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  1. #1
    A wheelist
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    Let's talk about nipple washers.

    This recent post & thread on rim spoke hole cracking issues prompted me to start this post. On my most recent set of personal wheels I decided to use nipple washers, and for three reasons -

    • They provide a known smooth surface for nipple seating and turning. The proliferation of non-ferrule rims seem to offer a mixed bag of spoke hole qualities.
    • They remove nipple shoulder pressure from the edge of the nipple hole.
    • They provide a bigger surface area for the given nipple pressure thus reducing psi at this vulnerable location.


    Those were my reasons anyway. Maybe there are other good reasons that I'm not aware of. I couldn't think of one reason not to use them.

    My washers, the same variety as BHS.com sells (the round Polyax ones 7mm diameter) weighed a total of 9 grams (4f, 5r for 24/28 drilling) were 0.7mm thick which would add a total of 1.4mm to the ERD. To be on the safe side I added them to my measuring spokes when I was measuring my own ERD (pic below).

    I can only imagine (and hope) that these washers cut down or even eliminate spoke hole cracking. Since I started thinking about nipple washers (a few months ago) I have found two other sets of wheels that had them installed so maybe they are more common than we think. After all, you really have to go looking for them to find them on a set of wheels. I'd owned a set for two years (not built by me) before I noticed their nipple washers.

    Let's discuss them. Who has used them, who uses them exclusively for all their wheels and who has any negative stories about them?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Let's talk about nipple washers.-washers-002.jpg  
    Last edited by Mike T.; 12-09-2013 at 08:42 AM.
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  2. #2
    changingleaf
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    I've been using the nipple washers in some wheels for the last two years. Like you said they provide greater surface area to spread out the load of the nipple and they are smoother than the holes drilled into some rims.

    I primarily use them for very light alloy rims. For instance the Stan's Race gold 29er wheelset. I've seen many of those with cracks at the spoke holes after a year or less of good use, but once Stan's started using nipple washers I have not seen a single crack at the spoke holes. I don't consider this anecdotal evidence because I have seen many, many used Gold wheels...more than 100. Also I've seen a pull through test which compares the tension required to pull a nipple through a spoke hole with or without a nipple washer. I don't recall the exact number but it was around 20% greater force necessary to pull through the particular rim sample with the washer vs. without. This is in line with the amount of surface area gained with the washer. The nipple washer seem to be a better choice than eyelets since they go behind the spoke holes, whereas to use eyelets the spoke holes must be made larger.

    The washers are also useful if your spokes are close to bottoming out in the nipple (the spokes are a tad long). The extra 0.7mm will take up the distance and allow plenty of room for truing. The nipples weigh about 5.5 grams per 32.

    Any negatives to using these are minor.
    -One is that it takes a little longer to build a wheel with these.
    -It's also possible that the inside of some rims are two narrow to fit the washers although I have not run into this.
    -Another thing I've noticed, but I can't say for certain is that the washers seem to allow more water inside the rim during wet rides or a bike wash than using nipples alone. It's possible that there is a greater gap when using these stainless steel nipples especially if the rim is center drilled. Water getting in the rims has always existed and some manufacturers use to, or still do, drill drain holes in the sidewall. I did the same on a couple of my personal wheel that I use for cross that I noticed excessive water inside.

  3. #3
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    What do you guys think about only using washers on the drive side?. It seems that is where I see most of the cracks forming?

  4. #4
    changingleaf
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    I see no problem with using washers on the drive side only.

  5. #5
    RoadBikeReview Member
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    Is that a wheel building component or a career opportunity?
    ... 'cuz that's how I roll.

  6. #6
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    I've used washers on the DS on my Kinlinxr270 training wheels. I run the tension up to 125kgf and I have had some of the rims crack at the spoke holes. It hasn't eliminated cracking but possibly reduced it. It'll be another year or two before I am sure.

    I sectioned an old rim at a spoke hole and the Sapim Polyax washers appear to fit the rim countour well.

  7. #7
    changingleaf
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    Quote Originally Posted by looigi View Post
    Is that a wheel building component or a career opportunity?
    Good point!

  8. #8
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    That's quite a coincidence; John Neugent wrote a little Neuvation newsletter post either Friday or today about this very thing coming to him in his sleep or something, so as a result all of his wheels will now come with washers installed standard.

    It makes technical sense. Go for it.

  9. #9
    A wheelist
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedViola View Post
    John Neugent wrote a little Neuvation newsletter post.
    Do you have a link for that as I don't see it on his site?
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    Everything above, up to that blue line, is IMO IMO.

  10. #10
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    Oh, this is about wheels!!
    Tis the season for all of us not hard enough to play to belittle those not hard enough to win. We are a funny lot. - dave @ November Bicycles

  11. #11
    A wheelist
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    Quote Originally Posted by skinewmexico View Post
    Oh, this is about wheels!!
    Trust somebody!
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    Everything above, up to that blue line, is IMO IMO.

  12. #12
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    Smile

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    Do you have a link for that as I don't see it on his site?
    Yeah, as of today, his newsletter archives are only current to October, but here is the text:

    Quote Originally Posted by John Neugent
    Neuvation Newsletter Friday December 6 th.

    Washers.

    A few nights ago I woke up from a deep sleep and it came to me. Washers. I have long believed that my subconscious mind is more intelligent than my conscious mind not that great an accomplishment really. But this one proves it.

    Washers - out of thin air. Let me explain.

    Low spoke count wheels (and almost all wheel systems use low spoke counts because the wheels are lighter and faster) have an Achilles heel drive side rear wheel rim cracks. Its the first thing that goes. How to make them stronger without adding weight? Internal washers.

    When you build a wheel, the spoke nipple wears out the spoke hole. Not to failure but you are rounding out the hole with the nipple every time you tighten it (really only when you tighten it under very high loads). A washer would not only take that wear but also provide a larger seat and support for the spoke nipple.

    Eyelets have been around forever but they add a lot of weight. No one else that I am aware of uses washers in their wheel systems. This is not rocket science but it is somewhat of a first.

    All rear alloy wheels will now have washers no extra charge the carbon wheels dont fail at the spoke holes so there is no need.
    EDIT: I shouldn't have said "all" of his wheels will have nipple washers, as I did in my post upthread; rather, only his alloy builds and only the rears, for the reasons above.
    Last edited by RedViola; 12-10-2013 at 02:31 PM.

  13. #13
    A wheelist
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedViola View Post
    Yeah, as of today, his newsletter archives are only current to October, but here is the text:
    EDIT: I shouldn't have said "all" of his wheels will have nipple washers, as I did in my post upthread; rather, only his alloy builds and only the rears, for the reasons above.
    Thanks for that Red. And John shouldn't have said "No one else that I am aware of uses washers in their wheel systems. This is not rocket science but it is somewhat of a first" either as I have three wheelsets here from BWW that have them! And they're 4, 3 and 2 years old too. Maybe they dreamed of nipple washers before John did
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    Everything above, up to that blue line, is IMO IMO.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    Thanks for that Red. And John shouldn't have said "No one else that I am aware of uses washers in their wheel systems. This is not rocket science but it is somewhat of a first" either as I have three wheelsets here from BWW that have them! And they're 4, 3 and 2 years old too. Maybe they dreamed of nipple washers before John did
    If it helps we used to use them all the time back in the late '70s/early '80s with some of those too-light hard anodized rims.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerry Irons View Post
    If it helps we used to use them all the time back in the late '70s/early '80s with some of those too-light hard anodized rims.
    Didn't they all come with ferrule/eyelets back then? I don't remember having non-eyelet rims.
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    Everything above, up to that blue line, is IMO IMO.

  16. #16
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    Interesting that Zipp has been using washers for a long time, and many believed that was some kind of flaw with their carbon wheel/structure/materials.

    Or maybe they were actually on to something for a change, unlike their quest and 9 tries to get the rear hub done correctly.

  17. #17
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    On a slightly related note, I emailed HED asking which washers were compatible with their Belgium C2 rims. This was their reply:

    I don't know, we don't use washers. Since that is the case, your guess is as good as mine.
    Great customer service! You'd think even if they don't use them in their builds they would know which ones are compatible seeing how they do sell rims by themselves.

  18. #18
    Online Wheel Builder
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    Quote Originally Posted by looigi View Post
    Is that a wheel building component or a career opportunity?
    Lost it..

    I rarely find myself using nipple washers though. Probably wouldn't be a bad idea on an uber light alloy rim but overall I don't really find them to be necessary.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    Didn't they all come with ferrule/eyelets back then? I don't remember having non-eyelet rims.
    Nope. Nisi is one brand I remember that pretty much required the use of washers - very thin spoke bed. Fiamme and SuperChampion (ne Wolber ne MAVIC) used ferrules but not every brand.

  20. #20
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    I'm disappointed someone did not take this into the gutter and post a perverted pic about this. Someone owes me 30 seconds back.

    You guys are such, such, such............cyclists.......
    It's a fire road.............
    I'm on a road bike..........

    They have enough in common to blast down it.

  21. #21
    A wheelist
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    Quote Originally Posted by ziscwg View Post
    I'm disappointed someone did not take this into the gutter and post a perverted pic about this. Someone owes me 30 seconds back.
    You guys are such, such, such............cyclists.......
    Maybe Park Tools will invent a tool for that process. They usually do.
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    Everything above, up to that blue line, is IMO IMO.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by ziscwg View Post
    I'm disappointed someone did not take this into the gutter and post a perverted pic about this. Someone owes me 30 seconds back.

    You guys are such, such, such............cyclists.......
    Is that all you need?

    Here, dont be dissapointed.........we aim to please....this is the upgraded delux model
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by dcgriz View Post
    Is that all you need?

    Here, dont be dissapointed.........we aim to please....this is the upgraded delux model
    Thanks, I feel my time has not been wasted now.........................
    It's a fire road.............
    I'm on a road bike..........

    They have enough in common to blast down it.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by looigi View Post
    Is that a wheel building component or a career opportunity?
    I expect if you googled the topic 90% of the hits would be NSFW.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    Let's talk about nipple washers
    Realistically, I'd think ppl'd only talk about those who don't wash their nipples.

    Stanky, after awhile.
    Monk: I want to go like my Dad did peacefully, in his sleep, not screaming in terror like his passengers.

    System: Fake news?? Trump's a Fake President, for God's sake.

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