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Info on spoke fatigue please.

Old 12-19-17, 08:40 PM
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PdalPowr
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Info on spoke fatigue please.

I broke three rear spokes over the spring/summer/fall biking season. Could I have seen it coming? I weigh 275 pounds and sit the saddle like a somewhat sentient bag of potatos.
There are enough potholes where I live to hide the national debt.

What I want to know is if there are signs of fatigue/abuse before the spoke breaks.
The first one broke with a tung sound far away from the house. Aside from the noise
which I attributed to road debris the bike rode fine. The second I was close to my L.B.S. and salvation.
The third about a month later was close to the house and thank the biking gods for that.
It broke with a clunk and the wheel went badly out of true.
So instead of buying a new spoke I invested that money in a much better wheel.

Is there a way to tell if spokes are going or to stop them from getting worse?
Any other advice is welcome too. As long as it doesn't involve a stationary bike and television.��

Last edited by PdalPowr; 12-19-17 at 08:43 PM.
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Old 12-19-17, 09:46 PM
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How many spokes on the old wheel?
At 275 plus the bike and accessories you should have at least 36 double butted spokes.
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Old 12-19-17, 09:52 PM
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After a couple hundred miles it might be a good idea to have the wheel trued if you can't do it yourself. The spoke tension should be checked (ideally) because the spokes are more likely to break if they are too loose.
Steve

EDIT: Yes... stay outside!
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Old 12-19-17, 09:54 PM
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I don't know if any methods of calculating fatigue other then what engineers talk about. As they discuss potential the OP has actually performed a test.


Those who learn to true/build wheels often check put their wheels often and react to what they see early on in the wheel's life. Andy
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Old 12-19-17, 10:27 PM
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Originally Posted by PdalPowr View Post
I broke three rear spokes over the spring/summer/fall biking season. Could I have seen it coming? I weigh 275 pounds and sit the saddle like a somewhat sentient bag of potatos.
Yes. If you weigh over 200 pounds and have wheels which were neither hand-built by a competent individual nor separately stress relieved you can expect to break spokes.

The cycles survived are a function of average stress, and the amount of variation as the spokes unload passing the bottom due to rider weight.

When not stress relieved, there are parts of the elbows never taken past their elastic limit during the forming process which means high average stress.

More rider weight means more variation and fewer cycles.

What I want to know is if there are signs of fatigue/abuse before the spoke breaks.
No.

Is there a way to tell if spokes are going or to stop them from getting worse?
Add a drop of 3-in-1 oil to each nipple and its socket if someone didn't have the foresight to lubricate those interfaces with anti-seize or grease.

Achieve appropriate uniform high tension. Drive side on deep rims 120 kgf is reasonable, 105 kgf on shallow box section like the venerable Open Pro but you shouldn't ride those for durability reasons and they have horrible aerodynamics. Whatever it takes on the NDS to center the rim - that's a side effect of geometry. 105 kgf is reasonable for front wheels. Measure with a cell phone app or Park TM-1 tension meter. You don't need to check every spoke - they'll be close enough when the tone they make plucking sounds the same. If you want to anyways, start and finish at the valve stem.

You're making the rear tight enough the looser non-drive-side spokes won't go slack on a big hit, and staying farther from the tension where spoke bed cracks from fatigue could be an issue up front.

Squeeze near parallel pairs of spokes towards each other wearing gloves. You can also push the outer crossing towards the hub or bend spokes around each other using something softer like an old left crank, plastic screw driver handle, or brass drift (my favorite).

You also want the spoke elbows formed to the flanges, and spokes bent if necessary where they meet the rim so the nipples aren't at their fore/aft pivot limit; although removing and restoring tension is enough work I'd ignore it and if things broke make the effort when replacing all the spokes in the failing spoke group(s) like rear drive-side heads-in, both heads in and heads out rear drive side spokes, etc.

You can guarantee your wheels are built correctly by doing it yourself - wheel building is simpler than adjusting a front derailleur, but takes much longer due to tens of spokes. Matching a good professional isn't hard, although you'll take much longer and could never earn an acceptable hourly wage. Most professionals mechanics can't either, and compromise by doing a bad job quickly.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 12-20-17 at 04:25 PM.
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Old 12-19-17, 10:40 PM
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Originally Posted by sweeks View Post
After a couple hundred miles it might be a good idea to have the wheel trued if you can't do it yourself. The spoke tension should be checked (ideally) because the spokes are more likely to break if they are too loose.
Steve

EDIT: Yes... stay outside!
They'll break under a heavier rider regardless of tension when not stress relieved.

If you can't do that you need to take your wheels to a reputable one-person wheel building shop where the hands doing the work earned its reputation.

Many mechanics won't do that. Many will true your wheels but leave loose spokes that slacken enough their nipples unscrew at which point you make repeated return visits for $20 truing appointments until you give up and buy a new wheel set you hope doesn't have the problem.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 12-20-17 at 12:45 PM.
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Old 12-20-17, 01:01 AM
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Originally Posted by PdalPowr View Post
I broke three rear spokes over the spring/summer/fall biking season. Could I have seen it coming? I weigh 275 pounds and sit the saddle like a somewhat sentient bag of potatos.
There are enough potholes where I live to hide the national debt.

.........................

Is there a way to tell if spokes are going or to stop them from getting worse?
Any other advice is welcome too. As long as it doesn't involve a stationary bike and television.��
You should from now on learn to stand out of saddle everytimes you ran across potholes.

This is the way and only way to save your wheels, I see some lighter riders than me broke their expensive wheels this way while I never broke my wheels.

Unweighted your bike before crossing potholes! but avoid is better! don't cross it, if can't, stand up!
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Old 12-20-17, 06:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Altimis View Post
You should from now on learn to stand out of saddle everytimes you ran across potholes.

This is the way and only way to save your wheels, I see some lighter riders than me broke their expensive wheels this way while I never broke my wheels.

Unweighted your bike before crossing potholes! but avoid is better! don't cross it, if can't, stand up!
Fitting the largest tires which will fit, run at (suitable) lower pressure, will also help.
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Old 12-20-17, 07:29 AM
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PedalPowr, AFIK there is no guaranteed method to ID a spoke that's about to fail.
Check the wheels' trueness regularly for a possible indication. A piece of yarn on an adjusted spoke can be a tattle tail for future adjustments.
Unweight the bike prior to unavoidable road irregulars by standing on the pedals.

Brad
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Old 12-20-17, 09:54 AM
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I'll second what Drew wrote above. Properly tensioned and stress-relieved wheels will give you trouble-free rides for a long, long time. Inexpensive, machine-built wheels which haven't been hand-tensioned? I've started breaking spokes in less than 500 miles.


Unfortunately, now that you've been riding long enough for three spokes to fracture, there's a good chance the rest have also started to fatigue. While it's possible with penetrating dye and high magnification to look for stress cracks, it's going to be a lot cheaper to replace all the spokes and build the wheel right.


Things like "posting" over potholes may postpone further failures, but spokes on a poorly tensioned wheel are probably undergoing stress cycles with every revolution of the wheel while you're riding it. Time for a new wheel, or at least a new wheel build.
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Old 12-20-17, 12:14 PM
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A fun post-script to @Drew Eckhardt's excellent advice is that Jobst Brandt arrived at the practice of stress-relieving (squeezing nearby spokes together forcefully) by attempting to find and break any weakened spokes on a problematic wheelset before hitting the road again: Stress relieving wheels (Jobst Brandt; Mike Prime)
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Old 12-20-17, 12:14 PM
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A weird question but,
Is there a manual on stress relieving and proper tensioning?
I actually like to read manuals,magazines and books.
Not when I'm riding though.
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Old 12-20-17, 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Altimis View Post
You should from now on learn to stand out of saddle everytimes you ran across potholes.

This is the way and only way to save your wheels, I see some lighter riders than me broke their expensive wheels this way while I never broke my wheels.

Unweighted your bike before crossing potholes! but avoid is better! don't cross it, if can't, stand up!
That will avoid bent rims, but won't help with fatigue from the 750 revolutions wheels make each mile. It'll also avoid spokes breaking running over pot holes, although something else will do the trick because they're approaching their fatigue cycle limit.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 12-20-17 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 12-20-17, 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by PdalPowr View Post
A weird question but,
Is there a manual on stress relieving and proper tensioning?
I actually like to read manuals,magazines and books.
Not when I'm riding though.
It's covered in The Bicycle Wheel by former Porsche/HP/etc. engineer Jobst Brandt, although the tensioning specifics are for box section rims which go out of true in waves when you reach their elastic limit stress relieving at which point you back off a half turn and finish. That doesn't work for contemporary deep rims that are much stiffer with tension limited by fatigue life of their spoke bed. Fortunately we can measure tension using $5 cellphone apps or the affordable Park TM-1.

He also discussed the subject in his prolific rec.bicycles.tech usenet posts including the one linked by @ThermionicScott.

Jobst averaged 10,000 miles a year into his 70s and reportedly had over 300,000 miles on the spokes in his wheels, although he wasn't a small guy and IIRC they were 15/16 gauge.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 12-20-17 at 04:19 PM.
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Old 12-20-17, 12:37 PM
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With adequate spoke tension, the wheel acts as a whole..

As a spoke is allowed to lose tension it flexes in cycles as its pulled and compressed,

and that results in the metal fatigue , that usually shows up as breaks in your hook/head end.


so drop by the LBS for regular service, to extend the wheel life.





....
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Old 12-20-17, 12:44 PM
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Jobst Brandt's famous book on wheel building and Robert Wright's book both address stress relieving and tensions well although from very different mindsets. One of the books is "Building Bicycle Wheels" although I cannot remember which one authored it.

Ben
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Old 12-20-17, 12:49 PM
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Brandt can get a bit in the weeds at times. Go to the library and get a bicycle maintenance book like the one Bicycling Magazine publishes - it has a useful wheelbuilding section.

The problem with conversations about broken spokes is that the failure can come from poor spokes, poor rim, poor spoke preparation (pre-bending elbows on outer spokes), poor tension, poor maintenance or road damage. A relatively "weak" wheel may work very well if built well, and a superbly strong wheel may fail if the rim is not round enough any more to carry even spoke tension.

Short of detensioning the wheel to observe the rim condition, it is really hard to tell why a wheel is a problem, and this rarely happens. Then the person with the "bad" wheel gets a massively overbuilt or expertly built wheel and the problems go away, but maybe the problems could have been fixed with the original wheel, which is now labeled "junk" because it had whatever undiagnosed issues.

Most bike shops minimally "true" wheels on new bikes, relying on the manufacturer for proper tension and just tweeking the lateral straightness to prevent the brakes rubbing.
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Old 12-20-17, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
With adequate spoke tension, the wheel acts as a whole..

As a spoke is allowed to lose tension it flexes in cycles as its pulled and compressed,

and that results in the metal fatigue , that usually shows up as breaks in your hook/head end.


so drop by the LBS for regular service, to extend the wheel life.
If you build your wheels correctly your spokes won't require adjustment until you bend your rims on an obstacle, over-shift your chain into your spokes, squeeze something between them and your fork or frame, or must replace a rim.

The front wheel i used for 14,500 miles before switching to a dynamo hub required adjusting a single spoke once which stretched when my headlamp battery fell off, swung into the wheel on its still attached cord behind my fork, and bent a spoke passing through to the front.

The rear is still fine after 24,000 miles.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 12-20-17 at 01:49 PM.
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Old 12-20-17, 02:10 PM
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But you did not build his wheels are you offering?
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Old 12-20-17, 11:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt View Post
If you build your wheels correctly your spokes won't require adjustment until you bend your rims on an obstacle, over-shift your chain into your spokes, squeeze something between them and your fork or frame, or must replace a rim.
Truth. In the 30 years since I learned to properly tension wheels after building them (it's been 35 years since I learned to build wheels) I have not broken a single spoke. (OK... 2 broke after my chain overshifted and jammed in between the cluster and spokes.) I'm not light (240 pounds) and I can't "unweight" because I ride recumbent.
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Old 12-21-17, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
A fun post-script to @Drew Eckhardt's excellent advice is that Jobst Brandt arrived at the practice of stress-relieving (squeezing nearby spokes together forcefully) by attempting to find and break any weakened spokes on a problematic wheelset before hitting the road again: Stress relieving wheels (Jobst Brandt; Mike Prime)
That was cool, I went to college with Mike Prime... He had a nice
Bianchi.


Back to OP, even if you could spot a pending failure, it wouldn't do any good... Too late. As others have noted, best course is a good wheel that won't fatigue.
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Old 12-21-17, 05:52 PM
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And now for the quick and definitive answer.
Brandt tells how not to stress relieve spokes. Sheldon Brown tells how here:
https://www.sheldonbrown.com/wheelbuild.html
in the section "Seating and Stress-Relieving the Spokes."
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Old 12-21-17, 06:05 PM
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Originally Posted by AnkleWork View Post
And now for the quick and definitive answer.
Brandt tells how not to stress relieve spokes. Sheldon Brown tells how here:
https://www.sheldonbrown.com/wheelbuild.html
in the section "Seating and Stress-Relieving the Spokes."
I also like Mike T's collection of stress relieving techniques in this page here. The stress relieving section is about halfway down. Not to say he invented all of that, or that it's the final word, but it is a handy collection of tips in one place.
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Old 12-21-17, 06:05 PM
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Originally Posted by AnkleWork View Post
And now for the quick and definitive answer.
Brandt tells how not to stress relieve spokes. Sheldon Brown tells how here:
https://www.sheldonbrown.com/wheelbuild.html
in the section "Seating and Stress-Relieving the Spokes."
One thing Sheldon didn't address is pre-bending the outboard elbow as you build the wheel. He seems to be thinking about it by suggesting head washers, but a huge source of broken spokes is elbow stress. Bend the spokes past center before you insert the nipple and that stress is hugely reduced.
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Old 12-21-17, 10:20 PM
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Yes, I think setting the elbows is important, though I haven't proven it yet.

I can tell you that the radial force required to detension a spoke is massive compared to the lateral force required. Perhaps your potholes aren't hurting your spokes as much as you might think.
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