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  1. #1
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    Broken spoke questions

    My first broken spoke since taking up riding 5 yrs ago.
    Custom built wheels with maybe 2-3K kms on it. Broken spoke on rear drive side on a 28 spoke wheel. I weigh 185-190 lbs.

    Wheel was true prior to ride- I just put new brakes on the bike and was adjusting them prior to leaving today so I verified the wheel trueness as a result.
    I was surprised to see that one broken spoke made the wheel unrideable. Any thoughts/comments - or does this get filed under nothing new here?

  2. #2
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    it's happened to most of us. and the drive-side rear is a likely spot, as that's where tension is highest.

    there's not a lot you can do when it happens. with rim brakes, you can try to open the quick release to hopefully allow the rim to clear the calipers and ride (slowly) home. it happens so infrequently that adding a spoke wrench to the tool bag is unjustified for most rides.
    Yossarian: don't worry. nothing's going to happen to you that won't happen to the rest of us.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the reply.
    Is iy as simple as the LBS replacing the spoke and truing the wheel - or is there a more to it?

  4. #4
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    There are lots of variables.

    Where was the break? Did the nipple break? Did it break at a j-bend?

    I had a very similar situation last fall, where I wheel I had been riding for a couple of years without even having to true it, suddenly had a problem on an easy ride (no climbing, just easy pedaling on a flat rail trail). In my case it was the nipple that failed right at the rim hole. It turns out that when the wheels were built, the builder used alloy nipples instead of brass. This was probably an oversight on my part when I commissioned them (I should have asked for brass nipples).

    I was able to gently ride home (after opening the brake caliper QR) and took the wheel to the builder and asked him to rebuild it with brass nipples. It's been fine ever since.

  5. #5
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    It's nothing new.

    Left/right spoke tension is uneven on a rear wheel due to the offset of the hub flanges to accommodate the cassette. This uneven spoke tension, along with the torque loads from pedaling (which the front wheel doesn't experience) are what lead to rear spoke failure.

    Admittedly, I'm not too crazy about a 185-190lb. cyclist on 28H wheels but I don't think that was the prime contributor to the spoke failure.

    I have a rule; after I break 3 spokes on a wheel, it's time to rebuild. In the case of a rear wheel, let's make that 3 spokes on the SAME SIDE of the wheel. When that happens to you, consider increasing your rear wheel to 32H and using an asymmetric rear rim such as the DT Swiss RR411 Asymmetric, or others. The asymmetric rim leads to more even left/right spoke tension and longer spoke life.

    For right now, you can take your broken spoke to a shop and have them match up the length (bring both pieces!) and you'll be amazed at how true you can get the wheel by merely tightening the new spoke. Otherwise, have a shop do it.

  6. #6
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    What Peter said and I'll add this -

    In addition to the new spoke make sure the shop balances the tensions of all spokes. This way, they all do an equal amount of work (on the same side of the wheel). A good wheelbuilder would do this anyway, not just replace a spoke and true.

    You can do this job yourself and the info is all on my site.
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  7. #7
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    All good points from Migen, Peter P. and Mike T.

    Question for Mike T.: While I know that unequal spoke tensions can be a problem down the road, wouldn't this issue manifest itself as bringing the wheel out of true first? And since there is very little flexing of spokes on the drive side due to greater tensions, I am guessing spoke flex and metal fatigue wasn't the issue here. This would be a greater cause of NDS spoke failures. Am I correct?

    Unanswered questions:

    1) Where did the spoke fail? At the nipple, the j-bend, or elsewhere?

    2) Were the nipples brass or alloy?

    3) What type of spokes, rims and hubs were these?

    Oh, and BTW, carry a multi-tool with a spoke wrench on it....and learn how to use it!!! I broke a NDS spoke once on a 24 spoke rear wheel and managed to adjust it well enough to finish 30 more miles on a club ride.
    “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” -- Aaron Levenstein

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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lombard View Post
    Question for Mike T.: While I know that unequal spoke tensions can be a problem down the road, wouldn't this issue manifest itself as bringing the wheel out of true first?
    Nope. I've seen wheels that were perfectly true and they've had both differing tensions and even a broken spoke.
    The only way to tell is to pluck 'em (and I'd do that first even though I now own a tension meter)

    And since there is very little flexing of spokes on the drive side due to greater tensions, I am guessing spoke flex and metal fatigue wasn't the issue here. This would be a greater cause of NDS spoke failures. Am I correct?
    I think so as a general rule but anything's possible in the world of wheels.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    Nope. I've seen wheels that were perfectly true and they've had both differing tensions and even a broken spoke.
    The only way to tell is to pluck 'em (and I'd do that first even though I now own a tension meter)
    I think your ears are much better than mine. Riding the NY subway for 30+ years has taken its toll on my hearing. I have tried the plucking method and even tried an electronic guitar tuner. I still trust my Park Tool tensiometer better.

    Living in rural Canada has saved your hearing, Mike!
    “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” -- Aaron Levenstein

    "Beware of geeks bearing formulas."
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    "Education is what you get when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get when you don't. -- Pete Seeger



  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lombard View Post
    I think your ears are much better than mine. Riding the NY subway for 30+ years has taken its toll on my hearing. I have tried the plucking method and even tried an electronic guitar tuner. I still trust my Park Tool tensiometer better.
    I tried my guitar tuner and I own the hi-zoot WheelFanatyk digital tension meter and while while both are accurate and show the slightest tension change, the pluck method (for me anyway) is just as sensitive and far quicker. I check relative tensions every time I clean my bike. It takes 10 seconds per wheel.

    I think the pluck & listen method is trainable to those who have problems with it. Pluck a spoke, listen and then pluck the next one to it and ask yourself a definite question - "is that tone/frequency higher or lower than the 1st spoke?" It won't take long before you're going around a wheel in 10 seconds and a low-tone spoke will stand out like a sore thumb. There are always slight variances (as there is when a tension meter is used) but they can be ignored. It's the dreaded "PLUPP" following a rousing "pinnngg" that we're listening for.

    Living in rural Canada has saved your hearing, Mike!
    It's heightened my sense of smell to detect pig-$#it on farmers' fields.
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    Everything above, up to that blue line, is IMO IMO.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    It's the dreaded "PLUPP" following a rousing "pinnngg" that we're listening for.
    Ummm, yeah. That's quite a BIG difference in tensions! That's more than a few graduations on the Park tensiometer - a football field! When I'm building, I try to keep the tensions within 1.5 graduations on the meter. Just trying to get an idea what you consider "slight variances".

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    It's heightened my sense of smell to detect pig-$#it on farmers' fields.
    Would you rather come down to the NY tri-state area and suck on some exhaust pipes?
    “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” -- Aaron Levenstein

    "Beware of geeks bearing formulas."
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    "Education is what you get when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get when you don't. -- Pete Seeger



  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lombard View Post

    Unanswered questions:

    1) Where did the spoke fail? At the nipple, the j-bend, or elsewhere?

    2) Were the nipples brass or alloy?

    3) What type of spokes, rims and hubs were these?

    Oh, and BTW, carry a multi-tool with a spoke wrench on it....and learn how to use it!!! I broke a NDS spoke once on a 24 spoke rear wheel and managed to adjust it well enough to finish 30 more miles on a club ride.
    Broke off at the j bend. Don't know what material the nipples are made of and the hubs are king r-45 with Spain laser spokes and HED Belgium rims. Made by November.
    I do carry a spoke wrench but was 5 km from home and was easier to get a ride and have the spoke replaced and taken care of at the lbs. Had I been far from home I would have unleashed my awesome wrenching skills.

  13. #13
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    Ultimately it boils down to a deficiency in the build or a spoke defect. Sorry this happened. It's something that "basically" doesn't happen in our wheels but that's of course cold comfort to the guy whose experience turns it from "something that doesn't happen in our wheels" to something that basically doesn't happen in our wheels." We do in fact work wicked hard to eliminate spoke tension differences as much as possible, and our stress relieving protocols are comprehensive, but perfection remains elusive.

    That it broke at a j-bend would point toward the classic spoke didn't have enough tension and broke from flexion situation. That it became unrideable with one broken non-drive spoke made the wheel unrideable is very weird. Both because I sometimes will take all tension off of a non-drive spoke in the stand and it obviously makes the wheel less true but it doesn't completely shag things, and because if a spoke was loose enough to get flexion in the first place, it wasn't doing much anyway and its loss shouldn't have been that missed by the wheel. And that makes me suspect the spoke.

    If I'm misreading this and it was a drive side spoke, it was either a bum spoke (we've used ~50000 spokes in the last few years and this is the broken one I've heard of, so this isn't an epidemic) or the spoke got traumatized somehow. Number one cause of broken drive side spokes is chain getting stuck between cassette and hub. Spokes hate that.

    In any case, sorry you've had this happen and if you need any replacement spokes or whatever, please let me know.

    And for what it's worth, a 28 spoke rear is far from pressing things in this case. HED's factory builds are 18/24 and come with a 225 rider weight limit. We're talking about 20% more spokes for a rider who weighs nearly 20% less than that limit.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by FasterStronger View Post
    Broke off at the j bend. Don't know what material the nipples are made of......
    OK, since the spoke broke at the j-bend, the nipple material is irrelevant in this instance.

    Mileage sounds very premature. November has a pretty good rep for building wheels, so I doubt it's a build issue. Spokes can be defective - it's unusual, but it does happen.
    “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” -- Aaron Levenstein

    "Beware of geeks bearing formulas."
    -- Warren Buffett

    "Education is what you get when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get when you don't. -- Pete Seeger



  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackfrancois View Post
    it happens so infrequently that adding a spoke wrench to the tool bag is unjustified for most rides.
    Typical roadbikereview groupthink reply.

    A hand built wheel will hardly ever fail and will never tacoe and there are only 5 people on Earth who have ever experienced it.

    A factory built wheel will fail every other ride and due to the low spoke count is already tacoed when it rolls out of the factory.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by dracula View Post
    Typical roadbikereview groupthink reply.

    A hand built wheel will hardly ever fail and will never tacoe and there are only 5 people on Earth who have ever experienced it.

    A factory built wheel will fail every other ride and due to the low spoke count is already tacoed when it rolls out of the factory.
    So does your own personal experience lead us all to the contrary? Do tell!
    Last edited by Lombard; 1 Week Ago at 05:23 AM.
    “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” -- Aaron Levenstein

    "Beware of geeks bearing formulas."
    -- Warren Buffett

    "Education is what you get when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get when you don't. -- Pete Seeger



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