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Help with spoke upgrade

Old 11-19-16, 02:44 PM
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Help with spoke upgrade

Hi everyone,

Every 200-300 miles or so I break a spoke. They break on the rear wheel, freewheel side, near the nipple. I replace them myself but I am getting tired it.

I am thinking of upgrading just the rear freewheel side spokes with stronger ones. (or possibly replacing just the trailing spokes). I would replace them myself.

Is this a good idea? What kind of spokes should I get? 13G straight spokes? 12G? Butted spokes? I assume that stainless would be best.

Where should I get them? I think I only need a handful, not a box of 72.

This is for a 30 year old $300 Univega drop bar hybrid bike with 700c wheels and 35mm tires. I have it nicely tuned, I enjoy riding it very much, but I don't want to put a lot more money into it. So new expensive wheels does not seem practical.

The rear wheel was replaced last month with a $50 Weimann 36h wheel, which is breaking spokes just like the original wheel. I weigh 260lbs, but hope to get down to 220. I started biking a few months ago and have lost 15 lbs already . I ride for exercise on paved streets and hardpack gravel bike paths. I don't race but I really like to go fast.

Thanks for your help.

Herbie
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Old 11-19-16, 02:55 PM
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Spokes breaking at the nipple is indicative that something else is going on. It could be the alignment, corrosion, or something else, but it's not the spoke.

Going to stronger spokes won't help because you'll probably still have the same thread size.

If you want help here, we'll need details.

what type of rim, does it have eyelets, do you see any evidence of corrosion at the spoke holes
how many spokes and how many cross
what kind of spokes

and most important

are the spokes breaking at the threads or elsewhere near, but not at the nipple?
are the nipples nicely lining up with the spokes, or is there a bend there?
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Last edited by FBinNY; 11-19-16 at 03:00 PM.
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Old 11-19-16, 04:43 PM
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FbinNy,

Thanks for the feedback.

A couple corrections to my original post. 1)The spokes have broken either within an inch so away the nipple, OR at the other end of the spoke where it bends and connects to the hub (i don't know what you call that part of the spoke). 2) it appears to be the leading spoke on the freewheel side that breaks, not the trailing.

The rims are single wall with no eyelets.

The spokes are magnetic which I think suggests that they are coated steel, not stainless. They appear to be 14g.

The nipples line up with the spokes - no bend.

The spoke count is 36 (3-cross).

I have broken 2 spokes on the original 30 yr wheel, all within about 100 or so miles. I put a new wheel on it and broke a spoke within 200 miles.

thanks.

-Herbie
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Old 11-19-16, 05:39 PM
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OK, that helps.

The bend is called the elbow (obvious isn't it?) and that's where spokes break about 90% of the time. Breakage not at the elbow or threads is rare, and almost always caused by a nick or corrosion.

Since you already have 14g spokes, you can't really go stronger, though you can buy 13/14g single butted spokes for a stronger elbow, while still fitting standard 14g nipples.

I suspect that your best option would be to have a wheel built with 14g double butted spokes, which tend to be more durable than 14g plain spokes. A properly built (build quality is more important than the spokes themselves) should last you eons.

A common cost savings option that many here on BF do, is to buy a built wheel with good components, and have i reworked immediately to achieve good build quality.
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Old 11-19-16, 05:50 PM
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Welcome to bikeforums. Your situation was very similar to mine. This did the trick for me.

Strong | Sapim
Polyax | Sapim
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Old 11-19-16, 07:19 PM
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find a decent wheel builder shop, or get on ebay, after determining the correct spoke length for your hub/rim combo... order stainless steel DT brand spokes... have them installed. At your weight, i would NOT recommend double butted spokes, period. The CENTER is thinner, the ENDS are the same diameter as a straight gauge spoke... get 14 gauge... Any larger spokes will require drilling the hub's holes out, and then chamfering the holes, and then the hub becomes slightly weaker.
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Old 11-19-16, 07:38 PM
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Originally Posted by maddog34
.... i would NOT recommend double butted spokes, period. The CENTER is thinner, the ENDS are the same diameter as a straight gauge spoke... .
I'm not going to derail this into a deep debate about the virtues/or not or double butted spokes. But I am going to suggest some ideas and let people decide for themselves.

1- if spokes are breaking at the elbow almost exclusively, doesn't make sense to reinforce just the elbow?
2- if spokes never break in the center, maybe the center is overbuilt, and could afford to be thinned.

If you follow the logic and agree that reinforced elbows, and/or shedding some excess weight by thinning elsewhere might make sense, you're a believer in DB spokes, which do exactly that.

Also keep in mind, that the thinnest part of a spoke is the root of the thread, and following the logic that a chain cannot be stronger than it's weakest link, you conclude that any part of the spoke thicker then the root of the thread is overbuilt.

We don't need to debate this, anyone can individually accept the logic, or reject it based on some flaw. But do keep in mind that butted spokes don't break where they're thinner. The break at the elbows the same as 99% of spokes.

One other note. 13g single butted spokes have only the elbows thickened, the rest is a standard 14g/2mm spoke. the elbow is the same thickeness as the thread of a 2mm spoke, at approx 2.3mm, so using them will not require any modification of the hub.
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Last edited by FBinNY; 11-19-16 at 07:49 PM.
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Old 11-19-16, 08:32 PM
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If there is No Logo on the spoke head , odds are the wheel was Originally built with the lowest cost spokes

to keep the Factory cost of a Million spokes Lower, and the wheels not contributing to bumping up the cost 10 bucks..


Plus 30 years of Use.. Hubs and Rims May be worn too . unless this bike sat in the garage for 3 decades..




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Old 11-19-16, 10:16 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob
If there is No Logo on the spoke head , odds are the wheel was Originally built with the lowest cost spokes
Sapim spokes are counted among the short list of top quality offerings, and their logo is etched on the shaft of the spoke. the head is blank.
Also, I have built a lot of wheels with so called off brand or generic spokes. no failures to report to date.
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Old 11-20-16, 12:38 AM
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Thanks again everyone for your feedback,

My guess is that I am too heavy for these low-end wheels.

So I am trying to figure out what to do.

Since it is an old $300 bike it does not make sense to pay for custom wheels.

That is why I was thinking that just upgrading only the spokes that are break prone. This would be the most cost effective solution for this bike.

So my questions are:
  • Is upgrading just the problem spokes sound thinking?
  • If so, what spokes should I upgrade to?
I will investigate the Sapim Strong spokes. They look promising. They are stainless steel, unlike the original spokes (it think). and they are thicker at the elbow.

Also, does anyone make double butted stainless spokes (13 gauge at the ends and 14 gauge in the middle)? Would that be a better option?

If anyone knows of other spokes that I should consider, please let me know.

-Herbie
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Old 11-20-16, 12:58 AM
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As I said earlier, the build quality is more important than the spoke quality. Despite all the marketing hype, the actual band of strength in spokes best to worst isn't all that wide. The only benefit of stainless steel is the corrosion. Otherwise, the best plated spokes of 40 years ago were actually stronger than the best stainless spokes today.

Of course, it can't hurt to replace spokes with better ones as they break, but that's a slower and more costly option than replacing all the spokes at the same time, which is building a wheel. The rim quality may also be a factor, so reusing it may or may not make sense.

As for 13g spokes. These are never double butted because a 14g nipple is the biggest that can fit into a standard rim. So not counting special heavy duty bikes, 13/14 single butted is as strong as you can go with.

Lastly, I want you to know that ANY wheel should be able to hold up despite your weight. Build quality will help, but your weight shouldn't be a deal breaker.

Years ago I used to ride with a ballerina (NYC ballet) who must have weighed 11--120#s tops, and a guy built like a line backer at about your weight. We were all riding top quality race bikes with lightweight wheels. Guess who had who had wheel problems.

If you guessed my linebacker friend you'd be wrong. He NEVER had mechanical problems. Meanwhile the 110# dancer was murder on her bike, especially her wheels. The difference is how they rode. He rode like the dancing hippos in Fantasia, and she like a gorilla throwing a tantrum.

There are all sorts of theories about the causes of wheel failures. Mine is that the side loads are the most critical. If you lean the bike over when starting, or when climbing hills, that's hard on the wheels, while someone heavier than you who has a smooth, graceful riding style won't have any issues.
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Old 11-20-16, 09:08 AM
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At 260 lbs, you are too heavy to be buying $50 wheels. You need 14-15 DB spokes, and 36 of those will cost you $50 uninstalled. Unless you have some sort of odd equipment, a 14 gauge spoke is the largest you will be able to use without having to modify both your hub spoke holes and your rims.

I'm 165 lbs, and even I don't trust smaller than 14-15 spokes on my 32 hole deep-dished 7-sp wheels.
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Old 11-20-16, 10:09 AM
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Let's start with why spokes break. For almost all spokes on the road today (I was going to say "all" but I'm sure somebody could find an exceptions!), failure starts with metal fatigue. Metal fatigue is caused by poor build, as FB noted. Since you've started breaking spokes, the rest of the original spokes are fatigued by now, so they will continue to break.

You may as well replace all of the spokes at once. (Either you, or a good wheel builder. Note that not all wheel builders are good!) Pick a name brand, any name brand. DT, Sapim, Wheelsmith are good ones. Prices seem to start at $1/spoke. Either straight gauge or butted spokes will work IF THE WHEEL IS BUILT RIGHT. Butted spokes may have a bit more margin on build quality, but they'll cost twice as much.

A well built wheel will be true (vertically and laterally); spoke tension will be adequate and balanced; and the spokes will be stress relieved. Get all those right, and the wheel should last thousands of miles. Leave out proper tensioning or stress relief, and you can start breaking spokes within 300 miles.

Getting a wheel rebuilt can cost $20-75 in labor (in addition to spokes and perhaps nipples), depending on where you live. $25 will buy Jobst Brandt's "The Bicycle Wheel," add $7-10 for a good spoke wrench, and you can build the wheels yourself and/or repair them in the future. There are online wheel building sites of varying quality if you don't want to buy the book.
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Old 11-20-16, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Herbie1
The spokes are magnetic which I think suggests that they are coated steel, not stainless. They appear to be 14g.
Some stainless steel is magnetic, some is not, so that test doesn't tell anything.
e.g. the DT competition stainless spokes I use on 3 of my bikes are mildly magnetic.
i.e. a neodymium magnet will stick to them, but not nearly as strongly as it does to regular steel.

Last edited by Shimagnolo; 11-20-16 at 12:06 PM.
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Old 11-20-16, 10:25 AM
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OK no head logo on Sapim. I dont think the Belgian company is 40 years old, though.
so the which company spokes you got is unknown.

doesnt have to be 'custom', but thru your LBS, you can pick a hub and rim, and the wholesalers will build a wheel with parts

one step lower in cost, than your Local shop can get them for , and that will save you some money.


[x]
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Old 11-20-16, 12:01 PM
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Once a spoke breaks on a wheel - replace it. If another spoke breaks soon - change it. If a third one breaks soon after that - it means the wheel was most likely ridden with spokes not tight enough, for long enough, making most of them fatigued. They will probably break more and more.

When that is the case, I'd replace all the spokes. Stress relieving them, making sure they are tight enough, the wheel is centered.


DB spokes: ends suffer the most. Having the middle thinner allows for the stress to be taken by the (weaker and thinner) middle section, therefore relieving the ends a bit, since they are the ones taking most stress anyway.
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