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Is this common?(13 posts)

Is this common?UselessBum
Aug 2, 2002 4:10 PM
I just broke a spoke on my rear wheel, the spoke is on the drive side. I don't even have 700 miles on the wheels yet, fairly new. It's a chorus hub and velocity arrowhead rim. I don't know what type of spokes are on there. The wheel was already built when I purchased it.

This is the first time it ever happened to me. If this is common, then how can I inspect the rim to avoid breakdowns on the road. Luckily I was close to home. Or, is this just a fact of life.

Thanks in advance for any info!
Aug 2, 2002 5:42 PM
It suggests either a defective spoke or a poorly built wheel. You should hope it is the former (and that there are no more in the wheel). If you continue to break spokes, absent hitting something hard, then you need to have the wheel rebuilt. A proper build without defective spokes should yield thousands of miles without a broken spoke.
Disagree.Spoke Wrench
Aug 3, 2002 5:57 AM
I disagree with much - but not all, of what the above posters said.

With the quality components you mentioned, I think that it's unlikely you had a defective spoke. Truth is, many factory built wheels are pretty crummy. If all you do is to replace the broken spoke and retrue the wheel, what you will have done is to return the wheel to where it was before. In other words, a wheel that is about to break a spoke.

What I would recommend would be to check the tension on each and every spoke to match them as closely as possible. I personally have a gauge that I use to do this, but I think that lots of guys do an OK job by matching musical tones.

Since the advent of 8,9 and 10 speed cassettes, the most commonly broken spokes by far are the non-pulling spokes on the left side of rear wheels. These spokes break because they don't have enough tension.
Aug 3, 2002 9:11 PM
With all of that said. . .Any theories on why the drive side spoke would break near the nipple?

The wheels already back from LBS. Stupid me, I didn't ask anything else except "How much?" Should I ask questions, or just be glad I was able to get some riding in this weekend. >;0)
New data!Kerry
Aug 4, 2002 3:36 PM
If the spoke broke at the nipple, this is quite unusual. You didn't mention it before, and it is a critical piece of information. Spoke breakage at the nipple is almost always a defective spoke. Usually it means the threads were cut too deep or otherwise done poorly, or the metal was bad. Most often, this is a single spoke problem and doesn't repeat. If it does repeat, the wheel needs to rebuilt with good spokes (DT, Wheelsmith).

As an aside, Spoke Wrench and I do not disagree, even though he might think so. I didn't answer very articulately, so I'll try again. If the wheel is breaking spokes at the hub, it is most likely a poorly built wheel and you need to find a good builder and get it re-done. Even, sufficient spoke tension is the key to a durable wheel. When I said it was not common to begin breaking spokes at 500 miles, my point was that only a poorly built wheel or a wheel with defective spokes would do this.
New data!UselessBum
Aug 4, 2002 9:16 PM
Oops. . .My Bad! Told you I didn't know anything about wheels. >;0)
Broken spokesKillerQuads
Aug 2, 2002 7:02 PM
Spokes most often fail on the rear drive-side since they are under the most tension and transmit your pedaling power. It depends where the spoke failed. Was it at the curved part near the hub? This could mean a low quality or defective spoke or possible overtightening. Was it near the rear sprockets? A poorly adjusted rear derailleur could have dropped the chain (before you even got the bike) between the largest cog and the spokes, thus damaging the spokes. Check other rear drive-side spokes for tell tale scratches. If you ever crash derailleur side down, the derailleur or drop out could be bent inward and you could shift into your spokes. My mountain bike has a plastic disc spoke guard to prevent this type of spoke damage.

Before I knew better, I thought tighter spokes made a stronger and more rigid wheel. I had a rash of broken spokes because of over tightening. If you true your wheels, you must loosen as well as tighten. If you only tighten, you will gradually end up with too tight spokes. If the spoke nipples are hard to turn or squeek or ping when turned, the spokes are too tight.

You should also check your wheels for proper dish. Incorrect rear dish could put more strain on the spokes. I maintain a stable of bikes, so a wheel truing stand and a wheel dish device are essential tools.

You can avoid being stranded with a broken spoke by carrying a spoke wrench and tightening the two adjacent spokes on the same side to compensate for the broken one. Then open the brake quick release for extra brake pad clearance.
re: Is this common?UselessBum
Aug 3, 2002 12:26 AM
Thanks for the advice!

If I wanted to be able to learn the art of wheel maintenance. How hard is it to pick up? What tools are needed?

I don't have a stable of bikes, but I do plan to do as much maintenance to my bikes as I can. So far, this is still a black art to me. >;0)
STOP THEREdplummer
Aug 3, 2002 6:53 AM
The art of wheel maintenance is something that I would suggest not getting in to deep with. Just in these few response to your question, you can already see that everyone has a difference of opinion. I have been a Mechanic now for 20 plus years, and still wouldn't say I know everything about wheel building. It's to technical, and if you look at the industry standard, many manufactures or going to straight pull spokes anyhow to avoid the elbows breaking off of the traditional spokes.(typically where they break)

To fix or replace a broken spoke is not that difficult, but unless you plan on doing a lot of wheel builds, I wouldn't clutter your mind with all the technical hype of everyones opinions. Tension gauge, Trueing by tone? I personally know the Spoke Wrench guy, and as nice of a guy he is, I think he loves spokes just a little too much. He probably sleeps with a wheel if you ask me?

Just stick to the maintenance of the bike and keep it simple, you will enjoy the sport much longer that way.
Aug 3, 2002 8:59 PM
Too Funny. . .Yes SpokeWrench does sound like he has it down to a fine symphony. Must be a credit to his art.

I think I may have to agree with you, the LBS repaired the wheel in short order and now I'm a happy camper/biker again. For the quick turn around time I got from my LBS, I think figuring out wheel building might be overkill. I guess this is one area where my LBS is gold.
Building wheels is easyJofa
Aug 4, 2002 1:01 PM
for anybody with a little mechanical competence. There is no mystery or art to it, just a sequence of processes to learn. Buy a copy of "The Bicycle Wheel" by Jobst Brandt, and follow the instructions carefully. As long as you don't deviate from the text, your first wheels will be more durable than those made by mechanics who have been throwing salt over their shoulders for decades.

A spoke wrench is the only specialist tool that is necessary, though a building stand makes things a lot easier. Take your time- don't expect to finish your wheels in an hour each; that takes practise.

Building wheels is easyUselessBum
Aug 4, 2002 9:15 PM
If this is the case, how long did it take before you were comfortable with the whole process?

BTW, thanks for the book recommendation. I'll take a look at it.
Aug 5, 2002 7:56 AM
After you have built a few wheels you will probably feel confident enough to lace them without recourse to the book. This is just a simple sequence of steps, like knitting.

The bulk of the time spent in wheelbuilding, though, is in making repetitive, small, adjustments to spoke tension, usually adjusting 16 or 32 (or 18 or 36, etc) spokes at a time. Experience will teach you to reach the correct tensions more quickly. Because of its careful nature, however, I find wheelbuilding a relaxing and meditative process, well accompanied by a glass or two of wine. Only shop mechanics need to do it fast, and they invariably don't do it well.

An existing wheel which is suspected to be poorly built, such as yours, can easily be dealt with by slowly backing off all the spokes to slack and then treating it as a brand new wheel, building tension as described in the book. If, however, this process reveals that the rim itself is significantly deformed, it is harder to deal with, especially for a beginner. In your case, with a new rim which I assume runs true, I'd say this wouldn't be a problem.