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Extra spokes: do you carry any?

Old 02-06-19, 05:34 PM
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Art Odd
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Extra spokes: do you carry any?

I have expanded the tools and spare parts (tubes, tire boot, patch kit, quick links, chain pin, spoke nipples, replacement der. hanger) I carry in my saddle bag, but I wondered if I should be carrying spare spokes with me, as well. If so, where should they be stored? Any stories of spoke replacement done on the road? I don't carry a cassette lockring tool/wrench for access to the DS. Thanks.
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Old 02-06-19, 05:53 PM
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how many spokes are on your wheels? If >28 i wouldn't unless touring. My multitool has a nipple wrench and I'd just adjust tension on the two adjacent spokes to stop any rubbing
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Old 02-06-19, 06:11 PM
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If you're touring then yes carry an extra spoke or two otherwise if you actually are having the need for a spoke then it's time to either find a better wheel builder or update the equipment as the fatigue life of the material is being reached for all of them.
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Old 02-06-19, 08:11 PM
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Never carried spokes before. Have broken 2-3 in my lifetime. Nothing wrapping the spoke around the others and opening the brake pads couldn't solve until I got home.
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Old 02-06-19, 08:32 PM
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I've broken a few spokes, mostly on the crappy wheel that came with my first gravel bike. Happened a few times, they warrantied the wheel, replacement was just as bad. I was always able to ride back.

I don't think it's happened to me on any other wheels.
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Old 02-06-19, 10:28 PM
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Aside from catastrophic impacts, spokes pretty much only break from fatigue, which is caused by low tension.

On an otherwise decent wheel, low tension is caused by having too many spokes, a problem which eventually kinda solves itself...

But seriously, the only wheels likely to break spokes have enough redundancy to limp home, while wheels that would be unrideable with a broken spoke tend not to break them.
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Old 02-07-19, 12:31 AM
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There can be conditions where this doesn't apply (touring, remote areas, etc) but I don't carry anything past tire flat fixing stuff and just rely on cell + uber/lyft/etc.

I've had a frame bust at the bottom bracket while riding. I've had a ulock refuse to open. There's some things you can't fix on the road do I use that as my backup for any other extremely rare possible emergencies.

For use at home I bought a chain checker:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

To try to avoid a worn broken chain. But I don't carry anything to fix it on the road.
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Old 02-07-19, 07:27 AM
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You can tape them to the seat tube or chainstays. But there seems to be little point if you don't have the tolls necessary to replace a spoke on the road.
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Old 02-07-19, 08:15 AM
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Poked through corks pushed into the seat post, or so I've heard, I've never gotten around to doing that. I kind of wish I had, since I'd have to dig around now to find the spare spokes for my road bike.
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Old 02-07-19, 10:43 AM
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I carried some while touring, taped to a seat stay. They eventually fell off & were lost.
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Old 02-07-19, 11:45 AM
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I'm surprised nobody has brought up fiberfix. Much easier to pack than a full sized spoke.

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Old 02-07-19, 12:10 PM
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I just carry a spare wheelset on every ride. Easier than replacing a spoke in the field.
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Old 02-07-19, 12:42 PM
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My wheel set is 20/24, but I am not touring, just riding in rural areas as far as 25 miles from home (without a cell phone). The rear wheel was built by a noted builder, while I built the front. Nearly 9,000 miles without a problem with either wheel, but there is always a chance to get road debris kicked up into the wheel. The Fiber-Fix option may be something I look into. Thanks.

For those who have replaced a spoke on the road, do you also carry additional rim tape?
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Old 02-07-19, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Art Odd View Post
My wheel set is 20/24, but I am not touring, just riding in rural areas as far as 25 miles from home (without a cell phone). The rear wheel was built by a noted builder, while I built the front. Nearly 9,000 miles without a problem with either wheel, but there is always a chance to get road debris kicked up into the wheel. The Fiber-Fix option may be something I look into. Thanks.

For those who have replaced a spoke on the road, do you also carry additional rim tape?
No to spoke.

Yes to cell phone.

It's way more likely you will need the phone. Trust me.
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Old 02-07-19, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Dan333SP View Post
I just carry a spare wheelset on every ride. Easier than replacing a spoke in the field.
​​​​​​Yeah, I carry a spare frame and a repair stand just in case. You can never be too careful.
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Old 02-07-19, 01:14 PM
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My two bikes that have been ridden for Cycle Oregon each have two spokes taped under the left chainstay with scotch tape. I completely forget they are even there until I clean the bike. (I use the same spokes for all but the right rear.) Haven't needed one on the road, yet. But keeping them there has a side benefit. Any time I need to know the spoke length (perhaps for a similar wheel build), the spokes are right there. No guessing where the spoke end is. And finding the right box for more of those spokes with a new, straight one in hand is so easy. Don't even need to get the Park ruler out.

Someone above mentioned needing special tools. Spoke wrenches are small,light and cheap. But if that isn't available, you can ring a doorbell at a house and borrow a crescent wrench. PITA yes, but with patience, it will do the job. (Oh,yeah - for the right rear, most people need a tool for the cassette or FW. Yet another reason to use beefier spokes for the right rear.)

If you ride a wheel long enough, spokes break unless something else fails first. Might take 20,000 miles, maybe more. On my commuters, the rims go maybe two winters. I use the same spokes for 3 rims and start seeing breakages on that 3rd. (36 hole so they are always rideable home.)

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Old 02-07-19, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Art Odd View Post
My wheel set is 20/24, but I am not touring, just riding in rural areas as far as 25 miles from home (without a cell phone). The rear wheel was built by a noted builder, while I built the front. Nearly 9,000 miles without a problem with either wheel, but there is always a chance to get road debris kicked up into the wheel. The Fiber-Fix option may be something I look into. Thanks.

For those who have replaced a spoke on the road, do you also carry additional rim tape?
If you use the Velox cloth tape, it will peel back for the repair and re-stick (assuming you started with a clean rim - I always clean new ones down with solvent or detergent. I have pulled that tape off trashed rims and stuck it down on the replacement rm many times. Good stuff. Just buy from a place that sells enough to have turn-over. It won't be the same if it's been sitting in a basement 15 years.

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Old 02-07-19, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
If you use the Velox cloth tape, it will peel back for the repair and re-stick (assuming you started with a clean rim - I always clean new ones down with solvent or detergent. I have pulled that tape off trashed rims and stuck it down on the replacement rm many times. Good stuff. Just buy from a place that sells enough to have turn-over. It won't be the same if it's been sitting in a basement 15 years.

Ben
I used Velox on the front, but the rear has tubeless rim tape. I do carry some pieces of adhesive-backed Tyvek, so that might do in a pinch.
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Old 02-07-19, 03:29 PM
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Not on a road bike , but I did on my long bike tours .. you need to carry tools too, odds are the one to break is behind the Cassette...

so just call an Uber to pick you up if you break a spoke on your training ride...
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Old 02-07-19, 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Leukybear View Post
I'm surprised nobody has brought up fiberfix. Much easier to pack than a full sized spoke.

I've carried one of those for years. Used it 1 time. Worked great, got me the last 65 miles of a century.
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Old 02-07-19, 07:04 PM
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My road bikes have 32/32 and 36/36 wheels, never broke a spoke and don't carry any. I do carry a spoke wrench in case I hit a pothole or something - never used it though.
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Old 02-07-19, 07:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
Aside from catastrophic impacts, spokes pretty much only break from fatigue, which is caused by low tension.<snip>
Ohhh.....so close. I was with you until there.

I think I have a blog post about spoke failure modes but in general spokes fail for a few reasons: Inclusions/defects or contaminants in the metal is one. Seldom an issue anymore as alloys and quality have gotten a lot better but it still shows up in less expensive spokes often. It did happen in a run of Sapim CX Ray spokes about 2 seasons ago. We skirted any major issues with only a handful of spokes being affected but some wheel companies took a bath on it.

Next is induced stress risers. Similar to an inclusion this would be a place along the spoke where it's been nicked or otherwise had it's shape changed causing the geometry of the cross section to change. Can also result in a small crack. This is caused, as was mentioning in the post, impacts. These can sometimes not result in immediate breakage (plastic deformation to failure) but allow the stress riser to lower fatigue life. The beginning of the threads and the bend in the j-bend head are the two "included" stress risers.

Eventually all spokes will fail through normal use. that failure is what we refer to as a fatigue failure. Everyone should already know what a fatigue failure is. Bend a cheap metal back and forth until it cracks - fatigue failure.

Fatigue life is the term we use to describe how long it will take for a product to fail from fatigue. Fatigue life is expressed, usually, in terms of the number of load cycles the part has gone through.

Factors that affect fatigue life include: material properties (stainless steel has a higher fatigue life than aluminum for instance), Shape of material (the cross sectional area will affect the internal stress even with the same load applied), The maximal load in the load cycle as it relates to some material properties such as yield stress and finally the ratio of the change in load through a normal load cycle.

So......that's the ground work. Now let's take a wheel with spokes. All of them are run up to a tension or "load". As we ride them the spoke undergoes a loading and an unloading through one revolution of the wheel. This load and unload cycle is "loading cycle" that factors into fatigue life. In essence the lower the difference is between the low end of the load cycle and the high end the higher the resultant fatigue life (lower load ratio).

Stress risers can do exactly as the name implies. Engineers all know from statics calculations in materials that stress risers will increase the stresses seen in the materials at those riser locations. Traditional risers are things like holes in plate metal. Grab a piece of metal on both ends and pull and if there is a hole in the center the stresses around that hole are higher than the stresses elsewhere. As mentioned before the threads on a spoke and the head formation/bend are stress risers. Their overall load cycle is higher resulting in lower fatigue cycle life in those locations.

As I mentioned before the lower the ratio of loading to unloading is what has a huge affect on fatigue life. Spokes that are at too low of a tension for the geometry of the lacing and the rim/flanges/spokes count/rider weight will see a larger ratio of loading to unloading as a % of the total load they are under (spoke tension)- leading to premature fatigue failure. So yes....wheels that have too low spoke tension will have spokes break sooner. The cause is fatigue failure. Fatigue life was reduced by inadequate tension. So in this case the low tension causes the fatigue failure as you have mentioned.

....BUT....

fatigue failures also occur when spokes are at their correct tension. You see bicycle wheel systems with the spokes and nipples we use and the loading cycles they see are NOT systems that have infinite fatigue life. This means that all spokes will eventually fail from fatigue failure through normal use. They all have a finite life. That failure - if just from being at the end of normal fatigue life - will occur at either the thread base or at the bend in the head as those are always stress risers that reach fatigue life first. ALWAYS. If a spoke ever breaks anywhere other than the thread or the head then something else has caused the failure. Poor material, nicks, outright impacts from sticks, competitor's skewers, etc.

So low tension CAN cause premature spoke fatigue failure but all spokes will eventually fail from fatigue even when tensioned appropriately.

Here's the big kicker though: with modern alloy rims that allow us to reach higher tensions than in the past, better alloys and processes and quality control on the spoke wires and production we quite simply live in an era where if you actually start reaching the natural end of fatigue life for spokes and the wheel was built properly then you've really gotten your money's worth as you've ridden it way beyond where most people walk away from the wheelset and want something new. Most of the hubs on the market that are on most wheelsets under $600 or so (or carbon at or under $1200 or so) won't last long enough for spoke fatigue to start kicking in....then again cheap wheels are probably built poorly as well so all bets are off.

All of this goes to explain why I most likely said above that there's absolutely no reason in this day and age to ever carry a spoke unless you're touring meaning you have the possibility of hitting something that will break a spoke.

Apologies for the lengthy explanation and almost no one will read it but someone will and someone will get something from it I hope.
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Old 02-07-19, 07:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Reynolds View Post
My road bikes have 32/32 and 36/36 wheels, never broke a spoke and don't carry any. I do carry a spoke wrench in case I hit a pothole or something - never used it though.
32 and 36 is near meaningless without knowing rider weight and materials and application.

Old rims with old alloys and shallow low area moment of inertia were always overspoked for a normal rider weight to help offset the overall flex in the rims and to help adequately support the load/rim. Yes adding spokes to a wheelset will help increase the fatigue life of each spoke. So why don't we all just ride around on 400 spoke wheels? Because the more you add the heavier the wheel gets making it feel sluggish and the overly abusive the ride starts to feel.

Proper spoke count takes into account the rider weight and the rims. Its the right amount that adequately support the rim, give the system a reasonable durability (fatigue life), and still respond well when riding (stiff but not harsh). That comes from the rim support. enough but not too much.

So just throwing out "I have 32/32 and 36/36 and don't carry a spoke" is a bit like saying, "My road car has a 3.8L engine and I don't carry extra coolant in case I overheat. It's never been a problem."
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Old 02-07-19, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Psimet2001 View Post
32 and 36 is near meaningless without knowing rider weight and materials and application.

Old rims with old alloys and shallow low area moment of inertia were always overspoked for a normal rider weight to help offset the overall flex in the rims and to help adequately support the load/rim. Yes adding spokes to a wheelset will help increase the fatigue life of each spoke. So why don't we all just ride around on 400 spoke wheels? Because the more you add the heavier the wheel gets making it feel sluggish and the overly abusive the ride starts to feel.

Proper spoke count takes into account the rider weight and the rims. Its the right amount that adequately support the rim, give the system a reasonable durability (fatigue life), and still respond well when riding (stiff but not harsh). That comes from the rim support. enough but not too much.

So just throwing out "I have 32/32 and 36/36 and don't carry a spoke" is a bit like saying, "My road car has a 3.8L engine and I don't carry extra coolant in case I overheat. It's never been a problem."
OK, some more data:
Rider weight: 69kg
Rims: Mavic / Vuelta shallow aluminum alloy
Spokes: ACI Alpina stainless 2/1.8/2mm
32 built cross 3, 36 cross 4
Tires: 23mm at 90/95psi F, 100/105psi R
Use: always on pavement, solo and group rides, lifting weight off saddle at bumps, etc.
I built those wheels myself, one pair has about 16000kms and the other about 25000, never had a problem with them except once - a brick fell from a pickup truck and I passed over it, front wheel went slightly (about 3mm) out of true. I was able to ride back home and true it again.
Of course my experience is very limited, only built about 40 wheels or so, but these have performed well so far.

Last edited by Reynolds; 02-08-19 at 09:06 AM.
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Old 02-08-19, 09:00 AM
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But the spoke you're most likely to break is that which is under the most load and that is rear drive side - hence you'll need a chain whip, cassette tool and large wrench which are hardly the kind of tools you'll fit in your saddle bag. And spoke count is important - not because they make a stronger wheel but because with a higher count you can most likely just open your brakes and keep riding till you get back to civilization whereas a broken spoke on say Campagnolo Shamals or Rolf Vectors is a long walk.
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