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loose spokes

Old 08-10-23, 09:02 AM
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loose spokes

I had the rear wheel off my older touring bike for unrelated maintenance yesterday, and I noticed several spokes were loose. Common sense would tell me to tighten them up to feel like the others. But “common sense” has got me in trouble with spokes before, so thought I’d best ask the experts! If it matters (and even if it doesn’t…), the wheel is a MAVIC A719 with 36 spokes. It is a replacement wheel on a 2001 Cannondale T800. Thanks for any useful cautions.
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Old 08-10-23, 09:54 AM
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You should carefully inspect the rim at the points where the spokes enter. Cracks can occur there, which would likely cause the spokes to loosen. Likewise the hub flanges, although cracks are less likely there. The only other possibility is that the nipples actually backed off a bit. In this case, you'd be fine re-tensioning them, with the addition of blue Loctite to hold them in place.

If I were in your situation, I'd probably disassemble the wheel completely, give everything a careful inspection, and then rebuild it, being careful to check spoke tension during the truing process. This may be overkill, but it's how I tend to approach things.
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Old 08-10-23, 10:22 AM
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Inspect for damage, retention and ride it. Blue Loctite is a band aid and is not needed. The threads should have been lubricated when assembled, Spokes loosen in service from not enough tension.
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Old 08-10-23, 11:02 AM
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bring any super-loose spokes back up to a 'finger tight, not slopping back and forth" state, then retighten in steps of 1/2 turn, NOT tightening any "tight enough"spokes much, working around the wheel from the farthest outward or loosest section, to help avoid out-of round issues.

Brass nipples seat into the rim grommets over time. Spokes stretch a tiny bit and settle into the hubs over time. J-bends settle into their pulled shapes over time. Touring bikes see high mileage and high loading, exacerbating the "wear".. If the brake tracks aren't worn out, Give 'em a good inspection, tightening, and truing, then enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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Old 08-10-23, 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Black wallnut
Inspect for damage, retention and ride it. Blue Loctite is a band aid and is not needed. The threads should have been lubricated when assembled, Spokes loosen in service from not enough tension.
So for the first step in a simple fix, try tightening the three loose spokes til reasonably snug (ie, no longer “loose”), check for any visible rim damage, and ride it? I’m not likely to make a mess of the truing (or anything else) by doing that? Until I noticed the loose spokes, my bike was riding fine, so I wanna go first with the KISS approach. Sadly, I’m not trying get it in shape for the sort of thing it’s good at; otherwise, I might take the “overkill” advice!
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Old 08-10-23, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Broctoon
You should carefully inspect the rim at the points where the spokes enter. Cracks can occur there, which would likely cause the spokes to loosen. Likewise the hub flanges, although cracks are less likely there. The only other possibility is that the nipples actually backed off a bit. In this case, you'd be fine re-tensioning them, with the addition of blue Loctite to hold them in place.

If I were in your situation, I'd probably disassemble the wheel completely, give everything a careful inspection, and then rebuild it, being careful to check spoke tension during the truing process. This may be overkill, but it's how I tend to approach things.
I'm guessing it's what I have bolded here. Unless the wheel was really poorly built in the first place, I doubt they just unscrewed themselves out of the nipples.
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Old 08-10-23, 11:30 AM
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rcd I am telling you what has worked for me in the past. Although usually it was just one loose spoke. After a retension and truing the wheels have given good service without further issue. If you can nearly match the tension of the surrounding spokes bringing the wheel into true it's a good place to start.
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Old 08-10-23, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Black wallnut
Blue Loctite is a band aid and is not needed. The threads should have been lubricated when assembled,
I agree this is generally true. In the OP's case, if there is no other cause evident and a complete wheel rebuild is not practical, the band aid might suffice.

When I build a wheel I like to put a tiny dab of grease on each nipple, on the surface that will contact the inside of the rim or grommet. I put a drop of linseed oil on the threads of each spoke. I believe this serves two functions: lubricates the threads during assembly, then hardens to act as a mild thread locker after the wheel is trued.
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Old 08-10-23, 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by rcd
So for the first step in a simple fix, try tightening the three loose spokes til reasonably snug (ie, no longer “loose”), check for any visible rim damage, and ride it? I’m not likely to make a mess of the truing (or anything else) by doing that? Until I noticed the loose spokes, my bike was riding fine, so I wanna go first with the KISS approach. Sadly, I’m not trying get it in shape for the sort of thing it’s good at; otherwise, I might take the “overkill” advice!
Yes, you could try that. You can check the rim's trueing without a stand, just watch it as it passes between the brake pads. And you don't really need a tension gauge to get tension in the right ballpark. Pluck the spokes like a guitar string and listen to their tone. Try to match them to approximately the same tone as the other spokes on the same side of the wheel. Note that the drive side spokes will be much tighter than the non-drive side. Non-drive side spokes on a rear wheel don't need much tension at all.

If you re-tension the ones that went loose, ride it a few times, and find they went loose again, that's a sign that something is really wrong, most likely cracks developing.
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Old 08-10-23, 01:02 PM
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OK, thanks everyone. Lots of helpful information here. I’ll try to put it to use and go for a test ride tomorrow. The wheel has always seemed reasonably true, given how the rims pass through the brake pads. But once — years ago and on another bike (a road bike I was trying to tour on….), my front wheel went badly out of true while riding through a peat bog in the west of Ireland. I tried to “fix” it on the side of the road. I did manage to get to Sligo and a bike shop, but the mechanic wasn’t happy with what I’d done……And it wasn’t even HIS bike!😬
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Old 08-10-23, 04:02 PM
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The question here is how loose. It's hard to suggest tightening without knowing if this is obsessing over something noticed, or truly loose spokes that need tightening.

I agree that eyeballing the rim is a good step just the case, but also consider that spokes do loosen through wear and tear. Sometimes we see nipples backing off and/or spokes becoming loose because they actually got longer. Excessive side loading takes spokes beyond yield, and stretches them so when relaxed they're now longer and slacker as a result. Either condition is easily solved by retruing (by my definition, that includes properly tensioning), and if the rim is OK the wheel is now restored to near as new condition.
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Old 08-11-23, 08:56 PM
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Thanks again, everyone. I checked the rim for cracks/etc (leaving the tire on), found nothing, so gently tightened up the few offending spokes (they were all on the non-drive side). I went on a short ride today and everything seems fine. I'll keep my eye on those spokes, though. Thanks for your good advice.
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