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Replacing all the spokes

Old 02-03-11, 10:26 AM
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Chris Chicago
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Replacing all the spokes

I have an old mtb wheelset and the spokes are pretty rusted. I've never built up a wheel. would it make more sense to take them all off at once then re lace them or replace one spoke at a time?

also, when determining spoke length, is it better to measure the old spokes or to use one of those spoke length calculators and data bases.

thanks!
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Old 02-03-11, 10:35 AM
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All at once

If they were rusted, this would indicate they were budget spokes / components to begin with, you may find that is it cheaper to replace the whole wheelset with a new budget factory build set than replace the spokes. Also, as you say it is an old wheelset, if this is a rim brake set, what is the condition of the braking surface on the rim, and the bearings in the hubs.

For spoke length, I find this pretty easy and accurate enough http://lenni.info/edd/
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Old 02-03-11, 10:44 AM
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I didnt think the check the braking surface. is there anything in particular I should look for?

the rims are kind of collectibles which is why I'm trying to save them. they are the drilled "pro-class" rims mongoose used in the early 80s. as far as spoke quality the old catalog says 14 gauge chrome.

thanks for the link
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Old 02-03-11, 11:26 AM
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If you build up the wheels with the same hubs, rims, and spoke pattern you can just measure an old spoke and buy the same length new ones.
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Old 02-03-11, 11:39 AM
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You didn't say,

Other than rust, is the wheel basically OK? no broken spokes, and maybe needing a minor alignment. If so follow the first rule of bike repair.

Don't fix what ain't broke!

Yes your spokes are rusty, and it will get worse over time, but in the meantime the wheel is sound and you could be riding it. When and if the time comes you can rebuild with new spokes and maybe a new rim, but until then there's nothing to be gained by rebuilding now.

Who, knows, it might last years, you might crash it, the rim brake surface may wear before the spokes break, or you might decide on a major upgrade. When the time comes you'll probably need to replace both the spokes and the rim, and can make a decision whether buying a pre-built wheel makes more sense.
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Old 02-03-11, 11:40 AM
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I didn't think the check the braking surface. is there anything in particular I should look for?
braking works by friction , it wears rim and brake pads, prompting replacement when too thin.
in the case of the rim when too thin, the tire pressure blows the rim apart.

Mountain biking, dirty wheels , braking down mountains,
wears things down with amazing speed .
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Old 02-03-11, 11:48 AM
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If you decide to do it, detension the wheel, and just remove one at a time and replace it.
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Old 02-03-11, 11:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Chris Chicago View Post
I didnt think the check the braking surface. is there anything in particular I should look for?
Some rims have grooves or tiny dimples machined into the side as brake wear indicators. When the rim is worn to the bottom of the mark (the mark disappears) it should be replaced. If there's no indicator, you have to make a judgment call, guestimating the depths of the wear, or looking carefully for any signs of cracking in the sides. Usually you have 1mm to work with before they're weakened too much for safe use.

The importance of brake wear depends on your tires. Wider, or higher pressure tires put more side stress on the rim flanges, (you multiply pressure by tire width to get a value for the stress factor). If you're riding mid width tires at less than 60psi you have a decent margin of forgiveness
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Old 02-03-11, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by davidad View Post
If you decide to do it, detension the wheel, and just remove one at a time and replace it.
This is easier and reduces the chances of your losing the lacing pattern, but it's easier if you remove and replace them 1 crossed pair (two spokes) at a time. This rediuces the chance of scratching the rim as you drag the spokes past each other.
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Old 02-03-11, 11:53 AM
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FBinNY, I hear you. The spokes are very rusted to the point, perhaps out of ignorance, i found some other wheels to use when i acquired the bike. but now I kind of want to use the original ones and make them look as pretty as possible. It's an all chrome 84 mongoose. I am usually fairly utilitarian and not prone to looking for solutions to problems that don't exist but this bike is kind of pretty and makes me want to spiff up the spokes. I will probably end up faceplanting due to my vanity.
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Old 02-03-11, 01:39 PM
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Rims on a rim brake bike are a consumable commodity. If the wheels were used much and the braking faces are now coved in by more than a little the rims are well on their way to rim heaven in any case. Apparently when V brakes were all the rage and given the amount of mud up in my area the serious mountain bike riders were going through a set of rims a year even if they were not all THAT serious. The ones that rode the trails and mountains 3 or 4 times a week thought nothing of going through TWO sets of rims a year. This is the crowd that was more than happy to switch to discs when they came out.

The moral of this story is that a wheelset isn't something you want to get sentimental about. Check the rims for signs of hollowing on the braking surfaces. If there's dish in the middle that is about the thickness of a business card then they are about half way gone. If the dish is two business card thicknesses deep then it's just about toast. If it's three cards thick then it's a small miracle that they haven't busted while riding yet. And generally I've found that by the time that the dish is about two cards deep the brakes are feeling very "grabby" due to the pads wanting to lock into the curve. I tend to change my rims out when they get that bad.

I'd suggest that if you're going to all the trouble of re-doing the wheels that you consider what was said above about rusty spokes implying lower end components all around. If you really want to bling the old girl up then shop for some hubs that were the higher end product in their day. A set of LX, XT or XTR 7 speed hubs in good condition from that time frame laced with new stainless butted spokes to rims that are similar to the originals would look better than the apparently old lower end wheels you have now. At least that's how I'd go about this exercise.
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Old 02-03-11, 02:34 PM
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the hubs are sr mh 310, small flange sealed mechanism. I dont think it's a low quality bike, it's in that mombat hof, but I am not super knowledgeable on early mtb quality levels.

http://www.firstflightbikes.com/1985_Mongoose.htm

though I just use the bike as an around town cruiser, I will check the rim wear the way you've suggested. it did seem like the bike was ridden hard when I got it, and I certainly dont want to put in a ton of work fixing old wheels if it's not worth it.
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Old 02-03-11, 04:39 PM
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Bicycle wheels are pretty tough components, and can be pretty beat up looking but still function. If the rims are fairly true and round, I recommend just cleaning them up and using them. If you have some time on your hands, a bit of polishing compound and a buffing wheel will make them new looking again. I've had many of my shop's customers do this and the results were all good - this includes road, mtb, cruiser, and 'cross wheelsets, regardless of age (And some were over 30 years old). I'd give this low cost option a try. Good luck!
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