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Can Alloy Nipples give light weight spokes enough tension?(10 posts)

Can Alloy Nipples give light weight spokes enough tension?Mark Dennis
Sep 17, 2001 5:15 AM
Hi. I'm getting my first road bike (a custom built steel framed one) after many years of MTBing. I am tossing up the pros and cons of getting the Mavic Open Pro CD rims (32 hole) laced 3 cross to the Campy Daytona hubs with Sapim Laser spokes which are 2.0/1.5 mm (14/17 guage) double butted. I wanted to see if I can get anyones opinion on whether it is possible to apply enough tension to these spokes with alloy nipples to make light weight but reliable performance wheels for training/racing. I weight a bit under 80Kgs.

I can't seem to find any info on Sapim's web site (or DT's for that matter) on the compatibility of alloy nipples with their 2.0/1.5 mm DB spokes. I note that Sapim provide these spokes with Brass nipples which I think negates some of the weight benefits of the thinner spokes but of course provide the potential for setting higher spoke tensions. I also note that Sapim's CX-Ray spokes (which are similar to the laser in strength and weight but better in aero and longivity) are provided standard with alloy nipples which leads me to believe that lightweight spokes are OK with alloy nipples.

Both my well (ab)used MTBs have 2.0/1.8 (14/15 guage) DB spokes and they have hardly moved at all and been very reliable with the alloy nipples that they both have. Road wheels have less punishment that MTB wheels so I am thinking 2.0/1.5 mm spokes with alloy nipples on road wheels should be fine. Does anyone have experience with this configuration?

Yeahnee Spoke Wrench
Sep 17, 2001 6:22 AM
I think you're looking at the wrong interface. I wouldn't recommend alloy nipples for use with a rim that didn't have eyelets. I think that you get too much friction with the rim and you can't tighten the softer aluminum nipples enough before they round out.
Sep 17, 2001 8:54 AM
Living near the coast the alloy nipples tend to have a short service life and eventually fail. Either they corrode to the spoke, the threads get stripped, or the flats get rounded off. If you want to keep the wheels for a while and be able to adjust and maintain them through out their life I'd advise brass. Some will advise Wheelsmith Spoke Prep while others advocate linseed oil. Just make sure you discuss these options with your wheel builder and go with his/her advice. Be worried if they don't have an opinion. ;-)
YeahMark Dennis
Sep 17, 2001 6:26 PM
Mavic Open Pro CD rims have eyelets.

re: Can Alloy Nipples give light weight spokes enough tension?vitusrider
Sep 17, 2001 10:24 AM
The alloy nipples will not last, even with eyelets in rim, it will on;y be a mater of time before they fail on rear wheel. I got one season on my rear wheel before nipple failures started. It is a good place to save weight but it did not work out for me at 5:10 165 lbs.

Mike in Ohio
re: Can Alloy Nipples give light weight spokes enough tension?Mark Dennis
Sep 17, 2001 6:31 PM
Thanks for the info. I have alloy nipples on both of my MTBs that are a couple of years old and well used. I've only had one spoke break and that was at the head.

Did you have trouble maintaining tension with the alloy nipples?

How do you plan to use the wheels?nee Spoke Wrench
Sep 18, 2001 7:29 AM
I build mountain bike wheels for my two sons using alloy nipples (colored nipples are cool looking). They ride pretty hard on some pretty rocky trails here in St. Louis. The upshot is that their Tioga or Rhyno Lite rims get beat up and dented after about a season and have to be replaced before anything else on the wheel fails. Neither son has ever had a taco or a broken spoke.

A mountain bike goes home every night. A couple of days off for a wheel repair isn't usually a big deal. For a touring bike or casual use, I would definitely recommend brass nipples. I think that most people who use their bikes this way will value improved durability over a minimal weight saving.

Racers get to pick their values. As a general rule, with lighter weight comes a little more maintenance and a little higher failure rate. For some people that's worth it, for others not. Certainly if I were building a "bragging lite" wheelset, I would use alloy nipples. To me, replacing an occassional rounded out nipple wouldn't be a big deal.

You've asked the question twice, so you are obviously concerned about getting adequate tension with alloy nipples. Do yourself a favor and use brass. If you don't you are going to worry yourself to death everytime you ride the bike. The tiny weight difference isn't worth the worry.
Sep 18, 2001 11:02 AM
Another factor to consider is that some of the MTB rims are pretty bomber and will either distribute the load to more spokes or take a dent along the lip and not transmit the full impact to the spoke & nipple. Stands to reason that a beefy aero rim has a bit more integrity than a noodle-light rim.

Alloy nipples look cool and weight less, but there's no free lunch. Can't focus on one aspect or component to the exclusion of the others. Ultimately it's all a system and it's only as robust as the weakest link.
How do you plan to use the wheels?Mark Dennis
Sep 18, 2001 8:08 PM
Good points. Thanks for the info.
I'm not worried at all about failure as I'm confident in the nipples holding up to normal road riding. The guy in the bike shop where I'm buying the bike is building the wheels for me and has never used Alloy nipples with 2.0/1.5 mm spokes other than the bladed ones. He has only used Alloy Nipples with 2.0/1.8 mm spokes and he uses Brass nipples with these thinner spokes because he says he won't be able to get as much tension with Alloy nipples as you can with brass, which I guess is true from what I've read in other places on the web. I was really wondering if anyone that might read this has used the combination of 2.0/1.5 mm spokes and alloy nipples and has had success or otherwise with this combination. By success I mean a wheel that rides well and doesn't have spokes coming loose all the time because the lower tension allows the nipples to rotate.
I'm going to use the bike mainly as a weekend burner and hopefully try a little racing if I come up to speed after years of MTBing. It won't be a communter or touring bike as I have another bike for those jobs.
How do you plan to use the wheels?cyclequip
Sep 19, 2001 6:24 AM
I used the exact spec you are planning, with the exception of Shimano DA hubs. (By the way, we call them Snapims). I followed Gerd Schraner's advice - after first using alloy nipples all-round I had a spoke break on the rear drive side after 6mths and 6000km. I weigh the same as you. So then I did what Schraner suggested and used brass nipples and 2.0/1.8 spokes on the rear drive side only. As long as you grease the eyelets/nipple outsides and use linseed oil on the spoke threads, the alloy nipples will work - with the rear drive-side proviso. As for spoke tension - Schraner says you will know the spoke tension is about right when your alloy nipple starts to deform under tensioning. If you get even, high spoke tension when you lace the first time, stress-relieve properly etc, the wheel will'stand'. Resist the urge to use the Lasers on the r/r - use a heavier spoke and a brass nipple.