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Old 02-01-06, 08:12 PM   #1
Miranda
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Trouble Free Wheels

Hello,

I am looking into purchasing a 2006 Novara Randonee in the beautiful green color offered this year. After doing a little checking around and research the only weakness I can find with this bike are the stock wheels. It seems that the spokes tend to break on them periodically on loaded self-supported tours.

Long distance self-supported tours are what I hope to do with this bike and my mechanical skills are not that good. Can you give me advice on getting some bullet-proof wheels built up such as rims, hubs, spokes or whatever else you can think of?

Changing a spoke is something I have never done and intimidates me. Can I get away without learning to do this? The idea of me being stranded in the middle of nowhere doesn't sound very fun either.
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Old 02-01-06, 08:57 PM   #2
Erick L
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It's more how they are built than what they're made of. Good rims are Mavic A719 and Sun CR18 (cheaper).

I've never changed a spoke but it's not rocket science. Should a spoke break on the drive side, you need heavy tools or a small Hypercrackerto remove the cassette. Putting the wheel straight and round again is what you need to learn. Read Sheldon Brown's page on wheel building and print or take notes about the "truing and tensioning" part. It's useful even if you don't carry spokes, in case you break one and want to make it to the next shop with a straight wheel.
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Old 02-01-06, 09:30 PM   #3
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Hi Miranda,

Spokes will fail for a variety of reasons. The last spoke that I had to replace was destroyed by a picnic table that I crashed into. Not a spoke in the world would have been saved. Don't fear your bike. Go buy a good bike mechanics book, I have "The BICYCLING guide to complete Bicycle Maintenance and Repair" Read the book and you will find that fixing a bike is not really all that hard with the right tools. Once you have the basic understanding of, lets say, overhauling a front hub - then go do it on your old bike or find an old bike. Once you do your first hub overhaul, you will realize that 'hey, that was pretty easy'. Then take your back wheel to the bike shop and have them take off the cassette, or buy the tool and do it yourself, then overhaul the back hub. Next replace a spoke, pretty soon you will consider yourself a shade tree bicycle mechanic!
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Old 02-02-06, 12:03 AM   #4
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I think the Randonee is great value, for years I couldn't help but drool over them whenever I went into an REI. It's a good "everyman's" choice for a mid-range tourer.

Haven't heard about spoke problems, but then I haven't been researching. Without specific knowledge on the wheels, there's nothing wrong with what they show on the specs: Mavic A319S rims, 36hole, stainless steel spokes. In general, if spokes break a lot, I would suspect: worn hub or bent rim (N/A here); weak rims or no eyelets (A319s are fine, and have eyelets); spokes aren't tensioned properly; poor quality spokes.

So if it's true that the spokes break frequently on a new Randonee, I'd suspect the spokes. REI has such good service, insist they tension/true the wheel before you buy the bike. But before you do that.....

If they're not DT or Wheelsmith brand spokes, have them changed. Most wheels are machine-built now, with no-name spokes. I don't know about these, but it's most likely they're generic SS. I wouldn't expect REI to do that free, though. You'd probably do best to take the wheels to a bike shop (check with friends, or talk to the shop to see if they guarantee their wheels). DT or Wheelsmith or Sapim spokes are the only ones you should have on your bike. The wheels have to be tensioned/trued properly to last a long time. Ask for 6 or 8 extra spokes (of each length) for your own spares.

If the spokes are generic, it's cheaper to have the wheels rebuilt than to buy new wheels. On the other hand, if you're gonna keep the bike for a few years, it wouldn't be a bad idea to just get an extra set of wheels for the eventual day, or for bopping around town.

The wheels on the Randonee are 36hole -- the best choice for touring. They're noticeably stronger, especially in 700c, and you generally get fewer broken spokes. In fact, if you break a spoke on 36h rims, you can almost always keep riding. (Not the best idea, but you at least have the option. On 32h rims, the wheel would probably be rubbing the brakes.)

Changing a spoke takes some practice, but it's not hard. The worst part is it interrupts your trip an hour or two, you gotta unload everything and get dirty, it tends to expand you vocabulary... Take Erick's advice and learn basic wheel truing, then from there learn how to replace a spoke. The best touring IMHO takes you places where there aren't any bike shops. And Murphy's Law says "If you don't know how to change a spoke, <ping!!!>"

-- Mark
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Old 02-02-06, 08:44 AM   #5
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Miranda,
That Randonee seems like a really nice bike for the price, especially if you use your 20% off coupon that comes with your dividend, (in about a month). But you say it comes in a beautiful green color? I can only see the Coffee color offered. My wife is considering this bike as well and all the info gleamed from here is extremely helpful, Thanks everybody!
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Old 02-02-06, 11:15 AM   #6
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It is good to be able to do wheel maintenance oneself, but the world won't come crashing down if you cannot. I have been riding bicycles for almost 45 years, and I have never had a broken spoke. I don't even carry spare spokes when I tour.

The most likely thing to go wrong on a tour is a flat. The ability to patch a puncture (or replace the inner tube) is the most important skill to have. (I usually get one flat per 7 - 20 day trip; one of my touring friends has a mountain bike, and he goes years between flats.)

I take-in the slack on cables as I tour, and make similar minor adjustments. Other than that, when something goes wrong, I start hunting around for a bike shop!
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Old 02-02-06, 01:11 PM   #7
Miranda
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The Coffee color for the 2006 Randonee is kind of a muddy green. At first sight I thought it was so ugly and considered getting it repainted or just waiting a year for a color change but it is growing on me now. I am now leaning on having the wheels checked out for possible rebuilding and changing of the spokes if need be.

Thank You!

BTW! How about flat resistant tires for touring? Vittoria Touring?
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Old 02-02-06, 01:42 PM   #8
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You should take the advanced bike maintenance course at REI when you get the bike. They'll show you how to change a spoke, among many other things. Knowledge is power.
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Old 02-02-06, 03:30 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acantor
It is good to be able to do wheel maintenance oneself, but the world won't come crashing down if you cannot. I have been riding bicycles for almost 45 years, and I have never had a broken spoke. I don't even carry spare spokes when I tour.

Miranda, thinking about this more, and your key words are "... intimidates me." If the replies here (including mine, above) make you even a bit reluctant to take this on, then it's the wrong advice. I'm now kinda leaning towards acantor's advice: you'll survive OK without a mechanic's certificate.

Especially if you have "Plan B's" for mishaps. First and most important, if you're touring with other people, most likely someone will have this knowledge; at the least, you can depend on each other to get mechanical help. Or if you're touring solo, but never far from family/friends in different towns and know you can count on them. Or you simply want to depend on your cell phone and credit card to keep you rolling. There's nothing wrong with these approaches. I think most of us are coming from experience of a long tour away from civilization, where mechanical knowledge is part of the feeling of liberation.

My wife couldn't change a spoke if her life depended on it (despite having watched me at least 6 times ), and I can't remember her ever fixing a flat. But she never tours alone, and believe me, she's an accomplished tourer -- we've been hundreds of miles from the nearest bike shop.

I believe acantor is headed for some kind of record. Wow! However, we all know that by saying that, he's jinxed himself...

Still recommend you tour only with name-brand spokes (DT, Wheelsmith, Sapim), though.

-- Mark
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Old 02-03-06, 12:02 AM   #10
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Hi Miranda,
I was just in the REI admiring the new Randonee tonight. I think it is a very fine bike, and if the bike and wheels are properly set up when you get it, you should have no problems. You may want to put some miles on it and then have the wheels re-checked before the long trip. BTW, the color looked pretty brown to me, but at least it was a nice, er, coffee-colored brown.
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Old 03-03-06, 11:04 AM   #11
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I have been touring for over 30 years and have broken many spokes in the early years. Once I began building my own wheels I have had no broken spokes but have done the job for many others on group tours. Most modern wheels have freehubs instead of freewheels and if you have an Hypercracker it makes easy work of removing the cluster to get at the spoke which is almost always on the drive side. A quick and quite effective little trick which I learned from a seasoned mechanic is the use of "S" spokes. I have seen whole tours completed on such a spoke. Buy some slightly longer spokes than the ones in the wheel. Using a good pair of side cutters, snap off the head of the spoke, leaving a 90 degree "stub". Grasp the stub just below the curve and bend it up, forming a sort of S shape. This little nub can then be threaded into the spoke hole without removing the cluster. It works! The little folding Kevlar spoke works too but I found it kind of a pain to install.
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Old 03-03-06, 12:08 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erick L
It's more how they are built than what they're made of. Good rims are Mavic A719 and Sun CR18 (cheaper).

I've never changed a spoke but it's not rocket science. Should a spoke break on the drive side, you need heavy tools or a small Hypercrackerto remove the cassette. Putting the wheel straight and round again is what you need to learn. Read Sheldon Brown's page on wheel building and print or take notes about the "truing and tensioning" part. It's useful even if you don't carry spokes, in case you break one and want to make it to the next shop with a straight wheel.
Wow, the hypercracker is genius! Thanks for that, I'm going to get one of those for my touring rig when I get it in the spring.
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