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Looking for a 36 or 40 spoke rear wheelset for my Trek Verve2

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Looking for a 36 or 40 spoke rear wheelset for my Trek Verve2

Old 11-12-20, 07:08 PM
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MyRedTrek
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Looking for a 36 or 40 spoke rear wheelset for my Trek Verve2

I have a Trek Verve2 24 speed that has 32 spoke 700c Bontrager rims. I'm carrying around a few extra pounds, I pop a spoke probably every 6 months or so. I recently learned there are 36 and 40 spoke rims that are supposed to be stronger. Are cassettes standardized and interchangeable or is the fit unique to a particular hub and I need to look for a complete rim/hub/cassette and is it likely to work with my Trek shifting setup?

Thanks for all input, correction of misconceptions, etc.

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Old 11-12-20, 07:16 PM
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You just need an 8/9/10 speed HyperGlide style freehub on your new wheel. That's a very common freehub design and you will have no problem having a wheel built with that style hub. Your existing 8-speed cassette will slide right on to the new hub.
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Old 11-12-20, 10:03 PM
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You're not going to get better durability out of 36 or 40 spoke wheels just because they have 36 or 40 spokes. They need to be properly built. How much are you willing to spend in the name of durability? It could cost you a few hundred bucks for a quality, durable, handmade rear wheel.
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Old 11-12-20, 11:22 PM
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More spokes don't equal a stronger wheel. Cheap machine built wheels aren't designed to last a long time they are designed to hit price points generally. If you are a heavier rider you might consider a different bike entirely that is better designed for larger riders. The Verve is a price point bike, it is not there as quality or durability it is purely to hit the lower prices granted I think Trek charges a premium for that bike.

If you did want to keep the bike and put money towards it, get a handbuilt set of wheels from a competent wheel builder and see what they suggest for you and your weight. I am not a lightweight rider in the least and I believe all of my wheels are 32h and most are handbuilt or at least were finished by hand. I have yet to break a spoke even on my touring bike loaded.
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Old 11-13-20, 12:14 AM
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Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
More spokes don't equal a stronger wheel.
If all things are equal...same spokes, rims, hubs and spoke tension...more spokes most certainly do equal a stronger wheel. Four or eight more spokes spread the same load the wheel has to carry over more spokes. Four or eight fewer spokes would also result in a weaker wheel. This really is basic stuff that we have known since we started using wire spoke wheels.

Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
Cheap machine built wheels aren't designed to last a long time they are designed to hit price points generally. If you are a heavier rider you might consider a different bike entirely that is better designed for larger riders. The Verve is a price point bike, it is not there as quality or durability it is purely to hit the lower prices granted I think Trek charges a premium for that bike.
Some machine built wheels can last a very long time. But that depends on the weight they have to carry. A light rider who seldom carries more than themselves will probably never have wheel issues. Heavy riders will eventually have issues with OEM wheels in almost all cases.

Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
If you did want to keep the bike and put money towards it, get a handbuilt set of wheels from a competent wheel builder and see what they suggest for you and your weight. I am not a lightweight rider in the least and I believe all of my wheels are 32h and most are handbuilt or at least were finished by hand. I have yet to break a spoke even on my touring bike loaded.
While I agree that handbuilt wheels would be a good investment, the current wheels could be respoked with triple butted spokes like DT Alpine III. The stronger spoke is the equivalent of added 4 to 10 spokes to the wheel in terms of strength.
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Old 11-13-20, 12:31 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
the current wheels could be respoked with triple butted spokes like DT Alpine III. The stronger spoke is the equivalent of added 4 to 10 spokes to the wheel in terms of strength.
If the issue could be fixed with better spokes then that would be great.

Would you say the DT Alpine III is as good as they come? Do you recommend an outlet for them?

Should they be laced the same as the factory lacing pattern the straight gauge spokes are laced in?

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Old 11-13-20, 02:25 AM
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It's potentially a little harder in w/ Covid and the current bike boom, but really your wheelbuilder should determine lacing pattern etc. For what it's worth they would almost certainly keep it the same, as lacing patterns have a minimal impact on durability or stiffness.

For rebuilding your current wheel, double butted or triple butted spokes would certainly help, but a large proportion of the improvement would be in having the wheel built to an even, high tension and properly stress relieved.

If you're getting a new wheel built, 40 spoke hubs and to a lesser degree rims can be difficult to source. Most touring bikes with heavy luggage are built with 36 spoke rear wheels (though certainly some do spring for more). 36H hubs and rims are very common, especially for touring/hybrid applications. Given the modest cost of your bike, I'd probably spec the cheapest Shimano 36H hub that matched the hub spacing and possible disc mounting your bike needs that I could source, with ordinary double butted spokes and brass nipples to something cheap but durable like a Sun Rhyno Lite. $40 rim, $40 hub, about $36 in spokes, labor--this is really starting to be a significant proportion of the cost of the bike, even using relatively inexpensive parts.
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Old 11-13-20, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by MyRedTrek View Post
If the issue could be fixed with better spokes then that would be great.

Would you say the DT Alpine III is as good as they come? Do you recommend an outlet for them?

Should they be laced the same as the factory lacing pattern the straight gauge spokes are laced in?
Hereís an article that explains the advantages. I donít completely agree with Hjertberg that itís like adding 10 spokes but itís at least the equivalent of adding 4 spokes. Iíve been building with them since at least 2000 and had very good results. Prior to using them, spoke breakage was fairly common but that has dropped to zero after I started using them in all my builds. Iíve build dozens of wheels with double butted and triple butted spokes and the triples are far superior.

There are a number of different brands but DT is probably the easiest to get. You can order them from Quality Bike Products through your local bike shop. They are a little more expensive ($1.50 a spoke) than a double butted spoke ($1.30 each) but the strength gain is well worth the cost. They are used just like any other spoke in lacing and tension.

Hold on because itís going to get nerdy! There is also a real difference in strength of the spokes as illustrated by these breaking strength charts borrowed from Pillar (another spoke manufacturer). The first one is for straight gauge spokes. The P14 is a 2.0mm spoke which is what your OEM wheels has. Note that the spoke breaks at about 270 kgf (kilogram force).

Image 5-11-18 at 1.41 PM by Stuart Black, on Flickr

This graph is for a double butted spoke. The line marked ď1415Ē is a 2.0/1.8/2.0 double butted spoke that is the most commonly used size for double butted spokes. Note that the breaking strength has gone up to about 300 kgf.

Image 5-11-18 at 1.44 PM by Stuart Black, on Flickr

This graph is for the triple butted spoke. The 2018 spoke is a 2.2/1.8/2.0mm. Notice that the breaking strength is about 320 kgf. The Pillar spoke has a 2.2mm head while the DT Alpine has a 2.3mm head which adds to the strength.

Image 5-11-18 at 1.43 PM by Stuart Black, on Flickr

I will have to say that ďprofessional wheel builderĒ is a bit of a dying art. Long ago (1986) I started building my own wheels because Iím cheap and I couldnít really find anyone to build wheels. Itís not that hard. I had taken a class on bicycle mechanics about 5 years previously that include wheelbuilding but I never really practiced after that class...itís a common problem. The same guy whoís blog I linked to above...Eric Hjertberg...wrote a 4 part article for Bicycling Magazine (back when the magazine was relevant and did ďrealĒ articles). I used that series to teach myself how to build wheels. This article on Wheel Fanatyk has a link to the original article. No much has changed since that article was printed and I still use the article as the basis of a class I teach on wheelbuilding at my co-op. I still use the article and reference it when I build.

If you can find someone build you wheels, by all means, have them do it. If you can buy the wheel off the shelf, it will be far cheaper. You might check with your local shop to see if you can order a custom built wheel from QBP. They will do that.

But I learned long ago that if I want something special...special hubs, stronger spokes, lighter rims, etc., it was just easier to build it myself. Not cheaper but I can build like I want. Perhaps you should consider that in your case. Get a cheap used wheel, take it apart by loosening and removing the spokes, launch Hjertbergís article, and lace the wheel. Repeat it several times before you tension the wheel and then repeat the whole process again...perhaps a few times...before you build a ďgoodĒ wheel. I realize this wonít fix your immediate problem but in the long run, it might work better. It has for me.
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Old 11-13-20, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
If all things are equal...same spokes, rims, hubs and spoke tension...more spokes most certainly do equal a stronger wheel. Four or eight more spokes spread the same load the wheel has to carry over more spokes. Four or eight fewer spokes would also result in a weaker wheel. This really is basic stuff that we have known since we started using wire spoke wheels.



Some machine built wheels can last a very long time. But that depends on the weight they have to carry. A light rider who seldom carries more than themselves will probably never have wheel issues. Heavy riders will eventually have issues with OEM wheels in almost all cases.



While I agree that handbuilt wheels would be a good investment, the current wheels could be respoked with triple butted spokes like DT Alpine III. The stronger spoke is the equivalent of added 4 to 10 spokes to the wheel in terms of strength.
Yes if everything is the same sure a wheel with more spokes could be stronger.

Obviously yes lightweight riders might not have issues with machine built wheels but we aren't really talking that in this thread.

In terms of using Alpine III you need the proper rim and potentially hub to work with the system. A wheel must be balanced. A lightweight rim with heavy duty spokes could damage the rim and not be able to hold it. One would hope that these 520 rims are strong enough but wheels are a good way to cheap out a bit.
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Old 11-13-20, 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
If you can find someone build you wheels, by all means, have them do it. If you can buy the wheel off the shelf, it will be far cheaper. You might check with your local shop to see if you can order a custom built wheel from QBP. They will do that.

But I learned long ago that if I want something special...special hubs, stronger spokes, lighter rims, etc., it was just easier to build it myself. Not cheaper but I can build like I want. Perhaps you should consider that in your case. Get a cheap used wheel, take it apart by loosening and removing the spokes, launch Hjertbergís article, and lace the wheel. Repeat it several times before you tension the wheel and then repeat the whole process again...perhaps a few times...before you build a ďgoodĒ wheel. I realize this wonít fix your immediate problem but in the long run, it might work better. It has for me.
Thanks for the info. I would definitely do anything like that myself. You don't learn if you don't do it. I have a tensioner gauge, dishing gauge, nipple driver, spoke wrenches of course, truing stand. There are endless Youtube videos on bike mechanic stuff. I probably have more invested in tools than I do in the bike - lol. I got this Trek because I wanted a second bike for when one is down but found I like it better than my Giant Cypress DX, so the Giant became the spare.
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Old 11-13-20, 12:30 PM
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Low spoke counts being the current fashion, wheels with 40 or more spokes have become a specialty item. Tandems East carries hubs, rims, and built wheels with 40 or 48 spokes:

Tandems East Wheelsets, Rims and Hubs
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Old 11-13-20, 01:52 PM
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While everyone is busy impressing each other with their pet theories and superior knowledge I bought the following wheel for the rear of my ebike.

https://www.universalcycles.com/shop...&category=3656

Universal is out of stock but they can be found other places. There are several other options similar to the above.

You don't need to spend multiple hundreds of dollars to get a strong wheel, and I think the hand built edict is just social posturing. At my size I run nothing but 36 spoke rear wheels. Fronts can be less. Combine my weight with the extra weight and torque of the ebike and a strong wheel is doubly important.

My gravel bike is 32 spoke. I had trouble popping spokes on that. Took a couple of iterations, but finally fixed the problem by upgraded to a touring style rim (Mavic A719) and like cyocommute suggested Alpine III triple butted spokes on the drive side. Maybe overkill but broken spokes suck the joy out of riding.
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Old 11-13-20, 03:41 PM
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If you have all those wheel building tools, definitely just give rebuilding your rear wheel a try. You'll learn an enjoyable and useful skill, and it'll likely hold up to your needs. Again, I'd recommend probably normal double butted spokes just for price, though Alpine IIIs are great. If you want to save money, you can use double butted spokes on the NDS and straight gauge on the DS and get a large proportion of the advantages.
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Old 11-13-20, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
Yes if everything is the same sure a wheel with more spokes could be stronger.
Well thatís not what you said.

In terms of using Alpine III you need the proper rim and potentially hub to work with the system. A wheel must be balanced. A lightweight rim with heavy duty spokes could damage the rim and not be able to hold it. One would hope that these 520 rims are strong enough but wheels are a good way to cheap out a bit.
Okay, I kind of see where you are going with this and you are completely wrong. Iíve been building wheels with Alpine III (and a few Pillars) for the better part 20 years. I use the lightest rims I can get on almost all my builds. Iíve never had a problem with matching an Alpine III to a lightweight rim. Iíve used Mavic XC717 (one of the lightest off-road rim ever made), Velocity Aeroheats, Velocity Aeroheads, Velocity A23, and, yes, Iíve used them with Mavic A719, as well as Salsa Delgados, Velocity Dyads, and Velocity Deep Vs. None of them have performed worse than the any of the others nor has anyone of them performed worse.

The Alpine III (and other triple butted spokes) have a stronger head at the bend but they are still butted spokes and perform like a double butted spoke. The head just resists breakage better, resulting in a stronger, more durable wheel.

Hubs have also never been a problem, with one exception. The spoke holes in most hubs is drilled to 2.5mm so that the threads of the spoke...which are 2.3 mm in diameter...can pass through the hub. The 2.3mm head is a tighter fit but Iíve not had problems with putting the spoke through the hub. One one that didnít work all that well was an old Ringleí Super Bubba. It was extremely close so I ran a drill through the spoke holes and it worked quite well.
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Old 11-13-20, 04:40 PM
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Originally Posted by MyRedTrek View Post
Thanks for the info. I would definitely do anything like that myself. You don't learn if you don't do it. I have a tensioner gauge, dishing gauge, nipple driver, spoke wrenches of course, truing stand. There are endless Youtube videos on bike mechanic stuff. I probably have more invested in tools than I do in the bike - lol. I got this Trek because I wanted a second bike for when one is down but found I like it better than my Giant Cypress DX, so the Giant became the spare.
If you have all that, you are well on your way. Be careful with the YouTube videos, however. A lot of them use the Barrett School method of lacing and I canít make heads or tails out of it. Itís complicated with spoke numberingís, lacing from both sides, a key spoke you have to keep track of. Itís just too difficult to follow. Hjertbergís lacing is straight forward and simple.
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Old 11-13-20, 04:46 PM
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I have used Jobst Brandt's book "The Bicycle Wheel" which you can find in PDF format. Been using that book so long, no other way would make sense to me. Did recently get a Park Tensioner gauge, that's been useful since my ear seems basically tone deaf. And to be able to check for very small differences in tension between spokes, that's essential when you're using high tension wheels.
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Old 11-13-20, 06:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Pop N Wood View Post
While everyone is busy impressing each other with their pet theories and superior knowledge I bought the following wheel for the rear of my ebike.

https://www.universalcycles.com/shop...&category=3656

Universal is out of stock but they can be found other places. There are several other options similar to the above.
Thanks.

Should my Bontrager H5 700x45 tires fit that?
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Old 11-14-20, 06:14 AM
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Originally Posted by MyRedTrek View Post
Thanks.

Should my Bontrager H5 700x45 tires fit that?
yes. I have 1,75 tires on there now.
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Old 11-14-20, 10:15 AM
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https://www.modernbike.com/product-2126224766

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Old 11-14-20, 10:15 AM
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Originally Posted by MyRedTrek View Post
Thanks.

Should my Bontrager H5 700x45 tires fit that?
Yes, they should. I would suspect that the OEM wheels you have now are very close to the 20mm width of the wheel from Universal Cycles. Donít get too hung up on rim width, however. Itís not a critical parameter. I run 55mm tires on 17mm wide rims all the time without issues.
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Old 11-14-20, 10:08 PM
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Stress Relieving

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Old 11-15-20, 03:22 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
While I agree that handbuilt wheels would be a good investment, the current wheels could be respoked with triple butted spokes like DT Alpine III. The stronger spoke is the equivalent of added 4 to 10 spokes to the wheel in terms of strength.
Agree with most things you noted in posts in this topic. Adding my 2c, hoping to provide some perspective - from my (limited) experience:

Good quality spokes of any make are quite difficult to source and expensive to buy where I live. So I did a lot of experimenting, mostly getting by with what's available. My conclusions (experience so far):

1) Stronger rims (heavier, less super-light, often less expensive even) do make a lot of a difference. Can't put a number on it (like you noted, "equivalent of 4 to 10 extra spokes"), but they do help a lot. Primarily thinking about aluminium ones that are over 2 cm deep in cross section (double walled, of course).

2) Good quality spokes make a huge difference. Even the plain 2 mm spokes. DT Swiss, or Sapim come to mind.

3) Swaged spokes ("double butted") of 2.0 - 1.8 - 2.0 diameter are head and shoulders above, even the good quality plain spokes - as those noted under 2). I only ever saw these made by DT Swiss and Sapim.

4) "Triple butted", as in 2.3 - 1.8 - 2.0 are even stronger than the double butted ones.
They are worth it for a piece of mind, if nothing else.
Having said that (and this is the main point of all this drivel): plain (straight gauge?) spokes of good quality are very, very durable. Combined with a strong rim and a reasonable spoke count - like 36, laced 4 across (preferably, if a hub allows it without much spoke head overlap) - these can last for years and years.
Swaged spokes are a lot more durable than those.
Triple butted, for many riders, might be an overkill. If the price difference is not something that "hurts" you, then by all means go for it. That is as durable (as good) as it gets. But don't underestimate the "simpler" "double butted" (swaged) spokes.

One more note:
using more spokes has another advantage. In case one spoke fails on a 40 spoked wheel, even road bike rim brakes won't start rubbing. Same can be said for many 36 spoked wheels. That can be very useful. I had a (poor quality) spoke break on a rainy night ride home - 10 km away from home. At least I think so - I did hit a bad pothole, but hadn't noticed any damage until I saw slight out of trueness in the morning. The spoke didn't even rattle (at least not so it can be heard in a night down-pour).
Another thing to consider is safety. On a down-hill ride, when I go fast, the last thing I want is one spoke break causing wheel to rub the brakes, or (worse) the fork. Low spoke count wheels, especially if rims are not super-rigid, can go way out of true after just one spoke breaking.
And, in my experience at least, even with occasional checks for cracks, spokes don't always "announce" when they will break.

So in spite of the fact that both spokes and rims can be bought to be durable nowadays (at least in theory and abroad, not always in my country), I still strongly prefer 36 (or more). For both convenience, and safety.
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Old 11-15-20, 11:53 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by Bike Gremlin View Post
Agree with most things you noted in posts in this topic. Adding my 2c, hoping to provide some perspective - from my (limited) experience:

Good quality spokes of any make are quite difficult to source and expensive to buy where I live. So I did a lot of experimenting, mostly getting by with what's available. My conclusions (experience so far):

1) Stronger rims (heavier, less super-light, often less expensive even) do make a lot of a difference. Can't put a number on it (like you noted, "equivalent of 4 to 10 extra spokes"), but they do help a lot. Primarily thinking about aluminium ones that are over 2 cm deep in cross section (double walled, of course).
I would argue that rims have little to no influence on wheel strength because the way that the spokes and rim interact. The spokes arenít attached to the rim like a bolt and nut. The rim slides up and down on the spoke. The spoke above the contact patch detensions and the rim is deformed slightly upward. The rest of the spokes take the load of that detensioned spoke but the rim doesnít. Hereís an exaggerated picture of what occurs to the rim and spokes during straight travel, corners and braking.

wheel by Stuart Black, on Flickr

The rim flattens when riding in all cases but on cornering, the spokes twist out of plane putting stress on the spokes. The spokes are free to move at the nipples in all cases. The rim might provide more strength if the rim were heavier at the spoke bed so that higher tension could be used but most arenít. They are wider and/or taller but neither of those properties is going to do much to resist the rim deforming when in use. Steel rims, which are far stiffer and stronger than aluminum, donít make for stronger wheels that resist spoke breakage.

In practice, I use the lightest rims I can find and seldom have spoke breaking issues. My wheels are strong and straight and durable because I address the issue which is spoke breakage, not rim breakage.

2) Good quality spokes make a huge difference. Even the plain 2 mm spokes. DT Swiss, or Sapim come to mind.
Yes and no. Modern spokes are much more consistent in quality than they were decades ago. The chart from Pillar is representative of what I would expect with any brand. The numbers might be slightly different across brands but not by much. Thatís why I use the charts to illustrate strength of all spoke brands. OEM wheels that use 2mm spokes break often because of the spoke gauge and a lack of attention in set up. Many bikes would have stronger wheels if the wheel tension was checked on set up but the 2mm spoke is still the weak link, especially in situations where the load is higher.

3) Swaged spokes ("double butted") of 2.0 - 1.8 - 2.0 diameter are head and shoulders above, even the good quality plain spokes - as those noted under 2). I only ever saw these made by DT Swiss and Sapim.
There arenít that many spoke manufacturers around...especially aftermarket. I can only think of DT, Sapim, Wheelsmith, and Pillar. All 4 offer double butted spokes. All 4 also offer triple butted spokes, although, technically, Wheelsmithís are only double butted with a 2.3mm head and a 2.0mm straight gauge shaft.

4) "Triple butted", as in 2.3 - 1.8 - 2.0 are even stronger than the double butted ones.
Yup.

They are worth it for a piece of mind, if nothing else.
Absolutely.

Having said that (and this is the main point of all this drivel): plain (straight gauge?) spokes of good quality are very, very durable. Combined with a strong rim and a reasonable spoke count - like 36, laced 4 across (preferably, if a hub allows it without much spoke head overlap) - these can last for years and years.
For some yes. For others, perhaps a minority, no. Most people who say ďIíve never broken a spokeĒ are doing a cheese to chalk comparison. They tend to be light riders who wonít stress the wheels much in any condition. Heavier riders and/or riders carrying a load will likely benefit from the heavier triple butted spokes.

Triple butted, for many riders, might be an overkill. If the price difference is not something that "hurts" you, then by all means go for it. That is as durable (as good) as it gets. But don't underestimate the "simpler" "double butted" (swaged) spokes.
If you break the straight gauge spokes, in all likelihood, youíll break double butted ones. Thereís very little weight penalty for going to the triple butted and a large increase in strength. I would say that you might as well just skip the middle solution and go to the triple butted spokes if you are breaking straight spokes. The price is just a little bit higher...about 30Ę US per spoke or about $20 US per wheel set. Thatís pretty cheap peace of mind.

One more note:
using more spokes has another advantage. In case one spoke fails on a 40 spoked wheel, even road bike rim brakes won't start rubbing. Same can be said for many 36 spoked wheels. That can be very useful. I had a (poor quality) spoke break on a rainy night ride home - 10 km away from home. At least I think so - I did hit a bad pothole, but hadn't noticed any damage until I saw slight out of trueness in the morning. The spoke didn't even rattle (at least not so it can be heard in a night down-pour).
Another thing to consider is safety. On a down-hill ride, when I go fast, the last thing I want is one spoke break causing wheel to rub the brakes, or (worse) the fork. Low spoke count wheels, especially if rims are not super-rigid, can go way out of true after just one spoke breaking.
And, in my experience at least, even with occasional checks for cracks, spokes don't always "announce" when they will break.

So in spite of the fact that both spokes and rims can be bought to be durable nowadays (at least in theory and abroad, not always in my country), I still strongly prefer 36 (or more). For both convenience, and safety.
I donít disagree. But front wheels seldom have a problem with spoke breakage. Iíve only ever broken one and that was 30+ years ago on a tandem using zinc spokes. I would even build with 2.0mm spokes (straight or butted) on the front wheel but I usually just go with the triple butted.
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Old 11-15-20, 12:17 PM
  #24  
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Here is the Question:

Originally Posted by MyRedTrek View Post
........... Are cassettes standardized and interchangeable or is the fit unique to a particular hub and I need to look for a complete rim/hub/cassette and is it likely to work with my Trek shifting setup?
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Old 11-16-20, 04:28 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I would argue that rims have little to no influence on wheel strength because the way that the spokes and rim interact. The spokes arenít attached to the rim like a bolt and nut. The rim slides up and down on the spoke. The spoke above the contact patch detensions and the rim is deformed slightly upward. The rest of the spokes take the load of that detensioned spoke but the rim doesnít. Hereís an exaggerated picture of what occurs to the rim and spokes during straight travel, corners and braking.

wheel by Stuart Black, on Flickr

The rim flattens when riding in all cases but on cornering, the spokes twist out of plane putting stress on the spokes. The spokes are free to move at the nipples in all cases. The rim might provide more strength if the rim were heavier at the spoke bed so that higher tension could be used but most arenít. They are wider and/or taller but neither of those properties is going to do much to resist the rim deforming when in use. Steel rims, which are far stiffer and stronger than aluminum, donít make for stronger wheels that resist spoke breakage.

In practice, I use the lightest rims I can find and seldom have spoke breaking issues. My wheels are strong and straight and durable because I address the issue which is spoke breakage, not rim breakage.
It has been my experience that stronger rims result in increased spoke life. Heavy riders, bumpy roads + poor quality spokes are an unforgiving combo. Letting me quickly see what works and what doesn't.
And, in that practice, stronger rims seem to fare better.
Could be just because they allow more spoke tension (makes a difference when it comes to left hand side spokes of dished rear wheels, so they aren't slack - especially when using non-butted/swaged spokes).
Or it could be that a stronger rim deforms a bit less, transferring the force to more than just a few spokes at the bottom?
I'm not sure about the exact cause. But there is a noticeable difference in spoke life.

Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Yes and no. Modern spokes are much more consistent in quality than they were decades ago. The chart from Pillar is representative of what I would expect with any brand. The numbers might be slightly different across brands but not by much. Thatís why I use the charts to illustrate strength of all spoke brands. OEM wheels that use 2mm spokes break often because of the spoke gauge and a lack of attention in set up. Many bikes would have stronger wheels if the wheel tension was checked on set up but the 2mm spoke is still the weak link, especially in situations where the load is higher.
Interesting story (for me at least):
A friend, who is quite heavy, got a 2nd hand bike in good condition, and rode it for a while, until I saw, once he stopped by, that his front disc brake wheel was radially laced! With a mismatch in the spoke count for the hub, and the rim (so some hub holes were skipped).
DT Swiss spokes (straight, not butted). None broke by the time he agreed to re-build it with a matched rim (more spokes, 32, or 36, the original rim was 28 or something similar). So those high quality spokes can sometimes (often) let one get away with even some silly stuff.

Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
There arenít that many spoke manufacturers around...especially aftermarket. I can only think of DT, Sapim, Wheelsmith, and Pillar. All 4 offer double butted spokes. All 4 also offer triple butted spokes, although, technically, Wheelsmithís are only double butted with a 2.3mm head and a 2.0mm straight gauge shaft.
I only see DT and Sapim. Even those are quite exotic and rare. Never, ever, in over 30 years of fixing bikes, have I come across a spoke for which I knew it was Wheelsmith, or Pillar (will have to google to see if they brand their spokes, and how).
I don't think 2 mm straight gauge shaft (so that threads at the end are practically narrower in the mid-section of the threaded part) is a good idea.
2.3 - 1.8 - 2.0 is a better design. Allowing for the mid section, which is a lot less stressed, to act as a sort of a "suspension" and relieve the ends a bit.

Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
For some yes. For others, perhaps a minority, no. Most people who say ďIíve never broken a spokeĒ are doing a cheese to chalk comparison. They tend to be light riders who wonít stress the wheels much in any condition. Heavier riders and/or riders carrying a load will likely benefit from the heavier triple butted spokes.
I completely agree.
It's just - with even straight spokes of high quality being scarce, I got to appreciate the higher quality. Even if they aren't swagged.
Can't really say where the durability difference is greater, for example:
poor quality spoke - to, call this difference [D1] - good quality straight spoke
or
good quality straight spoke [D2] good quality swaged spoke (dobule butted)
or
good quality swagged spoke [D3] good quality triple butted spoke

It could be argued that D1 is a lot greater than D2.
As well as that D3 is even smaller than D2.

That was my point - more in terms of thinking out loud.
There's no doubt that triple butted are as good as it gets, that they can be that little extra that makes the difference.
Another advantage I see is the modern hub flange holes - usually about 2.5 - 2.6 mm wide. So 2.3 mm wide elbow is a lot better fit for those - which surely also contributes to the better durability (in addition to greater width, hence strength).

No doubt, when all are available, and the price difference isn't huge, triple butted are a "no-brainer" as they say.
The problem I often face is that price differences (and scarcity) in Serbia make that choice a lot tougher. Just triple the price difference between the different types of spokes (straight to double butted, and double butted to triple butted), and multiply all the prices by about 5 to 10 then (not exaggerating), and you'd get the "feel" of the situation. In those circumstances, I personally find even straight spokes of good quality, especially if available at a discount price (both the "available" and "discount" are of huge importance here) to be an optimal choice, for many people. Straight ones of DT Swiss and Sapim are not to be underestimated.

Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
If you break the straight gauge spokes, in all likelihood, youíll break double butted ones. Thereís very little weight penalty for going to the triple butted and a large increase in strength. I would say that you might as well just skip the middle solution and go to the triple butted spokes if you are breaking straight spokes. The price is just a little bit higher...about 30Ę US per spoke or about $20 US per wheel set. Thatís pretty cheap peace of mind.
I discussed the local price and availability differences above.
So - I both agree, and disagree - depending on the circumstances.
If the price and availability are closely matched - I think triple butted are the best (optimal) choice.

Though I would disagree that straight and double butted spokes are of similar durability. In my experience, the double butted (swaged) ones are significantly more durable.
Your experience may differ - and that's fine.

Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I donít disagree. But front wheels seldom have a problem with spoke breakage. Iíve only ever broken one and that was 30+ years ago on a tandem using zinc spokes. I would even build with 2.0mm spokes (straight or butted) on the front wheel but I usually just go with the triple butted.
I have never had a DT Swiss spoke break on my bicycle.
But I prefer more spokes, to fewer - for the reasons explained in the previous post.
And I would always choose double over straight, and triple butted over double butted - if the price is reasonably similar, and are available.
Just to be on the safe side.
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