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Old 03-08-13, 12:40 PM   #1
texasdiver
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Anyone ever broken spokes on the bladed Rolf Prima tandem wheelsets?

Just bought a new Co-motion Periscope. The bike came with the Rolf Prima Tandem Disk wheelset which has deep aero rims and bladed spokes with internal nipples. I guess I'm old school but I've never dealt with these types of spokes or rims before. My other bikes have traditional rims and traditional nippled spokes that one adjusts or replaces using an ordinary old spoke wrench.

I'm planning a month-long road tour with my daughter this summer and it occurs to me that perhaps I should be carrying replacement spokes and tools to deal with the chance of a broken spoke. Back in the day I used to always tour with with a replacement spokes stored inside my seat post and a spoke wrench and freewheel tool and would occasionally need to replace a broken spoke.

Does that sort of thing happen with these new style wheels and is it something I need to plan for? Seems to me that a broken spoke on one of these aero wheels with only 20 spokes would be an even more catastrophic failure than on an old school wheel with 36 spokes.
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Old 03-08-13, 12:48 PM   #2
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In 5 years, we've broken 2-3 spokes, cracked 2 rims, and one hub.

I wouldn't use those wheels for loaded touring, unless your team is very light.

And you break one spoke, it may be out of true enough to rub the stays.

If I did use those wheels away from home, I would carry spokes, and tools to pull the cassette.
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Old 03-08-13, 02:10 PM   #3
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In 5 years, we've broken 2-3 spokes, cracked 2 rims, and one hub.

I wouldn't use those wheels for loaded touring, unless your team is very light.

And you break one spoke, it may be out of true enough to rub the stays.

If I did use those wheels away from home, I would carry spokes, and tools to pull the cassette.
I think we are pretty light. Probably around 260 lbs and will be pulling a BOB trailer so no additional load on the bike other than a handlebar bag, trunk bag, and whatever weight the trailer tongue adds.

I finally tracked down the correct replacement spokes on the Rolf web site. Ouch. $28 for a set of 6 spokes (2 each front, rear drive, and rear non-drive side) and bought the correct nipple driver so I should be good to go for a field repair if necessary or will be carrying the correct spokes if I need to find the nearest bike shop for a wheel repair.

Guess we'll just cross our fingers. I didn't really intend to get such racy wheels. When I bought the bike I upgraded to the performance package mainly to get the Gates belt drive and carbon fork. I didn't think so much about the wheels except that the dealer told me they were bulletproof. Now come to find out they are perhaps more fragile than I intended. So it goes.
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Old 03-08-13, 02:14 PM   #4
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It is amazing how many "bullet proof" and "bomb proof" wheels there are out there.
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Old 03-08-13, 02:56 PM   #5
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It is amazing how many "bullet proof" and "bomb proof" wheels there are out there.
Yeah. Well in the grand scheme of buying my first tandem and worrying about all the other details from size to color to pedals I just didn't give the wheels the thought that they deserved. I didn't research them at all and pretty much just trusted that Co-Motion would be installing the approprate wheels on a general purpose tandem. I ordered a Periscope Torpedo after all, for touring and recreational riding with my daughter. I didn't order one of their racing machines.

Hopefully we'll get a good 10 years of trouble free riding out of these and I'll be happy. If not I guess another wheel set is eventually in order although the budget won't allow it anytime soon.
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Old 03-08-13, 03:08 PM   #6
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Yeah. Well in the grand scheme of buying my first tandem and worrying about all the other details from size to color to pedals I just didn't give the wheels the thought that they deserved. I didn't research them at all and pretty much just trusted that Co-Motion would be installing the approprate wheels on a general purpose tandem. I ordered a Periscope Torpedo after all, for touring and recreational riding with my daughter. I didn't order one of their racing machines.

Hopefully we'll get a good 10 years of trouble free riding out of these and I'll be happy. If not I guess another wheel set is eventually in order although the budget won't allow it anytime soon.
Seems that either you opted for the Performance Package which includes the Rolfs (instead of Velocity Dyads) or got a free upgrade.

Carrying spare spokes, especially when they are proprietary is always a good decision. Though, I violated that rule for the first time when we got the Spinergys last year. Ric @ HoT talked me out of the need for spare PBO spokes and although so far he has been correct, I am still nervous about being left stranded on a tour somewhere. On the plus side, Ric has been so good with service and followup calls that I am confident he would ship whatever we needed overnight should that arise. Gotta have some kind of backup plan

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Old 03-08-13, 04:46 PM   #7
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I'd throw a $5-600 set of sturdy touring wheels on and save the rolfs for fast rides and supported centuries.
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Old 03-09-13, 09:36 AM   #8
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We have broken spokes and cracked rims on our Rolf's too. If you are going to be touring and insist on using the Rolf's, I agree that you should plan to carry spare parts and tools. If you crack your rim, like seems to be common with these wheels, you will be out of luck. Towing a trailer also adds stress to the wheels. Every time you accelerate/decelerate the weight of the trailer is transferred to the spokes.
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Old 03-09-13, 01:09 PM   #9
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I've seen plenty of paired spoke wheels break spokes including a pair I used to have. But chances are small it will happen when new. Long term I'd consider building a traditional rear wheel for your bike. Good luck w/repairing a Rolf road-side!
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Old 03-09-13, 02:08 PM   #10
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Seems that either you opted for the Performance Package which includes the Rolfs (instead of Velocity Dyads) or got a free upgrade.

Carrying spare spokes, especially when they are proprietary is always a good decision. Though, I violated that rule for the first time when we got the Spinergys last year. Ric @ HoT talked me out of the need for spare PBO spokes and although so far he has been correct, I am still nervous about being left stranded on a tour somewhere. On the plus side, Ric has been so good with service and followup calls that I am confident he would ship whatever we needed overnight should that arise. Gotta have some kind of backup plan
We do not "TOUR" but we do go to Tandem Rallys and we take a spare set of wheels.

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Old 03-09-13, 08:53 PM   #11
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When we broke our Rolf rear, new spokes wouldn't have helped. We yanked a nipple pair through the rim.

We own a spare spoke kit for our Rolfs and a spare spoke kit for our Spinergys. We don't do anything more than a weekend event, in which case we take the spare wheels and all the spokes in the "bus", but don't carry them on the ride.
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Old 03-09-13, 11:17 PM   #12
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I'd throw a $5-600 set of sturdy touring wheels on and save the rolfs for fast rides and supported centuries.
All this Rolf talk, of broken spokes and rims, advice to purchase a heavy back up wheelset, concern with touring. Makes me grateful for our ENVE wheels.

Our ENVE rim carbon rimmed wheels have racked up many miles with nary a problem. They weigh about the same as Rolfs, but are more aero. I think they are stiffer, too, with 28 DT Comp spokes, and a deep rim that strengthens the wheel.

We use these wheels for every ride. The only tandem wheels we have. No decisions to make about which wheel set to bring. No fretting as with Rolfs, no beavy wheel slowness. We hardly even think about our wheels, save when riders we pass mention the sound they make ('like a car!').

They cost about $2000. Not that much more than the first set of Rolfs and a set of heavy wheels.

If rides have descents, a disc is mandatory. Discs are advancing rapidly for road cycling, and will be on more tandems in the future regardless. With disc(s), carbon rims on a tandem are especially advantageous.
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Old 03-10-13, 12:25 AM   #13
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What model Enve rim? Are there many other tandems using them? May not be quite fair comparing a sample group of a few with Enve's against the hundreds with Rolfs.
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Old 03-10-13, 01:11 AM   #14
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What model Enve rim? Are there many other tandems using them? May not be quite fair comparing a sample group of a few with Enve's against the hundreds with Rolfs.
That's fair. I know there are other ENVE tandem rims, but I don't know of their experience. My rims may crack tomorrow, and my confidence proven ill-founded. For those few that do have ENVE rims, I've not seen these doffed for a heavy wheelset, and the ENVE reserved. I only see pics of the tandem with the ENVE's.

My confidence in the wheels is based partly on the robustness of the design. Starting with the deep rim (65 mm), which strengthens the wheel and shortens the 28 spokes. So too, the patented ENVE molded spoke holes, the robustness of which allows specs for greater spoke tension. The spoke hole appears to be the weak point of the Rolfs, and other lightweight tandem aluminum rimmed wheels.

Though there is not an abundance of tandem experience, there certainly is on half-bikes, for which ENVE rims on are lauded as being robust as well as light. ENVE rims appear to be favored in other venues that are tough on rims, such as 'cross and mountain biking. When I spoke with the people at ENVE about use on a tandem, they had some concerns about rim heating (especially before the latest iteration, which has greatly improved heat management), but no qualms about rim strength. They didn't even want to know how much our team weighed.

Then there is our experience, which in three years has been free of the troubles that appear to beset Rolfs. I think that by now we would have had some problems if we had been using Rolfs, or other lightweight aluminum tandem wheels. If Rolf users are advised to purchase everyday wheels, and use their Rolfs sparingly, that is a lot different than our experience. It is my impression that it is unusual for a Rolf wheelset to be used avidly for three years with no problems.

Based on the above, I'd look upon switching what I have now with Rolfs/heavy wheelset as a tandem calamity.
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Old 03-10-13, 07:00 AM   #15
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You mention spoke tension. What spoke tension do you use on your wheels (in Kgf)?
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Old 03-10-13, 10:59 AM   #16
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That's fair. I know there are other ENVE tandem rims, but I don't know of their experience. My rims may crack tomorrow, and my confidence proven ill-founded. For those few that do have ENVE rims, I've not seen these doffed for a heavy wheelset, and the ENVE reserved. I only see pics of the tandem with the ENVE's.

My confidence in the wheels is based partly on the robustness of the design. Starting with the deep rim (65 mm), which strengthens the wheel and shortens the 28 spokes. So too, the patented ENVE molded spoke holes, the robustness of which allows specs for greater spoke tension. The spoke hole appears to be the weak point of the Rolfs, and other lightweight tandem aluminum rimmed wheels.

Though there is not an abundance of tandem experience, there certainly is on half-bikes, for which ENVE rims on are lauded as being robust as well as light. ENVE rims appear to be favored in other venues that are tough on rims, such as 'cross and mountain biking. When I spoke with the people at ENVE about use on a tandem, they had some concerns about rim heating (especially before the latest iteration, which has greatly improved heat management), but no qualms about rim strength. They didn't even want to know how much our team weighed.

Then there is our experience, which in three years has been free of the troubles that appear to beset Rolfs. I think that by now we would have had some problems if we had been using Rolfs, or other lightweight aluminum tandem wheels. If Rolf users are advised to purchase everyday wheels, and use their Rolfs sparingly, that is a lot different than our experience. It is my impression that it is unusual for a Rolf wheelset to be used avidly for three years with no problems.

Based on the above, I'd look upon switching what I have now with Rolfs/heavy wheelset as a tandem calamity.
To be fair, it is neither co-motion nor Rolf that is advising owning two wheelsets and reserving the Rolfs for fair weather Sunday afternoon supported rides. I contacted both of them and they both said the wheels should hold up fine to any kind of use I plan to give them. That said, as the originator of this thread, I have learned a lot more than I had ever intended to about these wheels. There have been a variety of other threads on the same topic on this forum that also provide food for thought and it appears that some earlier versions of the Rolf tandem wheels did have disconcertingly high failure rates.

In any event, with all the other expenses leading up to the month-long tour we have in mind I don't think springing for another set of tandem wheels is in the cards. Especially since this may be a one-time adventure and the remaining life of this bike will probably be on weekend recreational rides, supported centuries, and the like around Texas. So the plan is the following:

1. Keep the Rolfs on the bike for touring, but carry a set of spare spokes, nipple driver, and cassette lockring tool while touring. In the (hopefully) unlikely event that I need to replace a spoke on the drive side I figure I can improvise and find a large crescent wrench to borrow somewhere on the road or buy a cheap one someplace because I don't really want to carry a heavy Park chainwhip and freewheel wrench just for this unlikely eventuality. I'll also toss in a couple of those fiberfix spoke kits which I have never used but get good reviews. We'll be riding with my dad who rides a tour easy recumbent so we'll need to be able to fix broken spokes on his bike as well. Worst case scenario if it is simply a broken spoke we should be able to limp into the nearest bike shop where we can get the wheel fixed and if we are carrying the correct propriety Rolf bladed spokes with us that should not be a problem.

2. In the even more unlikely event that we destroy a wheel beyond repair by tearing out the rim or something we'll just hunker down and enjoy life in whatever beach town we are passing through while we get another tandem wheel shipped to us. It's not like we are going to be touring in Afganistan or Bolivia. The wheels are new enough that warranty should apply. I can't imagine it would be too difficult to get a replacement tandem wheel shipped to some beach town in OR or CA in a day or two.

I'll probably blog and photograph this trip as we have plenty of friends and family who are interested in following. So by July we'll know how the bike, wheels, and everything worked out. Last time I rode the Pacific Coast Highway was 1986 after I graduated from college. I did it on an old Raleigh International stealth camping most of the way because I thought I was too poor to pay campground fees. How times change.
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Old 03-10-13, 12:02 PM   #17
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My rims may crack tomorrow, and my confidence proven ill-founded.
Our Rolf made three trips to HoTT in a span of five weeks as our noise escalated (and so did the repairs). Knowing that we needed not only a 145mm wheel, not only a disc-ready 145mm wheel, but a davinci-spaced disc-ready 145mm wheel meant our loaner options were quite limited. Hence, we bought a spare set for peace of mind (we got caught on the leading edge of the HoTT/Spinergy curve: we were one of the very first to order, before HoTT had any production wheels in hand, so it took August->November to get them).
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Old 03-10-13, 12:55 PM   #18
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You mention spoke tension. What spoke tension do you use on your wheels (in Kgf)?
The wheels were built by ENVE, and so to ENVE spec, which for the rear drive side is 120-140 kgf. The comparative figure for Zipp carbon wheels is 100 kgf. I mention the spoke tension as it is a quantitative example of the strength of the ENVE rims at the spoke holes, which is where Rolf's appear to fail. More info, here. I'll substantiate this further, but we were out on a casual recovery ride after our Solvang Metric Century yesterday (both of which were on our ENVE wheels, and not some spoke-laden Rolf-sparing wheelset).

I couldn't find the Rolf spoke tension, save that it is reputed to be high. Here is an interesting piece (germane to the OP!) in which wheel manufacturers are asked about what wheel they'd recommend for heavier riders, which is about as close as we are likely to see for a discussion of tandems.
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Old 03-10-13, 07:15 PM   #19
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Op, it comes down to how risk adverse you are.

At you team weight, you will likely have no problem.
However, iF you do have issues the nature othe Rolf's is those issues could be a real problem in the field.

Personally, they would not be my choice for extended loaded tpuring
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Old 03-12-13, 09:51 AM   #20
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Well I went to the source and talked to one of the folks at Rolf to find out how repairable these wheels are in the field and what as involved given the proprietary spokes and hidden internal nipples. Basically what I was told was the following:

1. It is a good idea to get a set of replacement spokes because they are custom and a tandem wheel set has 3 different length spokes: front, rear drive, and rear non-drive side. Rolf charges $28 for a set of 6 spoke...2 of each length. Because they are paired it is not necessarily the case that the drive side spokes will break more frequently as is the case with standard wheels.

2. The internal nipple takes a 3/16" drive socket but one probably needs the correct nipple driver as a standard socket on a screwdriver handle probably won't fit into the hole. Rolf will sell you the tool or you can get a triple one from Park. The Rolf tool is $15. The Park tools can be found for about $10.

3. When replacing a spoke the correct technique is to put the nipple into the driver and then insert it all the way into the rim (holding the wheel up and inserting from the bottom) and then fish the spoke from the other side. Otherwise it is easy to drop the nipple into the rim and then have to spend 5 minutes trying to shake it back out through the hole. (I am the kind of person who would probably get the nipple stuck inside the rim and have to shake it for 15 minutes to get it back out!)

4. The spokes on the Rolf are tensioned tighter than normal 32 or 36 spoke wheels but for a field repair the important thing is to just tension it back up until the wheel is true and the tension feels similar to the other spokes. The wheel is rideable but after a field repair it would be prudent to bring it into a shop at some point so that it can be property tensioned and trued.

Given this discussion I'm comfortable riding these wheels on tour, especially as my 70 lb daughter will be in back and we'll be pulling a Bob trailer rather than loading down with panniers. I'm not planning to ride aggressively, we'll probably be poking along at an easy pace doing 50 or so miles/day.
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