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Old 11-02-12, 05:32 PM   #1
Wheels Of Steel
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DT Competition or Alpine III spokes for touring wheelset?

Does the additional butt make a tangible difference in the quality of the build and durability of the wheel? I'll be lacing a couple of Salsa Semis to a Deore XT rear and an IRD dynamo front.
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Old 11-02-12, 07:03 PM   #2
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Sheldon always claimed that THE BEST spokes for heavy loads is the Alpine III, if you must have the best and you have the $, go for them. Now the truth is that most quality butted spokes will serve all but the heaviest rider carrying the heaviest loads. Heck, (and I may get flamed for this) I'll bet almost all riders could get by just fine with straight 14 gauge 2.0mm spokes

Oh and btw, all the wheels that I ride and have built make use of the more standard butted spokes.

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Old 11-02-12, 08:27 PM   #3
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Sheldon always claimed that THE BEST spokes for heavy loads is the Alpine III, if you must have the best and you have the $, go for them. Now the truth is that most quality butted spokes will serve all but the heaviest rider carrying the heaviest loads. Heck, (and I may get flamed for this) I'll bet almost all riders will get by just fine with 14 straight gauge 2.0mm spokes

Oh and btw, all my wheels that I ride and have built make use of the more standard butted spokes.
No flame from me. The majority of our spokes are straight gauge but DB Competitions are used on our two current touring bikes and the tandem. All my wheels have been strong enough for the purposes for which they were built, irrespective of butting.

One small factor is that, in my experience, few bike shops stock butted spokes, and particularly the Alpines.
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Old 11-02-12, 08:54 PM   #4
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One small factor is that, in my experience, few bike shops stock butted spokes, and particularly the Alpines.
That's no small factor. That's good information.
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Old 11-02-12, 09:13 PM   #5
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Quality of the build is skill dependent amd durability is load dependent once you've settled on a rim. What's the load?
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Old 11-02-12, 09:24 PM   #6
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I built a set of 26" wheels on XT hubs and XM 719 rims using DT Alpine III spokes. The Alpine spokes will not fit in the hub holes on all makes of hubs as the radius at the top end is bigger than on most spokes.

Also, I could have used a washer on the top end to draw the bend in closer to the hub.

Great wheels and I done a lot of off road heavy touring on them. Gear and rider 325 pounds.
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Old 11-02-12, 09:29 PM   #7
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One small factor is that, in my experience, few bike shops stock butted spokes, and particularly the Alpines.
Couldn't agree more and why when touring I always carry a few spares. But then again, any broken butted spoke can be replaced with a straight gauge if needed.
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Old 11-02-12, 10:24 PM   #8
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Does the additional butt make a tangible difference in the quality of the build and durability of the wheel? I'll be lacing a couple of Salsa Semis to a Deore XT rear and an IRD dynamo front.
The heavier head resists fatigue better and fits tighter in the hub. They are a good choice, in my experience, for the rear due to the dish. They aren't as important for the front hub because the wheel isn't dished.

There are a couple of other choices. Wheelsmith makes the DH13 and Sapim makes the Strong. Neither is a triple butted spoke like the Alpine but they do have the stronger head.
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Old 11-02-12, 10:52 PM   #9
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Alpine is just a 13 on the hook, 14 on the thread 15 in between.

maybe on the Rt Rear.. 14-15-14. on L Rear, given tension differences for Dishing.

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Old 11-02-12, 11:02 PM   #10
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few bike shops stock butted spokes, and particularly the Alpines.
I use Wheel Smith butted spokes. When I had new A719 rims laced to my touring hubs last summer I ask my mechanic if I should use the Alpine III spokes. He asked if I had ever broken a Wheel Smith spoke. The answer was no. I have never broken any spokes on laced to order wheels and it is not for want of trying. He recommended against the Alpines. His thinking was if you do break one, odds are pretty remote on being able to replace it while on tour and because of the different characteristics of the Alpine III it would put the replacement spoke(s) at greater risk of breaking again.
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Old 11-02-12, 11:45 PM   #11
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I've used WS 2.0/1.7mm for years now with no broken spokes.

My upcoming build may use WS 2.0 for lower cost. The straight gauge 2.0s cost $38/100 vs $60/100 for butted (more than 50% increase), so I save $22 with SG - significant since the rims I may use are only $22 each.

Alpines are the best, but you may never experience any tangible benefit from using them, and they're very expensive.
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Old 11-03-12, 02:14 AM   #12
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My upcoming build may use WS 2.0 for lower cost.
I know we here in touring fantasy land (aka the forums) tend to dwell on the minutia, but when you see probably 90% of all mountain bikes go out the door with 2.0 mm straight gauge spokes and see the abuse that the fat kid down the street, who is now taller than you, puts his bike thru without breaking spokes, we on-road tourists in comparison are easy on our wheels.
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Old 11-03-12, 09:33 AM   #13
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I use Wheel Smith butted spokes. When I had new A719 rims laced to my touring hubs last summer I ask my mechanic if I should use the Alpine III spokes. He asked if I had ever broken a Wheel Smith spoke. The answer was no. I have never broken any spokes on laced to order wheels and it is not for want of trying. He recommended against the Alpines. His thinking was if you do break one, odds are pretty remote on being able to replace it while on tour and because of the different characteristics of the Alpine III it would put the replacement spoke(s) at greater risk of breaking again.
The idea that you have to replace an Alpine III with an Alpine spoke keeps coming up in this thread. If you break one and aren't carrying a spare, you can replace it with any spoke that is the proper length. Having one spoke that is a lighter gauge isn't going to impact the strength of the wheel that much. You could probably use the spoke for the life of the wheel without compromising. Or you can carry a couple of spares of the proper length...which is something I've done with whatever wheel I use on tour. I carry a few spare spokes ziptied under the deck of my rear rack.

"The different characteristics of the Alpine III" from your mechanic sounds like hand waving to me. The only different characteristic of the Alpine (or Wheelsmith DH13 or Sapim Strong) is a stronger head that fits tighter.
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Old 11-03-12, 09:57 AM   #14
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I've used WS 2.0/1.7mm for years now with no broken spokes.

My upcoming build may use WS 2.0 for lower cost. The straight gauge 2.0s cost $38/100 vs $60/100 for butted (more than 50% increase), so I save $22 with SG - significant since the rims I may use are only $22 each.

Alpines are the best, but you may never experience any tangible benefit from using them, and they're very expensive.
The Alpine spokes in Australia are more than twice the cost of straight gauge spokes. I used the Competition ones because I could get them from ChainReactionCycles for the same price as straight gauge ones.
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I know we here in touring fantasy land (aka the forums) tend to dwell on the minutia, but when you see probably 90% of all mountain bikes go out the door with 2.0 mm straight gauge spokes and see the abuse that the fat kid down the street, who is now taller than you, puts his bike thru without breaking spokes, we on-road tourists in comparison are easy on our wheels.
Exactly!
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Old 11-03-12, 10:03 AM   #15
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I built mine {touring wheel) with more 2mm/ 14 gage straights..
Only broke one spoke, but 47 were left..
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Old 11-03-12, 10:32 AM   #16
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WOS, You can use the Alpine III spokes, boutique hub and an asymetrical rim and have a very strong wheel. Peace of mind is often worth it.

Truth is many, if not most tourers, myself included do extremely well using straight gauge spokes, off the shelf hubs and blue collar rims. The quality of the wheel build being more important than the sum of the parts, IMHO. I'm pretty OCD with my roadies and double butted spoked wheels proved to keep their trueness longer than a similar wheel with straight gauge spokes, so I have a preference for DB spokes from a durability standpoint. Since the initial TLC on my T bike's wheelset I've had zero problems, perhaps it comes down to more "cushion" from the larger and less pressurized tire?

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Old 11-03-12, 12:58 PM   #17
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His thinking was if you do break one, odds are pretty remote on being able to replace it while on tour and because of the different characteristics of the Alpine III it would put the replacement spoke(s) at greater risk of breaking again.
Really? It wouldn't worry me a bit to when on tour buy any spoke that was the correct length and then swap it out at some later date. Then again I have a used a replacement straight gauge spoke in an otherwise double butted wheel and have not bothered to replace it with one that matches better. It has occurred to me to use a different color spoke when using a mismatched replacement. It just might be noticeable enough that I would at some point replace it. Then again I still might not.
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Old 11-03-12, 03:10 PM   #18
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Really? It wouldn't worry me a bit to when on tour buy any spoke that was the correct length.
Well I was just passing on a thought from my wheel smith who was trying to save me a few bucks. He has put three sets of touring wheels together for me and I have never broken a spoke. I did “storm-grate” one rim into oblivion but no spokes broke. I run 105 hubs on my touring wheels, which is 130mm wide on the rear so there is more drive side dish than many traditional touring rigs running 135 rear hubs. While he gives me an extra spoke and nipple of each length, I have gone to packing a single fiber emergency spoke when on tour. I suppose if I were touring in the third world I might carry a half dozen real spokes.

Yes, if I limped into a small town bike shop and they had any spoke that would fit I would take it in a heartbeat, even it was too short and I had to bridge it with an extra-long nipple.

So putting this to a theoretical extreme, if one were to lace up a wheel using half the thinnest butted racing spokes and half the stoutest straight gauge what would the result be? Let’s make it more interesting still. Lace 180 degs with one type and the remaining 180 with the other. Any guesses?
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Old 11-03-12, 07:05 PM   #19
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Yes, if I limped into a small town bike shop and they had any spoke that would fit I would take it in a heartbeat, even it was too short and I had to bridge it with an extra-long nipple.
Likely in a small town shop with bikes as a sideline operation, you'd only get galvanised spokes (and still get charged SS SG prices!).

This happened once in my own home town (population about 2,500).

Needless to say, I now have a small stash of stainless spokes on standby at home.
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Old 11-04-12, 11:39 PM   #20
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I'll bet almost all riders could get by just fine with straight 14 gauge 2.0mm spokes
+1 probably the truest thing that will appear in this thread.
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Old 11-05-12, 12:00 AM   #21
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I know we here in touring fantasy land (aka the forums) tend to dwell on the minutia, but when you see probably 90% of all mountain bikes go out the door with 2.0 mm straight gauge spokes and see the abuse that the fat kid down the street, who is now taller than you, puts his bike thru without breaking spokes, we on-road tourists in comparison are easy on our wheels.
I don't entirely agree with that. The thing that breaks most spokes is fatigue, not impacts. I weighed 275 at the time I hit a rock so hard with my loaded touring bike, I split the tire. That is about as hard as you can hit a bike, without crashing it. My wheel build showed not a sign of trouble. But fatigue over really long tours could break a spoke on a badly built wheel, though the reality is they should outlast the rider, if they are straight, butted or triple butted.

My only objection to triple butted is that while it uses the same term as butted, a tripple spoke is not the next step up on a butted spoke, more of that stuff, it is just a spoke with a different approach to hub fit. Therefore I would only use it if I had a problem with hub fit, and unless you are running something that isn't shimano, phil, white, etc... you don't even have to think about that. Oddly, if you read the book by that DT wheel builder he is mostly for the washers. Overall all these things concern fatigue at the bend. And that problem is solved, SOLVED, by stress relieving the wheel, assuming the fit is standard good.

If you want to play around with rear wheel spokes, I favour, different gages left/right, or butted/straight, or radial/cross three. I can't really say which of these is the best go, but it would be fun finding out...
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Old 11-05-12, 12:39 AM   #22
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We often build our tandem wheels and heavy duty touring wheels with Alpine III spokes and as we make our own hubs, design those so that the fit of the Alpine III and hub drilling is a perfect match... if one was to break a spoke on tour or during use there are 47 more taking up the load and any spoke of a matching length could be used as a replacement.

Mind you, with a properly built wheel of this level will only break a spoke if you try and pull a derailleur through them or drive something else into the spokes.

Consider that a tandem might need to carry 500 pounds of riders and gear and that for average sized folks with less gear they are almost overkill unless you are looking to build and indestructible wheel... save for the Shimano XT hub which is great but not one that will last as long as other hubs with newer designs and replaceable bearings.

Add disc brakes and you eliminate rim wear and then you have a wheel that will outlast most riders.
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Old 11-05-12, 09:31 AM   #23
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My only objection to triple butted is that while it uses the same term as butted, a tripple spoke is not the next step up on a butted spoke, more of that stuff, it is just a spoke with a different approach to hub fit. Therefore I would only use it if I had a problem with hub fit, and unless you are running something that isn't shimano, phil, white, etc... you don't even have to think about that. Oddly, if you read the book by that DT wheel builder he is mostly for the washers. Overall all these things concern fatigue at the bend. And that problem is solved, SOLVED, by stress relieving the wheel, assuming the fit is standard good.
I'm not sure why you object to using the term "butted" for triple butted spokes...they are butted. Just as a double butted spoke has a thicker section on both ends and a thinner middle, triple butted spokes have a thicker section at the bend, a thinner section in the middle and a less thick section at the bottom. It has 3 butted sections that are butted differently. The Wheelsmith DH13 and the Sapim Strongs are single butted spokes because they only have a thicker section a the head.

From a structural point of view, all spokes should have at least a single butt. The only reason that we are saddled with 2.4 mm holes at the hub is because the rolled on threads on 2.0 mm spokes (the most common type) are 2.3mm in diameter and have to be able to pass through the spoke hole at the hub. When you put a 2.0 mm peg in a 2.4mm hole, you have 0.4 mm of slop which is a lot. Even though the wheel is a tensioned structure, it still goes through cycles of tensioning and detensioning of the spokes depending on where the spokes are in relation to the load. 0.4mm of slop lets the spoke move every so slightly on each cycle so fatigue at the head is inevitable. By making the spoke fit tighter in the hole, there is less movement of the spoke during the loading/unloading cycle so less fatigue. And the larger head resists fatigue better because strength of the spoke goes up at square of the diameter.
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Old 11-05-12, 10:17 AM   #24
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I'm not sure why you object to using the term "butted" for triple butted spokes...they are butted. Just as a double butted spoke has a thicker section on both ends and a thinner middle, triple butted spokes have a thicker section at the bend, a thinner section in the middle and a less thick section at the bottom. It has 3 butted sections that are butted differently.
Actually, a "butt" is a joint where two pieces of material meet end-to-end. A so-called triple-butted spoke only has two butt joints, just like a double-butted spoke, even though there are three different sizes of material used. A more accurate description of these spokes might be something like "double-butted triple cross-section".
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Old 11-05-12, 11:18 AM   #25
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I built a wheel up with DT double-butted spokes because that's the double-butted spokes I could find in the size I needed (which was smaller than average due to my ginormous hub). I started breaking spokes at the hub, which led me to this note on Peter White's site: http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/dtspokes.htm

I could find no other double-butted spokes in my size, so I went with Wheelsmith straight gauge, rebuilt my wheel, and lived happily ever after. I believe I have broken one of the Wheelsmith spokes due to a mishap, but I haven't had them break due to normal riding. I'm a heavy guy and don't pack light, but then I also only spend a couple of weeks riding fully loaded a year. Have not had to do any roadside spoke repairs, though.

This is not to say that you won't be fine with whichever spoke you want, so long as you know the characteristics match your use. I think in my case, the relatively shorter distance between hub and rim made for a sharper than normal angle, which made the elbow of the spoke more stressed. So I'm not saying "don't use DT spoke." I'm just repeating the idea that the number of butts is probably the last thing to factor in when choosing the best spokes. I'm sure there's an "optimally butted" spoke for heavy loads, but I suspect that the difference between that and straight gauge is something you may have to ride for a long time before seeing in real life repair time.

And, as has been stated, replacement availability should not be an issue. I bring spares, but any spoke you can get should do the job.
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