Should I think about completely replacing my spokes after I had one break?
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  1. #1
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    Should I think about completely replacing my spokes after I had one break?

    The other day I broke a previously undamaged spoke right after going over a bump in the road (single drive-side spoke, rear wheel). I weigh 130 lbs. Had to get out my spoke wrench and then limp home. This was on an aluminum rim with a Suntour GPX hub, wheel probably manufactured in the 80's. Spoke broke right at the hub. I've read about metal fatigue on cycling forums. Some people say old spokes should be replaced with new ones to guard against breakage. Do you agree with this? Is an older spoke that's been under tension for years just more likely to break? Did they use "cheap" spokes on some older Japanese wheels? The latter notion seems a bit suspect to me - stainless steel is stainless steel, isn't it? Thanks for any advice you can give me.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hallsey View Post
    The other day I broke a previously undamaged spoke right after going over a bump in the road (single drive-side spoke, rear wheel). I weigh 130 lbs. Had to get out my spoke wrench and then limp home. This was on an aluminum rim with a Suntour GPX hub, wheel probably manufactured in the 80's. Spoke broke right at the hub. I've read about metal fatigue on cycling forums. Some people say old spokes should be replaced with new ones to guard against breakage. Do you agree with this? Is an older spoke that's been under tension for years just more likely to break? Did they use "cheap" spokes on some older Japanese wheels? The latter notion seems a bit suspect to me - stainless steel is stainless steel, isn't it? Thanks for any advice you can give me.
    If I broke a spoke going over bump, weighed 130 and it was a set of wheels from the 80's I would definitely replace them all.

    No stainless steel is not all the same nor is how it's used to make a spoke.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hallsey View Post
    The other day I broke a previously undamaged spoke right after going over a bump in the road (single drive-side spoke, rear wheel). I weigh 130 lbs. Had to get out my spoke wrench and then limp home. This was on an aluminum rim with a Suntour GPX hub, wheel probably manufactured in the 80's. Spoke broke right at the hub. I've read about metal fatigue on cycling forums. Some people say old spokes should be replaced with new ones to guard against breakage. Do you agree with this? Is an older spoke that's been under tension for years just more likely to break? Did they use "cheap" spokes on some older Japanese wheels? The latter notion seems a bit suspect to me - stainless steel is stainless steel, isn't it? Thanks for any advice you can give me.
    When one spoke breaks, it's a fluke. When two break, you want to keep a close eye on the wheel. When three break, it's time to replace/rebuild the wheel. Unlike most cyclists, you have the skills (and wheels with a reasonable spoke count) that allow you to get home with a broken spoke. Unless you are seeing visible corrosion on the spokes, it's more about how many miles are on the wheels than how old they are. At your weight, I wouldn't worry about it until that next spoke breaks.

  4. #4
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    Thanks. That gives me some confidence. The bump I mentioned is at the bottom of a long descent, when I was going 35 mph. I know rims flex some in that setting. Maybe it was a fluke. I'll go back out there and ride, but will pay attention to condition of the metal. What you said was what I was hoping for - that I don't need to be in a hurry necessarily to rebuild the wheel.

  5. #5
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    Thanks. Sounds like good advice. Spokes are pretty cheap. I'm a chemist but don't know any metallurgy. Who do you think I should buy spokes from? Usually I just go to my LBS or the bike shop in REI. Who makes the best steel spokes in your opinion?

  6. #6
    Russian Troll Farmer
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    First off, aside from emergency spokes, I can't think of any which are made from anything BUT steel. Stainless is corrosion resistant, but often really cheap wheels use non-stainless spokes. Also, better wheels always use butted spokes. This will reduce fatigue failure at the head. Before you go ahead and do it yourself, there is a good book called "The Bicycle Wheel" which you should read first.
    "L'enfer, c'est les autres"

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hallsey View Post
    Thanks. Sounds like good advice. Spokes are pretty cheap. I'm a chemist but don't know any metallurgy. Who do you think I should buy spokes from? Usually I just go to my LBS or the bike shop in REI. Who makes the best steel spokes in your opinion?
    Sapim, Wheelsmith and DT Swiss are all reputable and easy to get. What's 'best' depends what you are looking to get out of a spoke and assuming you are looking at stainless from all of them the only the differences probably have all to do with gauge, butting and shape not type of stainless and workmanship because they have all proven to be fine in that area.

    For road bikes I've used CX-Rays on my racing wheels and Laser on training wheels where I prefer to spend less than CX Rays. And Wheelsmith DB14 on my cross bike. They've all proven to be excellent.

    Maybe look through some old threads where people are discussing what to use. To be honest you'll probably see a lot of over-analysis that doesn't really matter much because any good spoke will do the job but it will give you an idea of the differences and how to match spoke with what you are looking to get.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by No Time Toulouse View Post
    Before you go ahead and do it yourself, there is a good book called "The Bicycle Wheel" which you should read first.
    Better yet, get Roger Musson's e-book, "Professional Guide to Wheel Building":

    https://www.wheelpro.co.uk/wheelbuilding/book.php

    $12 with free lifetime updates is the best investment in wheel building you will ever make. "The Bicycle Wheel" is a good book for some background, but when you are ready to build, put all other books away and follow Roger's directions to the letter.
    "With bicycles in particular, you need to separate between what's merely true and what's important."-- DCGriz, RBR.

    “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” -- Aaron Levenstein



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