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Spokes Breaking

Old 05-31-20, 11:23 AM
  #1  
Tanstaafl
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Spokes Breaking

Good morning Allen the ,

I have a 2013 Specialized Crosstrails. For seven years it has been a rock solid bike. I have made a few comfort upgrades, but otherwise it is a stock bike. Within the last two months I have had two spokes break. I don't know exactly when the first one broke, but I heard the second one break while rather sedately down a paved path.

The first time, I took the wheel down to my LBS. The mechanic dropped what he was doing and replaced the spoke for me. Charged me about $25 or so. With this second break I am coming to the conclusion spokes just might have a finite lifetime. While I do not begrudge the $25 it cost me to get the spoke replaced, if this continues it could get rather pricey. It's time to learn a new skill: Spoke replacement. With this in mind I have two questions.

1. Where can I find a good online tutorial covering such things as replacing spokes and truing the wheel? I am a decent mechanic, though I still think there is a non-trivial amount of black magic involved in derailleur operation. I have found the section on spokes on the Sheldon Brown site. Is there a better resource out there to use?

2. When my latest spoke broke, I was only about a mile from home, so I reduced my speed to about 8 mph and gently rode it in. I was very glad the spoke did not break when I was 15 miles from home. So, what is the limit on how far a bike should be ridden when a spoke shy of a full set (32 in this case)?

Thanks,
Jeff
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Old 05-31-20, 11:57 AM
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the strength of a wheel is dependent on the builder. I was once a professional
wheel builder. I built 100 wheels a week. the wheels on my bike have seen over
100,000 miles and I don't expect to ever break a spoke. your mid-range bike
has machine built wheels with low quality spokes. you're now paying the piper
they will continue to break. I'd suggest seeking out an experienced wheel builder
and having all your spokes replaced with high quality ones and getting the wheel
properly stress relieved during the build. it'll be pricey but will give peace of mind
as spoke breakage is very rare with a proper hand built wheel.
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Old 05-31-20, 12:05 PM
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I think in over 54 years of riding I've only broken one maybe two spokes. My Schwinn Varsity I had for over thirty-five year and never broke a spoke on it.

Why are they breaking? Chain falling off the cassette a lot and wedging against the spokes? I think the bike comes with 32 spoke wheels, so that should be enough for most any rider weight.

Do you check your spokes regularly to make certain none are getting loose? A bunch of loose spokes probably increases the chance one will break. But I don't know for sure, I never let that happen.
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Old 05-31-20, 02:25 PM
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Thanks for the replies! It sounds like proper wheel building is not a task for the novice, though it sounds like I should invest in a spoke tension meter.

Iride, I have never had a problem with the chain jumping off of the cassette. In the last year or two I have started riding off pavement more and more. I am not doing mountain bike stuff, but some the gravel / grass trails are certainly a bumpier than pavement. That, and me being a bit of a clydesdale probably have something to do with it.

It sounds like I need to get a good rebuild on the wheel, then learn how to check the tension and make necessary adjustments.

Thanks!
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Old 05-31-20, 02:35 PM
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Some suppliers to the manufacturers got a bad batch of stainless steel wire to form the spokes from, that had contamination issues..

they appear to be prone to breaking . after a few years..

May be time for a complete spoke replacing job.. go with name brands like Sapim, DT.





..
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Old 05-31-20, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Tanstaafl View Post
Thanks for the replies! It sounds like proper wheel building is not a task for the novice, though it sounds like I should invest in a spoke tension meter.
It sounds like I need to get a good rebuild on the wheel, then learn how to check the tension and make necessary adjustments.
Thanks!
Very few people actually own spoke tension meters; you don't need one.
You should have someone knowledgeable evaluate your wheels to see what's wrong. An experienced person could tell you if your spokes are bad, your tension is bad, your build is bad, your rim is bent, your wheel is inappropriate for your weight, all the kinds of things that would make spokes break, or if it's just bad luck. THEN you can decide if you need one replaced or a whole rebuild, or different wheels. If the experienced person is your shop guy be sure to tell him this is the second one that broke and you want to know why.
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Old 05-31-20, 02:55 PM
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I agree with DiabloScott You don't need a tension meter. That is for wheel builders. You just need to learn to tell when one is considerably looser than others. You can do that reasonably well enough by just gently squeezing each pair or taking your finger nail or something to plink them and hear if they all make a similar sound. The sound will very even amongst correctly tensioned spokes. You but a very dull thud when all the others are a higher pitch indicates something needs to be done.

And if your spokes are coming loose frequently or just breaking frequently, you need to see a wheel builder and find out why. It's not something I'd take for normal maintenance a bicycle needs. There is something not right.

Do you jump ramps with the bike or do stuff that stresses the wheels? Or are you getting sticks and stuff in them when you ride?

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Old 05-31-20, 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Tanstaafl View Post
Thanks for the replies! It sounds like proper wheel building is not a task for the novice, though it sounds like I should invest in a spoke tension meter.
Unless you're planning on building more than a few wheels, or low spoke count (say, less than 28 spokes per wheel), a tensiometer is mostly an extravagance. Take your time, get the spokes tight and close to the same tension (pluck them and compare pitch), and get the wheel true and round and it should be fine.

If you're unsure, take the built wheel into a bike shop and have them check the tension. It shouldn't cost more than a typical truing, and less than a full wheel build.
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Old 05-31-20, 04:52 PM
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https://poehali.net/attach/Bicycle_Wh...bst_Brandt.pdf If you can afford a tensiometer and think you might build or repair a few wheels it is very handy.
Gerd Schraner a pro builder was surprised to find out that he was not as good at final tension as he thought when he tried a meter.
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Old 05-31-20, 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Tanstaafl View Post
Thanks for the replies! It sounds like proper wheel building is not a task for the novice, though it sounds like I should invest in a spoke tension meter.......
My brother and I both built our own wheels following instructions from a book.

At the time I was 15 my brother was 14. I rode many 1000s of miles on those wheels. While I was away at college someone stole my bike from the garage so I have no idea what the ultimate fate of the wheels. They were tubulars so they had limited appeal.

I'm not a pro builder nor would I ever challenge the wisdom of a pro builder. I simply want to make the point that it is time consuming and a bit of an art but it is not impossible for the home mechanic to fix their wheels. What you need to do is find out why you broke your spokes in the first place.
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Old 05-31-20, 06:17 PM
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Do a stress relief cycle...see if any more break.

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Old 05-31-20, 07:09 PM
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Seven years is not a bad life span for a machine built wheel that came stock on a bike, assuming you did significant kms every year.

The cause of spoke breakage is usually because of insufficient stress relieving when they are built. The wheel does its own 'stress relief' over the first few hundred kms, then if the spokes are not brought back up to tension the spokes are to loose, and every revolution of the wheel sends each spoke from zero to max tension and back to zero. Like bending a paperclip back and forth.
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Old 05-31-20, 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by ClydeClydeson View Post
Seven years is not a bad life span for a machine built wheel that came stock on a bike, assuming you did significant kms every year.

The cause of spoke breakage is usually because of insufficient stress relieving when they are built. The wheel does its own 'stress relief' over the first few hundred kms, then if the spokes are not brought back up to tension the spokes are to loose, and every revolution of the wheel sends each spoke from zero to max tension and back to zero. Like bending a paperclip back and forth.
A well built wheel should not need retensioning after a proper stress relieve.
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Old 06-01-20, 07:30 AM
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Originally Posted by davidad View Post
A well built wheel should not need retensioning after a proper stress relieve.
I agree. My assumption, though, is that the wheels that come with most bikes are not well built. It's a matter of degree -in my experience, the wheels on many bikes will start to fail after only a few months of riding, so seven years as in the OP's case seems pretty good to me.
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Old 06-01-20, 08:17 AM
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IMO, a wheel, whether machine built or lovingly crafted by an expert wheel builder needs to be checked within 300 to 400 miles after the first use. Then it needs to be checked once or twice a year. By checked I mean just grabbing each spoke or pair of spokes and ensuring they feel about the same tension. No need for meters or gauges. Plink them if you like that.

If people will do that, then even the worst machine built wheel will last for a good long time as it's going get into the hands of person that hopefully knows more than the machine.
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Old 06-01-20, 12:38 PM
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I built a bunch of wheels , plucking the spokes (being a guitar player) to get relative tension balance..

you may like a tension meter to show your professionalism selling your services..
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Old 06-01-20, 01:29 PM
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Wheel building is not black art some people make it out to be I got around to buying a tension meter when I built a back wheel for my tandem before then I used the relative pitch method. If you are just replacing spokes then its not needed as others have mentioned just bring it up to the same tension/pitch stress release and true then ride on, if on the other hand you like new shiny things then buy this one I have found it to be accurate with repeatable results + a nice big display for my aging eyes.https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000...archweb201603_
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Old 06-01-20, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Tanstaafl View Post
Thanks for the replies! It sounds like proper wheel building is not a task for the novice,
It's fine. Jobst Brandt tested the wheel building instructions in his book _The Bicycle Wheel_ by having each of his grade school sons assemble a pair with no other help.

With contemporary deeper rims you'll need to measure tension instead of determining the rim's elastic limit than backing off which worked well for the shallow box section rims that were popular when Jobst wrote his book.

Like most professional bicycle mechanics, you won't be fast enough to do a job which is both good and profitable.

That's not an issue with well built wheels lasting until crashed or the sidewalls wear out from rim brakes.

though it sounds like I should invest in a spoke tension meter.
Kids these days have a $5 cellular app for that.

Seriously - you can calculate tension from spoke diameter and unsupported length. A computer like your smart phone can apply a Fast Fourier Transform to convert samples from time to frequency domain, pick the loudest frequency, and report tension.

Just replacing spokes you don't need to do that. Assuming the wheel has adequate tension, just make the tone match within a wheel half.

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Old 06-02-20, 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
IMO, a wheel, whether machine built or lovingly crafted by an expert wheel builder needs to be checked within 300 to 400 miles after the first use. Then it needs to be checked once or twice a year. By checked I mean just grabbing each spoke or pair of spokes and ensuring they feel about the same tension. No need for meters or gauges. Plink them if you like that.

If people will do that, then even the worst machine built wheel will last for a good long time as it's going get into the hands of person that hopefully knows more than the machine.
Yes, absolutely. No matter how well laced and tensioned, all wheels should be re-checked after the first ride or two, especially rear wheels. As with all things that flex, a newly laced wheel will settle quickly during first usage. It is the best insurance to long wheel and spoke life...with factory tensioned wheels, I check them first before first usage, one would be surprised at machine spoke tensioning.
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Old 06-07-20, 04:26 PM
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Well, nothing is ever simple. I took my wheel by my LBS today. They quoted about $150 to rebuild the wheel ($3 per spoke and $60 labor). They sad I could by a new wheel (rim, spokes and hub) for about the same price. I am assuming the cassette and brake disc would just transfer over.

It makes sense if I can really get a better than stock wheel for the price. Re-spoking the stock wheel still leaves me with the stock hub and rim. I don't know anything about buying new wheels, so right now this kind of seems like snake oil! Keep in mind, I don't need the worlds best wheels. I have a hybrid that I ride on the road, through grass and fields, and over curbs. You won't catch me doing the mountain bike stuff, though!

So, can I buy wheels that are better than stock in the $150 range?

Jeff

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Old 06-07-20, 05:23 PM
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Are you having trouble with the front too? If not, how concerned about the appearance of them looking like a matched pair are you?

Myself, if the front wheel is okay and not giving issues, then I'd put all my money into a new rear wheel with a much higher spoke count.

If the shop is ordering the wheel, go by what their person says will work for you. They probably can tell a little more about your riding habits and stuff than we can. But what ever you get, have it looked at around the 300 mile mark or 3 months which every comes first. Some good wheels will need attention then. After that, you can just check the spokes yourself to make sure none seems excessively looser than the others. No gauge necessary.
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Old 06-07-20, 07:00 PM
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Nothing is forever. Eventually wheel spokes will break from metal fatigue. You can greatly extend the life of a spoked wheel by periodically checking for proper tension and true, but it will eventually fail. It's been my experience that once the spokes start to break one after the other like you describe, the wheel is probably past it's best-by date. If the rim is still in good shape, not bent, no flat spots, and the hub is good, you can just buy new spokes/nipples. re-lace, tension and true the wheel. There are a number of good tutorials on YouTube that demonstrate the process. The learning curve for wheel building is a bit steep, but it's not impossible for anyone who is even a bit handy. Once you learn it, it's a skill that will serve you well. I currently own 3 bicycles and all 3 have wheels I hand built. I did not learn wheel building on bicycle wheels. When I was a kid I rode motocross...back in the day when wheel rims were soft steel and tacos were common. Not being blessed with a rich daddy, necessity motivated me to learn wheel building. I wasn't a particularly bright teen but I was able build motorcycle wheels that didn't grenade with the first application of throttle. If the teen nitwit version of me could do it, you can too. Here's a nice little article on wheel building from St. Sheldon, bless his bike riding soul. https://www.sheldonbrown.com/wheelbuild.html

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Old 06-07-20, 07:37 PM
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Iride,
So far the front wheel is fine.

Fissile,
If I had $500 wheels, spending $150 or so to bespoke would make sense. My question right now is whether I can buy a wheel that is better than my stock wheel for the same $150.

I have been looking around Sheldon's site quite a bit, BTW. He's like the Yoda of bicycles. I may get into wheel building at some point, just not at this time.

Jeff
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Old 06-07-20, 08:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Tanstaafl View Post
Iride,
So far the front wheel is fine.

Fissile,
If I had $500 wheels, spending $150 or so to bespoke would make sense. My question right now is whether I can buy a wheel that is better than my stock wheel for the same $150.

I have been looking around Sheldon's site quite a bit, BTW. He's like the Yoda of bicycles. I may get into wheel building at some point, just not at this time.

Jeff
You want to spent $150 on a just one wheel? Even a machine made wheel in that price range will be pretty good for casual riding.
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Old 06-08-20, 08:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Fissile View Post
You want to spent $150 on a just one wheel? Even a machine made wheel in that price range will be pretty good for casual riding.
I'd like to keep it around $150 if I can, but I can go higher. I don't need to go fast. Toughness and durability would be my main priorities.

Jeff
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