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Factory Wheels

Old 09-01-15, 06:34 AM
  #1  
elcruxio
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Factory Wheels

Doing the first time maintenance on my GF's 520 reminds me starkly why I build my own wheels.
The component set in the wheels is ok, even though M475 hubs have next to nonexistent seals (pushing the hubs chuck full of grease should help with that though). Rims are 36H Bontrager TLR and seem sturdy enough. Spokes are non butted stainless which is not optimal for any use but they'll do. I have DT Swiss Alpine III's as spares for the both of us so if a spoke breaks the wheelset is only going to get better.

But the tensioning on the wheels was a joke. I considered a full detension and retension cycle for both wheels but luckily I was able to get the wheels to an ok tension and straight without too much of a hassle (a tensionmeter is a lifesaver in these things). I measured a 60kgf difference between the most tensioned and least tensioned spoke on one side(!!!). That's ridiculous! Good thing none of the spokes were actually slack or I may have had to replace those already as we've done some rought roads for testing purposes.

What kind of experiences have you had with factory built wheels? I'm starting to think they are merely assembled when the bike is delivered and a pro needs to go through the wheelset before it's actually usable.
Sad thing qualified wheelbuilders seem to be relatively rare...
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Old 09-01-15, 06:42 AM
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ordered a set of wheels, disc hubs, rims with braking surface.
(disc rear, v-brake front)

front wheel never centered, was over 1/2" off to one side.
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Old 09-01-15, 06:46 AM
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I've only built a few set of wheels, but what a great skill to have. I completely agree about factory wheels. If only manufacturers would quit upgrading rear hubs (tongue in cheek), I would still have that first wheel set I built back in the 80s. I never had to true it once it left the bench.

Since I'm not a pro, it's hard for me to justify the extra expense of buying components. I make do with relatively inexpensive factory wheels now, and make them last until I can't pass up the next upgrade.
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Old 09-01-15, 06:47 AM
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Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
ordered a set of wheels, disc hubs, rims with braking surface.
(disc rear, v-brake front)

front wheel never centered, was over 1/2" off to one side.
Must've come from "Bu Hao Bikes."
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Old 09-01-15, 06:54 AM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
Must've come from "Bu Hao Bikes."
lovingly handcrafted by their tagteam wheelsmiths "se po ke" and "lu se"
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Old 09-01-15, 07:24 AM
  #6  
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Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
...What kind of experiences have you had with factory built wheels?...
I've never had any complaints with factory built wheels. So little trouble in fact, I don't see the value in custom built wheels.
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Old 09-01-15, 07:57 AM
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I don't think that tensioning and detensioning make any real difference. What you need to do is bring the wheels to full tension then stress relieve the spokes, etc... If you buy a factory wheel there is theoretically no real harm to them so long as the spokes are brought up to tension and stress relieved. Where the problems cro up is when that is not done, or the components are of unknown source. Matched components that play well together can be critical to touring wheel longevity.

These two factors essentially build, and component mix, are 99% of wheel longevity, while butted or not butted are likely not even 1%. The main advantage to hand built wheels is ensuring the component mix and build quality. Down the road, though, large savings can be achieved if one can only replace the rims as they wear out, as the spokes and hub life can extend to hundreds of thou miles. Even big name builders like White will not recycle your spokes which is too bad as it makes for a more reliable wheel down the road.

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Old 09-01-15, 08:03 AM
  #8  
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My Novara Safari’s factory wheels were a mixed bag. The front wheel had to be re-dished. The rear wheel was delivered in good condition – I checked it with a tensiometer – but three years later the rim blew out at one of the spoke holes. Probably that was my fault. I’m heavy, sometimes carry a heavy rear (unsprung) load and sometimes ride fast on rough surfaces.

There’s a nice value pricepoint out there: I ordered a factory built wheel from Harris Cyclery and paid $10 for them to retouch it. I like to build my own as well but was feeling lazy that day.
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Old 09-01-15, 08:06 AM
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@ my LBS wheels are checked by hand, as part of bike assembly ...


Those wheel building machines are part of lowering the cost of a new bike to a price you are seeing.


The practices of your local, I have no Idea ..
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Old 09-01-15, 09:49 AM
  #10  
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I suppose the answer to this question is that it depends where you buy your Factory-made wheels.

I build my own but found that it was cheaper to buy Factory-made wheels with my components of choice than buy the components separately. I bought two pairs from Rose bikes, a German firm, and found that although perfectly true, there were a few spokes which varied too much in tension and all tensions had to be brought up to the proper level. Again, the wheels had not been de-stressed which is obviously of great importance when avoiding spoke breakages. Now having said all that, the wheels have remained true and are pretty tough. The front wheel of one belonging to a friend hit a pothole deep enough to puncture the tube and damage the tyre yet the rim deviated by less than a millimetre.
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Old 09-01-15, 10:11 AM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
... Spokes are non butted stainless which is not optimal for any use but they'll do. I have DT Swiss Alpine III's as spares for the both of us so if a spoke breaks the wheelset is only going to get better.
...
Using a mixture of strong and weak components will result in more stress being applied to the weaker components. Chainging one or two spokes, probably not an issue. But if you changed quite a few, it could become an issue.
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Old 09-01-15, 10:26 AM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by MassiveD View Post
I don't think that tensioning and detensioning make any real difference. What you need to do is bring the wheels to full tension then stress relieve the spokes, etc... If you buy a factory wheel there is theoretically no real harm to them so long as the spokes are brought up to tension and stress relieved. Where the problems cro up is when that is not done, or the components are of unknown source. Matched components that play well together can be critical to touring wheel longevity.

These two factors essentially build, and component mix, are 99% of wheel longevity, while butted or not butted are likely not even 1%. The main advantage to hand built wheels is ensuring the component mix and build quality. Down the road, though, large savings can be achieved if one can only replace the rims as they wear out, as the spokes and hub life can extend to hundreds of thou miles. Even big name builders like White will not recycle your spokes which is too bad as it makes for a more reliable wheel down the road.
Tensioning makes all the difference. There needs to be enough tension especially in the rear so that the NDS spokes don't go all popcorn on you and they need to be evenly tensioned since only then can you have all of the spokes at acceptable tensions and not just the majority or a few of them. I do agree on the stress relief but that takes under a minute and anyone can do that on a wheel.
Component mix on the other hand is of relatively little importance. If the wheel components are even somewhat compatible no issues should crop up. I don't even really understand what you mean by components that aren't well matched (I'm assuming you don't mean lacing radial with a hub that does not allow for it)
Spoking pattern on the other hand can have a quite a large impact since the spoke angle at the hub should be in the right area to prevent
1) hub failure (too radial a lacing pattern on a hub not designed for radial)
2) spoke failure (too many crosses and too acute an angle of spokes relative to the hub)

You can think what you like about butted spokes but the truth is that they are more durable and an excellent choice for especially heavy riders carrying heavy loads. I would say that for heavier guys the importance of spoke butting grows exponentially.

How does recycling spokes make the wheel more reliable? They do go through a lot of stress cycles during their lifetime in the wheel and it's likely spokes even go through fatigue cycles so one would imagine it's a good idea to replace a fatigued part when possible.
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Old 09-01-15, 10:27 AM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Using a mixture of strong and weak components will result in more stress being applied to the weaker components. Chainging one or two spokes, probably not an issue. But if you changed quite a few, it could become an issue.
Doesn't matter with spokes. A spoke goes through it's individual stress cycles and is not really affected by the other spokes. You can mix and match as much as you like.
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Old 09-01-15, 10:38 AM
  #14  
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Originally Posted by MassiveD View Post
I don't think that tensioning and detensioning make any real difference.
True, but sometimes it is the easiest way to get the wheel true and with even tension.
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Old 09-01-15, 10:44 AM
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Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
Doesn't matter with spokes. A spoke goes through it's individual stress cycles and is not really affected by the other spokes. You can mix and match as much as you like.
I don't think that is completely true. I think it is likely that the 4 different type spokes (drive and non drive side inners and outers) in a rear wheel all interact with the other three neighboring types. I don't think mismatching is sudden death or anything but do think that matching is better than not matching when it comes to gauge and type of butting.

That said it isn't a big enough deal that I actually worry about it enough to go back and replace any mismatched ones.
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Old 09-01-15, 10:45 AM
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On the original question... I have seen a wide range in how well factory wheels were built. In recent years most of mine seem to have been pretty decent.
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Old 09-01-15, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
Tensioning makes all the difference. There needs to be enough tension especially in the rear so that the NDS spokes don't go all popcorn on you and they need to be evenly tensioned since only then can you have all of the spokes at acceptable tensions and not just the majority or a few of them.
I said tension was key, my quibble was over the OP's suggestion that detensioning followed by tensioning achieved anything, assuming that the wheel was non-insanely enough built that one could go forward and didn't have to tear it apart. I should be more careful, I am not really saying the OP suggested it, but trying to avoid people taking that impression.

I do agree on the stress relief but that takes under a minute and anyone can do that on a wheel.
I like to do about 4 steps, and it would take me more than a minute, plus it often results in having to further adjust tension and true the wheel. But it is not all that difficult, though the fact it is easy and fast has nothing to do with how important it is.

Jobst said the only part that actually mattered was tweaking the parallel pairs, so on that basis it would be pretty fast + retuning.

I don't have any hard data on this but the data we do have indicates that most hand built wheels that pros, built, often where they don't check each spoke with a meter will have considerable variability in tension in them. Yet these wheels often stand up super well, but if they weren't stress relieved they don't. I don't have much of an opinion on that, but it may be the case that stress reieving is more important than being Joe Park Tensionmeter. As a guy who only does his own wheels I am Joe Park Tensionmeter, because I don't have the feel to wing it. All put together it is one of the reasons why a newb can make a really good wheel, if more slowly.

A further reason the guy with the uneven spokes may none the less build a superior wheel (OT but interesting) is because he taco checks his work, while the current method is to factory specs. This is a long subject but the tensionmeter method can be at a lower stress level.


Component mix on the other hand is of relatively little importance. If the wheel components are even somewhat compatible no issues should crop up. I don't even really understand what you mean by components that aren't well matched
The fact that not all spokes fit hubs well, etc... Using a proven formula is a simple solution. Even custom makers run into this problem, and it is universal enough that we have for instance the spoke washers. Most factory wheels I have come across can be dark on hubs, spokes, and nipples, normally the brand part is the rim only. I am talking $1100 kind of normally all good bikes. These happy price point bikes are often built with only the big name parts on the places they feel customers look. Nipples for instance what brand are they. And to be frank, how do I know they are the brand they say they are. Even US military planes have counterfeit components in them.

You can think what you like about butted spokes but the truth is that they are more durable and an excellent choice for especially heavy riders carrying heavy loads. I would say that for heavier guys the importance of spoke butting grows exponentially.
Citation please. I actually don't doubt you can find one. But the contrary to that is I am the heavy rider, and I have until a few years back never owned a butted spoke bike, and never broken a spoke. The evidence I go by is that the guys like peter white, and virtually every maker of serious bikes that aren't bespoke level, use straight spokes. Peter guarantees his wheels, and has been in business for decades. He will not build all kinds of wheels he thinks are stupid (and I don't doubt he thinks butted are better), but those are the facts. Straight spokes don't break.

Further, all the bad wheels are pretty much built using straight spokes, so you get all the imaginable problems in straight spoke land. Who pays for Alpine III but gets them done by machine, and tensioned by a monkey? This is part of the straight spoke myth, they break because the wheels are badly built, not because the spokes are a problem. This is why pro built straight spoke wheels can be guaranteed.

Further: 1) stronger means nothing in the real world. I can build you a stronger Boeing 777, it might be too heavy to take off though. What maters is are the spokes strong enough, and the answer is more than strong enough for anything we ever do. 2) BUT, that is mainly relative to fatigue failure, that is only one failure mode, in other failure modes straight spokes may be stronger. 3) There can be places where straight are better, in the rear half and half, for instance.

The half radial rear wheel can be a lot stronger. And if one doesn't want radial one can use either a different gage or straight spokes. So even assuming the nonsense butted are so great... It turns out the rear wheel only needs to be half that way. Most sensible people will give you a pass on the front wheel because it is rarely the place spokes break. So out of say 72, or 80 spokes, you can get away with as few as 18 spokes, butted, no mater what happy talk you believe about butted spokes.

How does recycling spokes make the wheel more reliable? They do go through a lot of stress cycles during their lifetime in the wheel and it's likely spokes even go through fatigue cycles so one would imagine it's a good idea to replace a fatigued part when possible.
According to Jobst, who wrote the book, you can get a good 500000 miles (or maybe K) out of spokes. He did. This is the main point, his butted spokes were more durable, but I, and maybe all the people I know, will probably not together do 500K on the same hubs and spokes, we are fine with straight spokes. Jobst, being Jobst, bought up a lifetime supply of MA2 rims, and just switched them out. As an engineer, he believed that when properly built the only spokes that would break were defective ones. You replace those, it made no sense in his mind to discard proven spokes for ones that were unproven. Things people blame on spokes, constructing elaborate theories, are probably mostly defects, once those are selected out, you want to keep and run the good spokes. Of course the process for that is not entirely simple.

The thing the armchair experts never say is how much better butted spokes are. Give me a number. Do they last twice as long? That would be a preposterous. But even if true, I can make spokes that will only allow me to cycle around the world 10 times work for me.

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Old 09-01-15, 01:00 PM
  #18  
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Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
Doesn't matter with spokes. A spoke goes through it's individual stress cycles and is not really affected by the other spokes. You can mix and match as much as you like.
May not matter for the system as a whole, but a weak spoke is a weak spoke. The weakest will still be the first to break, even if it's not taking any extra burden from its neighbors.

Bought a Marin bike several years ago and started breaking spokes on the rear wheel. After paying for the first two spokes to be replaced, I got tired of spending money and being deprived of my bike for days at a time, so I learned how to do it myself. Spokes continued to break, one at time, until every spoke on one side of the wheel had been replaced. Then everything was good.

Bought a Handspun front wheel. I didn't think it was completely true when I got it, so I straightened it up a bit. I don't think I had any problems with it after that. I might have put it back in stand once during the five or so years it lasted.

Currently running two wheels I got from Taylor Wheels in Germany. I figured that if nothing else, a trip across the ocean would have knocked them out of true, but I put them in the stand and could find no flaw. Less than 6 months on that set, but so far, so good.

Other wheels I've had are ones I've built myself. I don't have a tensioner (plan to get one, though), and I tension by first tightening everything evenly and then by tone and feel. There has been some trial and error. My first wheel went great. My 2nd one took around 3 builds to get the number of crosses and the spoke heads placed where I didn't get breaks. After that, it worked fine. I've only built maybe half a dozen wheels, but they've held up well. I tend to run hub gears, which means I can dish everything pretty evenly, which simplifies things.

So I guess the only experience I have with real factory wheels is the Marin, and the experience wasn't great (no issues with the front wheel, though). I have no idea what the process is for making the Handspun or Taylor wheels, but Taylor in particular feels pretty solid. They may be hand built, but even if not, I think they made a point on their site of mentioning that they use quality spokes. And for me, that has made the difference. No amount of truing and tensioning my Marin wheel helped until I had replaced the bad spokes, and other builds I have done were troublesome until I found a good spoke to use. These days, I would take a chance on a wheel if it had the components I want, like the Taylor Wheels I just bought, but for the most part, my build requirements are pretty specific, so I'm more likely just to make the wheels myself.
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Old 09-01-15, 01:20 PM
  #19  
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Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
What kind of experiences have you had with factory built wheels? I'm starting to think they are merely assembled when the bike is delivered and a pro needs to go through the wheelset before it's actually usable.
Sad thing qualified wheelbuilders seem to be relatively rare...
That matches my experience, although I don't think I've bought an untouched wheel for six years now. And that set was probably "touched" by a skilled wrench while we went out for supper.
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Old 09-01-15, 01:24 PM
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The idea that you can save a lot of money buying a factory built, butted wheel of known components from a manufacturer of such integrity that their choice of brands and techniques, could never be questioned (like cut vs rolled threads), and then own all the tools to do a little prep yourself, and save money, sounds a little fantastic. It might be possible if say, Rivendell had a going out of business sale...
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Old 09-01-15, 01:28 PM
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I have been trying to remember the last time I bought a wheel that was factory assembled. It was in 1973, but back then I do not know if they had any form of machine assembly, and the steel rims were pretty flexible.
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Old 09-01-15, 02:07 PM
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Factory wheels = good starting point to put on a truing stand; after checking the lubrication of the bearings.

Mis-matched spoke stiffness (mixing straight and butted spokes). Not the end of the world BUT - will result in some wobble as the different stiffness spoke comes around. There will be different rim deflection. Some riders will feel it, some will not. The higher the load, the more noticeable - <200lbs no worries; >300lbs very annoying.
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