Things that go "ping" (spokes)
My wife and I just recently completed a 2 week tour of the bottom of the south island of NZ. It was our first tour on mountain bikes after touring a fair bit on touring bikes. Both our bikes were pretty much lower end stuff and both bikes suffered broken spokes. Neither of us have had broken spokes before. My wife's bike sustained 2 for the whole trip. Mine ended up with 6. 3 of them occurred within a short space of time in the middle of the Catlins. As I didn't have a tool to remove the freewheel I was stuffed. Fortunately I got a lift into Balclutha from a store owner and unfortunately the shop there botched the attempt to re-spoke the wheel and I instead bought a cheap wheel off the shelf (&kept the old hub assembly) to keep me on the road for the rest of the trip.
My question is... Should I get a new wheel built say with a double walled rim & decent spokes to suit my old hub or could I consider a factory made wheel? I can get a wheel that looks half decent (includes machined faces and eyelets with a deore hub for $150AUD. I really don't trust the wheel I bought in Balclutha as it has none of the above things and cost $90NZD! What do you think I should do?
Nashbar has some nice rims on sale now, check them out:
Get your existing hub built up by a reputable wheel builder. Factory wheels always need a re-tension after a couple of rides. So do hand built, but a good wheel builder will go over their work for free for the first re-tension.
DT Swiss or Wheelsmith double butted spokes and brass nipples along with a reputable touring rim (mavic F519/719 for 26"). Get a few extra spokes and store them in your seat tube along with some zip ties. The theory goes that double butted spokes have more stretch so absorb stresses that break straight gauge spokes.
You should be looking at a bit over a dollar a spoke plus 20c or so per nipple, Australian prices. A shop will usually have a fixed price for a build so you will be looking at $40-50 labour.
Though if the factory wheel has the above spokes and the deore hub is a step up then it could be a good deal even including the cost of a true.
But you won't regret a quality wheel build from a wheelsmith who takes pride in their work.
Scientific studies have shown that the odds of a spoke breaking on the freewheel side are 99 to 1.
By that, then I assume that the same study would have found that the odds of breaking a spoke on the other side would be 10,000 to 1!!!! Interestingly (and not overly surprisingly), when my wheel decided to dismantle itself with those 3 broken spokes, it was clear that it was doing so in an orderly pattern. First one went on the freewheel side (they almost always do), then the adjacent one on the non freewheel side went followed by the spoke 180 degrees around the wheel on the freewheel side. No prizes for guessing what was next if I could have ridden it further!
Originally Posted by jamawani
If a wheel is tensioned properly , and tension balanced, no re-tensioning is needed. A good wheel builed should NOT have to "touch up" a wheel after a few rides. Luricating the spoke bed and using spoke prep will help with this also.
Originally Posted by radical_edward
I think this is pretty good evidence that low quality parts & workmanship can get you by for everything except wheels! When wheels fail on tour, you're pretty much stuck. I'd guess that your original wheels had off-brand spokes and weren't tensioned.
It depends on what you want to do with your mtn bikes -- if you think you might tour on them again, then you have to get quality wheels. If they're just for day rides and around town, then keep them trued up and they'll be fine. In fact, I'd say just keep these wheels as a second pair for that kind of riding.
Double walled (= in general, more rugged) and eyelets (= stronger spoke bed) are good to have. Even more important, as said above, are good spokes (use DT, Wheelsmith, or Sapim only). Even MORE important is the build quality (properly tensioned, stress relieved, trued).
Choice of hub is another issue, but doesn't generally affect build quality. (Actually, flange width, amount of dish, etc., do come into play but if you stick to Deore/LX/XT quality, you'll be OK.)
Choosing between hand-built and machine-built really comes down to cost. I avoid that decision by building my own It's not hard, just requires a few hours and patience. If you get machine-built, have a wheelbuilder check the tension (or do it yourself), and re-true it after a few rides. Most machine-built wheels I see have straight-gauge spokes; as radical said above, double-butted help make a bomb-proof wheel. In all, hand-built (by shop or by yourself) gives you a better wheel.
So, if you're gonna ride your bikes on loaded tours, get quality wheels. If they're just town bikes now, keep the wheels trued and ride.
Originally Posted by jonassterling
Absolutely correct. This is why it's wise to have a wheel hand-built by a reputable builder. You then need have no worries re spokes breaking.
While wheel-building is fun and satisfying, unfortunately the cost of components is more than buying a hand-built wheel with the same components which takes the shine off it somewhat.
Again when touring it is wise to carry a freewheel cracking device so allowing you to refit spokes from that side. Checkout " hypercracker " made by "Stein"
Not that it would have helped with that many broken spokes, but I've heard good things about the FiberFix kevlar cord spoke. I've got one in my repair kit, but haven't needed it yet. Don't usually need to remove freewheel as I understand it.
Peter White of Peter White Cycles is probably the first name in wheelbuilders. Worth at least checking out the website at: peterwhitecycles.com They're located in New Hampshire, but do mail order everywhere. I've got a pair of custom built wheels from him that I cherish. He gives a lifetime warranty against spoke breakage (which, I would have to admit, would be hard to take advantage of because it would mean shipping the wheel to him -- maybe more costly than paying to fix it locally, and certainly not as fast) but the fact that he gives such a warranty does serve as a testament to how well the wheels are built in the first place. For indestructible wheels in a 26", look at the Velocity Cliffhanger or Salsa Gordo rims; in a 700c look at the Velocity Dyad or the Salsa Delgado-X. Like some others that have responded, I also carry some "emergency" spokes. Mine aren't Kevlar, but are just cables with a hook at one end that you can hook through the hub - even on the freewheel side, and threads at the other end to thread into spoke nipple. They are a short term solution for in-town or day trips to allow you to true the wheel enough to get you to the next bike shop, and a better solution for a long tour is to tape some replacement spokes to your frame and carry a spoke wrench and a tool to remove the freewheel. Once you start to see a couple of spokes break, it's probably time to rebuild the whole wheel or you're just going to keep having problems. Once the spokes see enough fatigue-stress to break a few, they're probably all ready to go. The other guys have it right if it's within your budget -- good rims, good hubs, good double-butted spokes by DT or Wheelsmith, and hand-built.
While I do carry spare spokes on tour it is an idea to carry a couple of overlong spokes also. By cutting off the hub end of the spoke and bending this into a hook shape it is possible to insert this in the hub on the freewheel side and then tension, doing away with the necessity of removing the hub. It does well as an emergency repair to get you to a shop.