count. If you want a suggestion... Velocity A23 rims, Tiagra hubs, 36-spoke rear, 32-spoke front, DT Swiss 14-15ga spokes rear, straight 15 gauge front.
I'm generally in this camp. Not sure if you'd need 36 in the back, but a solid set of A23's built by a good builder will serve you long after you're no longer 230lbs. The A23 is a wider rim as well, letting you ride with slightly less air pressure, which will be more comfortable as well. I have a similar rim, the HED Belgium C2, and I love em.
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Old 04-26-12, 10:44 AM   #24
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Quote:
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I've been the bearer of bad news to people whose tire has sawed halfway through their carbon chainstay by riding home with a broken spoke. It's a particular problem with low-spoke-count wheels, and some carbon frames don't have a lot of clearance to start with. So that would be something to keep a close eye on, if you've broken a spoke mid-ride.
Wow, I've never even considered that, but then I'm too cheap to have a carbon frame.
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Old 04-26-12, 11:00 AM   #25
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More than likely the wheel was not properly stress relieved when it was built. Not uncommon for cheap wheels. The spokes lost tension when you started to ride it and now the wheel is undertensioned, causing the spokes to fatigue prematurely. I've seen this happen countless times.

Most likely the LBS is replacing the broken spoke and truing the wheel. They probably are not tensioning the entire wheel, which is what should have been done as soon as you got the bike. Get a new wheel or replace all the spokes and have the wheel rebuilt properly. Those wheels look a bit underbuilt for your weight, but properly tensioned you should still be able to ride them without breaking spokes all the time.
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