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Rear Wheel Failures

Old 09-19-21, 01:48 PM
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datlas 
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Rear Wheel Failures

In the past few years I have had a couple rear wheel failures. I am wondering how common these are, and also since these are aluminum rims, what options exist to hack/bodge a repair with some type of epoxy or even a few drops of molten metal.

My best guesses are these are reasonably common and no way to repair the rims.

The failure is the rim cracks at the spoke/nipple insertion spot. See pic below.

Oh, I am light at 140-145 pounds and would estimate these wheels failed at roughly 10-15k miles. Interestingly I have only ever had one front wheel ruined and that was a hard rock that hit/split the edge of a CF rim.

All comments appreciated.


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Old 09-19-21, 02:04 PM
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Front wheels rarely ever give someone a problem. What kind of wheels are they the brand and how many spokes. That is not a lot of miles for wheels for sure and a complete rim failure suggest the rims are not good. Need more details to make an assessment of the the situation. No you don't repair the wheel you buy a new one. Wheels can be had for a decent price and they are the contact with the ground you don't need to be taking any chances.
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Old 09-19-21, 02:44 PM
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It's a very common mode of failure caused by fatigue due to the tiny contact area (and hence high stress) around the spoke nipples. Failure usually begins as 2 cracks propagating along the centreline of the rim on either side of each spoke nipple. Eventually the rim deforms and fails as in your photos.
Some higher quality rims have load spreading washers underneath the nipples, which reduces the stress raiser and makes this failure much less likely.

Repair is not really viable or worthwhile given the relatively low cost of a new rim.

Last edited by PeteHski; 09-19-21 at 03:03 PM.
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Old 09-19-21, 02:59 PM
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If you want to just relace the wheel using a new rim, you can easily add nipple washers. They are inexpensive.
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Old 09-19-21, 03:29 PM
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Spoke tension probably too high. Higher isn't always better.
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Old 09-19-21, 03:43 PM
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I had two stock PowerTap rims do something similar. Always the nondrive side. Both were replaced under warranty. This third one came with a DT Swiss rim instead of their old rim, and it's been fine for the last few years.

Poor rims + bad lacing and/or tension/ whatever.
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Old 09-19-21, 05:59 PM
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It's a fairly frequent problem, especially on low spoke count wheels requiring high spoke tension. Drive side spokes on those wheels can have very high tension and are usually the first to show this type of failure.

Alas, time for a new rim or wheel.
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Old 09-19-21, 07:16 PM
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I'm hesitant to say too much tension. Although spoke loading is 100% the problem.

The thing is, is that rim manufacturers build their rims with a target tension in mind. 110 to 130 kg/f is one such common tension range. It could be 3 spokes; It could be 48 spokes...doesn't matter. So long as the spoke tension is moreorless even & in range, you should be good to go, essentially forever.

What you are doing is overloading your wheel with too much weight. As the rim goes round & round, whatever your weight happens to be, the individual spokes are cycling far above the hypothetical 130kg/f + whatever margin is anticipated by the rim designers

You need to do 1, the other, or both: Get more spokes, to hold a higher load (yourself) &/or get better spokes to more evenly spread it to the rim.

Low spoke count, high tension, straight gauge spokes have no "give" and tend to "shock load," for lack of a better term, a rim. What I mean to say is that with straight gauge spokes, each individual spoke tends to act as a discrete unit jerking on the spoke bed under it's own nipple with no meaningful sharing to it's neighbor. The instantaneous load per spoke is much higher than it otherwise could be with a spoke of a different construction. It's no wonder over loading the wheel built as yours causes cracking of the rim.

Get yourself some double or triple butted spokes or even better Sapim CX-Rays. The smaller diameter butted section in the middle will allow some stretch as the wheel goes around spreading the load, not on just the set of 4 that happens to be at the top at any given moment, but the spokes on either side as well. This transmits the force oscillations in a more even cyclical manner & the additional spokes lessen the amplitude deviation the spoke bed endures under any given spoke. A wheel made such will last a very long time.

FWIW: (& I'm not saying you do this, just hypothetical discussion, here) You don't need to run 140psi of tire pressure on a 19mm tire over cobbles either. Not that the wheel fatigue life & tire pressure are quite coorolated, but a stiff high pressure tire makes for a harsher ride & good sense says the additional shock loading of the spoke bed & the spoke nipples can't really be helping in the longevity department. It makes sense that a larger, softer tire might transmit external forces to the rim at a different, slower rate. This would load the wheel system at a softer amplitude & extending the fatigue life. There is no sense adding unnecessary stresses with counter-productive extremes, the most extreme being a gorilla riding solid tire...In short, what I mean to say is to get out of the saddle to better float over the rough stuff, & run sensible tires & pressures for someone of your stature, whatever it may be, so there is less sharp harsh jolts to the hub/spoke/nipple/rim/tire/wheel system. Your wheels will thank you.

Last edited by base2; 09-19-21 at 09:13 PM.
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Old 09-19-21, 07:21 PM
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For aluminum alloy rims, anodizing makes the surface more brittle (while adding color and surface hardness). The increased brittleness makes them more susceptible to (unreinforced) spoke holes cracking.
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Old 09-19-21, 07:24 PM
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I'm pretty sure you've heard it before but I generally get around 10K miles from a rear rim. It's been this way for 30+ years and they usually fail by cracking around the spoke holes. 36 hole, 32, 28, doesn't matter. The exception was the last one where the brake track wore through, which was the way my mtb rim brake wheels failed until I got the disc brake bike, then spoke hole cracks on that one.

I don't know what kind of rim that is but I suspect this is an extremely rare failure for you regardless of what wheels you use.

Last edited by big john; 09-19-21 at 07:31 PM.
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Old 09-20-21, 05:28 AM
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Here's a video explaining the mechanism of this type of failure with alloy rims. If short of time FFWD to 25:00 mins and watch the last few minutes. The solution (at 27:00 mins) is to use Sapim MG washers to increase the surface area of contact against the rim.


Or just buy some nice carbon rims.
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Old 09-20-21, 09:05 AM
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Thanks all for the comments. This confirms my suspicion that this is not at all uncommon. The quality of the rims in question is low-to-medium so for now I accept what has happened and will look into better longer-term solutions for future wheelsets.
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Old 09-20-21, 12:35 PM
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I've been building all my own wheels for many years. I suggest you start doing that. I've never had a wheel failure or a broken spoke which hadn't been damaged in an accident. (1). Absolutely, as in the above post 8, double or triple butted, or my latest rave, CX-Rays, although you are definitely not overloading that rear wheel, that is if is designed for that role. Gotta decrease the loading on the rim. Some wheel builders insist on unbutted spokes, contending that they make a stronger wheel. They are wrong.

The nice thing about building your own is that you pick the components depending on your preferences and usage and get to arrive at perfect spoke tension all the way around. You don't need a truing stand - use your bike. You do need a Park TM-1 tensiometer.
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Old 09-20-21, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
I've been building all my own wheels for many years. I suggest you start doing that. I've never had a wheel failure or a broken spoke which hadn't been damaged in an accident. (1). Absolutely, as in the above post 8, double or triple butted, or my latest rave, CX-Rays, although you are definitely not overloading that rear wheel, that is if is designed for that role. Gotta decrease the loading on the rim. Some wheel builders insist on unbutted spokes, contending that they make a stronger wheel. They are wrong.

The nice thing about building your own is that you pick the components depending on your preferences and usage and get to arrive at perfect spoke tension all the way around. You don't need a truing stand - use your bike. You do need a Park TM-1 tensiometer.
It's a thread hijack, but I suppose it's my thread so I can hijack it if I want.

My impression is that wheelbuilding is a skill which is not terribly complicated but takes a significant investment in time to get good at. Since I would only be doing this for myself, I suspect the volume of wheels needed is so low that it's not worth the time and investment in equipment, and makes more sense to outsource it.

I could always reconsider.
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Old 09-20-21, 03:08 PM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
It's a thread hijack, but I suppose it's my thread so I can hijack it if I want.

My impression is that wheelbuilding is a skill which is not terribly complicated but takes a significant investment in time to get good at. Since I would only be doing this for myself, I suspect the volume of wheels needed is so low that it's not worth the time and investment in equipment, and makes more sense to outsource it.

I could always reconsider.
It's not a complicated thing but it takes patience and is tedious. I tried it, built myself some wheels, but I won't do it again.

I'll do anything for love, but I won't do that.

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Old 09-20-21, 03:09 PM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
My impression is that wheelbuilding is a skill which is not terribly complicated but takes a significant investment in time to get good at. Since I would only be doing this for myself, I suspect the volume of wheels needed is so low that it's not worth the time and investment in equipment, and makes more sense to outsource it.
I would consider it as a hobby in its own right. A retired friend of mine got into wheel building just for fun, but I don't have the time or patience!
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Old 09-20-21, 03:16 PM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
It's a thread hijack, but I suppose it's my thread so I can hijack it if I want.

My impression is that wheelbuilding is a skill which is not terribly complicated but takes a significant investment in time to get good at. Since I would only be doing this for myself, I suspect the volume of wheels needed is so low that it's not worth the time and investment in equipment, and makes more sense to outsource it.

I could always reconsider.
I think it's one of those things that's easy to do poorly, but MUCH harder to do really, really well. I had an LBS build me a wheelset on old hubs. 50 miles later, I had to go back for re-truing. By contrast, I had a wheelbuilder build me a custom wheelset. They first needed some tweak to the truing at about 5000 miles.
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Old 09-20-21, 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
It's a thread hijack, but I suppose it's my thread so I can hijack it if I want.

My impression is that wheelbuilding is a skill which is not terribly complicated but takes a significant investment in time to get good at. Since I would only be doing this for myself, I suspect the volume of wheels needed is so low that it's not worth the time and investment in equipment, and makes more sense to outsource it.

I could always reconsider.
You seem like a pretty smart guy. That's most of it. The first wheel I built was, I hate to say it here, perfect. I wanted a specific rim that wasn't available on built wheels. That was the impetus, and the reason I still do it. I did have a wheel builder I used for a while, but he killed himself. So there's that.
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Old 09-20-21, 04:08 PM
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^ Yeah, I don't think wheelbuilding is that mysterious or tough, or requires that much outlay in tools. You can improvise ways to check the dish and true using the back of a frame. The important thing is that you can read instructions and follow them.

I still ride on the first wheel I ever built, which has almost 14,000 miles on it now. It did need some minor truing along the way, but it also doesn't get babied when I ride it!

I daresay one of the chief things that sets a pro wheelbuilder apart is simply how much faster they can do the job than a beginner.
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Old 09-20-21, 10:48 PM
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It's not unusual for some rims to pull through at the spokes with cracking/splitting. Can't be repaired. Some 1980s-early '90s hard anodized low profile lightweight rims seemed more vulnerable.

I had two rear wheels crack the same way last year, both from late 1980s road bikes: one, an Araya CTL-370, one of the lightest clincher rims ever made; the other, a Wolber Alpine Super Champion, made very similarly to the Araya CTL-370 but slightly heavier. And both wheelsets demanded frequent truing. That's just the tradeoff for such lightweight rims intended for climbing and competition back in the day, before carbon fiber. Both were noted by users for this kind of failure years ago, so I was fortunate to get this much use from them.

Yeah, spoke tension matters. But some aluminum rims seem much more durable and need less maintenance. I've since switched to slightly higher profile aluminum rims. Very low maintenance. And I'm not strong or fast enough to notice much weight difference (for me, supple tires and latex tubes matter more than rim weight).

Currently I'm riding rims like the Mavix CXP21 (21mm rim profile) and CXP30 (30mm) sorta-aero rims. They're heavier, but bulletproof on our increasingly terrible roads. I hardly ever see any resurfacing with proper smooth pavement anymore, other than the city's favored gentrified areas and high tax base wealthy neighborhoods. The rest of us get coarse chipseal, like railroad ballast glued down with epoxy resin. Brutal on lightweight rims and harsh tire/tube combinations.
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Old 09-20-21, 11:17 PM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
...The failure is the rim cracks at the spoke/nipple insertion spot...
RATS! - Thank you for posting this thread. I wonder if you noticed drastic changes in the sound when you pinged the spokes. I do this when ever I am airing the tires. I have several quality wheel sets that use washers on the spokes but I also have many old machine built wheel sets that have been on the questionable side since the day I got them and had to rebuild them. I come in at 240 pounds and more depending on the season. I going to get the loop out and carefully inspect all my wheels for cracks now. I probably should have been doing this all along...
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