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Fixing a broken spoke...

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Fixing a broken spoke...

Old 01-06-12, 04:08 PM
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Fixing a broken spoke...

Hey. I'm brand new here and pretty new to cycling, so forgive me if this is a bit of a noob question.

I broke a spoke today. Looking online, I can see that all I need to do is replace the spoke nipple. I know that there are different sizes and tensions, but have no idea where to start, so here are my questions:

1) What size nipple should I buy? Are there advantages to getting a larger size (stronger?) over a smaller size? If I replace one, should I repplace them all? I'm not worried about weight at all.

2) Once I get the parts, how do I know how tight to set the spoke? I know it affects the shape of the wheel, but I've never tried this kind of thing before.

Thanks in advance for any help.

Steve
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Old 01-06-12, 04:23 PM
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Steve, take the Wheel to a bike shop, get a replacement spoke
and nipple from them.. they can see what you need .
since you did not measure [anything] and say a length.
(wheel size rim model cross pattern . all that)

RE #2) Realistically. how tight would be a tension meter owner's dialog
a word, metaphor / analogy is not accurate, like a number,
(standard unit of measure is best) .

once in the bike shop see what the spoke tension is like
on the new bikes on the floor.. then I could say ... "That tight."

Last edited by fietsbob; 01-06-12 at 04:27 PM.
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Old 01-06-12, 04:34 PM
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I agree on taking the wheel to a bike shop for repair. You don't have the background or experience to repair it yourself and your on-line info isn't right. A broken spoke does not require a new nipple, it requires a new spoke of the right length and matching diameter. As to tension. replacing one spoke usually just requires tensioning it until the wheel is true both laterally and radially.
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Old 01-06-12, 06:14 PM
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Good advice. Wheel truing to do it right can be complicated to a newbie. You don't need to replace the nipple, that requires the tire being removed. Have the bike shop do it but if you insist, remove the spoke, unless it's on the rear cassette side. You'll have to buy a spoke wrench, and if it's on the cassette side, you have to buy a chain whip and socket.
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Old 01-06-12, 08:19 PM
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Personally I like to do everything myself too. It's the best way to learn.

If you can take the bike or the wheel to a shop to order the spoke (and maybe a few spares) they should be able to get the right size. If the spoke is broken within the nipple, you might have to replace that too.

That means tire levers, getting one side of the tire off and a bit of work, but all stuff that you probably want to get good at anyway. It's just part of changing a tire too. It's better to get a bit of practice in a situation where you aren't on your way to work, or to your wedding.
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Old 01-07-12, 07:10 AM
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I'm pretty sure that only the nipple needs to be replaced. And I would much rather learn how to do it myself than pay someone else to do it for me.

I know that the tension on the spoke affects the shape of the wheel itself, so I was hoping there would be a visual cue to let me know the tension was adjusted properly. Does anybody know anything about that, or is a torque wrench the only way to do it?

Thanks,
Steve
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Old 01-07-12, 07:22 AM
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You haven't given any detail of the type of wheel you have, if a 32/36 spoke 3 cross getting a spoke / nipple should be easy, if a factory wheel, like Shimano, Mavic, Reynolds, Zipp, SRAM etc, then you will probably need proprietary parts, which may be hard to get.

As with others, if you've not worked on bikes, especially wheels before, get a shop to do it, as you could do more damage then good.

If you want to learn how to build a wheel, either get a cheap one you can take apart, and re-build, or get the parts, learn how to build a complete wheel before trying to replace individual spokes.

For a visual cue to tension, when the nipple breaks it will give you a visual and audible indication that you have put too much tension on it, that about all the visual cue you get.
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Old 01-07-12, 07:40 AM
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So what broke, the spoke or the nipple? You say only the nipple needs to be replaced. Did the head break off the nipple? If so, that's often an indication the spoke is too short to begin with.
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Old 01-07-12, 08:02 AM
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Yeah. It's the head of the nipple the snapped off. The spokes are all stock as far as I know, but I am the second owner, do I guess it's possible that some were replaced.
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Old 01-07-12, 08:09 AM
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Even if you don't have them do the work, take the wheel to your LBS to assure you get a matching nipple/spoke and the correct spoke wrench. A good LBS might even walk you through the process the first time as they know that people who do their own work tend to buy lots of parts and tools, so giving up a $15 spoke replacement is actually a good investment for them in building customer loyalty.
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Old 01-07-12, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by sacausey
I know that the tension on the spoke affects the shape of the wheel itself, so I was hoping there would be a visual cue to let me know the tension was adjusted properly. Does anybody know anything about that, or is a torque wrench the only way to do it?
Torque wrenches are not used for wheel building or truing. You need a "spoke wrench" (which is actually a nipple wrench) of the proper size and a truing stand to determine when the wheel is true and, ideally, a spoke tension gauge. Spoke wrenches are relatively cheap and your bike frame and brake shoes can substitute for a formal truing stand. Tension gauges are useful but not an essential tool for repairs.

I don't want to sound patronizing but you need some concept of what you are doing and that's what seems to be lacking. So, some reading and study are the first order of business if you intend to repair this yourself. Here's an excellent summary of what you should know: https://www.sheldonbrown.com/wheelbuild.html
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Old 01-07-12, 08:24 AM
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HillRider, that's the kind of resource I was looking for. Thanks.
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Old 01-07-12, 09:05 AM
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I really like the bit about tuning the spokes to specific frequencies. That makes a lot of sense. Good stuff. Thanks again.
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Old 01-07-12, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by sacausey
I'm pretty sure that only the nipple needs to be replaced. And I would much rather learn how to do it myself than pay someone else to do it for me.

I know that the tension on the spoke affects the shape of the wheel itself, so I was hoping there would be a visual cue to let me know the tension was adjusted properly.
Start with whatever makes the wheel straight. The wheel will be no worse off than before you broke the spoke.

Even tension between spokes on the same side of the wheel (the rear drive side is tighter than the non-drive side) will mean no loose spokes that can unscrew when the wheel deflects and no tight spokes that will cause fatigue failures in the rim sockets or themselves. Where a loose spoke lies between two tight spokes on one side of the wheel you can often tighten it (say 1/2 turn) and loosen the neighbors (say 1/4 turn) and vise versa.

Finally you want tension to be high enough so that nipples don't unscrew as they pass the bottom of the wheel with tension dropping and so that they don't flex on each wheel revolution and break like a paper clip. With shallow rims and conventional spoke counts (about 32) you can alternately add tension and stress relieve squeezing adjacent spokes together until the wheel deforms at which point you back off half a turn and true. With deeper rims or few spokes a tension meter is the way to go with 110kgf rear drive side and front being a good number. The non-drive side ends up with whatever it takes to center the wheel.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 01-07-12 at 02:29 PM.
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