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spoke prep alternatives

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spoke prep alternatives

Old 06-19-22, 01:25 PM
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spoke prep alternatives

Currently I am working on lacing my first hub motor wheel (2x) and am revisiting the subject of spoke prep. I have used 'rock n roll nipple cream' in the past but lately have gathered this may be unnecessary. Reason being is that this approach along with boiled linseed oil, threadlocker function to lock the nipple in place upon curing. This may be the preferred result of someone who is building a wheel for someone else and would like to minimize subsequent maintenance. However, if one is building their own wheel, it could actually be preferable not having the nipples locked in place. That is because the inevitability of maintenance will ultimately be less difficult if a non-hardening lubricant is used.

It may be true that a professionally built wheel, if used as intended, should not require any kind of periodic maintenance. There may also be concern that a simple lubricant such as chain oil or waterproof grease would invite nipple movement. However, many a properly-built wheel that employ non-locking spoke dressing do not loosen overtime, at least considering standard 3-cross lacing. Therefore, someone who may only build a wheel now and then may find it helpful to retain the possibility of fine-tuning the spokes over time without fighting a locking spoke compound. I believe in this way, a wheel will retain a more handmade and personal status.

After reading many differing opinions on this subject, may I say debate, it became clear this is a personal choice based on one's maintenance habits. Perhaps a locking spoke prep could compensate for and retain true of a imperfectly tensioned wheel. Or maybe a simple lubricant doesn't work well for a professional who would rather not see his/her wheel back after an initial break-in. In this video (see below), the wheel builder mentions soaking the nipples in oil as a simple matter of course without any drawn out theory. It became clear not everyone even considers a locking spoke prep, and it can be easy to overthink this detail.

Even so, it seemed worth asking what his impression is on using oil vs grease. On highly dished wheels, the difference in tension between the sides can be significant. Would dressing the spokes on the non-drive side with grease actually be optimal for discouraging movement in the lesser-tensioned spokes? I sent this question to them but have not heard back. For this upcoming build that is merely a front wheel, I will likely stick to oil all the way around, and yet even here there are differences. For example, are there any indications as to whether Triflow or Phil tenacious oil may best be suited?

Last edited by joedab; 06-19-22 at 01:44 PM.
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Old 06-19-22, 01:32 PM
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...I used to use 40 weight oil when I started constructing wheels. About 6 or 8 years ago, I switched to grease. I haven't noticed much difference. They both work fine for me.
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Old 06-19-22, 01:39 PM
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"Easy to overthink" said it all. I use whatever oil or grease is handy when building, and like to wick Tri-Flow into all the nipples when truing an old wheel.
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Old 06-19-22, 01:47 PM
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I use marine grease (boat trailer hub bearing grease). Thick stuff. Doesn't break down. Doesn't care about water or salt, now or in the distant future. It is very thick and stays that way so nipples never spin. Main reason I use it is that the nipples can be turned without damage long into the future. (I also take a Q-tip and grease the rim's nipple seats from the tire side.) I frequently use all the old nipples replacing rims. Bad practice I know but on the second replacement, I may see 2 or 3 tired nipples. That's a rate I can live with. (In the old days, spokes came with nipples so we never actually paid for them. That's been a while. I can't see tossing a wheel's worth of nipples I'm paying a 10 spot for.)

I've never used threadlock building wheels and probably never will. Used to use Phil Wood green until I was turned on to the marine grease. 5-10 years later, the marine stuff is simply better.

Edit: I keep a tin of marine grease open on my workbench. (No, bearings do not see that grease!) A wooden tongue depressor in the tub. So grabbing a healthy dab for a wheel is really fast and easy. Likewise virtually all my other threads (except the one's I wear! ).

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Old 06-19-22, 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by joedab View Post
if one is building their own wheel, it could actually be preferable not having the nipples locked in place. That is because the inevitability of maintenance will ultimately be less difficult if a non-hardening lubricant is used.
I've used spoke prep on every wheel I've built, whether for myself or others. IMO, "locked in place" is an overstatement. It just makes them less prone to loosening, but it's never been an impediment to wheel truing.
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Old 06-19-22, 02:06 PM
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My 2 cents is that Spoke Prep is the nicest to use as it provides a little prevention of the nipple unscrewing itself if you're wheel takes a hit of some sort and can be turned a few occasions before needing to be re-applied as opposed to LocTite types which once you've turned the nipple once the LT usually needs to be applied again. Next for me would be grease for corrosion resistance and won't gravitate to your rim tape like oil will if over applied and cheap. Oils work too but don't prevent corrosion as long as grease. Overall though it's not a huge issue with whatever you use. There are other thread lockers available which are applied and left to dry before installing the nipples and act the same as Spoke Prep but seem to be about the same price.
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Old 06-19-22, 02:12 PM
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You can use whatever you'd like, spoke prep, oil, grease, linseed oil. If you build the wheel correctly it doesn't matter. There should NEVER be a 'break-in' period for a wheel. The user should be able to put it on the bike and ride it. Period. If the wheel needs 'touch-up' it wasn't built correctly.
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Old 06-19-22, 05:53 PM
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Originally Posted by 3alarmer View Post
...I used to use 40 weight oil when I started constructing wheels. About 6 or 8 years ago, I switched to grease. I haven't noticed much difference. They both work fine for me.
I've been using grease for 50 years and have built well over 100 wheels. Thinking too much about this is a waste of time.
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Old 06-19-22, 07:31 PM
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Threadlockers come in various degrees of "strength".
Linseed oil is relatively wimpy for use on spokes. What you want.
I could see where after a few years, nipples may unscrew easier with its use than if nothing was used at all, since it'll also help prevent/reduce corrosion.
It can take a long time to "set" however. Too long for most of us.
Being able to lay the rim in the hot sun is a very useful "tool".
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Old 06-20-22, 01:10 PM
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I use Loctite 567 thread sealer. It doesn't set up hard so I can make any adjustments later in the wheel's life.
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Old 06-20-22, 01:28 PM
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I have used WheelSmith spoke prep a few decades ago. I currently use oil. I have Triflow on my work desk and am building stronger wheels for our ebikes.
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Old 06-21-22, 05:39 AM
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I second the use of Loctite 567, but I only use it for the rear non-drive side spokes. It stays slightly tacky so future adjustments are possible. I use a synthetic 20w-50 motor oil on all the other spoke threads. The last wheels I built (DT Swiss 540 36h rims with Sapin butted spokes and Shimano 600 tri-color hubs) have about 1000 miles on them and have needed no adjustments or tweaking.
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Old 06-23-22, 04:29 AM
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Linseed oil only on the NDS rear spokes for me. It helps as a lubricant when building the wheel, and as it hardens turns into a thread locker. It's only useful in that location because spoke tension is lowest there. Everywhere else, what's the first lubricant I come to when I get up to go look for some is good enough.
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