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  1. #1
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    What spokes for new touring tandem wheel build

    Hello everyone,

    We are having our LBS build up a set of wheels for our first tandem, but I'm a little concerned that since they don't do a lot of tandem wheel builds, they might not recommend to us what is best. I want a very strong wheelset with a SON28 front hub and White Industries Daisy rear, with Velocity Dyad rimsm most likely with 48 pokes front and rear. The part that concerns me is with respect to spoke choice. Our LBS wants to do 14g straight pull spokes, which I find odd since I had always thought these were the weakest spokes. I contacted Mel at Tandems East and he recommends 13/14 single butted. Even that surprised me, as I would have guessed 14/15/14 double butted would be the best choice for durability and performance.

    So, what's the consensus with all of you regarding spokes for touring where durability is the main concern?

  2. #2
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Go with Mel's recommendation... or just let Mel build the wheels.

    You really don't want folks building tandem wheels who haven't gotten a few sets under their belts with a proven track record. It ain't rocket science, but there's a knack to it.

  3. #3
    Riding Heaven's Highwayson the grand tour
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    """or just let Mel build the wheels"""

    +1

    Bill J.

  4. #4
    Nipples of Steel! AngelGendy's Avatar
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    Remember you have 48 of em' so I'd go with the 13/14 db's

  5. #5
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    DT Alpine III - 13/15/14 gauge. Specifically designed for tandem use the thicker ends are the largest diameter that will fit through most hubs.

  6. #6
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    DT Alpine III - 13/15/14 gauge. Specifically designed for tandem use the thicker ends are the largest diameter that will fit through most hubs.
    Hmmm. I'm glad you had good luck with those. I built a set of wheels using the Alpine III spokes back in '98 when they first came out with great expectations. Turns out, the only hubs they worked well with were DT's own hubs which featured slightly larger spoke holes than most other hubs. I had a spoke head break on my first Alpine III with about 2k miles on the rear wheel... about the same time Peter Jon White and other tandem wheel builders started to see the same thing with their early Alpine III wheel builds. When the 2nd spoke head broke about a week later I rebuilt the wheelset with DT Competition spokes... never had another problem with those wheels after that.

  7. #7
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    spokes

    I built a set of wheels, last year, using a Suzue front and shimano HF 08 rear, along with a pair of Dyads with 40 holes. I used straight gauge 14's; DT's with brass nipples and they have been fine for 1500 miles, so far. 48 spoke wheels...you could use just about anything. From what I've seen, 48 spoke wheels have kind of fallen out of favor, unless for heavy loaded touring, triplets, or really heavy teams.

  8. #8
    Charles Ramsey
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    Last edited by Charles Ramsey; 03-15-11 at 10:25 AM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by tiggermaxcocoa View Post
    Hello everyone,

    We are having our LBS build up a set of wheels for our first tandem, but I'm a little concerned that since they don't do a lot of tandem wheel builds, they might not recommend to us what is best. I want a very strong wheelset with a SON28 front hub and White Industries Daisy rear, with Velocity Dyad rimsm most likely with 48 pokes front and rear. The part that concerns me is with respect to spoke choice. Our LBS wants to do 14g straight pull spokes, which I find odd since I had always thought these were the weakest spokes. I contacted Mel at Tandems East and he recommends 13/14 single butted. Even that surprised me, as I would have guessed 14/15/14 double butted would be the best choice for durability and performance.

    So, what's the consensus with all of you regarding spokes for touring where durability is the main concern?
    Never, ever let a LBS build a set of tandem wheels.

    Handbuilt wheels are a thing of the past. The average shop would love to sell you the service, but building a lightweight strong round and true set of wheels is an art, and one that isn't perfected by building a wheel once or twice a year.

    Go with Peter White and call it done.

  10. #10
    Nigel nfmisso's Avatar
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    Wheelsmith DH13 spokes.

    http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/spokes.asp

    And I'll 2nd; go with Peter White.

  11. #11
    Nigel nfmisso's Avatar
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    straight 14 guage spokes are stronger than straight 15 and equal to 14/15/14 where it counts. They have a slight weight penalty compared with 14/15/15; but are just as strong at the ends, and stronger in the middle - where it does not matter.

    13/14 (like Wheelsmith DH13) are much stronger at the bend than 14_ anything.

  12. #12
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    I can highly recommend Joe Young Wheels. Give him a call. Excellent wheel builder with a world of experience. He does nearly everything over the phone and internet, as he lives in small town Central Texas.

    This is the only person I use to build wheels.


    http://www.youngwheels.com/

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbke View Post
    Never, ever let a LBS build a set of tandem wheels.

    Handbuilt wheels are a thing of the past. The average shop would love to sell you the service, but building a lightweight strong round and true set of wheels is an art, and one that isn't perfected by building a wheel once or twice a year.

    Go with Peter White and call it done.
    I didn't really give enough info on this, but my LBS has been around for 20 years, owned and run by the same guy for that entire time. He builds about 5-10 wheels per week, and has built four sets for me over the years. He is a reputable wheel builder, and since I can actually take advantage of his lifetime warranty by taking the wheel back to him, I think that gives him a leg up on Peter White and others.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    Hmmm. I'm glad you had good luck with those. I built a set of wheels using the Alpine III spokes back in '98 when they first came out with great expectations. Turns out, the only hubs they worked well with were DT's own hubs which featured slightly larger spoke holes than most other hubs. I had a spoke head break on my first Alpine III with about 2k miles on the rear wheel... about the same time Peter Jon White and other tandem wheel builders started to see the same thing with their early Alpine III wheel builds. When the 2nd spoke head broke about a week later I rebuilt the wheelset with DT Competition spokes... never had another problem with those wheels after that.
    I guess everybody has their own experiences. I built mine about 10 years later in 2008 (or so) which might be significant. I reused the existing Hadley hubs. The threaded end of the spokes just fit through the spoke holes in the hub and the J-end was a snug fit. I've had zero problems.

  15. #15
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    I would be surprised if DB 14/15 were not strong enough with 48 spokes.
    Spokes rarely break due to the spoke itself, but improper tensioning or wheel design.
    We have done light touring on wheels with 32 CX-Ray spokes and had no problems.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by tiggermaxcocoa View Post
    I didn't really give enough info on this, but my LBS has been around for 20 years, owned and run by the same guy for that entire time. He builds about 5-10 wheels per week, and has built four sets for me over the years. He is a reputable wheel builder, and since I can actually take advantage of his lifetime warranty by taking the wheel back to him, I think that gives him a leg up on Peter White and others.
    Its your money and your wheelset.

    However, my experience is to ONLY have someone who specializes in building tandems and touring wheels build up a wheelset for a tandem.

    I had Yellow Jersey in Madison, WI build up a brand new Velocity Dyad 48h for our tandem. Not only did their little hipster wrenches screw up mounting the Arai drum brake (giving us "extra" parts in a little baggie), but they decided to use Kerin spokes that were 14-16-14. The wheel failed within five miles of a charity ride in the Horrible Hilly country of Wisconsin. We could have been seriously hurt. The rim wedged against the brake pad. Considering this ride had 10,000 feet of elevation gain and descents, we were lucky.

    I took the wheel back to Yellow Jersey. I was frustrated. I had, at length communicated to Andrew Musi and his little hipster wrenches, that building a wheel for 100lb State Street poser was not the same as building a wheel for a tandem with a 500+ lb team that was pulling a Chariot to boot (trailer puts additional lateral stresses on wheel when braking). They were convinced that I had deliberately detensioned the wheel. I was convinced that they needed to get sober. Andrew kept citing newsgroup convesations from Jobst and others relating to the need to allow for spoke flex. Leonard Zinn and Peter White know what they are talking about when it comes to sufficient rim and spoke for outlier wheelbuilds. You can't expect the same wheel designed for a 140lb climber to work for a 230lb roadie. The same goes for expecting that same wheelbuild to work for BOTH the captain and the stoker, which is what you are asking a tandem wheel to do. The wheel failed in exactly the way Zinn's books, and Jobst Brandt books predicted it would, as it was insufficiently spoked for the intended task. The wheel couldn't support the load and was tensioning and detensioning with every revolution, constantly. Again, we were very lucky that their incompetence/negligence/stubborness/stupidity didn't get us seriously hurt.

    They retensioned the wheel, believing that maybe they had let it go out the door without being properly tensioned. I took it for a 3 mile ride (with no stoker) before it completely taco'd again.

    Andrew Musi, who knows a TON about vintage tandems, is intractable. Think of him as Grant of Rivendell but with less knowledge, but more dogma. He was convinced that the problem was the rim not the trendy Keirin 14-16-14 spokes he uses for ALL wheel builds.

    Yellow Jersey builds hundreds of wheels. I'm sure most of them are bombproof. If I ever ran into a hipster or wannabe (not sure I could discern the difference) I'd send them to Yellow Jersey to have the Velocity Deep V rim with the powdercoat of their favorite color laced to a hub for their converted single speed. I would have no reservations that Yellow Jersey could build such a wheel safely, and build up a bike exactly the same as every other single speed build.

    However, I would never recommend that anyone approach Yellow Jersey to build up a set of wheels for loaded touring, or for a tandem.

    Its not to say that they aren't a good shop for what they do. It is not to say that they haven't been a great shop for twenty years, its that there is wheelbuilding and then there is wheelbuilding.

    If the wheel to be built is for a tandem get it from Peter White, if he'll build it and not one of his assistants. Joe Young sounds good.

    I'd avoid the LBS as a rule, always, for anything wheelgood related. Take it for what its worth.

    I'd rather have a Peter White guarantee I would not ever need to use than a LBS that I will have to (for truing and replacement).
    Last edited by mtnbke; 03-28-11 at 06:44 PM.

  17. #17
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    Umm... so you're saying that there is no way my LBS has experienced wheel builders working there? Isn't Peter White local to someone? And why would you trust a shop that didn't know how to install a drag brake? I think the moral of your story was to not be stupid and trust idiots to build your wheels. If that's the case, I agree.

  18. #18
    Junior Member Tom the tank's Avatar
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    The DT Alpine III fit the Shimano XT front hub that I sized up today. FYI.

  19. #19
    Gear Combo Guru Chris_W's Avatar
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    We've had zero problems with 14/15/14 guage spokes on the front and rear of our tandem, 40 spokes rear and 36 front. This includes long-distance touring with 400+ lbs of total weight on some really rough roads in New Zealand - after the end of that 2500 km trip I had to tweak one or two nipples on the rear wheel to make it perfect again. I don't see the need for anything more beefy than that, especially not with 48 spokes. I built our wheels myself; I'm a professional mechanic whose built about 100-200 wheels in the last 5 years, including 20+ for our own use.

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