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Spoke tension. How much is enough???(11 posts)

Spoke tension. How much is enough???VictorChan
Jan 30, 2002 4:14 PM
What is the right spoke tension? I have no device to check it and wouldn't probably spend $100 on it. Instead, I pluck the spokes to hear the sound and they sound uniform. However, I have been tweaking my new wheelset (making more rounder and true). I found myself tighening the spokes a lot. Yes, the wheels are rounder and truer but when do I stop???? Any side effect of having the spoke tension too high???
re: Spoke tension. How much is enough???jason in nh
Jan 30, 2002 4:57 PM
first off, every sized spoke has a different tension, ex. a 14g will have a higher tension than a 15g.
You can keep making the wheel rounder and truer, but with the higher tension you will break many a spoke and depending onthe condition of the rim, pull a nipple though the rim.
DT recomends that a wheelbuilder focus more on proper tension than the roundness or the trueness. THe thought is a perfectly tensioned wheel will last a whole lot longer and be stronger, but a perfectly round wheel looks beautiful. Basically you need a tensionomiter to get it right.
Plan BKerry Irons
Jan 30, 2002 5:30 PM
While a spoke tensiometer may be nice, a low cost alternative is to compare the tension in a well-built wheel. For spokes of the same diameter, you can go by pitch, or you can use the hand-squeeze test. However, optimum tension for one rim may be too high for a weaker one, and possibly less than optimum if you're building with a very strong rim (e.g. for a heavy rider or a touring bike). A simple suggestion is that if you are starting with a properly tensioned wheel that requires truing, then tighten and loosen in equal measure as you go. Then your overall tension will be constant. After a while, you'll get the feel for proper tension. Many good wheels have been built and maintained without the services of a tensiometer.
Plan BVictorChan
Jan 30, 2002 6:04 PM
thanks. I have been searching and really couldn't find a correct answer. There are so many factors involved. A tensiometer may give a false sense of security too, from what I am reading now. BTW, I am using Dura Ace hubs with Mavic Open Pro rims wheelset.
For the musically inclined...KEN2
Jan 30, 2002 6:49 PM
Have a look at this website:
I second this suggestion. (nm)mja
Jan 31, 2002 5:56 AM
Anyone have Brandt's book?DrD
Jan 31, 2002 6:24 AM
In the book, he evidently describes a method to determine proper spoke tension - from what I gather, you tension the wheel up until while stress relieving, the wheel forms a mini-taco or wave (?), then back off a 1/2 turn or something... I don't have the book, but if someone does, perhaps they could explain what Jobst means (I assume he doesn't mean the wheel deforms when you squeeze the spokes together to stress relieve, as that happens at almost any tension)

One thing you want to make sure you maintain is uniformity of spoke tension - also, make sure the rim stays radially true (i.e., circular) as well.
Practical factorsnee Spoke Wrench
Jan 31, 2002 6:41 AM
Stuff that I've read by guys at Wheelsmith and the like seem to indicate that optimum wheel tension is very close to maximum wheel tension. One guy suggests adding tension until the wheel starts to deform and then back it off a bit. I have a big problem with this concept. The rim is often the most expensive wheel component so I'd like to avoid ruining it. I've also never seen rim specs published regarding maximum spoke tension so this doesn't look to me like a very useable standard.

For practical purposes, I think there are three issues.

Most important is to get the spoke tensions as nearly equal as possible. That's really all that I use my spoke tensiometer for. I think that a person with average musical pitch could probably do an adequate job using that as a guide.

Second is "How much tension can I get?" If you are using real skinny spokes, like Revolutions, eventually the friction between the nipple and the spoke will become so high that all you do is wind up the spoke rather than tighten the nipple. If you are using aluminum nipples, you will reach a point where the friction between the nipple and the rim will cause the nipples to round out rather than tighten. If you are using good quality reasonably durable rims, I suspect one of the above will occur before you reach the tension limit of the rim.

Third is "How little tension can I get by with?" Look for guys who are riding year old bikes that have OEM wheels that havn't broken any spokes. Check the spokes on the left side of their rear wheel. That's minimum spoke tension. Make sure yours have more than that.
Take it to the limit!!!cyclequip
Feb 1, 2002 5:20 AM
The limit on spoke tension is set by the rim quality. Within this parameter get the spokes as tight as you can - on the limit of rim/nipple deformation. Simply put, spokes break because of insufficient tension, so if you want to build durable wheels, set that tension as high as you can. The wheel will start to behave oddly on the wheelstand as you approach max rim tension - it won't want to follow your attempts to true it as it is in the process of collapsing - then back off till it does behave. Don't use cheap rims, use eyelets if possible and steer clear of alloy nipples.
Equal Spoke TensionDaniel
Feb 1, 2002 5:42 AM
I don't understand how equal spoke tension can be achieved, and at the same time have a perfectly round wheel. We are not dealing with perfect materials. The rim is not perfectly round. I don't think you can have it both ways. If you want a well balanced wheel, then you can't have uniform spoke tension.

Equal Spoke Tensioncurlybike
Feb 1, 2002 2:22 PM
Due to the differences you mention perfect is not likely, but damn close by a tensiometer is very possible. Great variations within a true wheel indicate lousy work or a rim with internal stress, caused by damage or defective manuf. I build wheels all the time with quite sililar tension on the respective sides.