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Vintage rims and spoke tension general guidelines questions?

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Vintage rims and spoke tension general guidelines questions?

Old 01-07-23, 12:19 PM
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sd5782 
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Vintage rims and spoke tension general guidelines questions?

So, I got myself one of those inexpensive spoke tension meters. I have no illusions of it giving accurate tension figures, but just got it to give relative readings to have closer to even tensions all around the wheel. Iíve only built a few wheels but trued many more after I got the Park stand. It is kind of rewarding to do and is a good winter chore. Iíve read many posts on these, and I have the Jobst Brandt book.

My question is a bit vague in wanting some general tension guidelines for different situations. I have read higher tension for eyeletted rims in general. How about single wall vs box section? 3 cross vs 4? Other observations? My stuff is from maybe 1964-1990 and mostly 36 hole with a couple 32. Not looking for any hard rules, but just general observations from more experienced builders.

I have quite a few bikes so not thousands of miles ridden each. In general, I think I err to the side of lower tension in my past attempts with just going by sound of a plucked spoke, and I donít break any spokes on my rides. Truing is fairly easy, but it doesnít seem correct to more or less guess whether to tighten on one side or loosen on the other. With the new meter, I am really looking for spokes that are either somewhat tighter or looser. Some general theories would be of help when deciding overall tightness as relating to what the rim is capable of.
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Old 01-07-23, 01:34 PM
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There was a time when tension gauges didn't exist, and the subject of tension wasn't really addressed in any sort of quantitative way. Jobst Brandt's book, The Bicycle Wheel, was the first to try to look at the engineering in a wheel and tried to de-mystify the topic. Even Jobst didn't provide a clear answer. From page 105 of the book:

FINDING THE RIGHT TENSION
The following method works well in determining proper spoke tension for
conventional road rims of up to 43 0 grams with 3 6 spokes. Tighten all the spokes
a quarter turn at a time, starting at the valve stem hole. Once a distinct tone can
be made by plucking, and spokes are not easily squeezed together by grasping
them in pairs, it is time to check tension. After each round of tightening, test the
tension by stress relieving. If the wheel becomes untrue in two large waves
during stress relieving, the maximum, safe tension has been exceeded. Approach
this tension carefully to avoid major rim distortions. When the wheel loses
alignment from stress relieving, loosen all spokes a half turn before retruing the
wheel.
The wheels I built back in the day were looser than what I build now. A loose wheel is more likely to lead to fatigue failure of the spokes.
Rims have improved since then, and even the spokes are better (I'm thinking of 1970's Robergel steel spokes).

My only advice would be to find similar wheels built by someone you trust, and try to duplicate the spoke tension in those wheels.

Steve in Peoria (and I don't have a spoke tension gauge)
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Old 01-07-23, 01:43 PM
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Box-section rims can take more tension than non-box sections.
Eyelets will take more tension than non-eyelets (unless you use spoke washers).

One thing you could do is find a wheel with the same gauge of spokes you believe to have the correct tension (front and rear are different, so one of each) and take 5-10 tension measurements on that and use that as your guide for the wheels you build. Once it is built, you can assess if the spokes need to be SLIGHTLY more loose or more tight.
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Old 01-07-23, 01:52 PM
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Yep, I read that in my Jobst book. I am a bit reluctant to tighten to deformation though. I did that once however and had no bad results. I know manufacturers might give readings in general. I was just trying to decipher any rhyme or reason to it. For example my miyata has Ukia single walled rims with no eyelets, while others like some Wolber I have are box rims with eyelets. Many other varieties too. Since everything is old, I don’t go real tight, and as you suggest, I compare to ones that a bike shop did for a cautious upper limit. Maybe if I put thousands of miles on each bike, I would break some spokes, but I don’t currently with my bikes.
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Old 01-07-23, 01:54 PM
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I tend to think that there is some overthinking going on. I have always built wheels by feel. Once they are straight, true and round they tend to stay that way.
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Old 01-07-23, 03:35 PM
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Originally Posted by sd5782 View Post
Yep, I read that in my Jobst book. I am a bit reluctant to tighten to deformation though. I did that once however and had no bad results. I know manufacturers might give readings in general. I was just trying to decipher any rhyme or reason to it. For example my miyata has Ukia single walled rims with no eyelets, while others like some Wolber I have are box rims with eyelets. Many other varieties too. Since everything is old, I donít go real tight, and as you suggest, I compare to ones that a bike shop did for a cautious upper limit. Maybe if I put thousands of miles on each bike, I would break some spokes, but I donít currently with my bikes.
Your thinking is similar to mines. Wheels overall probably similar also, 32/36H, 3 cross, some with eyelets, both road & MTB. Spokes are of various gauges, 2.0, 1.8, 1.6, some butted.

I usually try to tension to about 90-100 on rear drive side, NDS comes in at 50s +/-, front about 90 (rim brake), measured with a Park tension meter (actual accuracy unknown).

With the high spoke count and 3 cross, this is firm enough. Rears are common tension balance for 8-10 speed hubs (NDS about 50-60% of DS). Not very hard on my wheels and have very little problems with my wheels after build and one touch-up (after 50 miles +/-).
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Old 01-07-23, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by embankmentlb View Post
I tend to think that there is some overthinking going on. I have always built wheels by feel. Once they are straight, true and round they tend to stay that way.
This is probably quite true and your method has been my practice, and thousands of others too I bet. Reading other posts here in the winter months led me to think ďwhy notĒ? Another tool is always fun and I thought it could be informative. Too cold here to do much riding, so basement wrenching is relaxing.
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Old 01-07-23, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by embankmentlb View Post
I tend to think that there is some overthinking going on. I have always built wheels by feel. Once they are straight, true and round they tend to stay that way.
I think this is a good way of building a wheel assuming the rim is flat and round to start with, this way uniform spoke tension (+-) is doable. But if you are truing a bent wheel, uniform tension is going to be difficult if not impossible.
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Old 01-07-23, 04:42 PM
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Originally Posted by sd5782 View Post
Yep, I read that in my Jobst book. I am a bit reluctant to tighten to deformation though. I did that once however and had no bad results. I know manufacturers might give readings in general. I was just trying to decipher any rhyme or reason to it. For example my miyata has Ukia single walled rims with no eyelets, while others like some Wolber I have are box rims with eyelets. Many other varieties too. Since everything is old, I donít go real tight, and as you suggest, I compare to ones that a bike shop did for a cautious upper limit. Maybe if I put thousands of miles on each bike, I would break some spokes, but I donít currently with my bikes.
I never liked the idea of tightening to deformation. That might be okay for folks with a lot of experience, but are they the ones reading his book?

One purpose of adequate spoke tension is to keep the nipples from coming loose. If your wheels aren't coming out of true, then the tension is good enough for that purpose.

A second purpose is to keep the spokes from fatiguing too much from changes in tension as the wheel rotates (as I understand it). If you aren't breaking spokes, then it's not a problem. Of course, you'll only know for sure after 20,000 miles or so, so it's not easy to tell. That's where the folks who build a ton of wheels have an advantage!

On the other side of the tension question is stuff like pulling nipples through rims, or cracking at the eyelets (especially on anodized rims). Some Trek Matrix rims were notorious for this. This is especially a concern when building with relatively new hubs that require more dish than a 6 speed Campy Record hub.

It's good that you've checked wheels at the local shop, especially if the wheels are similar to yours. If the folks replying to this thread can offer their wheel configurations and the tension that they've used, that might be a useful database.

Steve in Peoria
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Old 01-07-23, 05:11 PM
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So anodized is a caution point at upper limit. I only have a couple of those, but that is the sort of caution that I am looking to note and remember.
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Old 01-07-23, 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by sd5782 View Post
This is probably quite true and your method has been my practice, and thousands of others too I bet. Reading other posts here in the winter months led me to think ďwhy notĒ? Another tool is always fun and I thought it could be informative. Too cold here to do much riding, so basement wrenching is relaxing.
Yes, the JB book is very interesting and informative reading.
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Old 01-07-23, 08:33 PM
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wow, new information. I wasn't aware that this tool existed.

I always spun the wheel and held a small metal tool against the spokes to hear the "ting ting ting ting ting….."

If one was loose, more of a "tong"

isolate and tighten.
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