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Never-ending spoke issues

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Never-ending spoke issues

Old 03-24-12, 04:54 PM
  #1  
Jwink3101
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Never-ending spoke issues

Hi,

I have posted before about my wheel issues, but I am again at a loss. Also, this could probably go in any number of forums. This one sounded like my best bet

I am perpetually breaking spokes on the rear wheel, always on the non-drive side by the j-bend. I am getting extremely frustrated because I do not know what else to do about it that I haven't yet.

I am a big guy. When I started riding, I was about 370 lbs. Two bikes and 5 (or is it 6, I don't remember), wheels later, I am at 265 but that is still enough to put a lot of load on the wheel. But here is the thing: after my last wheel issue (which was related to the derailleur hitting it, not really a spoke issue per se), I had a wheel hand built. Based on the shop's recommendations, I had it built with a Salsa Delgado rim, 36 Double butted spokes in cross 3, and a 105 hub.

While the wheel did well for a while, it started to come out of true often. The shop was good in that they would true it for free and even before my last ride, I left it with them and they put a tension meter on the spokes to confirm they were good. Yet, my last ride (140+ miles, Baltimore to Philly), I broke two spokes (got one fixed at a close shop and used a FiberFix on the other).

I can buy that being large is hard on the wheels, but that is why I had a really strong wheel built!

So, I am left with two questions. The first is what else can I do? It seems as though I am doing what I need to be doing. Is there no hope for me to ever have a reliable wheel? The second is, if I decide to have another wheel built, I do not think I will go back to this guy. What do I look for in deciding who to trust to build a wheel.

As a friend of mine has said, it is amazing I haven't given up cycling yet given all the problems I had. I certainly don't want to, but I really need to be able to rely on a my bike. Or at least have it be more reliable!

Thanks!
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Old 03-24-12, 05:18 PM
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I'm 145 lbs and I break spokes too. Don't let it discourage you, it's part of riding.

NDS spokes break at the J bend when the tension on them is not high enough. They momentarily go slack as the part of the wheel they are in passes the ground (the rim flattens slightly). The cycles from no tension to tension fatigues the spoke at the bend, and it eventually breaks.

There's a number of things to address this. First is to make sure the DS tension is high enough. The DS tension along with the hub geometry determines the NDS tension needed to center the rim. More tension on the DS means you can tension the NDS higher. The allowable DS tension depends on the rim- too high and the rim will eventually crack. A good builder should tension the spokes high enough but sometimes they don't.

Next you need a hub with good flange spacing. DA and Ultegra hubs are pretty good so I expect 105 is too.

Then you need appropriate spokes. I would guess you are using 2.0/1.8mm diameter spokes. Some spoke makers like Sapim will use 2.2mm at the J bend, making the spokes a bit stronger there. Of course you need quality spokes. Sapim, Wheelsmith, DT are all good. I've had fewer Sapims break than other brands but that may be due to me building the wheels vs a shop. (not that I'm better than someone who has built hundreds of wheels, but I can take my time, and I can build wheels specifically to address my spoke breaking problems).

Another trick is to use smaller gauge spokes on the NDS. They will need to stretch farther to reach the same tension, so they are less likely to completely detension and start fatiguing. I've built some wheels like that (using Sapim Race, which are 2.2/1.5/2.0) and it seems to work.
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Old 03-24-12, 05:39 PM
  #3  
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I have a few questions. where do you live? big city lots of traffic potholes debris in the road. What is your riding style like? smooth and steady gracefully avoiding objects in the road. are you commuting or riding for excerise? 20+ mile a day commuter or 25-45 a week. when you say the wheel did OK for awhile how long is awhile? 200 miles and week or 1000 miles and 2weeks?

Back when I first got into more then recreational riding I had alot of trouble with breaking spokes. then I learned to ride 'softer' and try and avoid bumps and stuf in the road. basically I don't think weight has as much to do with breaking spokes as riding style does.
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Old 03-24-12, 05:49 PM
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i used to be 322 pounds and i never broke any spokes, i stopped eating mcdonalds and stuff and did cycling and lost 110lbs
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Old 03-24-12, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Jwink3101 View Post
Hi,

I have posted before about my wheel issues, but I am again at a loss. Also, this could probably go in any number of forums. This one sounded like my best bet

I am perpetually breaking spokes on the rear wheel, always on the non-drive side by the j-bend. I am getting extremely frustrated because I do not know what else to do about it that I haven't yet.
At least replace all of the non-drive side spokes using high quality butted spokes (I like DT spokes where 2.0/1.8 Competition spokes are a good choice and 2.0/1.5 Revolutions work well in front and non-drive side applications). Lubricate both spoke threads and rim sockets with anti-seize (I like an acid brush with half the bristle length chopped off) and add a drop of oil to those interfaces whree you haven't disassembled things. Tension the drive side to a uniform 110kgf while avoiding windup (I like a tape flag on the two spokes following the valve hole to see how things are going. Other people use a Sharpie dot on each spoke). Tension non-drive side as required to center the wheel. Stress relieve (I like twisting the spokes where they meet with a brass drift where other items softer than spokes like a screw driver handle or old left crank can be used, although you can also squeeze near parallel pairs together hard).

Maybe rebuild using a deeper rim at the same time (Velocity Deep Chukker would be an obvious choice) that won't flex as far and cause as much stress variation in the spokes.

While the wheel did well for a while, it started to come out of true often. The shop was good in that they would true it for free and even before my last ride, I left it with them and they put a tension meter on the spokes to confirm they were good. Yet, my last ride (140+ miles, Baltimore to Philly), I broke two spokes (got one fixed at a close shop and used a FiberFix on the other).
Spokes fail due to fatigue with the number of cycles (about 750 a mile as they pass the bottom of the wheel and unload) dependant on average stress (high when the spokes are made because parts of the elbows are not taken past their elastic limit) and stress variation (as a big guy you cause a bigger change).

Non-drive side spokes that are too loose can flex like paperclips (with high variation) and break like paperclips.

Once one or two go the rest in the group (rear drive side, rear non-drive side, front) will follow like popcorn.

Butted spokes work better because tension and stress change less for a given rim displacement.

I can buy that being large is hard on the wheels, but that is why I had a really strong wheel built!
You need to take 60 seconds to stress relieve wheels (taking the elbows past their elastic limit to remove residual manufacturing stresses) after you get done tensioning them if you want them to hold up.

What do I look for in deciding who to trust to build a wheel.
Buy a copy of _The Bicycle Wheel_ by Jobst Brandt and do it yourself. Any one who can read, follow directions, has patience, and a little mechanical aptitude can do it. He actually tested the book by having his grade school sons each build a wheelset with no other instructions.

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Old 03-24-12, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by ericm979 View Post
I'm 145 lbs and I break spokes too. Don't let it discourage you, it's part of riding.
I've weighed up to 215 pounds (with a low of 145 and 160-180 more typical) and never broken a spoke in a wheel I built, even my favorite set that I've been riding for the last 15 years. Jobst Brandt has 300,000 miles on a set. Some other BF posters have six figure mileage on one spoke set without breakage.

It's only part of riding when wheels built by machines or people who don't know what they're doing get involved, you use cheap spokes with questionable metalurgy, or have an elbow/flange mismatch which results in the elbows being unsupported.

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Old 03-24-12, 06:36 PM
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I've started building my own wheels. So far they're holding up pretty well. I've only broken one spoke and that was due to reusing spokes laced 2x heads in on the DS as regular 2x. I had to bend them pretty hard near the elbow for the heads in lacing, then flatten them out again when I switched back to regular 2x. I knew they'd break from that but it took a while. I've since relaced the wheel 1x heads in on the DS, continuing my experiments.

I think much of my spoke problem is my out of the saddle riding style, which involves more than the normal amount of side to side motion of the bike. The side forces on the wheel flex the spokes more. I do a lot of climbing and stand on climbs more than most people so I do a lot more standing than typical. It's when I am standing that the spokes break.

Other than commiserating about breaking spokes I think that the causes of my spoke problems are not the same as the OP's.
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Old 03-24-12, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt View Post
Lubricate both spoke threads and rim sockets with anti-seize (I like an acid brush with half the bristle length chopped off) and add a drop of oil to those interfaces whree you haven't disassembled things.
Any particular type of oil on the threads ? Linseed ?
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Old 03-24-12, 07:38 PM
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Originally Posted by trevspeed View Post
i used to be 322 pounds and i never broke any spokes, i stopped eating mcdonalds and stuff and did cycling and lost 110lbs
Good going trevspeed, congrats...
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Old 03-25-12, 01:19 AM
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If you're doing 36 spoke 3 cross wheels with the salsa rim (never heard of it before, but if they advertise it as a 29" rim it should be pretty heavy duty) then there must be something wrong with the building technique. 36 spoke 3 cross is pretty darn strong, I don't think a lack of spokes is your problem. My guess is that it the wheels were poorly built.

There's a lot of disagreement about building a wheel, so it's hard to figure out what's the right way to do it when everyone disagrees. Combine this with a steep learning curve, and it's near impossible. I'll try to simplify it as much as possible.

Unless you're ripping out an eyelet (the hole in the rim that the spoke goes into) or breaking a spoke nipple (the thing a spoke screws into on the other side of the eyelet), you're breaking spokes because they're losing tension. Spokes are very resilient to stretching, but very bad at being compressed. Uneven tension (some spokes having a little too much tension, and some spokes having too little tension) takes away a wheels ability to distribute the load, and places an increased load on individual spokes. This increased individual load can cause spokes to lose tension and instead of being stretched between the rim and the hub (in tension) they become squashed between the rim and the hub (compressed) and are forced to deflect (or bend) slightly in order to not snap. After going through this a couple of times, they start to break. The way to overcome this, is by having a uniformly tensioned wheel, the phrase "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link" applies here.

So far most peoples wheel philosophies agree, even tension is the key to a durable wheel. Some people do however disagree about how to achieve and maintain that even tension. Some shops will use loctite between the spokes and nipples. They argue that once even tension is achieved, then you want to lock it in place so you don't lose that setting. I disagree with this, and think that loctite is a terrible idea. The problem is that when you're tightening a spoke (which you do by turning the head of the nipple) you can also be twisting the spoke. When you twist a spoke, the tension increases. You can have a bunch of twisted spokes, glued into their respective nipples, in perfect uniform tension. The problem is that there's nothing to keep the spokes from untwisting besides the friction between the eyelet (on the inside of the rim) and the nipple (again, on the inside of the rim). Once you ride your bike down the road and bounce all around, the spokes become untwisted, and you hear the familiar "twang" sound from your wheel, like a rock hitting your spoke. All of a sudden, you have one spoke grossly under tensioned. Repeat this a couple of times and you start getting broken spokes due to the lack of uniform tension. The solution (according to me, just a random person on the internet) is to not use loctite, but some lubricant that allows the nipple to freely spin along the threads of the spoke, so whatever your personal choice of voodoo magic spoke oil. Like chain lube, there's many options. There's linseed oil, chain oil, anti-seize, Phil's tenacious oil, Phil's spoke oil (is that a thing?), teflon grease, spit, etc. I use anti-seize because I had a problem of nipples breaking in half with the spoke snapping off too. I think any lubricant is probably ok, and the differences are probably marginal.

Beyond choice of spoke prep compound, build technique plays a role. While building a wheel, it will seem that nipples and spokes are set in place but in reality they still haven't figured out where they'd like to settle. It's just like how most shops will tell you to bring your bike back in after 50 miles so they can do a tune-up due to cable stretch, the same goes for wheels. The thing is though, it's not cable stretch (or spoke stretch). It's the ferrels and hosing settling and being compressed to their limit, or the spokes and nipples getting set into the hub and eyelets. Most good builders will try to pre-stress a wheel while building it in order to set the spokes and nipples into place before the customer picks up the wheel and becomes upset that it quickly comes out of true and starts breaking spokes. There's lots of techniques and disagreements about pre-stressing a wheel, but regardless of your preferred method it will happen (either in the shop while getting built, or on the road while getting ridden on). After it happens, you'll more or less have to restart the tensioning process. Getting all the spokes uniformly tensioned again. After this retensioning (assuming the spokes have been properly stressed by riding or shop manipulation), your wheel should be fine for many many many miles. Maybe every 3,000 miles they'll need a little attention, but not much.

Now that I'm looking at what I typed out, I didn't do a good job in simplifying wheels, let me try again.

TL;DR
1) The spokes in a wheel need uniform tension
2) Spokes need to be able to move around freely and figure out who they are
3) Spokes will rebel
4) Spokes need to be rehabilitated and brought back into line with the rest, achieving uniform tension
5) Spokes won't break anymore, you win.
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Old 03-25-12, 01:45 AM
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if you don't take your weight of you saddle on rough stretches- do so it WILL help
you may want to consider tandem wheels if all else fails
purple loctite is good, keeps spokes from loosening and is easy to adjust
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Old 03-25-12, 06:51 PM
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Hi everyone,

Thanks for the responses. I have been reading them on my phone and couldn't respond. Let me try to answer some of the questions. In addition to my long 100+ rides, I do commute in Baltimore where the roads suck. I do my best to avoid the holes but I have to hit some.

In addition to 32c wheels to absorb some of the bump, whenever I can, I try to make myself "light" on the bike by standing up, keeping loose, letting the bike move and pivot under me, etc.

One question I had that did not really seem to be addressed is if I get another build, how to I weed out the ones I shouldn't trust. For all I know the shop who built me my current wheel did everything right and the issues are unrelated, but I am hesitant to find out again.
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Old 03-25-12, 06:52 PM
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And to the few who private messaged me, I am not ignoring you but I do not have a high enough post count to reply. Sorry
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Old 03-25-12, 07:15 PM
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I've found that deep section 'aero' rims make laterally stiffer wheels that break fewer spokes. For your next wheel consider a DT 585 or a Velocity Deep-V.

Explain the issues you have been having and ask prospective wheel builders what rims, spokes and hub they recommend. Ask what tension they'd build it to, how they stress relieve wheels and their tolerance for differences in tension.
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Old 03-26-12, 01:51 AM
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Since nobody seems to have mentioned this solution, a wheel built with 24 drive spokes and 12 non drive spokes would be bomb-proof. The nds spokes will be at a much higher tension and thus won't fatigue. This can be done by starting with a 48 hole hub and using only half of the holes on the nds. You just gotta find a wheel builder willing to do it.
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Old 03-26-12, 11:39 AM
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I'm about your weight and had similar problems. I started out with a Mavic Open Sport 32H laced up to Ultegra hubs and I was breaking spokes. I had a custom build of DT Swiss RR585 rims 32H laced to DT 240 hubs and I've never had a problem since. I don't baby the wheels at all either. So far I have a thousand or so miles on the new wheel and it's never needed truing and the spoke tension has stayed awesome.
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Old 03-26-12, 11:48 AM
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Also consider contacting a custom wheelbuilder (cough ... psimet ... cough), and having a wheel custom built by someone who does it all day long. They sould certainly be able to build/tension something to meet your needs.
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Old 03-26-12, 11:53 AM
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It is not obvious to me that this problem is necessarily an issue with spoke fatigue. Since it is on the non-driveside, I would first suspect uneven spoke tension. I would rebuild the wheel using new spokes. This would get rid of any existing damage to the spokes, and it would ensure the spoke tension is even. I have found from experience (I am a bit heavy for a cyclist as well - almost 200lbs), that when just replacing a broken spoke, it is very difficult to get the spoke tension back into balance.
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Old 03-26-12, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by vantassell View Post
If you're doing 36 spoke 3 cross wheels with the salsa rim (never heard of it before, but if they advertise it as a 29" rim it should be pretty heavy duty) then there must be something wrong with the building technique. 36 spoke 3 cross is pretty darn strong, I don't think a lack of spokes is your problem. My guess is that it the wheels were poorly built.

...
1+

36 spokes makes for a very strong wheel, especially with modern stainless steel spokes. Especially it being that you are breaking spokes on the non-driveside, I would suspect uneven spoke tensioning.
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Old 03-26-12, 12:02 PM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by Jwink3101 View Post
...

One question I had that did not really seem to be addressed is if I get another build, how to I weed out the ones I shouldn't trust. For all I know the shop who built me my current wheel did everything right and the issues are unrelated, but I am hesitant to find out again.
I would stay with your shop. Talk to them about your problems and let them have another crack at the wheels. Let them keep at the problem until you are satisfied. At your weight, you will always have issues with wheels. You should have someone local to build them for you.

As to myself, I prefer to build the wheels I use. Wheels are not rocket science. As long as you are using good quality components and you are getting the spoke tension even, the wheels should turn out pretty well.
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Old 03-26-12, 12:06 PM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by Homebrew01 View Post
Any particular type of oil on the threads ? Linseed ?
3-in-1.

With stiff enough rims and enough tension in your spokes the nipples don't need anything to keep them from moving.
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Old 03-26-12, 12:13 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by Jwink3101 View Post
One question I had that did not really seem to be addressed is if I get another build, how to I weed out the ones I shouldn't trust.
The only two reliable options are

1. Learning to do the work yourself. It takes patience but isn't hard.

2. Delegating to a reputable one-man shop (Peter White, psimet, etc.)

Going to (formerly) reputable bike shops with more than one mechanic you risk having some one incompetent build your wheel on his first and last week, failing to put enough tension in your wheels, the rear never staying true, and the front collapsing on a small bump.

(I'm speculating about that first and last week part; maybe he was bad for longer and maybe he didn't get fired. The rear wheel did not stay true, the front did collapse, and I quit delegating my wheel builds until we wanted to upgrade a 3 speed IGH wheel to 8 for my wife and I felt lazy. I spent more time fixing that than I would have building it from scratch and wouldn't be running out of spoke threads at full tension).
Drew Eckhardt is offline  
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