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Popped a Spoke

Old 03-08-20, 04:00 PM
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Paul Barnard
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Popped a Spoke

Along my ride today I had not one, but two, black cats cross my path. I thought "I'm not worried, I'm not the superstitious type."
Not too long after that, I stood up to accelerate at an intersection and heard that tell tale twang. No big deal. I wrapped it around its neighbor and made it home fine.

I can do most things to a bike. Wheels are out of the question. I am going to take it to the shop to have the spoke replaced and the wheel trued. Is it SOP that all spokes are properly tensioned when a wheel is trued, or should I ask for that? The last time I popped a spoke may years ago, I took the wheel in. Not too long after I got it back, I broke another. Is breaking one indicative that others may be in danger of breaking?
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Old 03-08-20, 04:22 PM
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Lots of reasons and places spokes break.

Dropped chain into the spokes.
Broken nipples
Fatigue
Bad Angles at nipple
etc.

If you break, I'd simply replace and true. Perhaps look for other underlying causes.

If you break 2 or 3, then it is time to relace.

Wheel work can be done at home.
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Old 03-08-20, 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul Barnard View Post
Along my ride today I had not one, but two, black cats cross my path. I thought "I'm not worried, I'm not the superstitious type."
Not too long after that, I stood up to accelerate at an intersection and heard that tell tale twang. No big deal. I wrapped it around its neighbor and made it home fine.

I can do most things to a bike. Wheels are out of the question. I am going to take it to the shop to have the spoke replaced and the wheel trued. Is it SOP that all spokes are properly tensioned when a wheel is trued, or should I ask for that? The last time I popped a spoke may years ago, I took the wheel in. Not too long after I got it back, I broke another. Is breaking one indicative that others may be in danger of breaking?
I'm going to assume you broke the spoke at the nipple, since it's easy enough to unscrew a spoke broken at the head.
You'll have to ask for tensions to be checked, because its not typical with a broken spoke replacement. Most shops will have that done while you wait. They might balk at the request, and how would they prove it to you?
As far as breaking other spokes, the only answer is "maybe". Unless you damaged the rim to break the spokes, it's hard to tell. I think it's Jobst Brandt that suggested that 'lazy' spokes that lose tension at the bottom of the wheel are the ones to break first because of fatigue, and lazy spokes have lots of causes.
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Old 03-08-20, 04:34 PM
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Good advice already presented above, I'll add a few additional thoughts. It really depends on where the spoke broke (at the rim vs at the hub), how many spokes are on the wheel (24h vs 36h, etc), the condition of the hub and rim spoke hole, etc.
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Old 03-08-20, 05:53 PM
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They are 32H rims. The spoke broke at the nipple. Doing a squeeze tension test, there is some obvious disparity in tension in various places. I'll ask that the be re-tensioned. The wheels are BWW builds. DT Swiss rims and their house label hubs. They were very true prior to the break. I haven't abused them at all. They have maybe 1200 miles on them.
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Old 03-08-20, 06:01 PM
  #6  
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On a rear wheel, DS spokes will have higher tension than the NDS spokes.
That's how you put dish in a wheel.
However, the spokes on each side should match each other on a properly tensioned wheel.
One broken spoke can be a fluke. More than one, expect the popcorn effect.

You might give the spokes a good squeeze test. Take adjacent pairs and squeeze them together hard. IF that pops another spoke......
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Old 03-08-20, 06:18 PM
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A broken spoke in 1200 miles is not a good sign. Either the spoke was defective (or damaged) or the tension was badly off leading to rapid fatigue failure.

As a basis for comparison, I have a front wheel (32H, 3X, Wheelsmith 2/1.8/2 spokes, Mavic CXP33 rim and Campy Chorus hub) built by Wheelsmith that has 52,000 miles (yes 52 Thousand) on it. It is in routine use, still runs perfectly true and has never been touched by a spoke wrench. I also have a pair of Shimano WH-R560 prebuilt wheels. Front is16H radial lacing, bladed straight pull spokes, Shimano 24 mm deep alloy rim and a 105 level hub. Rear is 20H radial DS, 1X NDS, same spokes and rim, 105 level freehub. These both have 34,000 miles with no truing needed and are still in routine use.

My point? Spoke breakage a 1200 miles is WAY too soon and means there was some underlying defect.
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Old 03-08-20, 08:43 PM
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
A broken spoke in 1200 miles is not a good sign. Either the spoke was defective (or damaged) or the tension was badly off leading to rapid fatigue failure.

As a basis for comparison, I have a front wheel (32H, 3X, Wheelsmith 2/1.8/2 spokes, Mavic CXP33 rim and Campy Chorus hub) built by Wheelsmith that has 52,000 miles (yes 52 Thousand) on it. It is in routine use, still runs perfectly true and has never been touched by a spoke wrench. I also have a pair of Shimano WH-R560 prebuilt wheels. Front is16H radial lacing, bladed straight pull spokes, Shimano 24 mm deep alloy rim and a 105 level hub. Rear is 20H radial DS, 1X NDS, same spokes and rim, 105 level freehub. These both have 34,000 miles with no truing needed and are still in routine use.

My point? Spoke breakage a 1200 miles is WAY too soon and means there was some underlying defect.
Like a rim that's no longer flat or round whern there's no spoke tension prodding it to look true. Or maybe the Op is one of "those" riders who don't ride smoothly, weighs a lot and or causes their bike to receive more stress then typical.

To tangent to a rant- There seems to be this idea that a wheel should last for tens of thousands of miles, anything less and the wheel was miss built or just faulty. As wheels have moved from a wear item to a component, sometimes costing more then the rest of the bike, it's easy to understand this view. Yet the way a bike is ridden and the surfaces it's on hasn't changed for decades. I take issue with this wishful hope. It only takes one slight hop, one thumb sized rock, one ripple (not even a pothole) of the roads surface when the rider's weight placement is not "correct" to cause the rim to become deformed. Many times we don't attribute a riding incident as the root of the problem. So I usually look past claims of mileage and instead focus on the rim's condition. When the wheel is laced up, tensioned and trued The rim will look fine. That's what spokes can get you (and generally the more the spoke count the less a rim condition will be noticed (until...) Andy
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Old 03-08-20, 09:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
Like a rim that's no longer flat or round when there's no spoke tension prodding it to look true. Or maybe the Op is one of "those" riders who don't ride smoothly, weighs a lot and or causes their bike to receive more stress then typical.

Yet the way a bike is ridden and the surfaces it's on hasn't changed for decades. I take issue with this wishful hope. It only takes one slight hop, one thumb sized rock, one ripple (not even a pothole) of the roads surface when the rider's weight placement is not "correct" to cause the rim to become deformed. Many times we don't attribute a riding incident as the root of the problem.
Andy, I understand what you are saying and agree to a point. However, the wheels I reported above have been ridden in the Pittsburgh area on the finest roads PennDot has to offer. The roads I ride daily often look like mine fields and there is no avoiding the potholes and cracks. You ride over and through them or you don't ride. If a small rock or ripple could have damaged those rims they would have been toast after five miles.

My rims are all "semi-deep" (24 mm) so their rigidity and abuse tolerance are pretty good and they have proved very durable. Neither my bike nor I are very heavy which helps. Also, while i run 700-23 tires (larger ones won't clear my frames or forks), I do keep the tire pressure up and reinflate before every ride and that probably helps.

I still thing a broken spoke at 1200 miles indicates and underlying construction problem or a very hard hit that had to damage the rim.
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Old 03-08-20, 10:34 PM
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Dave- We share much the same understandings about wheels. Unlike you I haven't run wheels much past 20K but I've built wheels for others that have gone 3-4x that amount. I think your last line said what I was trying to bring out. "underlying construction problem or a very hard hit that had to damage the rim" This is why I suggest to check out the rim's untensioned condition before making final choices.

I would be interested to know if the OP's spoke breakage was about the rim's seam. The seam is one area that has always challenged both rim makers and wheel builders. Andy
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Old 03-09-20, 08:56 AM
  #11  
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I'm going to stop contributing to spoke breakage threads. I piped up last week on such a thread, and found a broken spoke Saturday morning. FWIW, I started keep a maintenance log some 35,000 miles ago on this bike, and this was the first broken spoked I logged. (Replaced it and rode Sunday afternoon, all is well.)

OP's wheel sounds undertensioned to me. I say that as someone who has had to start replacing spokes on three wheels between 500 and 1,500 miles, and after the machine built wheels were properly tensioned and stress-relieved, the frequency of breaking spokes dropped dramatically. The under-stressed spokes have likely fatigued, and may be at risk of breaking in the near future (again, based on experience).

You're really at the mercy of the shop and mechanic if you don't do your own wheel work. By all means ask them to re-tension all the other spokes, balance the tension, and stress-relieve them all. If they do that as a matter of course, you'll get the "OK, we'll do that" head nod -- the same response as you'll get if they don't have a clue what you just asked them to do.
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Old 03-09-20, 09:26 AM
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Might help if you said which DTSwiss rim, what nipples and spokes.
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Old 03-09-20, 11:14 AM
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For a single broken spoke, it really can just be bad luck, and there are manufacturing tolerances to the wire steel itself that the spokes are made from. If you keep breaking more it means that the wheel has been overloaded repeatedly and the spokes have all undergone excessive fatigue from being detensioned and retensioned during use.

If you brought your wheel to me at the shop I work at and just told me to replace the spoke, I'd replace the spoke and bring the wheel into good true while improving the overall wheel tension balance, and would check to see if any spokes were significantly above or below the average tension and correct them if possible (assuming a relatively straight rim). My tolerance for this kind of work is a lot looser than my (very tight) tolerance for a new wheel build unless otherwise requested. If the overall wheel tension was way off I'd hopefully catch that when initially service writing, otherwise I'd give you a call and advise bringing the tension closer to optimal and charge for an additional 10-15 minutes of labor.

I'm a little more detail oriented with wheel work than some mechanics, so if you have any specific requests for service do just state them explicitly. Find a shop that does higher end custom wheel builds on a regular basis if possible.
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Old 03-09-20, 01:02 PM
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The few spokes I have seen broken at the nipples were because of too low tension.
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Old 03-09-20, 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
I'm going to stop contributing to spoke breakage threads. I piped up last week on such a thread, and found a broken spoke Saturday morning.
Maybe I should stop reading this thread....
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Old 03-09-20, 08:42 PM
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m-pogue,
You are underestimating the the values of the marzelvanes in the spoke tension equation! When taken into account the spoke life is efficiently calculated. Smiles, MH
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Old 03-10-20, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul Barnard View Post
stood up to accelerate at an intersection and heard that tell tale twang. No big deal. I wrapped it around its neighbor and made it home fine.Is it SOP that all spokes are properly tensioned when a wheel is trued, or should I ask for that? The last time I popped a spoke may years ago, I took the wheel in. Not too long after I got it back, I broke another. Is breaking one indicative that others may be in danger of breaking?
seems to be my specialty. always the rear. & the wheel always go far enough out of true, that I can't ride it home. hoping the last tech, that did the replacement & truing, reviewed all the spokes
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Old 03-10-20, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul Barnard View Post
Not too long after that, I stood up to accelerate at an intersection and heard that tell tale twang. No big deal. I wrapped it around its neighbor and made it home fine
Few weeks back put my last spare spoke into the wheel then a week later had one more break literally within sight of the end of the trail on a 50 mile Sunday.

Monday the previously ordered package from Yojimbo's Garage arrived with more than enough custom extra long spokes to build a new wheel, tear down the existing one and rebuild it with all new spokes and nipples, and have plenty of spares on hand.

Worth learning to do work on your own wheels, it's really not that hard (granted mine are a little simpler with no dish)

First few times I had one break (always at the elbow) I'd take it out of the wheel and tape it to the frame, last time it suddenly hit me that they bend quite easily so simply rolled it into a loop and stuck in my little frame bag. My rim is stiff enough I didn't hesitate to ride some of the tamer road sections on the way from the trail back to the train station. But after breaking five spokes over two years and a lot of the factory nipples going round I felt better about completely starting the fatigue life over with quality parts, good tension, and enough spares in case I got it wrong.

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Old 03-10-20, 02:47 PM
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Originally Posted by UniChris View Post

Worth learning to do work on your own wheels, it's really not that hard (granted mine are a little simpler with no dish)
I have built a number of bikes, but I know that wheel building is not something I'd ever be patient enough to do well at. It took a while in this life, but I have come to terms with my shortcomings, and they are many!
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Old 03-10-20, 03:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul Barnard View Post
I have built a number of bikes, but I know that wheel building is not something I'd ever be patient enough to do well at.
Of course you get to make your own decisions.

But what helped for me the first time was to stop when it got frustrating and come back to it another day. I think I laced it up one evening. Trued it some more the next, and the next, etc, over several days until I actually rode it.

As for your actual question, hopefully if you are paying for them to tune and tension the wheel they are considering every spoke and not just installing a replacement for one. Have a conversation about what you want, go around plucking them when you get it back.

Not too long after I got it back, I broke another. Is breaking one indicative that others may be in danger of breaking?

Yes. Both because on a lighter wheel having one broken means the tension balance is now off, and because the likely cause of the first one breaking - looseness causing it to come out of tension each rotation - has probably been shared by others too. Plus they're all getting up there in their fatigue life. That's why I ultimately decided to replace all of my spokes rather than just replace all the nipples while leaving a mix of new spokes with those heavily used during a history when I (and perhaps the previous owner) was not paying as much attention to them.

Granted, that was after five broke, not one. But spokes aren't supposed to break in a healthy wheel.

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Old 03-10-20, 04:09 PM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
seems to be my specialty. always the rear. & the wheel always go far enough out of true, that I can't ride it home. hoping the last tech, that did the replacement & truing, reviewed all the spokes
That's why you bring a spoke wrench.

Last week I helped out a cyclist who stopped because a spoke broke 7.5 miles from home resulting in his rear tire rubbing on his frame.
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Old 03-10-20, 04:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt View Post
That's why you bring a spoke wrench.

Last week I helped out a cyclist who stopped because a spoke broke 7.5 miles from home resulting in his rear tire rubbing on his frame.
Park Tool's IB-3 multi tool includes those on the tire lever/ chain breaker handle. They suck for anything other than sn emergency though.
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Old 03-11-20, 08:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt View Post
That's why you bring a spoke wrench.Last week I helped out a cyclist who stopped because a spoke broke 7.5 miles from home resulting in his rear tire rubbing on his frame.
I do! ashamed to say, when I am roadside, I am timid about trying to correct the situation. need to get over that I guess, huh?
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Old 03-11-20, 08:24 AM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
I do! ashamed to say, when I am roadside, I am timid about trying to correct the situation. need to get over that I guess, huh?
If the difference is between getting home and not getting home, crank away on the nearest opposing nipples to pull in the slack! Higher spoke counts help too. I can imagine that a 24 or 28 spoke rear wheel would take more adjustment than the 32 and 36 spoke wheels I ride on. The other tip is to open the brake's QR, but that doesn't help if the wheel is rubbing the frame!
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Old 03-11-20, 08:28 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by Unca_Sam View Post
If the difference is between getting home and not getting home, crank away on the nearest opposing nipples to pull in the slack!
thank you. I've tweaked my kids bikes' wheels, a little, when they weren't perfect. so I've done it, at home, a little, but the cpl times I've "felt" stranded I had bail out options ..
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