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  1. #1
    K&M
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    Got Rolf Wheels? Check your spokes

    A couple of days ago we broke a rear wheel spoke on our flashy Rolf tandem wheels. On examining the wheel I discovered a spoke that was incorrectly threaded through the other spokes and, from the look of things, I think the spoke that broke was also incorrectly placed (which is likely why it broke). The wheels arrived fully built, so I can only guess that Rolf may be having some quality control problems with whoever builds their wheels. Has anyone else had this problem?

  2. #2
    half man - half sheep Doggus's Avatar
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    ...nevermind...I'm thinking of another wheel I guess. There is a wheel out there that people are having trouble with the spokes pulling out. It's on one of the tandems. I sure thought it was the Rolf Vigors. I can't find the thread that I saw that in (Road Cycling forum).
    Last edited by Doggus; 08-03-05 at 02:33 PM.
    "The cycling community is so small that it is nearly inbred." - Steve Tilford

  3. #3
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by K&M
    Has anyone else had this problem?
    Tim P, can you weigh in with the Northwest Tandem Rally report on the Rolf's? I believe there were some similar issues with at least one brand new Co-Mo fitted with the paired spoke wheelsets from Rolf. As I heard it, it was of course the day after Rolf Dietrich was sucking rear wheel behind the gang on his 1/2 bike.

    I would relate them myself except that I received the reports second hand and may have some of the details from the various other tire and wheel issues (can you say cattle grate & high speeds don't mix) that nixed our friends who made the trek to Bend.

  4. #4
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Cattle guards/grates? More dangerous than railroad trax!
    I have 'jumped' a cattle guard at speed, but only on a single . . .

  5. #5
    K&M
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    Our spoke didn't pull out. It broke at the neck (by the hub). When looking at it, I noticed that the next spoke over, instead of being laced over and under the spokes it crossed (like it should have), just made a straight shot. I think the one that broke had been incorrectly installed in the same way. Interestingly, the wheel had stayed quite true in spite of the incorrect lacing. Other than this broken spoke, the performance of the wheels has been great. We have crossed a lot of railroad tracks and cattleguards and hit some memorable potholes, all without problem.

  6. #6
    K&M
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    Broke another spoke this past weekend. Are we the only ones having this problem?

  7. #7
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    I've made mention of some second hand reports but, in general, it's my humble opinion that if you break a spoke on one of the paired spoke wheelsets a rebuild is almost a requirement. Invariably, the opposite spokes seem to go shortly after one another given the sudden, additional load they take when one breaks elsewhere on the wheel. Thus, rather than waiting for the next one to go -- because I really do believe it's a matter of when, not if -- ring up your dealer, Burley, and or Rolf and see if they'll rebuild it under warranty.

    Note: My little theory is not limited to low spoke count wheels. If you run conventional 28h - 40h wheelsets and pop a spoke it's not big deal... unless you pop a second one shortly thereafter. It's a slippery slope from that point on as it has been my experience that the loss of a second spoke is not a coincidence and will not be the last one you'll need to deal with. So, rather than using hope as a strategy, get the wheel rebuilt with new spokes by a good wheelbuilder who is qualified to work on your particular wheels. If they're relatively new wheels, hit-up your dealer, the brand owner / manufacturer of the tandem, and or the brand owner / manufacturer of the wheel for rebuild or new wheel. However, if they give you a new wheel, have the aforementioned wheelbuilder give it a good once-over to make sure it's been properly built, tensioned, and distressed.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 10-12-05 at 09:09 AM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    If you've popped 2 spokes it's time for a re-build!

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    K&M, We've got about 6000 miles (new in June of 04) on our Rolf's, and no problems yet. I appreciate TG's advice and will follow it when the first spoke finally lets go. We split the duty with a set of Bontrager Tandem wheels. The Bontragers had a hub flange break on the front wheel, followed by the rear hub failing about two months later. Bontrager Warrantied the wheel set and we've had no problems since.

    On another note, I think we met at the Solvang double back in March? It was the morning following the ride in the hotel lot.

  10. #10
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    What does your team weigh? Critical datum...

  11. #11
    K&M
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    We are a sub-300 pound team --- not heavy enough to be smashing wheels. Thanks for the suggestion, TG, I will talk to the dealer about rebuilding under warranty. We only got the bike in February and the wheels have less than 3,000 miles on them.

    Sprinter: Yes, that was us in the motel parking lot the day after Solvang. That was our first double century on the tandem. Since then we've done Davis and Mt. Tam and we will be heading up to the Bass Lake Powerhouse Double this weekend. With the miles you're putting on your Rolf's we're bound to run into you again somewhere!

  12. #12
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by K&M
    We are a sub-300 pound team --- not heavy enough to be smashing wheels.
    Just as a data point, one thing that is unique to tandems with regard to cause & effect relationships and spoke breakage are stokers on rigid seat posts who "bounce". Even a relatively lightweight stoker on a rigid seat post who bounces -- whether it's because their saddle is too low or just because they can't develop a smooth pedal stroke -- can eventually cause spokes on an otherwise well-built wheel to fail. Weird but true...

  13. #13
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    I do realise that you are taking about one specific wheel and the possible problems with that manufacturer, but we should all be looking at our wheels on a frequent basis. I do have a top grade wheel and even I have found spokes that need retensioning. Never noticed an out of true wheel as I use disc brakes, but even I check for that at least once a month. Wheels are a critical part of the bike, yet we never notice that things are going wrong. It is only when they fail that we even think about them.

  14. #14
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam
    ... but we should all be looking at our wheels on a frequent basis.
    Sage advise, indeed.

    Spokes & Trueing: The better you are at catching a minor out of true condition early, the longer your wheels will remain relatively trouble free. Remember, a spoked wheel is nothing more than a bunch of wimpy little pieces of wire that gain their strengh only when combined into a uniformly tightened network. Having one spoke a little loose for a short amount of time isn't all that bad, but if it gets too loose or is left loose too long the network starts to break down as other spokes start to loosen and the tension starts to vary from spoke to spoke. Loose spokes will flex at the elbow and hub on every rotation of your wheel and it's those repeated flexing cycles that break down and fatigue the spoke which eventually leads to spoke breakage. If you find your wheel needs a lot of truing, or ends up way out of true, unless you own a tensionometer or have developed either the "touch" or an "ear" for setting spoke tension it's time to take it to a certified or well-respected self-taught wheel builder for truing. Remember, not everyone who is called a mechanic will know how to properly true a wheel. Sure, they and just about anyone else with a spoke wrench can get the sidewalls of a rim to run without wobbling between the brake blocks or your stays, but that doesn't mean the wheel will be round, true, and properly tensioned. Case in point, a friend recently took his OEM Bontrager Race Lights in for trueing and a week later two opposing spokes pulled through the rim. Want to bet that someone didn't know what they were doing?

    Rim Wear: If you log several thousand miles a year you can easily wear out a lightweight, tandem-rated rear rim in 4 - 6 years. You'll want to be on the look out for stress cracks around the spoke holes, particularly on rims that don't use eyelets, as well as any signs of sidewall fatigue. Remember, those rim sidewalls must perform several functions that push and pull them in different ways: outward loads from the air pressure in the tire that keeps the tire attached to the rim as well as the inward pressure + mechanical wear from rim brakes. Machined sidewalls definitely have some advantages, longer rim life isn't one of them. Also, in the event that you bend a rim, while you can often times bend it back you should carefully inspect the rim's hook bead to make sure that it hasn't been deformed as that's all you've got holding your tire to the rim. Also be wary of any buckling of the rim's OML, a sure sign that the structure has been weakened. Moreover, cold aluminum doesn't like to be bent and is even less tolerant of being bent back so if you do bend one back keep an eye on rim sidewall. For any clearly damaged rim -- buckled, bent, or otherwise -- plan on doing a preventative replacement during the next off-season, even if it doesn't appear to be getting any worse.

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