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  1. #1
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    Our Sweet-16 Experiment

    My stoker and I had been watching this forum for awhile, trying to decide if we wanted to experiment with a pair of Sweet Sixteens for our 2000 TeamTi-700. In April of last year (2009) we went ahead and bought a pair from Gear-To-Go.

    Our combined weight, with cycling gear, is just shy of 300 lbs. We are not an aggressive team, usually averaging 15.5 to 17 mph. We have not learned to stand, preferring to sit and spin our way up hills. I would say we are above average in the amount of miles we ride in a year.

    We installed the Sweet Sixteens on April 11, 2009, and began riding. We loved the way these wheels rode and felt. In six weeks we had 508 miles on them and decided it was time to have them retensioned, per their instructions. The person that does all of the major work on my tandem, owned the shop that I bought it from. After the shop closed, he went to work for Velocity. Today he is described as their “Master Wheelbuilder” on their facebook page. He checked the spokes on both wheels and found that only one front spoke needed a slight turn to bring it up to “26.”

    We reinstalled the wheels and rode them the rest of the year, putting 3824.8 miles on them by November 28. We had our usual winter overhaul done in January. The Sweet Sixteens had their hubs overhauled, and spoke tension was confirmed to still be at “26.” We installed new tires for the new year.

    Typical Michigan weather kept us off the road until March 18th this year. 12 weeks later we had 1523.9 miles on the tandem, and with a vacation coming up, we went to install a new rear tire. This was when I discovered the rear rim had cracked at two spokes.

    I called Santana and was referred to Tim, who asked that I send both wheels to him. On July 1st, Tim called me back and said that the rear wheel would NOT be repaired under the two year warranty. This was due to the fact that I had voided the warranty by letting some of the rear spokes loosen. Tim told me that a 1% drop in the spoke tension of “26” was enough to void the warranty of these “very high maintenance” wheels. I explained that a professional wheel builder had just gone over the wheels 1500 miles ago. I also pointed out that Bill had written in the instructions that “Actually, as long as these wheels were properly retensioned per Shimano’s instructions (after 1000km or as soon as they make noise), Sweet-16 tandem wheels will generally remain tight.” Tim explained that “generally” meant that they may not. And that I should have been checking the spoke tension much more often over the 1500 miles I had put on them since the last time they were checked. Tim did offer me the option of having the rear wheel rebuilt for a total of $461.96.

    I will add that Bill claims that “a properly tensioned rear wheel will outlast traditional 160 mm tandem wheels with 40 spokes…” I have found this to be true. When we bought our TeamTi700 in 2001, we found cracks in the rear rim (fir) after 2500 miles. After repairing them under warranty, we found cracks in the new rear rim after another 2500 miles. All 5000 miles were in the first year of ownership. That winter we skipped the 2 year warranty and had new wheels built using Dyad rims, by the same person who still works on our bike today.

    After 5136 miles, and 42 weeks of actual riding on the Sweet-16s, we will consider this experiment to be a failure.

    Rick Lanting
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  2. #2
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    Thanks for the report. We bought hook line & sinker into the Sweet 16 advertising about them being as strong or stronger than a 40 spoke wheel, and they sure look good. We had one wheel replaced under warranty but never put it back on the bike. ;-(

  3. #3
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    A bit of advertising hype goes a l-o-n-g way!
    Thanks for your posting.
    We have Velocity Aerohead rims with Chris King hubs on our Zona tandem.
    Front wheel 32 H . . . still great after 30,000 miles. But did pop 2 spokes.
    Rear wheel 36H . . . had to replace rim after about 22,000 miles.
    Not as hi-zoot lookin' or as hyped, but great wheels for us!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  4. #4
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    That is absolutely ridiculous and is one reason I did not consider buying another Sanata even though they do make good tandems.
    IMHO Sanata should not be selling those wheels.
    I would not even consider riding 16 spoke wheels on my single and I weigh 140lbs.
    I have always used Velocity rims. First Aero and now Fusions with 32 spokes and never had a rim break.

  5. #5
    Member cowtandemstoker's Avatar
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    Our tandem weight is 290 and we ride Bontrager Race Lite Tandem wheels. We've had them for 8 years and average 5,000 miles per year. I've heard people complain about Bontrager wheels and we did crack a front hub after about 2 years, but Bontrager replaced the wheel no questions asked. Haven't had a single problem since then.

  6. #6
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    We had a set of sweet 16's that we used for more than 4 years before the rear rim gave up. They were a pain but we really liked how they rode and if they were available we will buy another set.

  7. #7
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cornucopia72 View Post
    We had a set of sweet 16's that we used for more than 4 years before the rear rim gave up. They were a pain but we really liked how they rode and if they were available we will buy another set.
    You realize they now carry an MSRP of $1,495 per set?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by cornucopia72 View Post
    We had a set of sweet 16's that we used for more than 4 years before the rear rim gave up. They were a pain but we really liked how they rode and if they were available we will buy another set.
    You could try Rich at Gear To Go. This price is $100 less than we paid him in April, 2009 http://www.gtgtandems.com/parts/wheels.html
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  9. #9
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    My problem wasn't the cracked rim. Those thing happen from time to time and that's what a warranty is for.

    I feel that the rim failed due to materials or workmanship, not my failure to maintain them. If these wheels are so fragile that they must be removed from the bike, tires removed, and spoke tension checked in less than 1500 miles (after proper break in), that should be mentioned in the instructions. And if allowing the spoke tension to drop 1%, or more, will void the warranty, that should also be included in the instructions.

    I realize that if I were a musician, and had the correct tuning fork, Bill claims that I could check the tension without a tension meter. But I doubt that I could "hear" a drop in spoke tension of less than 1%.

    I would not hesitate to buy another Santana tandem, but I would do so knowing that I would need to have a set of wheels built to back up, or replace, the set that came with the bike.

    With that in mind, we are going in the direction of Zonatandem. We will pick up a set of 32H/36H Chris King hubs and have our wheel builder lace them to a set of Velocity rims. I pointed out to my stoker that the Kings will be noisier than she is used to. She quoted Tandemgeek's "that's the sound of money," but changed it to "that's the sound of quality." She then said "that's o.k., we don't coast much anyway!" That's my girl!

    Rick
    Last edited by TeamTi700; 07-05-10 at 03:15 PM.
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  10. #10
    Cycling Anarchist Trsnrtr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    You realize they now carry an MSRP of $1,495 per set?
    Not to mention the cost of scarce to non-existent replacement spokes and nipples. I sold mine to be used as replacement parts.
    Dennis T

  11. #11
    Used to be Conspiratemus
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    Quote Originally Posted by TeamTi700 View Post
    ... And if allowing the spoke tension to drop 1%, or more, will void the warranty, that should also be included in the instructions.

    I realize that if I were a musician, and had the correct tuning fork, Bill claims that I could check the tension without a tension meter. But I doubt that I could "hear" a drop in spoke tension of less than 1%....Rick
    Interesting. Santana's website does say (glibly) that lacking a tensionometer you can check spoke tension with a "G" tuning fork. He doesn't specify which octave. Never having handled one of these wheels I'd be guessing but let's assume it's G above middle C that gives the right tension. This G corresponds to a frequency of 392 Hz. But already we have a problem: Santana reminds us that all the spokes of a properly tensioned wheel will not vibrate at exactly the same pitch (which is not the same as frequency. Pitch is the brain's subjective interpretation of the sound made by an oscillator vibrating at its fundamental frequency plus overtones/harmonics.) Fair enough, but how far "out of tune" can your wheels be without violating Santana's warranty conditions?

    Santana instructs that if the plucked spoke sounds F-sharp (or lower), which is a semi-tone below G, then the spoke needs to be tightened a quarter turn and all should be well. Now, the fundamental frequency of a tensioned string varies directly as the square root of its tension. So a spoke giving F-sharp (370 Hz) has a tension of 89% that of a spoke giving G (392 Hz.) If the spoke pitch is higher than F-sharp, you don't need to touch it, says Santana. Ergo, your spoke can be as much as 10% (not 1%) under-tensioned without being out of spec. according to Santana's literature.

    In building wheels, we aim for equal tension of spokes within the limitations of the materials. A bicycle wheel is not a musical instrument and is frustratingly hard to "tune" like a guitar or a violin. The OP is correct that bringing the spokes -- all of them -- to within 8 Hz of one another (1% tension difference), or that close to a reference tuning fork is going to be very difficult. While any concert-goer can tell when an amateur violinist or soprano is off-key by one-third of a semi-tone (roughly what 8 Hz is in the range we are discussing), you would be hard-pressed to get a bicycle wheel not built by Stradivarius to behave that way -- there is just too much "noise" in the musical notes it makes.

    In any case, Santana's F-sharp specification contains no implication that a 1% loss of tension -- the state the OP's wheel was in before it cracked -- requires any attention to prevent failure or protect the warranty.

    Something stinks here.

    Note: this is a revamping of a post that I deleted because of incorrect arithmetic.
    "I did not know that!" -- J. Carson

  12. #12
    Tandem Vincitur Ritterview's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jnbrown View Post
    IMHO Sanata should not be selling those wheels.
    Apparently, they are not, except as equipped with bikes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Santana Website
    Shimano Sweet-16 wheelset: (currently available on bikes only).........1500

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    You realize they now carry an MSRP of $1,495 per set?
    That is about 50% more of what we paid. Is there any rims available? I know Mark sells the spokes and nipples.

  14. #14
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cornucopia72 View Post
    That is about 50% more of what we paid. Is there any rims available? I know Mark sells the spokes and nipples.
    Yeah, it seems as though the folks at Rolf and Santana saw consumers were willing to shell out $1,400 for Topolino's tandem wheelsets and quickly took advantage of that new benchmark. I want to say that the Rolf's we've owned has MSPRs more like $849 and $979, which were at the time on par with the MSRP for Santana's Sweet 16's.

    As for parts availability, I believe it's pretty spotty at best. As Ritter found in surfing Santana's website, not too long ago most of Santana's Sweet 16 inventory was on backorder and what they had on hand was being used to support new production instead of aftermarket sales. I think there's even a posting here in the archives that I made on that subject in conjuction with an update regarding Santana-compatible (i.e., 160mm) Rolf's coming available.

    I should probably sell both my Topolinos and Rolfs since they're just gathering dust. Nice-looking wheels, but no real bang-for-the-buck for the type of riding we do.

  15. #15
    don't try this at home. rm -rf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TeamTi700 View Post
    ...
    With that in mind, we are going in the direction of Zonatandem. We will pick up a set of 32H/36H Chris King hubs and have our wheel builder lace them to a set of Velocity rims. I pointed out to my stoker that the Kings will be noisier than she is used to. She quoted Tandemgeek's "that's the sound of money," but changed it to "that's the sound of quality." She then said "that's o.k., we don't coast much anyway!" That's my girl!

    Rick
    You should consider White Industries hubs, too. There are 5 sets of bearings on the rear hub. They are easily rebuildable, see the rebuild pdf on their website.
    Last edited by rm -rf; 07-06-10 at 06:32 AM.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by conspiratemus1 View Post
    Interesting. Santana's website does say (glibly) that lacking a tensionometer you can check spoke tension with a "G" tuning fork. He doesn't specify which octave. Never having handled one of these wheels I'd be guessing but let's assume it's G above middle C that gives the right tension. This G corresponds to a frequency of 392 Hz. But already we have a problem: Santana reminds us that all the spokes of a properly tensioned wheel will not vibrate at exactly the same pitch (which is not the same as frequency. Pitch is the brain's subjective interpretation of the sound made by an oscillator vibrating at its fundamental frequency plus overtones/harmonics.) Fair enough, but how far "out of tune" can your wheels be without violating Santana's warranty conditions?

    Santana instructs that if the plucked spoke sounds F-sharp (or lower), which is a semi-tone below G, then the spoke needs to be tightened a quarter turn and all should be well. Now, the fundamental frequency of a tensioned string varies directly as the square root of its tension. So a spoke giving F-sharp (370 Hz) has a tension of 89% that of a spoke giving G (392 Hz.) If the spoke pitch is higher than F-sharp, you don't need to touch it, says Santana. Ergo, your spoke can be as much as 10% (not 1%) under-tensioned without being out of spec. according to Santana's literature.

    In building wheels, we aim for equal tension of spokes within the limitations of the materials. A bicycle wheel is not a musical instrument and is frustratingly hard to "tune" like a guitar or a violin. The OP is correct that bringing the spokes -- all of them -- to within 8 Hz of one another (1% tension difference), or that close to a reference tuning fork is going to be very difficult. While any concert-goer can tell when an amateur violinist or soprano is off-key by one-third of a semi-tone (roughly what 8 Hz is in the range we are discussing), you would be hard-pressed to get a bicycle wheel not built by Stradivarius to behave that way -- there is just too much "noise" in the musical notes it makes.

    In any case, Santana's F-sharp specification contains no implication that a 1% loss of tension -- the state the OP's wheel was in before it cracked -- requires any attention to prevent failure or protect the warranty.

    Something stinks here.

    Note: this is a revamping of a post that I deleted because of incorrect arithmetic.
    How about using an electronic tuner. Would they be accurate enough?

  17. #17
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    All this makes me glad I didn't buy a Santana. When we were looking to upgrade Tandems, I was about to drink the 160mm Kool Aid, before reading comments on here about some of Santana's proprietary specs, and related marketing literature

    Couple of years later, with bunch of miles on a set of Rolfs, 145mm rear spacing seems to be quite adequate.
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  18. #18
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    1% variation is absurd. Were these wheels designed by/for NASA? I would imagine that attempting to get equal tension in all spokes in a wheel is very difficult. Increasing the tension in one will increase the tension in all the others (and not equally).

    Talk about high maintenance! No thank you.

  19. #19
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    Thank you for all of the replies.

    As far as Bontrager Race Lite Tandem wheels and White Industries tandem hubs, as far as I can tell, they are not available in the 160 mm spacing.

    conspiratemus1 Thank you for taking the time to explain the musical aspects.

    I suspect the Sweet-16's will soon be a thing of the past. Tim informed me that Santana is already offering the Rolf's as a $100 upgrade on all of the "Team" models, and a free upgrade on the Beyond.

    As more and more of these rear Sweet-16's crack, I suspect that many front wheels will become "donor" wheels for the used parts.

    Rick
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  20. #20
    Used to be Conspiratemus
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    The 1% figure is a red herring and denial of warranty coverage around it is sticking in my craw.

    Here's what Santana says about wheel tension for Sweet-16s:
    http://www.santanatandem.com/Library/sanreup.pdf
    Excerpt (quoting extensively to avoid misrepresentation):
    "...3). Although repeated service or premature spoke breakage are known results of the failure to fully re-tension the wheels after the initial seating, some wheelbuilders and/or their customers wrongly believe that these tandem-specific wheels are "high-maintenance," "fussy" or "weak." Actually, as long as these wheels properly retensioned per Shimano's original instructions (after 1000km or as soon as they make noise), Sweet-16 tandem wheels will generally remain tight. Laboratory fatigue tests that simulate years of demanding use demonstrate that a properly tensioned Sweet-16 rear wheel will outlast traditional 160mm tandem wheels with 40 spokes (and 145mm wheels with 48 spokes).
    4). What is the proper spoke tension? When using a Park tensiometer the recommended average tension for all spokes is "26." With Wheelsmith's tool the equivalent reading is "95." Loc-tite is unnecessary.
    5). Unfortunately, some wheelbuilders and most customers don't have access to an accurate spoke tensiometer. If there is any question as to adequate tension of a Sweet-16 wheel, anyone with a good ear and a piano (or a small "G" tuning fork like those sold at music stores for $15) can make an accurate assessment by plucking spokes. [emphasis added.] While not every spoke of a true and properly-tensioned wheel will vibrate at the same pitch, a plucked spoke that sounds a note lower than an F-sharp [i.e., lower than 89% of spec. tension, comment and emphasis added] signifies low tension. (Among a trio of black keys, the F-sharp is the one on the left). If the wheel is also untrue, it should be taken to a professional. If, on the other hand, the wheel is perfectly true, a conscientious amateur can carefully tighten all sixteen spokes by one-quarter turn. After rechecking for trueness, if the tension is still low this process can be repeated."

    The OP should argue that keeping tension to within 99% of spec. is not necessary to prevent rim cracking (even if it were possible to measure it so accurately.) Although it doesn't actually tell us that 89% is OK, Santana's tech. bulletin reassures owners that it is adequate to check that the plucked note has not dropped as low as F#, -- you have to figure out on your own that this equates to 89% of spec. tension (not 99%!). The OP says that his spoke tension was never allowed to get that low. It is irrelevant that "generally [they] remain tight" means "sometimes they don't": the OP's wheel always was "tight", i.e. not looser than 89%, and still cracked. Ergo, if the facts are as the OP relates them here, the rim failed in normal use with care as per Santana's instructions and Santana should replace it under warranty .
    "I did not know that!" -- J. Carson

  21. #21
    Used to be Conspiratemus
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    TeamT1700's last post appeared while I was composing and proofing mine. You're welcome, TeamTi.
    "I did not know that!" -- J. Carson

  22. #22
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Must admit that the Chris King rear hub on our Zona tandem gives a distinctive 'h-u-m-m-m-m' sound when coasting.
    Being in our mid-70s now, we tend to do a bit of coasting once in a while . . .
    We've nicknamed our Zona 'the H-u-m-m-mer'. We no longer are conscious of the h-u-m-m-m effect but a few folks riding with us have mentioned it on occasion.
    Great hub . . . better than what it sounds!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy anbd Kay/zonatandem

  23. #23
    Senior Member coloroadie's Avatar
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    This sounds like Santana has a problem designing/building wheelsets, if both their conventional 40 spoke and Sweet-16 rims have cracked in 5K miles! You aren't a heavy team, and it sounds like you're doing your part on maintenance. My understanding is that (generally speaking) spokes break if spoke tension is too low, and rims crack if either spoke tension is too high or the rim is defective. It sounds like Santana may be building with spoke tension too high if BOTH conventional and Sweet-16 rims are prematurely cracking. The bit about 1% under tension is just ridiculous.

    Although we've only broken one spoke in 4500 miles, we've stopped using Sweet-16s for everyday wheels because of stories like this and are now using 40 spoke Hadley hubs, Velocity Dyad rims and db spokes. Velocity also stands behind its products, provided you haven't abused your rims.

    Don't get me wrong - we truly enjoy our Santana. But this story seems to indicate they leave room for improvement in their their wheel design and warranty departments.

  24. #24
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coloroadie View Post
    This sounds like Santana has a problem designing/building wheelsets, if both their conventional 40 spoke and Sweet-16 rims have cracked in 5K miles! You aren't a heavy team, and it sounds like you're doing your part on maintenance. My understanding is that (generally speaking) spokes break if spoke tension is too low, and rims crack if either spoke tension is too high or the rim is defective. It sounds like Santana may be building with spoke tension too high if BOTH conventional and Sweet-16 rims are prematurely cracking. The bit about 1% under tension is just ridiculous.

    Although we've only broken one spoke in 4500 miles, we've stopped using Sweet-16s for everyday wheels because of stories like this and are now using 40 spoke Hadley hubs, Velocity Dyad rims and db spokes. Velocity also stands behind its products, provided you haven't abused your rims.

    Don't get me wrong - we truly enjoy our Santana. But this story seems to indicate they leave room for improvement in their their wheel design and warranty departments.
    I believe OP has a warranty dispute with Santana where Santana claims that the wheels returned for repair had under tensioned spokes and OP believes that they were not and followed the Santana guidelines.

    If there is a lesson learned from this post, do not send back Sweet Sixteen wheels for service with under tensioned spokes or for that matter anything to any manufacturer that may void the warranty.

    With respect to Sweet Sixteen wheel reliability, we have over 5000 miles on ours and no problems. Notwithstanding that, T'Geek did a survey and as I remember all the low spoke count wheels including Rolf and Bontrager had problems. Of course, one never knows the maintenance and operating conditions that the wheel sets were subjected to.

    And let us not forget that Shimano makes the Sweet 16 wheels. I believe that the licensing rights were obtained from Rolf and this is a Shimano design. It is clear that Santana put them on the bike, covered them under warranty and made claims as to their reliability.

    IMO, unless the spoke tension measured at the factory was egregiously off, Santana should honor the warranty. If they were off tension, then OP has a dispute with his master wheel builder for not doing the maintenance properly. In either case, I sympathize with OP's situation as it appears he tried to follow the maintenance requirements.
    Last edited by Hermes; 07-09-10 at 11:13 AM. Reason: Corrected mistake

  25. #25
    Senior Member coloroadie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TeamTi700 View Post
    <snip> I will add that Bill claims that “a properly tensioned rear wheel will outlast traditional 160 mm tandem wheels with 40 spokes…” I have found this to be true. When we bought our TeamTi700 in 2001, we found cracks in the rear rim (fir) after 2500 miles. After repairing them under warranty, we found cracks in the new rear rim after another 2500 miles. All 5000 miles were in the first year of ownership. That winter we skipped the 2 year warranty and had new wheels built using Dyad rims, by the same person who still works on our bike today.

    After 5136 miles, and 42 weeks of actual riding on the Sweet-16s, we will consider this experiment to be a failure.

    Rick Lanting
    As seen above, failure of 40 spoke FIR rims (twice) was also discussed by the OP ... but you make a point there could've been a problem at the shop where the bike was assembled and maintained.

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