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Dodgy touring wheel build?

Old 07-17-10, 07:27 AM
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Dodgy touring wheel build?

I stuck this in the touring forum as the folks here appreciate the importance of confidence in their gear and the toughness that touring wheels require. I just got my new wheels from the guy who built them and am a little unhappy with them. They are Mavic A319 rims with XT hubs and DT Alpine III spokes.

I have a few issues/questions. Firstly largely cosmetic stuff, for example the labels on the rims and hubs are in different orientations on the two wheels. Worse, the rim tape is clearly too small as it says rims 13c to 17 c, and the 319`s are 19c in width. Finally, for me the spoke tension feels pretty low.

The cosmetic issues are easily solved by removing the rim labels, but are suggestive of poor work. Should I also change the rim tape?

I know without a tensionometer this is subjective, but should I be able to deflect the spokes by several mm under gentle pressure? The tension seems similar to that on my son`s beat up and cheap mountain bike... I just got a pair of new Fulcrum wheels for my road bike and the contrast is huge (mind you these have deep rims and a low spoke count).

At least the sodding things are true, but then again the rims were practically perfect beforehand!

Advice appreciated! With long tours planned I am sorely tempted to rebuild the wheels rather than have to worry about them all the time.
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Old 07-17-10, 08:05 AM
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without an objective measurement all one can say in response is do what makes you feel secure. I think the issue over labels is nitpicking. If the rim tape can shift and not cover the holes completely that is a valid criticism but if it does cover adequately there isn't a functional difference. I've been using Gorilla tape so the issue isn't a big one to me. The real issue is whether the spoke tension is ok or too loose. If you don't know take it by a shop and ask for their opinion.
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Old 07-17-10, 08:19 AM
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Before doing anything else, go back to the guy who built the wheels. Any wheel builder who wants to keep your business has to at least have somebody trained to answer questions about the build and resolve complaints.

First question would be the tension issue. I don't know how much pressure qualifies as "gentle pressure". For all I know, if it's similar to the tension on a mountain bike that's been used for years without wheel failure, that might be the tension that you want. You don't want too much tension on the spokes either.

Next question is the rim tape. The important thing is that the tape covers the holes and then some, so that the tape doesn't slide. Mavic actually recommends 20mm rim tape for A319 rims (https://www.mavic.com/road/products/a-319.324124.2.aspx), but 19mm will work. If they don't have a satisfactory answer for why you have the size of rim tape you have, ask them if they'll spring for a new tube every time you get a flat because the rim tape let your tube poke through a hole.

At the end, you might bring up the label issue, which is purely cosmetic but which I gather led you to find all these other issues. At the very least they will be more careful next time.
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Old 07-17-10, 04:06 PM
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Get a tensiometer or find a shop that has one, and compare the spoke tension to Mavic's specs for your rims. If the tension is off you've got a complaint, otherwise the other stuff seems trivial.

It might be easier and faster to just pay a shop to bring the wheels up to proper spoke tension, instead of arguing with the wheel builder.
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Old 07-17-10, 06:02 PM
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Obviously if you can easily get them back to the guy who built them that would be best. But if you have to take this on yourself, just compare the tension to what you find at the lbs. That will get you to the ballpack, assuming similar wheels. I think for a tourist, a tensionmeter is a nice thing to have. Not necesarry even for building your own wheels, but it is some peace of mind at least.

When talking about flexing spokes, the parallel pairs are very easy to flex. When stress relieving wheels they come in about an inch. There are other directions that aren't so easy to flex. But for sure, there will be some "loose" spokes on a properly tensioned wheel.

The label thing is not a big issue, except even a guy like me who builds a new set of wheels only every so often comes across the instructons on how that stuff is supposed to be set up. I have to check every time I build a wheel, but at least I know to check. In theory a person who takes pride in their work orients the labels correctly, but that is just tradition. Just visually check the stem holes, and cross threes, etc... are all properly built.

I would just grab the right roll of cotton or filament tape, and give your wheel a wrap, not worry about the rim tape, except to the extent that it seems more bad work.
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Old 07-18-10, 11:05 AM
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It's really great when you find a mechanic you trust. I'd shop around. When I found someone I liked I'd give him/her all my business and specify to the shop that I only want him/her to work on my bike.

I've had a tour ruined by a bunch of broken spokes. On my new LHT I elected to build my wheels myself. I bought a truing stand and a tensionmeter. I tensioned the double-butted spokes to the designated specs. I've gone on three, heavily-loaded tours and haven't broken a spoke. I found the tensionmeter indispensable for my first attempt.

I've read an experienced builder can tell by the feel. I've also read that some builders tweak the spokes and listen to the tone. If it's too high or too low they can tell and make the adjustment.

My plan on tour, should I break a spoke, is to replace it and then tweak it (ping it?) I'll compare the pitch to a sampling of other spokes and tune it to them. I'm a musician so I have some skill at recognizing pitches.

Rim tape is a cheap fix. I've had flat problems when the end of a nipple was exposed. I try and use good rim tape; it's not much more expensive than the cheap stuff. If it was me I'd replace what I wasn't happy with. One less thing to worry about.
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Old 07-19-10, 09:45 AM
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"I've read an experienced builder can tell by the feel. I've also read that some builders tweak the spokes and listen to the tone. If it's too high or too low they can tell and make the adjustment.

That is a myth on both counts. An experienced builder is going to be able to get close just by being organized and doing everything in a logical pattern. The wheel isn't going to be crazy out of true like a disorganized amateur. But apparently even really expert builder goof tension without using a tensionmeter. One really good builder said he would get different levels on different days. The good builders don't have to check every spoke, but apparently they still benefit from using tensionmeters.

The musical pitch thing is supposed to be unreliable also. I did want to attach my Intelituner to the wheel and read the numbers, but for our kind of wheels the cross pattern dulls it out and makes for different pitches. And then there is the front and rear with dish on possibly both of them. Sounds more plausible for radial spokes. I read something by one of the experts as to why it plain doesn't work, but I don't remember those details... My feeling is that at the moment in time that a person feels the need to use pitch they are a candidate for a tensionmeter. However if one both owns a tensionmeter and is musical, then one could prove the point either way to oneself.

On a spoke replacement getting close is probably close enough. Keep in mind the info about tensionmeters and pros, they aren't hitting everything perfect. If you are only down one spoke, bet it near the ball park, and it is perfectly true, should be good enough. Amateurs are the guys fitting to get tension for every spoke perfect, and all the alignment factors. We rock.
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