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Tired of breaking spokes

Old 04-05-22, 11:10 PM
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bajaking
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Tired of breaking spokes

Hi all, 46yo, 280lb at 6' but not super-hideously unfit, just mostly. Was a regular weekend warrior MTB rider at 230-ish lbs throughout my 30s. These days, trying to get a few 60-90 minute rides per week on a Cannondale Quick-Disk 5 "fitness" bike in the endless quest to lose the 70+ lbs my doc and I want to see gone.

Problem is, I keep breaking spokes on the rear wheel. Just had a shop custom build me a rear wheel, and after maybe 50 miles it's already shot. Everything else about the bike seems to have no problem with my fatness and I quite enjoy the bike's fit and feel. Zero spokes ever broken on the front wheel.

I'm tired of it. Certainly there are more robust wheel options, aren't there? Double wall, titanium spokes...the shops have recommended these incremental changes and we've tried some, but it hasn't worked. I think the shop mechanics have a hard time thinking outside the box of a 140lb road rider obsessed with ounces and riding on smooth roads. I'm just a fatso trying to run errands and climb a few hills on imperfect urban asphalt. I don't care if I'm riding a mullet or the wheel adds a couple pounds or looks funny. I just want a reliable ride.
The bike currently has 32h wheels. I've read that 36 or 40h wheels are of course stronger, but is it genuinely significant enough to make a difference? I'd hate to go to 36 and find I'm only getting a little more time between failures.

Any suggestions? Maybe I should give up on the stock "fitness" style bikes and get a 29" hardtail MTB, lock the fork, and put on slicks? Or invest in something like a Surly Long Haul Trucker? Or?
I also can't help but think bigger tires will reduce road impacts (WTB 700x32cm are on it now) but a couple mechanics have dismissed that idea as making a real difference.

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Old 04-06-22, 04:13 AM
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Clyde1820
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For a ~300lb load (rider+bike), a wheel needs to be well-made and fairly tough.

I'd suggest going with at least a 36H/36H (front/rear) combination, or possibly a 36H/40H. The spoke lacing pattern can also make a difference in strength.

Some strong wheels include, for example: Velocity Cliffhanger, Velocity Atlas, Sun Rhyno Lite. A larger (wider, greater volume) tire can also help. Say, something like a Velocity Cliffhanger 36H/40H rim, DT Swiss Champion 14g spokes and nipples, with a 700x42 or 700x45 tire. It'll certainly be heavier than your current setup. But, if assembled by a quality wheelbuilder, I doubt it'd be breaking on you anytime soon.

Here are a couple of sites that might provide some ideas about tougher wheels for heavier riders/loads:

https://www.velomine.com/index.php?m...22_700_709_710

Velocity - Atlas 700c Disc Clydesdale Wheelset

https://www.prowheelbuilder.com/velo...t-package.html


My current wheelset: Velocity Cliffhanger 26" 36H/36H, DT Swiss Champion spokes and nipples, White Industries MI5 hubs, ReneHerse Rat Trap Pass 26x2.3" tires. Tough setup. Ridden on rougher urban-area streets with numerous minor defects and potholes. Not a peep since built. Beautiful set, if a bit spendy.

My prior wheelset: Velocity Dyad 26" 36H/36H, DT Swiss Champion spokes and nipples, Shimano Deore XT hubs, Continental Tour Ride tires. Also fairly tough. Ridden on rougher urban-area streets with numerous minor defects and potholes. Never one peep from the things, let alone any breakage, in several years of nearly-daily use.


https://www.velocityusa.com/product/...iff-hanger-622

https://www.velocityusa.com/product/rims/atlas-622

https://www.dtswiss.com/en/component...es/dt-champion

https://www.dtswiss.com/en/component.../dt-alpine-iii

https://www.whiteind.com/mi5

https://www.renehersecycles.com/shop...rat-trap-pass/

https://www.continental-tires.com/bi...tour/ride-tour
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Old 04-06-22, 06:12 AM
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That is crazy. A shop built wheel is shot in 50 miles? Take it back to the shop, get a refund. Find a good wheelbuilder.

I'm only 230 pounds. My front road wheel has 16 spokes and my rear has 21 spokes. I train on these. I have different set with probably 100,000 miles on them with 20 spokes on the front and 28 spokes on the rear and not only have never broken a spoke but have only trued the front once. Both are carbon rims.
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Old 04-06-22, 07:46 AM
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If a shop-built wheel is shot in 50 miles, they don't know what they're doing. Find somebody else, or learn how to do it yourself. For the latter, get a copy of Jobst Brandt's book, "The Bicycle Wheel," read it until you understand it. Finding somebody else is a crap shoot. There are a lot of mechanics who claim to know how to build wheels, and some 125 pound cyclists will recommend them because they're wizards at getting a bend wheel back into shape, but they don't know what they're doing as far as building wheels for heavy riders who ride a lot.

The two biggest parts of a long-lived wheel, IME, are adequate spoke tension and stress-relieving the spokes. I've hovered around your weight for years, and stress relieving my spokes cut my failure rate by about a third; buying and learning how to use a tensiometer made an even bigger effect on reliability. I've gone from having broken spokes laying about for everything from clearing mud out of my shoes or fishing a chain out of wax, to "I thought I had a spoke, where is it?" Perhaps a tertiary factor is correcting the spokes' line while building; if someone worries about that they are either ace builders or, if they don't obsess about the first two, maybe they'll learn eventually.
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Old 04-06-22, 07:55 AM
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The Bicycle Wheel is the only thing I read before building my first wheels. I've never broken a single spoke on a wheel that I built.

Spokes break due to fatigue, from going into and out of the elastic range. It takes a lot of spoke tension for a heavy rider on aluminum rims because aluminum flexes much more than carbon. When the rim flexes and if the spoke tension is insufficient, the spoke is sort of loose and then as the wheel rotates, it tightens back up. This cycle of loosening and tightening fatigues the spoke and it breaks. I am very perplexed how this can happen in 50 miles.

BTW.....don't use Ti spokes. I let a shop talk me into that maybe 30 years ago. Worst wheel ever.
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Old 04-06-22, 08:06 AM
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Yeah, this is an issue of appropriate build quality, nothing else. As noted, a wheel breaking spokes within 50 miles is outrageous, and a clear indicator it was improperly constructed, Also an indicator your shop has no clue is suggesting titanium spokes, and if you haven’t been riding double-wall rims, well, that’s proof of subpar component quality.

The important factors here are component quality and build quality, not spoke count. You want strong rims, hubs with wide flange spacing, quality spokes, and for everything to be properly assembled and tensioned.

I’d suggest getting wide (+19mm internal), deep-section rims for strength, like 28-30mm in either alu or carbon, drilled for triplet lacing to hubs which afford the best bracing angle with wide, aero profile spokes or double-butted round spokes screwed into spherical head nipples like DT Swiss Pro or Sapim Polyax. Or, at least, a quality brass nipple with washers.

You can take all that to a quality wheel builder, or just pick a prebuilt, of which there are many. I’ve been riding at 240lbs-250lbs for more than a decade on lousy, Michigan roads with off-the-shelf wheels without any issues, most often 18f/24r spoke, sub 1500g aluminum. That’s not proof of anything, of course, but take it as a serious counterpoint to those who will claim it’s stupid to run anything with fewer than 36 spokes. Spoke count is merely a crutch for lack of wheelbuilding know-how, or at the very least, a cover story for wheelbuilders incapable of getting the right parts for such wheels. Triplet lacing, for example, which ensures even spoke tension on both sides (a main factor in durability) can be very hard to find hubs for outside of the big wheel brands (who don’t sell them as imdividual components), so finding a builder who can offer that is challenging, yet brands like Campagnolo/Fulcrum and Shimano pump out heaps of OE and aftermarket triplet-laced wheels.

If you really want to plow the conventional Clyde wisdom under, grab a pair of Spinergy GX32, which use fiber spokes. Yeah, I run a pair of those trouble free myself, on my gravel bike…actually the lower profile GX, but same fiber spokes, and only 24 of ‘em per wheel.

One might wonder how it’s possible a 250lbs rider capable of kicking out +1400w, can ride so few spokes made of plastic fibers, over rough, irregular gravel roads with washboard and potholes, and the answer is math and science, of course. It’s not new math and science, either; Henry Ford discovered the benefits of triplet wheel lacing in 1926:

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Old 04-06-22, 08:47 AM
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I have a set of wheels with carbon spokes, no problems. Almost ALL of my wheels are built with Sapim CX-Ray spokes, which are light, high tensile aero spokes making it very easy to get a lot of spoke tension. I even have a wheel with only two spokes, both carbon. I might only be 230 lbs but I run high pressure road clinchers and often ride at night and hit potholes at high speed. You just need the right components laced up right, properly tensioned AND stress relieved.

Chaadster is 100% correct.

Good wheel builders are not so common anymore. You might have to go online, depending on where you live.
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Old 04-06-22, 11:15 AM
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bajaking
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Wow, thank you folks! So much info. I admit I was secretly hoping "build it yourself!" would be a strong suggestion, and now that I see how active these forums are, I'll poke around for wisdom on doing exactly that. And tracking down a copy of The Wheel Book.
A hypothetical, though: is there any factor which can override build quality to some extent? For example, can a 40 spoke, all carbon, double wall mountain bike wheel with fat tires on it built by an unlucky ham-fisted knuckledragger actually be stronger than say a 24 spoke Velocity something-or-other built by a true wheel professional?

Meantime, I'll have to shop for a prebuilt incorporating some of the features/specs/brands mentioned above. To be sure I get something that actually fits on the bike - design and quality aside - my first guess at the crucial overall specs is:

1. wheel diameter (I know this one! 700c)
2. width - actually I have no idea about this. Can a wheel designed for 32mm tires accommodate a wider tire, if it'll fit in the frame?
3. dropout width (distance between dropouts, whatever that is called)
4. disc (vs non-disc. Another easy one!)
5. hub that accommodates Shimano 7 (or 8, I'll have to check) speed gear set cassette.

I have no idea about these things yet, especially #5, so go easy on me...

Last edited by bajaking; 04-06-22 at 12:02 PM.
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Old 04-06-22, 01:46 PM
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Tandem riders can put as much weight on their wheels. So it's doable.

20+ years ago, I got an inexpensive truing stand and a Park Tool tension meter. The tension meter was critical, since I had no "feel" for what a correctly tensioned spoke felt like. And it's helpful for trying to keep the spoke tensions as close as they can be, instead of adjoining groups of high-low tension.

I started with just fine tuning some cheaper spare wheels, then eventually built or replaced rims on a few.
I like the process. The rim starts out really wobbly, and it seems like it'll never get trued. You-gotta-be-kidding-me! Then it all comes together! Yeah! I can see that some people would not like the work, at all.

I'm not fast, like a pro wheelbuilder, but the wheels are fine, very accurately aligned.

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Old 04-06-22, 02:38 PM
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I'll second "Building Bicycle Wheels" by Robert Wright. Very straight forward and a path to a good wheel.

Or (and?) tell us where you live and I am sure fellow posters can tell you who's good in your area. (Maybe do that now so you can get riding again and buy the book for the future. Robert Wright and Jobst Brandt's approaches will get you the same good wheel but Wright skips the theory and keeps the book short and simple. Brandt's is an engineering text.)

Edit: Robert never built me a wheel; I was already a few years into building my own the year I spent in his town. He was famous for his wheels (5 years before the book was out). We met, almost literally, on a club ride town sprint when another rider almost took me out and did take out 8 consecutive spokes at speed. Robert was on my wheel with the bunch behind him. In gratitude for me staying upright instead of putting the two of us at the bottom of a pile, he turned around, got his truck and drove me home. He's as level headed as his book. I'm sure its long out of print but I duck-duck'd it not long ago and there were quite a few out there.

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Old 04-06-22, 03:05 PM
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46yo 280 pound rider on a Cannondale Quick-Disk 5 - 700c wheels - 36 spoke - 35mm tires. Looks like you have the right bike and the right tires yet still popping spokes. Could it be your ridding style, your bike route, big road bumps and stalls?

When I was at 280+ I was frequently popping spokes also. When I got down to 250 everything got better. I think weight could be the offender. I know of a few guys that pop spokes only when they get fully loaded up for a tour. These tour guys usually weigh in at about 180 to 220 so with all thier gear they are coming in at about 280+. Ha... That's when they start popping spokes. Strangely though I know guys who load up even more and have never popped a spoke too. Go figure...

Also when I ride some of my torn up asphalt, big pot hole routes, I can loose a spoke. In that you had a mountain bike ridding style it could be you are too aggressive in your ridding style.

Also... Over the years I have learned to keep close track of my wheels true and tension. I can build my own but prefer not to so I purchase machine built and then loosen them all up and rebuild them.
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Old 04-06-22, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
Or (and?) tell us where you live
Oakland, CA

I confess: just brought the bike to another shop and they assure me (fool me twice...) I'll have something worthwhile in a week. Cheap pre-builts are out of stock, so he'll build up a 36 spoke touring rim and put a bigger tire on it but reuse my hub and rotor.
The shop is called "Stay True", so I'll give them a chance to live up to their name.

Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
I'm sure its long out of print but I duck-duck'd it not long ago and there were quite a few out there.
5-hund-o on Amazon, so I'll apply patience on that one! Thumb's up on the duck-ducking, though.
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Old 04-06-22, 06:06 PM
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While I love my local shops and try to support them as much as I can, they haven't been very good at building good wheels for me and i have worked with 4 over the years. I think when us riders get closer to 300# (or in my case, well over) we are so far out of biking norms that they just don't have any experience in what to do and not do when building.

On my road bike, I had very good luck with the Vuelta HD Clyde wheels. I bought them because they were cheap and put it on "temporarily" while my main wheel at the time was at the shop getting trued. Cheapo stayed true for 3 seasons and close to 10k miles! I switched to a Velocity wheel (see below) and had this one trued and it will live on as a spare.

Unfortunately, those seem to not be available any longer. They are slightly more expensive, but I have used Velocity Wheel Builder for both my road bike and gravel bike and in both cases the wheels have been great. Road bike one has 2 seasons and 5k miles on it. I have both a tubed and tubeless one for my gravel bike, so the miles are split, but a few thousand there too and its much harder to ride "light" on gravel,

DaveW
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Old 04-06-22, 11:26 PM
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Originally Posted by DWhitworth View Post
I think when us riders get closer to 300# (or in my case, well over) we are so far out of biking norms that they just don't have any experience in what to do and not do when building.
I forgot to mention the guy thought clydesdale was a brand when I asked him if he could build clydesdale wheels. I figured even a never-been-over-8%-bodyfat shop guy would have spent enough time with internet bike lingo and forums to at least come across the term.
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Old 04-07-22, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by bajaking View Post
Hi all, 46yo, 280lb at 6' but not super-hideously unfit, just mostly. Was a regular weekend warrior MTB rider at 230-ish lbs throughout my 30s. These days, trying to get a few 60-90 minute rides per week on a Cannondale Quick-Disk 5 "fitness" bike in the endless quest to lose the 70+ lbs my doc and I want to see gone.

Problem is, I keep breaking spokes on the rear wheel. Just had a shop custom build me a rear wheel, and after maybe 50 miles it's already shot. Everything else about the bike seems to have no problem with my fatness and I quite enjoy the bike's fit and feel. Zero spokes ever broken on the front wheel.

I'm tired of it. Certainly there are more robust wheel options, aren't there? Double wall, titanium spokes...the shops have recommended these incremental changes and we've tried some, but it hasn't worked. I think the shop mechanics have a hard time thinking outside the box of a 140lb road rider obsessed with ounces and riding on smooth roads. I'm just a fatso trying to run errands and climb a few hills on imperfect urban asphalt. I don't care if I'm riding a mullet or the wheel adds a couple pounds or looks funny. I just want a reliable ride.
The bike currently has 32h wheels. I've read that 36 or 40h wheels are of course stronger, but is it genuinely significant enough to make a difference? I'd hate to go to 36 and find I'm only getting a little more time between failures.

Any suggestions? Maybe I should give up on the stock "fitness" style bikes and get a 29" hardtail MTB, lock the fork, and put on slicks? Or invest in something like a Surly Long Haul Trucker? Or?
I also can't help but think bigger tires will reduce road impacts (WTB 700x32cm are on it now) but a couple mechanics have dismissed that idea as making a real difference.
Your problem is using the wrong spokes. Iím not quite your weight but Iíve been known to load up a bike with extra stuff and go ride in silly places. A bike shop convinced me to try DT Swiss Alpine III in a build around 1998. The wheels lasted more than 10 years before someone who borrowed the bike managed to shift into the spokes. Iíve been building with them since than and my spoke breakage problems have decreased from several per year to essentially zeroÖeven with a load on the bike and during rugged off-road touring.





Frankly, you might want to learn how to build your own wheels since finding someone to build for your needs may be difficult. Thatís the main reason I started building my own roughly 40 years ago.
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Old 04-07-22, 12:41 PM
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OR you could buy a Dutch IGH bike. They are made for a GF on the back. LOL.
Seriously, I saw a Dutch video with a medium size guy pedaling and on the back was a TALL guy sitting sidesaddle. Had to be 380 lbs total including the bike. They were just floating along like nothing.
My Rohloff14 tour bike is 120 lbs loaded, so up to 300 lbs with me. Never a peep.
I use 2.3/ 2.0 spokes on my other hubs.

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Old 04-07-22, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
...Iíve been known to load up a bike with extra stuff and go ride in silly places. A bike shop convinced me to try DT Swiss Alpine III in a build...
Absolutely makes since... My question is, are there other alternatives to "DT Swiss Alpine III"? I have a few wheels sitting around that truly need spoke upgrades and I just can't afford the said DT Swiss.
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Old 04-07-22, 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by zandoval View Post
Absolutely makes since... My question is, are there other alternatives to "DT Swiss Alpine III"? I have a few wheels sitting around that truly need spoke upgrades and I just can't afford the said DT Swiss.
IMO the build is more important that the spokes. Once I learned to adequately tension and stress-relieve spokes, I've had minimal problems. The DT Swiss Competition double-butted spokes are my favorite, but I've still got straight spokes on a couple wheels that are working fine.
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Old 04-07-22, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by zandoval View Post
Absolutely makes since... My question is, are there other alternatives to "DT Swiss Alpine III"? I have a few wheels sitting around that truly need spoke upgrades and I just can't afford the said DT Swiss.
Pillar, Sapim, and Wheelsmith make spokes with 2.3mm heads like the Alpines. On the other hand, Rose Bikes sells silver Alpines for about $0.60 each with shipping included for a set of 80 spokes. Black Alpines are about $0.75 each. Both, including shipping, is cheaper than wholesale here in the US.
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Old 04-09-22, 12:36 AM
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What's with that Rose web page. Won't let you look unless you sell yourself to the google tracking monster.
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Old 04-09-22, 06:35 AM
  #21  
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tire selection and inflation are important here at well. some say tubeless is harder on wheels however the ride is much better and greatly improves feel of the bike on any surface. I am an eighth ton man and ride 32's built mostly by Peter Chisholm out of Boulder. Ring him up and discuss your needs I doubt you will be disappointed. you can find him on Paceline forum he doesn't hang here much. and wheel building is a specialized skill that comes from repeating it hundreds of times making it unlikely for an amateur, especially with the problems you describe, to succeed on the first second or fifth try.
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Old 04-09-22, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by banana jam View Post
and wheel building is a specialized skill that comes from repeating it hundreds of times making it unlikely for an amateur, especially with the problems you describe, to succeed on the first second or fifth try.
Wheel building really isnít all that difficult. It requires a bit of practice but if you never start, youíll never build a wheel that second or fifth time. I learned how to build wheels from a Bicycling magazine article in 1986. It was written by Ric Hjertberg and can be found in a link in this article. Only the lacing and tensioning parts of the article are relevant today.
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Old 04-09-22, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by GamblerGORD53 View Post
What's with that Rose web page. Won't let you look unless you sell yourself to the google tracking monster.
I donít have a problem looking at the site. It is in Europe so they have to have the disclaimer. In the US you sign up for the Google tracking monster whether you want to or not.
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Old 04-11-22, 09:08 PM
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This might be a stupid question but is there a problem running different spokes on a wheel?
I hope to stop breaking spokes soon, (for those that haven't read my other post it's only recent but I'm yet to figure out why), but in the meantime I plan to fix any that do break myself. Given that I don't know what spokes are on the bike if I was to by stronger ones, or even a different size would that cause any issues?
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Old 04-12-22, 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by DeadSlow View Post
This might be a stupid question but is there a problem running different spokes on a wheel?
I can think of two problems right off the top of my head. First, you may need different spoke wrenches for the old and new spokes. Second, you're going to have problems matching the tension if you've got different body gauges between the spokes. If you use the tone/pluck method, a thicker spoke will sound a lower pitch; and if you're using a tensiometer, the same tension on different spokes will yield different raw measurements.

You can work through these issues. Use the skinnier wrench until it doesn't fit, then switch wrenches. (Try to remember which spoke you were working on and what your flow was, though.) Use a spoke gauge to figure out which size all the spokes are, and flag the ones that are different (I like a 1/4" bit of masking tape). Or when you get a different pitch or reading, double-check the size of that spoke. After some years of dealing with this, I can usually feel the different spoke sizes (actually, where the spoke necks down on a butted spoke). But it slows me down, so I've made sure my spare spokes all match since putting a few mis-matches on.
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