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Spokes keep coming loose

Old 02-09-18, 06:11 PM
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Spokes keep coming loose

I have a low-milage, recently-purchased wheelset from Velomine.

H + PLUS SON TB14 POLISHED SILVER T-11 HUBS WHEELSET CAMPAGNOLO

Hand Built Custom Tensioned and Trued Wheelset These wheels are built to order, please allow approx 2 weeks before shipment.
About a year ago I found a loose spoke. I tightened it back into place, the wheel was true, so I kept an eye on it for awhile and eventually forgot about it.

Today I discovered no less than three non-drive-side spokes (out of 16) were really loose (to the point I was surprised they weren't broken). I just tightened those up, and the wheel is still true. But this is really weird.

What should I do about this? Turning a spoke wrench is about the limit of my wheel-competence.
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Old 02-09-18, 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by wgscott
I have a low-milage, recently-purchased wheelset from Velomine.

H + PLUS SON TB14 POLISHED SILVER T-11 HUBS WHEELSET CAMPAGNOLO



About a year ago I found a loose spoke. I tightened it back into place, the wheel was true, so I kept an eye on it for awhile and eventually forgot about it.

Today I discovered no less than three non-drive-side spokes (out of 16) were really loose (to the point I was surprised they weren't broken). I just tightened those up, and the wheel is still true. But this is really weird.

What should I do about this? Turning a spoke wrench is about the limit of my wheel-competence.
That's not that weird, it just means they are under-tensioned. Shouldn't happen though.

Adding tension on the non-drive side will pull the rim out of center, so tension needs to be added on both sides. Probably best to have someone check your tension with a tensiometer to confirm. There is a range of acceptable tension that depends on the rim strength, but generally speaking, drive side tension should be in the 90-110kgf range. Non-drive side will end up where it ends up to center the rim, but it's usually about 60-70% of drive side.
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Old 02-09-18, 06:34 PM
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OK, practically speaking, I should have someone who knows what they are doing take a look at it?
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Old 02-09-18, 06:39 PM
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Originally Posted by wgscott
I have a low-milage, recently-purchased wheelset from Velomine.

H + PLUS SON TB14 POLISHED SILVER T-11 HUBS WHEELSET CAMPAGNOLO



About a year ago I found a loose spoke. I tightened it back into place, the wheel was true, so I kept an eye on it for awhile and eventually forgot about it.

Today I discovered no less than three non-drive-side spokes (out of 16) were really loose (to the point I was surprised they weren't broken). I just tightened those up, and the wheel is still true. But this is really weird.

What should I do about this? Turning a spoke wrench is about the limit of my wheel-competence.

I'm having a problem understanding how a year+ old item is also recently purchased


Actually I suspect I do understand, the "recently purchased" is the statement that absolves the OP from any blame.


Has the OP contacted the wheel source about this? Has the Op shown the wheel to anyone experienced in person? I find wheel condition questions are far more likely to have better answers from those who can touch and feel the wheel. Andy
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Old 02-09-18, 06:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart
I'm having a problem understanding how a year+ old item is also recently purchased


Actually I suspect I do understand, the "recently purchased" is the statement that absolves the OP from any blame.


Has the OP contacted the wheel source about this? Has the Op shown the wheel to anyone experienced in person? I find wheel condition questions are far more likely to have better answers from those who can touch and feel the wheel. Andy

I haven't shown it to anyone. I only discovered it a few minutes ago. I was simply wondering if I should just keep tightening it up myself or take it to the bike shop. The second post suggests the latter.

I don't put a lot of miles on this bike. I destroyed the Ambrosio wheel it came with in the late 1980s, and I weighed less then than I do now. I was hoping this one with more spokes and a wider rim might last longer.

I purchased the bike in February of 1988. I purchased the wheels a year ago. In terms of the lifetime of the bike (or me), that is fairly recent.

I really don't understand the motivation for posting such commentary.

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Old 02-09-18, 07:09 PM
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Generally wheels like a balanced spoke tension approach, not random tightening or infrequent maintenance. By plucking adjacent spokes on the same side of the wheel a level of spoke tension can be understood and be duplicated as the initial service step (given to the loose spokes). What this step reveals is some of the answer the OP seeks. And it is the evaluating of the info gained during this first step that might drive the rest of the effort. Certainly have this wheel checked out by someone who's done this many times before. Andy
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Old 02-09-18, 07:17 PM
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Thanks.

I gave it the pluck test when I went hunting for loose spokes. The loose ones sounded dull. After tightening, they and the others respond with a nice harmonic resonance. However there is variation in the frequency, which suggests to me variation in the tension. I don't feel sufficiently confident with a spoke wrench to tighten the thing up by ear.

I am curious if it is something I could have done to the wheel (or failed to do, like properly stress-relieve it after I got it), or if the individual who built it goofed it up. I have two other hand-built wheelsets on another bike that I beat around a lot more, and haven't encountered the problem. (I also haven't seen this before on less expensive machine-built wheels, including some fairly inexpensive children's bikes.)
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Old 02-09-18, 07:18 PM
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Originally Posted by wgscott
I haven't shown it to anyone. I only discovered it a few minutes ago. I was simply wondering if I should just keep tightening it up myself or take it to the bike shop. The second post suggests the latter.
Machine built wheels tend to be under-tensioned for heavier riders because that allows a higher production rate from the truing robots for better profits.

You need uniform, appropriately high tension in both halves of the wheel; and should also stress relieve while doing that by squeezing near parallel pairs of spokes, pushing the outer crossing in, or bending them around each other where those require using something softer than the spokes like a plastic screwdriver handle, old left crank, or brass drift.

Otherwise parts of the elbows will have never gone past their yield point, which will reduce their fatigue life that's already being shortened by them unloading farther passing the bottom of the wheel when ridden by a heavier rider.


I don't put a lot of miles on this bike. I destroyed the Ambrosio wheel it came with in the late 1980s, and I weighed less then than I do now. I was hoping this one with more spokes and a wider rim might last longer.
Your problems come from build quality, not parts.

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Old 02-09-18, 07:20 PM
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Originally Posted by wgscott
Thanks.

I gave it the pluck test when I went hunting for loose spokes. The loose ones sounded dull. After tightening, they and the others respond with a nice harmonic resonance. However there is variation in the frequency, which suggests to me variation in the tension. I don't feel sufficiently confident with a spoke wrench to tighten the thing up by ear.

I am curious if it is something I could have done to the wheel (or failed to do, like properly stress-relieve it after I got it), or if the individual who built it goofed it up.
You could have ensured it had uniform high tension in each side.

If a person built it, they didn't put enough tension in it. Most bike shop mechanics don't build enough wheels to do it both well and fast enough to turn a reasonable profit on their labor, so they compromise and do a bad fast job. One didn't put enough tension in an IGH (almost no dish, which means the NDS is at a higher fraction of DS tension) wheel built for my wife (5'4" women are not heavy, and it's rider weight which causes nipples to unscrew as the spokes unload passing the bottom of the wheel with a heavier rider bending the rim more making less friction preventing nipple rotation). That took me more time to fix that than if I'd started from scratch which was what I was trying to avoid.

You want to build your own wheels, or delegate to a one-person operation where the hands that earned the reputation are the same ones building your wheels.

It's time consuming from all the nipples you must turn, but not difficult - less tricky than front derailleur setup. When I drank much more beer I liked three per wheel.

Jobst Brandt tested the instructions in _The Bicycle Wheel_ by having his grade school sons each build a wheelset with no additional help.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 02-09-18 at 07:30 PM.
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Old 02-09-18, 07:28 PM
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It was hand-built, by what I believe to be a reputable guy who specializes in it (see link) and signs his work. That is why I suspect it was something I did or did not do, or maybe he just had an off-day.

I definitely should learn to build my own wheels. I just put the front derailleur on a new bike and had it working in 5 minutes, with no adjustments necessary. (I attribute this to random dumb luck.)
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Old 02-09-18, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt
it's rider weight which causes nipples to unscrew as the spokes unload passing the bottom of the wheel with a heavier rider bending the rim more making less friction preventing nipple rotation
I'm still trying to fully grasp this. I weigh 195 lbs, and this is a box rim.
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Old 02-09-18, 07:52 PM
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Was it true before and after tightening 3 spokes?

How many turns of the spoke wrench did you tighten the spokes? 1/2 turn? A few turns?
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Old 02-09-18, 07:54 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK
Was it true before and after tightening 3 spokes?
It was reasonably true -- no brake rub or anything else to tip me off. I actually discovered it when I heard an unrelated noise and checked my spokes.

How many turns of the spoke wrench did you tighten the spokes? 1/2 turn? A few turns?
Many. They were so loose I tightened the nipples with my fingers first.
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Old 02-09-18, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by wgscott
It was hand-built, by what I believe to be a reputable guy who specializes in it (see link) and signs his work. That is why I suspect it was something I did or did not do, or maybe he just had an off-day.

I definitely should learn to build my own wheels. I just put the front derailleur on a new bike and had it working in 5 minutes, with no adjustments necessary. (I attribute this to random dumb luck.)
I read the link. I think the very fact that you have not had any spokes break, just loosen, tells you that the wheel was well built from the start. It just needs a tune up, which means taking off tire, tube, rim tape, de-tensioning and then re-building. If you have the wherewithal to do that then you should by all means give it a whirl. Or take it to someone you trust to do it. It's just maintenance, not voodoo Everyone should be allowed to have a spoke wrench in their possession! I normally would just tighten the spokes, but that is too nice a wheel to do it with the tire on. Good luck.
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Old 02-09-18, 08:00 PM
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Well, at least that says quite a bit about the rim, being mostly straight, as spokes aren't pulling their weight.
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Old 02-09-18, 08:12 PM
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I just assumed they had to be broken, but none were. I've never encountered this before.

I have a hunch that if I weighted 120 lbs, I still never would have encountered it.

I'm tempted to try it myself, but maybe I should cut my teeth on a less expensive wheel.
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Old 02-09-18, 08:32 PM
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Originally Posted by wgscott
I just assumed they had to be broken, but none were. I've never encountered this before.

I have a hunch that if I weighted 120 lbs, I still never would have encountered it.

I'm tempted to try it myself, but maybe I should cut my teeth on a less expensive wheel.

A very good idea. This is why med students dissect cadavers long before they get to touch a live patient. Many communities have free wheels discarded on trash days Andy
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Old 02-09-18, 08:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart
A very good idea. This is why med students dissect cadavers long before they get to touch a live patient. Many communities have free wheels discarded on trash days Andy
I did that (although it isn't really to develop surgical skills). I find wheels more intimidating.
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Old 02-09-18, 10:32 PM
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Originally Posted by wgscott
I'm still trying to fully grasp this. I weigh 195 lbs, and this is a box rim.
Download a copy of SpoCalc.
look up rear wheel specs from here-https://www.whiteind.com/t11/

Plug in the numbers.

You'll see the NDS spokes only have 52% of the tension of the DS spokes.
Now we normally shoot for about 110kg on the DS, but like to have at least 60-65kg on the NDS to keep the spokes under ENOUGH tension to NOT loosen.
I'm not sure if that rim will handle 126kgf on the DS to get 65kgf on the NDS.

One way we cheat is use a spoke thread prep. There are expensive brands out there, but I use boiled linseed oil. It sets to a "hard goo" and locks the threads. No nipple loosening.
Another way is to use a thinner spoke on the NDS so it has a bit more elongation per "tension unit".

I'd have the wheel "serviced" by removing the nipples one at a time and adding a "soft" thread locker. Then true & tension.

That brand is supposed to have a good reputation, so I'd give them a chance to make it right, somehow.

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Old 02-10-18, 01:11 AM
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I disagree that wheels need regular tune ups. A truly well built wheel should not change tension or true for reasons other than rim deformation. A pretty well built wheel might release a little spoke windup, and some spokes may settle into their path a scotch, which would need a little touchup. If tensions are uneven, or even overall tension is insufficient, or if the wheel is experiences some peak loads, spokes may slack enough under load for the nipples to turn--this is the reason to use a thread locker.

I'd recommend taking it to a good, service-oriented shop, and ask them if they can retention the wheel to optimal tension and the greatest possible evenness, and drip a little thread locker into the nipples at the end. Expect to pay for up to 45 minutes of the shop's time, whatever their labor rate is. The original builder may also be willing to do the work if you ship it to them. It's possible they had an off day and would appreciate the chance to make it right.
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Old 02-10-18, 07:21 AM
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At this point, you probably should take it to a shop. Velomine has decent prices but the one wheelset I bought from them obviously had not been properly stress relieved. I checked that before I used them, just because.... Lots of popping, etc. I was comfortable re-tensioning, relieving, truing, etc and all has been well for years. This is not intended to be a blanket indictment of their builds, just an example to show that you can get a bad one.
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Old 02-10-18, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by wgscott
OK, practically speaking, I should have someone who knows what they are doing take a look at it?

I think that may be true.. could all be under tension ed ... built dry greased, spoke prep on threads?
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Old 02-10-18, 10:46 AM
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If you were to bring that wheel to me (and assuming no evidence of rim warpage or damage) I would first check the average spoke tension, equalize the spoke tension, and re-true the wheel as needed.

Simply tightening the loose spokes returns the wheel to what it was previously. What it was previously was a wheel that looks straight but was about to loosen a spoke.
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Old 02-10-18, 10:53 AM
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Most likely those wheels came with the bike. They cant handle the weight and or power you are putting down. Same thing happens to me on my scott speedster with stock wheels. Never once had this problem on an old bianchi fron the 90's. Im over 6 foot and over 200 lbs. Best bet is to get wheels with more spokes (above 20) to spread the load out more.
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Old 02-10-18, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Rollingbear
Most likely those wheels came with the bike. They cant handle the weight and or power you are putting down. Same thing happens to me on my scott speedster with stock wheels. Never once had this problem on an old bianchi fron the 90's. Im over 6 foot and over 200 lbs. Best bet is to get wheels with more spokes (above 20) to spread the load out more.
Maybe read the very first line of this thread?
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