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Tightening Loose Spokes

Old 11-08-18, 09:39 PM
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Tightening Loose Spokes

My front wheel is being addressed in another thread, so now itís time to take care of my rear wheel.

Its clicking when it rolls, particularly when the bike is loaded and under pedaling load. Sounds like spokes rather than hub or drivetrain. The spokes feel pretty loose and a bit uneven in tension. The wheel seems to be pretty true still.

Can I tighten the spokes a little at a time to add tension back? Is there some other test I should do without specialized tools?
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Old 11-08-18, 10:40 PM
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Originally Posted by bajajoaquin
My front wheel is being addressed in another thread, so now itís time to take care of my rear wheel.

Its clicking when it rolls, particularly when the bike is loaded and under pedaling load. Sounds like spokes rather than hub or drivetrain. The spokes feel pretty loose and a bit uneven in tension. The wheel seems to be pretty true still.

Can I tighten the spokes a little at a time to add tension back? Is there some other test I should do without specialized tools?
Short answer: Yes, you can give all the spokes a quarter turn and check if the clicking is gone.

Long answer: If some spokes are significantly looser than the other ones, you wonít be able to tighten the spokes to a close tension without truing issues. You might be looking at a wheel build with new rims in that case.
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Old 11-08-18, 10:48 PM
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Sometimes at the point of the spokes crossing and contacting other spokes there can be a surface notch worn into the spokes. So as the wheel rotates and the spokes go through their slight tightening then loosening (from the weight either pulling on or pushing on the spokes) the two contacting spoke can rub their notches against each other enough to have the notches release and reengage. This notching in and out can be heard as a click. If the spoke tension is in a good range then this indicates the spokes are getting worn. Andy
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Old 11-09-18, 09:03 AM
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Since your front is a dyno/drum brake, you might state what rim & hub you have on the rear.
If it's a dished wheel, your spoke tensions will be different from one side to the other.
If symmetrical, they will all be the same.
You can pluck spokes to listen to the tone to determine which are looser than others.

IF your nipples are corroded and don't turn smoothly, get new ones.
Replace 1 at a time and wire brush the spoke threads as you go. It'll make life much easier.

If you get in over your head, know when to stop and turn it over to your friend to finish up.
Just having new, easy turning nipples will make things easier. Just run them up to the 1st thread and turn the wheel over to them.
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Old 11-09-18, 05:38 PM
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In no particular order:

It's not an internal hub noise. Those are different.

It's a Sturmey-Archer XRD8. Not 100% clear on whether it's the "new" or "old" version, but it seems to be the wide ratio, which I think means "new."

The comment about a notch in the spokes makes sense. I'll look at them.

Sounds like I might be able to make a small improvement, but anything major is going to mean a new wheel. That's about what I expected.
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Old 11-09-18, 09:41 PM
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If the hub's internals are working well then relacing a new rim and spokes might be the way to go. Andy
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Old 11-09-18, 10:49 PM
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Keep in mind that for the rear, there may be some right/left spoke tension discrepency if the wheel is dished. Less so for single speed/internal gear hubs, but there still might be some.

Inevitably if you start tightening spokes, you'll need to true the wheel, both for side to side movement and hops. Many people have successfully trued wheels on the bike using a variety of simple tools to monitor rim movement, from Popsicle sticks to bic razors (one of my favorites, although I don't have any around here at the moment).
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Old 11-10-18, 05:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart
If the hub's internals are working well then relacing a new rim and spokes might be the way to go. Andy
Well, now youíre getting to the next decision tree. Itís working, but has an issue getting to fourth reliably that I havenít been able to adjust out so far. When the front wheel goes on, Iíll be putting on new cables and will do rear brake- and shifter cables at the same time. We will see how that works.

Because of the weird gears in an XRD8, it wants really low primary gears. I ride around in first to fourth now and never go higher. Itís 34/25 and thatís not low enough to comfortably get up the hill to my house with two kids and groceries. (This hub has 1:1 first and seven overdrive gears.) 34 is as small as I could go with 110bcd cranks. I found an inexpensive Shimano 104bcd crankset and 30t sprocket. That should put me in third through sixth mostly and have the lower gears to get up that hill.

Shifting down into fourth is more reliable than shifting up into it. So spending more time in higer gears along with new cables may effectively resolve my problem.

If if it doesnít, however, then I will be getting a new hub. The XRD8 has a 325% range but isnít ďrated for heavy duty useĒ although by reputation the newer hubs are stronger. It also only comes in 70mm drum size. The XRD5 is rated for heavy duty use, has a reputation for being durable, and has a 90mm drum brake. But itís only a 243% gear range. (Itís two underdrives, direct, and two overdrives, so Iíd need new chain and sprockets, but those are inexpensive.)

On a bike that doesnít really allow for standing and cranking up hills, I worry that the narrower gear range will leave me wanting more gear.

Which beings me back to my spokes. I want to try to keep this wheel assembly in good nick so I can play around with the gearing. I may find that I never use the top two gears when itís geared low enough for my hill. Then if I need a new hub, the 5 will be fine. But Iím trying to keep the rear wheel alive long enough to figure that out.

(As for other hub options, the Shimano roller brakes suck, the Nuvinci is really interesting but more expensive and would require a disk or new rim brakes, adding more expense and complexity to the project. Obviously the Rollhof is that problem magnified. If Iím sticking with a drum brake, I think the Sturmey-Archer hubs are my best options.)
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Old 11-10-18, 05:40 AM
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Every time I've had a clicking due to a loose spoke the spoke is so loose that it's obvious when you wiggle it, and the click comes at the exact same spot in the wheel rotation which is when the spoke is at the 6 o'clock. You might want to check that your wheel skewer isn't loose, it makes the same sound. Even if it feels tight enough it may not be.
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Old 11-10-18, 12:21 PM
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Not an elegant solution, but sometimes a few % helps.
Smaller diameter tire would lower gearing a bit.
I have 26x1.25" on my "grocery getter", so my tire diameter is a nominal 24.5" vs 26" for a 26x2" tire.
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Old 11-10-18, 08:59 PM
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Thatís a good idea. I already have the cranks and sprocket. Unfortunately I juuuust bought a tire in the same size. I will keep that in mind if I want to go any lower.
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Old 11-11-18, 06:57 AM
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Originally Posted by bajajoaquin
. The spokes feel pretty loose and a bit uneven in tension. The wheel seems to be pretty true still.
Without seeing your wheel, spokes that feel pretty loose are probably very loose. What kind of shape do you think your rim is in? If you are pretty confident the rim itself is flat and round, my first shot would be try to tension and true the wheel. The way that I do that is to use my tensiometer to get all of the spokes to equal tension. Then I tighten and loosen opposing pairs of spokes until the wheel is true.

If you want to try fixing it yourself with no special tools except a spoke wrench you can try this:
1. Loosen every spoke until exactly 1 thread is showing.
2. Tighten every spoke 1/2 turn at a time until you bring the entire wheel up to tension. The analogue way to check tension is to compare the feel of your wheel with one that you know to be good.
3. Install the wheel in your bike frame and do the final truing using the brake pads or a zip tie on the seat stays or something similar as a guide. This only works if you have a pretty good rim which, frankly, I doubt.
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Old 11-11-18, 10:05 PM
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I just went with a simple tightening of all the spokes. I took the position that itís true (enough) now so even tension would be fine. My buddy suggested a full turn on each spoke, a suggestion here was a quarter.... I chose a half.

Only problem was that my spoke wrench wouldnít fit. The 15 size was too small. Luckily, I had been shipped an inexpensive single-size wrench when I bought the multi wrench. I was able to go over to the band saw and shave off a little at a time until I had the right size. (Not the first time, either, as I have a Park headset wrench that I opened up to remove and replace the forks/triple clamps on my Triumph.)

I marked a spoke with a Sharpie and went at it. A couple times I got it backwards and loosened a spoke first, but it seems to have worked out in the end. Spokes feel better and the wheel is still about as true as before. I might go back and add another quarter turn. But I might just leave it alone. Itís imoroved and nothing broke. Better can be the enemy of good.

Thank you all for the advice.
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