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Breaking spokes - questions from a newbie

Old 07-09-13, 07:05 AM
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pcj2000
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Breaking spokes - questions from a newbie

Hi

I bought my first bike since I was a kid in late April and have been loving it (no doubt helped by the weather in London which seems to have improved immeasurably compared to recent summers !). However, being a complete novice, my general knowledge of bikes and what is normal/correct is limited to say the least.

I have suffered 2 broken spokes in the rear wheel since April. The first was in early June, the other a week ago in early July.

I have a few questions but the main one is: is this normal or unsurprising, and should I therefore should just deal with it or should I be complaining heavily to the bike shop that sold me the bike and/or Cannondale?

Some background info:

Bike: Cannondale Synapse 7 (Sora) road/racing bike.
Wheels: Maddux 3.0's (stock with bike) - 36 spokes
My weight - 15st (95kg or 210 lb)
Additional weight - I attached a Topeak MTX Pannier system, I think total weight approx 1.5 st (9.5kg or 21 lb)
Say total weight 250lb
Distance ridden - approx 700 km (430 miles)
Commute - around 6km each way in London and it's not so great roads!

I do not recall where the first spoke broke, but the second spoke broke where it connects to the rim. Both times I took it back to the store where I bought the bike. The last time they said that it was likely to go again, especially as the mechanic told me there was a 'slight egg' in the rim.

Questions - is a set up like the above bound to fail (fairly large guy and panniers, coupled with light(ish) wheels and various potholes - or should it be able to handle this?

Could it be a problem with the wheel - should I be demanding a replacement?

If it is a problem with the set up (and it is obvious) then I need to go and have words with the shop as I bought all my kit (including the pannier system that they fitted) at one time and they didn't say a thing.

Finally, worst case scenario: my wheels are not good enough for my set-up. Can anyone recommend a good wheel that is more suited to the streets of London (and me!). Also, do I need to replace both wheels or just the problematic rear one?

Sorry for the length of the post!

Any help or advice greatly appreciated.

Thanks.
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Old 07-09-13, 07:13 AM
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There's no way you should be breaking spokes on a 36 spoke wheel with your weight and such low mileage.
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Old 07-09-13, 07:28 AM
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Unless you have had severe stress to the wheel (multiple ramming into potholes, etc) your wheel should not have a "slight egg," nor should it be breaking spokes, especially at the rim, at this early stage. Return to the shop - you need a new rear wheel that has been properly checked for tension. Not knowing your riding habits and environment it's hard to say more, but in general if you are in rough conditions you should be coming out of the saddle any time that you are going over a bad section of road or trail.
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Old 07-09-13, 08:58 AM
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I'm going to disagree with the others, and say that while you shouldn't be breaking spokes, I can see how you might.

First of all OEM wheels are rarely built to the overly quality of hand built wheels, even with the same materials. Also, riding style and conditions play a large role in wheel life. Your weight, combined with the dead weight of the panniers and the poor roads, combine to put some serious stresses into wheels. That's made worse by any side loads, such as from leaning th bike when starting out, or climbing.

At this point, with the shortening interval between breaks, the dealer is right that things won't get any better.

I suggest you have a proper wheel built with 14g double butted spokes, and a stouter rim. But you'll also need to work on your own riding habits. Try to help the bike over potholes by standing and using your knees as suspension so the bike can float over them easier. Also try to keep the mike more upright as you climb, or accelerate from stops.
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Old 07-09-13, 09:04 AM
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On a new bike, that new wheel should be waranteed. It should also be properly tensioned. If you had to pay for prior repairs, it should also be refunded.
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Old 07-09-13, 09:05 AM
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I can't say about your specific wheels but as already mentioned, often on the less expensive wheels supplied with some new bikes the spokes are crap and wheelbuild may not be the greatest. It may be worth getting the spokes replaced with some good DT, Wheelsmith, Sapim, etc. spokes and rebuilt by a good wheelbuilder. You shouldn't be breaking spokes with a 36h rim and 250lbs. If your rim is slightly "eggshaped" the builder may be able to (or maybe not) correct it with a proper build .
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Old 07-09-13, 09:24 AM
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I took a look at the specs, and your bike might have 25mm tires, which IMO are poorly suited to your weight and needs. That's a pretty narrow tire, which has little capacity to absorb impact under load. It's OK for the front, but inadequate for the loaded rear and may contribute to your problems.

Whether you repair, rebuild or replace the wheel, have the dealer switch you to tires of 32mm or 28mm if it's the widest that fits. Adjust pressure downward slightly (see pressure guide here) and this should buy you a better ride, while also improving wheel life.
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Old 07-11-13, 03:20 AM
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Dear all

Thanks for your comments - especially the tips regarding riding habits and standing on my pedals through rough areas - obvious when you think about it!

I suspect that the most likely problem is the weight going through the back tire. My panniers attach to the seat post so almost all of its weight go into through the back wheel (feels obvious now that I know about standing on the pedals to spread the weight!). This together with not being the size of your average Tour De France rider means too much pressure.

I can't afford to buy another new bike (and I really like this one!), so following your suggestions above, I think I will try and get a new strong, (but probably heavier and slower) back wheel for my commute and then have a lighter wheel for weekend fun that I can swap in when I don't have the panniers.

Does anyone have any recommendations for strong wheels?

A third spoke went on my way to work today, so I will have to go back to the shop. Going to have fun trying to get them to replace the wheel...

Thanks again
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Old 07-11-13, 04:37 AM
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It could be all sorts of things, if you're hitting some of the larger potholes around London (and there are a few monsters even in the cycle lanes) you'll be straining the wheel more and more. That said to break two in 700km suggests you're either riding too hard through potholes or your wheel wasn't made particularly well.

If there's a "slight egg" in the rim that could be the result of damage, it could be that the spokes aren't evenly tensioned. The wheel should be round - for all that sounds obvious it seems odd that the mechanic mentioned the slight egg but presumably didn't offer to true the wheel for you.

I don't know about your particular wheels but in general you shouldn't have any trouble at your weight. I weigh 240-250 before counting the pannier rack, water bottles etc and on my road/cross bike I've broken two spokes in something like 6000 miles. I think one of those was because I'd locked the bike in a way it rolled back so the weight was resting on a single spoke (I broke a spoke on the ride home, so assume it was the same one), and the other broke for no readily apparent reason but the break came after I had hit a few patches of nasty road surface, some at speed.

For all wheels shouldn't be breaking spokes after such a short distance you may struggle to get a replacement, simply because the shop could easily claim that you've been abusing the wheels, bunny hopping or whatever else. In a way it's like trying to make a warranty claim on a derailleur hanger - they shouldn't break or bend but if it bends the chances are the assumption will be that the bike was dropped or banged against something and no warranty will cover that kind of thing.

It's hard to recommend a wheel without knowing things like what sort of money you want to spend. If you're only having trouble with the rear wheel just replace that one if that's what you end up doing. Maybe consider having a wheel hand built? I trashed a wheel (cracked the rim) when I hit a pothole on a 35mph downhill with panniers and one of the spokes tried to rip itself out of the rim and, since I needed a new wheel anyway, figured it was as good an opportunity as any to learn how to build one myself. So now I've got a Hope hub and DT Swiss rim sitting in my living room annoying my wife, and a couple of boxes of spokes on their way.
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Old 07-11-13, 04:38 AM
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Originally Posted by pcj2000 View Post

A third spoke went on my way to work today, so I will have to go back to the shop. Going to have fun trying to get them to replace the wheel...

Thanks again
If three have failed in such a short time I'd suggest pushing the case that the wheel wasn't fit for purpose and ask them to replace it. They may, they may not, but at the very least they should give a decent discount on a replacement. If not, maybe it's time to go elsewhere.
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Old 07-11-13, 06:44 AM
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I would also make them replace the wheel- that is simply unacceptable performance. FB- good point, but it is highly unlikely that anything wider than a 25 tire will fit. I tried to fit 28s on my CAAD8 at one point, and the wouldn't clear the brake bridge.
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Old 07-11-13, 07:05 AM
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Hi,

Its a £700 bike and :

Maddux is new to us, but the Taiwanese company’s wheels come as standard on several of Cannondale’s budget bikes. They’re no lightweights and contribute to the slightly underwhelming acceleration, but our workshop manager George was impressed with how evenly tensioned they were. A couple of hundred miles of riding convinced us that these are decent budget wheels,
They shouldn't be breaking spokes, though the Schwalbe 25mm Lugano's
are not my my idea of a what a good commuting tyre would be, front or back.

Ideally you'd want a better set if wheels for the skinny tyres.

rgds, sreten.
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Old 07-11-13, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
I took a look at the specs, and your bike might have 25mm tires, which IMO are poorly suited to your weight and needs. That's a pretty narrow tire, which has little capacity to absorb impact under load. It's OK for the front, but inadequate for the loaded rear and may contribute to your problems.
I wouldn't say that, I weigh more than the OP and I've put several hundred miles on my 25mm tyres. In that time I've broken one spoke, which came after a few encounters with potholes on hills.

My tyres (Schwalbe Durano Plus) are rated for something like 85-110psi and I normally run them around 95-100.
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Old 07-11-13, 03:13 PM
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Originally Posted by contango View Post
I wouldn't say that, I weigh more than the OP and I've put several hundred miles on my 25mm tyres. In that time I've broken one spoke, which came after a few encounters with potholes on hills.

My tyres (Schwalbe Durano Plus) are rated for something like 85-110psi and I normally run them around 95-100.
Hi,

If you tried riding several hundred miles around London on good
32mm tyres I think you would agree they are more suitable.

rgds, sreten.

About 160 lbs, 30mm rear and 32mm front, front lower pressure.
Schwalbe Speed Cruiser and Michelin City Road, both reflex.

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Old 07-11-13, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by sreten View Post
Hi,

If you tried riding several hundred miles around London on good
32mm tyres I think you would agree they are more suitable.

rgds, sreten.

About 160 lbs, 30mm rear and 32mm front, front lower pressure.
Schwalbe Speed Cruiser and Michelin City Road, both reflex.
I rode 32mm Marathon Plus tyres for several thousand miles, mostly around greater London and into central London every once in a while. I still prefer my 25mm Duranos.

If I were commuting by bike into central London I'd consider putting the Marathon Plus tyres back on just for the all-but indestructible properties, but may well stick with the Duranos just because they seem to roll faster.
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Old 07-11-13, 04:53 PM
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I think you got a poorly built set of wheels; it could be poor quality spokes too, hopefully the LBS that will be replacing the broken spokes can tell you that, if so you should rebuild the entire rear wheel with bettter spokes, and then have the front wheel retensioned then trued, then they should stress relieve the sokes which means they grab a two parallel spokes in the middle and squeeze hard and do this all around the wheel.

If you have taken the wheel before to a shop to have a spoke replaced reconsider going back there to do it again, they should have been good enough at wheel building to figure out what the problem was and what the fix would be. Take the wheels somewhere else.
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Old 07-12-13, 03:48 PM
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In broad, general terms, the modern stock wheels are junk, crap, and don't belong on a bike. There are exceptions, but not many. As previously suggested, get proper wheels. 32 or 36 spoke, 3 cross. Deep profile rims if the weight is not an issue.
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Old 07-12-13, 04:23 PM
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Fully loaded, my commuter is about 50lbs heavier than you. And at 700 km or 400-500 miles before your first broken spoke, it really does beg the questions of proper tension, and what quality are the spokes?

I bought a Nashbar Hounder some years back and it came with 36 hole Alex DC-19 wheels with black coated stainless spokes. Before riding, I disassembled the wheels, discarded any bad nipples, replaced them with good nipples, lubed the threads and holes and bases of holes in the rims and rebuilt both front and rear. It was my way of assuring myself that the tension was correct. The front is still going strong. But within 800 miles, I broke 2 spokes on the rear drive side. Mind you, these were both at the head at the hub, but they were both leading spokes (not the trailing ones that pull when I stomp on the pedals). So I replaced all the drive side with new spokes (18 of them) from a discounter where I bought a lots of various length stainless spokes from China labeled "Richman", and within about 700 - 800 miles, again, I broke 2 more spokes. One on the non-drive side and one of the new ones on the drive side. The drive side was a leading spoke (pushing) and the non-drive side was a trailing spoke (pulling). I removed all the spokes and examined the heads.

I recall a tip that Mr.Rabbit, one of our senior forum posters who is a master wheelbuilder, and he warned me just by looked at the poor photos I posted of the spokes that the bend radius was poor and too large. Better quality DT spokes, for example, he said, used a 6.4mm radius bend and these were at least 7.1mm just by visual inspection. Well, I did put this up against my stock of DT and Wheelsmith spokes and indeed the radius is longer on these cheaper spokes. So I did some research and found a supplier of small copper washers that slide down the spoke to the head and can increase the virtual thickness of the hub flange to put transfer more tension to the head instead of fatiguing the metal higher up the radius of that bend.

Result? 1900 miles now on that rear wheel with cheap "Richman" spokes at 13 cents a piece. Still holding with the addition of the copper washers. Sheldon Brown talks a little about this. So I haven't gotten to 5k miles yet, but then I probably will rebuild with new hubs, rims and some quality Wheelsmith spokes if I get that far.

But it sounds like you minght be dealing with bad spokes, and either the shop needs to understand this and do the comparison and determine if the spokes on those wheels are prone to breaking, then chose to warranty your purchase by either rebuild the wheel with better spokes or replace the wheel. It can be a hassle and it's not the shops fault. But your loaded weight is on the heavier side of things and that means you're going to stress the rear a lot. For safety and security, it may be worthwhile to invest in a great set of spokes and a quality rebuild of the wheel. You can save money if you know how to do it yourself. But it may be worthwhile to take it to a trusted shop and pay them to build it for you.
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Old 07-12-13, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero View Post
In broad, general terms, the modern stock wheels are junk, crap, and don't belong on a bike. There are exceptions, but not many. As previously suggested, get proper wheels. 32 or 36 spoke, 3 cross. Deep profile rims if the weight is not an issue.
Hi,

So in broad general terms, most bikes come with stock crap wheels
that need to be immediately replaced ? That is broad general crap.

rgds, sreten.

You can tweak the tensions of cheaper wheels to good effect.

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Old 07-13-13, 04:25 AM
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Note, I stated there are exceptions.
Started in the bike biz in 1983 at Alameda Bike in CA and from what I experienced through my last year in the biz, 2010, OEM wheels today are not even close to being equal to OEM wheels from the eighties or nineties. Again, there are exceptions. At one point in 2010, on a dealers forum the posts about Specialized equipping certain models of their bikes with garbage wheels that had serious spoke breakage issues was so loud, Specialized started asking dealers directly about the problems with the Alex wheels. Interestingly, the next model year the wheels were changed, albeit, they remained Alex, but had fewer issues, and there was a no questions asked warranty coverage on the previous years models.
I have a pair of wheels from 1985, stock on a Schwinn, with Suntour Cyclone hubs, zinc spokes, Ukai 36 hole rims, 3x that have 10,000 miles on them and are still ridden 1000 miles a year. Not a single issue with them. I also built a rear wheel with Mavic hub, 32 hole, Araya rim, 3x used for commuting for 11 years and 20000 miles, not a single problem the whole time. Never even trued the thing after building it.
I have plenty more examples.
Again there are exceptions, but they are few. Heavy riders like myself know good wheels from junk. Most OEM are junk.
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Old 07-13-13, 10:33 AM
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A few years back, there were a lot of wheels built with bad spokes, industry wide.
Some major spoke supplier used the wrong alloy.
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Old 07-13-13, 10:43 AM
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A lot has already been said here, but, like others, you really shouldn't be breaking spokes on such a new wheel. If it were me, and I'd try to take the cheapest route first, I'd try to get the wheels replaced under some sort of warranty. Others here are right, OEM wheels are often not that great, but, I don't think they would be total crap and you have every right to expect them to be functional. I suspect that the wheels are far under-tensioned (as are most machine built wheels), perhaps made worse in that these ones probably didn't get a lot of attention when built. When/if you get new wheels (or old ones) see if you can get the LBS to tension them up correctly for you (for free). This makes for a much stronger wheel (under tensioned spokes are more likely to break too). If not, get the wheel, and take it to a decent LBS, with a wheel builder, to get them tensioned up properly. This would be the cheapest route, and I suspect that even cheap wheels, built up better, would work pretty well. If this doesn't work out, then I'd look towards replacing the wheels with something better - but I'd also get pretty irritated at the LBS if I had to go this route. 36h, 3x, wheels should hold up barring anything exceptional (riding down stairs, going off jumps, running over with car).
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Old 07-13-13, 06:38 PM
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I thank you for buying a new bike at an LBS. With that should come a warranty and service. I agree with the sentiments that the selection of components should not be resulting in failure, a clear case of manufacturer defect. Be fair and honest with the shop and expect the same in return. No quality manufacturer or vendor wishes to see their products fail and will correct not only your issues but those in the future as well.
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Old 07-13-13, 09:46 PM
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Originally Posted by sreten View Post
Hi,

So in broad general terms, most bikes come with stock crap wheels
that need to be immediately replaced ? That is broad general crap.

rgds, sreten.

You can tweak the tensions of cheaper wheels to good effect.
I have to agree. I just got a new bike, it came with Shimano R500 wheels, inexpensive for wheels, but they were designed to hold up the pounding of city streets and rough roads found outside of the city, and heavier riders. I wouldn't call them crap, they were built do one thing, hold up well with crappy roads and heavy riders. Outside of me wanting to race someday I don't foresee a need to replace those wheels with more expensive ones just to bang down surface streets on. If I decide to race I'll get a set of lighter racing wheels, but I will always train on cheaper wheels.
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Old 07-15-13, 08:59 AM
  #25  
pcj2000
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Just thought I would give an update...

It was generally agreed that I was putting too much weight through the back wheel. They tried to fix my old wheel but it is not really usable now.

The shop have agreed to hand make a new wheel for free if I get the parts. This should (fingers crossed) be stronger as the rim and hub I am going for are better. The guy in the shop also said that a hand made wheel will be stronger than machine built ones - this seems to be the advice from those posted above.

Thanks for the tips and hopefully this will sort it now!

FYI I was recommended a Mavic CXP 22 rim and Shimano Deore hub.

So while I have had to pay something (total will be around £50), this should be able to stand up to the
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