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Tandem Cycling A bicycle built for two. Want to find out more about this wonderful world of tandems? Check out this forum to talk with other tandem enthusiasts. Captains and stokers welcome!

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Old 05-31-10, 09:12 AM   #1
mburchard
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Topolino Broken Spoke, New Wheel Questions ...

Broke a rear spoke on our Topolinos yesterday, happened as coming to, maybe even after, a stop. No pothole, no shock, spoke broke right where threaded section of spoke enters the (rear) rim. Unrideable, would have had to take brake off. About 2500 miles on these wheels.

So will send the wheel(s) back to be repaired, will ask if they think OK to repair just the broken spoke, or if they think the wheels, front and back, should be completely rebuilt.

In the meantime, now I want a set of sturdier/conventional but still as light as possible primary/backup wheels. Poking through the forum and elsewhere sounds like I might choose 36h Velocity Fusion rims, and for hubs either Chris King or White Industries. For White Industries, looks like rear hub with disk mount is 324 gm, and requires some dishing. For Chris King, looks like rear with disk mount is 366 gm, and requires a little less dishing. The Wheelbuilder website appears to have a Chris King rear hub without the disk mount, don't see this on the Chris King site, no idea on weight or dishing. And have no idea what the Fun Bolts do for you, good or bad. Anyone? I don't mind having the disk brake option for the rear if not punitive for weight. Rear is 145mm (Calfee tandem).

And once you guys get me sorted out on hub selection, any issue with using butted spokes?
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Old 05-31-10, 09:45 AM   #2
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Chris King are the creme de la creme of tandem hubs: nearly bomb proof if you service them correctly (which is also true of most tandem hubs, but more so with CK), lighter than others but not as light as the much less-complex White Ind. hubs, but also quite a bit more expensive than the White hubs... unless you can get a bro-deal on the CKs.

I like the Velocity rims and the Fusion is a great rim; we had them on one of our test-wheelsets for the Calfee. The Mavic CXP-33 is similar and also a good, lightweight rim that's been used on a lot of tandems since it was introduced.

Fun Bolts are typically used for off-road where a stiffer front wheel / fork interface or more bite on single speed and disc equipped bikes is desired.

Butted spokes are always a good choice.
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Old 05-31-10, 10:07 AM   #3
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I have a friend who's having the Rolf blues. A month ago the hub packed it in, this week the rim is showing cracks on many of the spoke holes. He has a rear disk that he thinks might have contributed by putting extra stress on the spokes. We ride in terrain that can have steep descents with stop signs at the bottom. So he's looking, too.

So . . . I like my 36H Deep V rear rim on CK hub, 145mm. Yes, very little dishing, reasonable spoke tensions, very reliable wheel. Never a problem so far. 310 lb. team, rim brakes, 15-14 DT spokes.

Anything extra to think about for a disk rear, wheel-wise, other than the disk mount? He'll need the hub shipped next day so we can ride together next Sunday. BikeMan.com? Webcyclery.com? Other source?
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Old 05-31-10, 11:08 AM   #4
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Anything extra to think about for a disk rear, wheel-wise, other than the disk mount? He'll need the hub shipped next day so we can ride together next Sunday. BikeMan.com? Webcyclery.com? Other source?
Probably a good idea to know which rim / hole count he'll be using and what type of rotors he's using so he can be sure to get the correct disc adapter depending on which brand/model of hub he's interested in.

As always, I'd put a plug in for patronizing the tandem speciality dealers who have exactly what's needed in stock, e.g., TandemsEast.com, PrecisionTandems.com, etc. Given that he needs an entire wheel, I'd venture a guess that the two dealers I just listed could have an entire wheel, ready to ride in his hands by next weekend, assuming they stayed in town for the holiday weekend.

Web cyclery is probably an OK source, R&E is always an option for a local source as is Elliott Bay, but I'm not sure they'd have as wide a range of hubs in stock as the tandem speciality dealers. But, that's just an assumption on my part.
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Old 05-31-10, 11:39 AM   #5
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I am using WI Mi5 and Mi6 hubs and they work great.
Good quality and weight for the price.
I can't think of any negatives with them.
Also using Fusion rims 32H laced 3X with CX Ray spokes.
Years ago I built a wheel with a CK tandem hub and it was very loud when coasting.
I also had problems with it skipping with hard pedaling.
The seals were very tight which created a lot of drag.
Sent it back to CK and they tried to make it quieter but it didn't work and I returned the hub.
It could be CK has improved things since then.









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Old 05-31-10, 12:06 PM   #6
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Years ago I built a wheel with a CK tandem hub and it was very loud when coasting.

Yes, they have a very loud and distinctive angry bee "buzz"; it's the sound of $$.

I also had problems with it skipping with hard pedaling.

Did you adjust the rear bearing pre-load after building the wheels and several times thereafter during the break-in period? If not, engagement slip is one of the first things that you'll begin to notice. Again, CK hubs have some very specific maintenance requirements: http://chrisking.com/tech/tech_hubs

The seals were very tight which created a lot of drag.

Compared to???? To be fair, White Industries hubs seem to have the 'free-ist' spinning bearings out of the box vs. most others. Of course, their bearings also wear out in fewer miles vs. the higher quality bearings used by CK, Phil Wood and some of the other companies. Again, this is just my observation based on owning and riding examples of all these hubs over the years plus several others.
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Old 05-31-10, 01:01 PM   #7
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Thanks for all of the input, quite helpful.

Interesting that jnbrown has opted for 32 hole front and rear. Thinking I might stick with 36. We are about 305 pounds, so not heavy, but not light either. Does anyone radial lace the front wheel?

No immediate plans for a rear disc brake, rim brakes fine for where we live, but frame has mounts for a disc brake, might make sense to have a wheel to complete the option.

Stumbled on wheelbuilder.com as I was doing my homework. Not a tandem specialty shop, but a wheel specialty shop. Thinking they would probably be pretty quick and also competent.
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Old 05-31-10, 01:11 PM   #8
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At 305, you could certainly use 32h wheels and/or 32h front / 36h rear... but the typical question always remains, for what reason or to what benefit?

If there was a particular rim or hub that you wanted to use that was only offered in 32h, that might be a good reason... but most of the 'good' tandem hubs and appropriate rims are typically offered in 32h as well as 36h... even 40h in some cases. As for mixed spoke counts front & rear, whenever I buy a wheelset I always go with the same spoke count front & back and buy a spare rim that I take with us on rally weekends or supported trips/tours "just in case".

Same thing goes for hubs... it's no big deal to not install a disc rotor on a disc hub, but if you decide to go with a disc in the future you're S.O.L. and shopping for a hub or rear wheel.

Can't comment on wheelbuilder.com without calling them up and talking to them about their tandem wheel building technique/specs and some references.
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Old 05-31-10, 01:41 PM   #9
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I went with 32 because our weight is 250lbs and the 36H wheels we previously had seemed like more than enough.
I think I could have have even gone 28 on the front given there are plenty of single bikes with 20 spoke front wheels.
The weight savings of 20g per wheel is pretty trivial and there is a slight gain in aerodynamics from fewer spokes.
Radial lacing is not a good idea when you get above 24 spokes, it doesn't look very good with so many spokes crowded together and it puts more stress on a hub that has less material with more holes in it.
With the deeper rims like the Fusion and Deep V you don't need as many spokes because the rims are stronger.
Another wheel builder you might check out is Ron Ruff at White Mountain wheels. I do all my own wheel building, but I did get a quote from him just to see and the price seemed very reasonable. He seems very experienced and can give you some recommendations on wheel design.
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Old 05-31-10, 03:01 PM   #10
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Anything extra to think about for a disk rear, wheel-wise, other than the disk mount? He'll need the hub shipped next day so we can ride together next Sunday. BikeMan.com? Webcyclery.com? Other source?
The White Industries come in different disk spacing. If it is for a Calfee make sure it has a smaller offset than normal because the tolerances are fairly tight.
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Old 05-31-10, 04:00 PM   #11
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The weight savings of 20g per wheel is pretty trivial and there is a slight gain in aerodynamics from fewer spokes
I'd venture a guess that the aero drag hit from that big, fat downtube on our Calfee tandems is bigger than any improvement you'd get from any low drag wheelset. Wheel mass, at the double-digit level, is also inconsequential, and even a 1lb difference is hard to quantify for all but the most elite riders...

High-bling tandem wheels: $1,300. Real Aero Racing Wheels: $2,500. Reliable wheels that you never think about: Priceless.

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Old 05-31-10, 11:28 PM   #12
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FYI. the cost of my wheels was $710.
There probably is not any discernible difference between 32 and 36 spokes.
I just felt totally comfortable going with 32 and it saved a few bucks on CX Ray spokes.
You could knock about $128 off that price by using regular round DB spokes.
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Old 06-01-10, 05:57 PM   #13
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I'd venture a guess that the aero drag hit from that big, fat downtube on our Calfee tandems is bigger than any improvement you'd get from any low drag wheelset. Wheel mass, at the double-digit level, is also inconsequential, and even a 1lb difference is hard to quantify for all but the most elite riders...

High-bling tandem wheels: $1,300. Real Aero Racing Wheels: $2,500. Reliable wheels that you never think about: Priceless.
Agree with TG on this point - very important to honestly assess how you're going to use your equipment, road conditions expected, and what you'll do if something unexpected happens. On Ride the Rockies last year, we broke a spoke on a Sweet-16 rear wheel while descending Independence Pass at 50 mph. Was able to repair at the end of the day, but we weren't carrying much of a load (food, raingear, tools) and there was plenty of support throughout the ride.

Once we started planning a self-supported trip for later this summer over Trail Ridge road, Berthoud Pass, etc, we decided that more conventional 40 db spoked wheels, Hadley hubs, and Dyad rims would improve our chances for a trouble-free journey over rough mountain passes that are covered in snow most of the year. After riding this wheelset all spring, we have virtually eliminated worries about wheel durability/reliability and have noticed an improvement in lateral stability at a small weight and aero penalty. Time will tell if we made the right choice, but at least for now, wheel worries are at the bottom of my list.
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Old 06-01-10, 10:26 PM   #14
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Have a pair of Topolinos on my single bike with over 10,000 miles on them and have never needed to true them. Did have to adjust the front hub a bit once.
On our tandem we have CK hubs, Velocity AeroHead rims and originally with Revolution spokes; 32H front and 36H rear.
Almost 30,000 miles on front wheel; replaced rear wheel after a wobbernockered rim and also breaking a couple spokes after about 22,000 miles. Got a deal on Ti spokes on the rebuilt rear wheel. So far so good.
Yes, the CK rear hub does whine/hum a bit when coasting but we no longer notice us, but others have commented on it.
Therefore we've named our Zona tandem 'the Hummer'.
Pedal on TWOgether!
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Old 06-02-10, 06:08 AM   #15
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Have a pair of Topolinos on my single bike with over 10,000 miles on them and have never needed to true them.
Sadly, the parametrics don't translate to the AX3.0T wheelsets that many of the early adopters acquired... which reminds me: I still need to replace my 5.5mm spoke nipple driver so I can re-true my rear wheel.

Great customer support and I really like Rafe Schlanger -- a very genuine, brilliant innovator and nice all-around guy -- but I would have preferred a trouble-free wheelset, especially given the initial cost and the costs associated with shipping the things back-and-forth to Connecticut for warranty support.
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Old 06-02-10, 08:00 AM   #16
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Broke a rear spoke on our Topolinos yesterday, ... Unrideable, would have had to take brake off. About 2500 miles on these wheels.
I was surprised to hear that breaking one spoke on this 30 spoke wheel would put it so out of true as to be unrideable. I would not have guessed one broken spoke would have thrown that wheel that severely out of true. Is there something about the Topilino through the hub design that makes this worse? Can you true it yourself in the field to make up for the broken spoke?

We've broken a spoke on our Zipp's and didn't even have to open the QR on the brake. When we broke a second spoke on the same side, we had to open the QR but the bike was still rideable.

As an aside, we carry one of these just in case we need to replace a spoke a long way from home: http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/fiberfix.htm
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Old 06-02-10, 08:41 AM   #17
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Is there something about the Topilino through the hub design that makes this worse? Can you true it yourself in the field to make up for the broken spoke?
For the rear wheel, I believe the out-of-true problem comes in to play if you break a non-drive side spoke terminator... noting that 18 of the 30 spokes are on the drive side with only 12 on the non-drive side.

Beyond that, the Topolino's through the hub spokes act like a regular wheel when a spoke breaks in that all of the spokes on each side of the wheel become an integrated unit along with their respective half of the hub body during the fabrication process. In other words, even though the spoke passes through the hub, all of the spokes are fused together in the hub.

Of course, that also means a broken spoke requires a rebuild of the wheel with a new left or right spoke network, as I don't think they can replace just the terminator ends when the stainless steel threaded end of the terminator breaks. Now, I also believe Topolino may have increased the gauge of those threaded terminators and nipples in newer wheels... not positive about that as I heard this second hand from another Topolino owner after he sent a wheel back with a broken spoke for repair.

As for truing in the field, you'd need to remove the tire and rim strip tape and have a 5.5mm nipple driver + an adjustable wrench in your tool kit. The nipple driver is used like any other nipple driver on low spoke count wheels, e.g., Rolfs and the adjustable wrench is used to keep the terminator / spoke blade from twisting and/or to straighten it out once you finish adjusting the spoke tension. So, yes... in theory, you can do it but it's not as easy as it is with conventional wheels that have exposed nipples adjusted with a spoke wrench.
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Old 06-02-10, 04:23 PM   #18
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There are plusses and minuses with the hi-tech wheel/spoke systems, whether they are Topos, Rolfs, Zipps, Sweet 16s, etc.
Yup, they are usually lighter/faster/cooler/aero till you bust a spoke (or 2)!
We takes our chances/choices and live with 'em!
Pedal on!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
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Old 06-02-10, 07:17 PM   #19
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...Of course, that also means a broken spoke requires a rebuild of the wheel with a new left or right spoke network, as I don't think they can replace just the terminator ends when the stainless steel threaded end of the terminator breaks. Now, I also believe Topolino may have increased the gauge of those threaded terminators and nipples in newer wheels... not positive about that as I heard this second hand from another Topolino owner after he sent a wheel back with a broken spoke for repair.

As for truing in the field, you'd need to remove the tire and rim strip tape and have a 5.5mm nipple driver + an adjustable wrench in your tool kit. The nipple driver is used like any other nipple driver on low spoke count wheels, e.g., Rolfs and the adjustable wrench is used to keep the terminator / spoke blade from twisting and/or to straighten it out once you finish adjusting the spoke tension. So, yes... in theory, you can do it but it's not as easy as it is with conventional wheels that have exposed nipples adjusted with a spoke wrench.
You've got to be kidding! And people use these wheels why???
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Old 06-02-10, 07:32 PM   #20
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You've got to be kidding! And people use these wheels why???
Actually, if you know how to build and true wheels it's not all that different from tensioning and trueing conventional wheels. Moreover, the parts are not all that expensive -- there's a core charge to ensure that the damaged parts go back to Topolino and folks can't acquire enough parts to build a counterfeit wheelset -- and the warranty support is excellent.

As to why, they're insanely light, they have exceptional ride qualities, they look distinctive, they represent a completely different approach to wheel building and several other intangibles that appeal to folks who can afford to play around with bleeding-edge technology.
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Old 06-03-10, 06:23 PM   #21
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^^ Well, OK, it wasn't really a rhetorical question, so thanks for taking a crack at answering it.
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Old 06-04-10, 02:17 PM   #22
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Broken spoke was on the non-drive side (which has 12, I think, drive side has 16), it was still rubbing on the brake pretty hard after opening it up, though even open maybe Negative G is perhaps not too roomy. It was not rubbing on the frame or anything, but I think I would have had to remove the brake for us to get home (without calling a taxi).

Having a back-up wheel (expensively) overnighted from Precision Tandems after aborted attempt to get a wheel from Tandems East. Mel had a death in the family, but still a tad annoying that on Tuesday he told me that I would have the wheel Friday/today, and when I asked for a tracking number Friday/today I found out he was planning to send it tomorrow or Monday.
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Old 06-04-10, 02:34 PM   #23
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jnbrown--that's a great lookin' tandem. let's see a picture of it in all its glory!

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I am using WI Mi5 and Mi6 hubs and they work great.
Good quality and weight for the price.
I can't think of any negatives with them.
Also using Fusion rims 32H laced 3X with CX Ray spokes.
Years ago I built a wheel with a CK tandem hub and it was very loud when coasting.
I also had problems with it skipping with hard pedaling.
The seals were very tight which created a lot of drag.
Sent it back to CK and they tried to make it quieter but it didn't work and I returned the hub.
It could be CK has improved things since then.
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Old 06-04-10, 04:25 PM   #24
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jnbrown--that's a great lookin' tandem. let's see a picture of it in all its glory!
Thanks - I bought all the parts and built it myself. I am in the midst of swapping out the front FSA SLK crankset with a reworked Ultegra crankset.
I didn't like the wide Q factor on the SLK, I will post some pictures after it's done hopefully this weekend.
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Old 06-04-10, 05:42 PM   #25
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cool!

those are nice lookin' wheels. did you build those yourself?

i debated getting topolino, rolf, etc., but thought the better of it and went with plain ol' handbuilts.

oh and that aramid spoke repair thing posted on here is a very snazzy idea.
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