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How do I know if spokes are too tight ?(6 posts)

How do I know if spokes are too tight ?PeterRider
Jul 1, 2002 2:08 PM
After reading some messages saying that spoke problems come more often from loose spokes than from tight spokes, I tend to true wheels mostly by tightening...

On saturday, though, on mile 106 of my first century (Malibu Grand Tour. Cool ride :-) ), Bang ! Broken spoke on the rear drive side. Broke at the nipple. So can it be that I tightened this one too much ? It was not even a thin spoke, it was a straight 14g DT. Was lucky enough to find a bus to do the last 9 miles...

Should I invest in a tensiometer, or is it possible to know when a spoke is too tight by other methods ? (tone for instance...)


re: How do I know if spokes are too tight ?Jekyll
Jul 1, 2002 2:19 PM
Generally a spoke is too tight when it pulls through the rim or deforms the rim while being tightened - otherwise, the more tension the marrier (within reason). Most stuff I have read/done claims that rim damage will occur before you brake the spoke - many builders put a ton of tension in, especially when dealing with high section rims - some spoke nipples come with hex heads so that you can put more tension on the spoke than possible with a nipple driver or a spoke wrench. Odd that it broke at the nipple though - most brake at the hub. Did it strip out of the nipple or brake off clean above it?
Broke at the entering place in the nipplePeterRider
Jul 1, 2002 2:43 PM
sorry for my bad english, i don't know how to call that... there is a just a couple of threads remaining on the spoke part.

Thanks for telling about the tension stuff. I didn't tension like mad, it's just that I tend to tighten rather than loosen... guess this one just wanted to make me miss the finish line. But I did my 100 miles !!!

Not a tightness problemKerry Irons
Jul 1, 2002 4:57 PM
This was a defective or corroded spoke. Spoke breakage at the nipple is not from excess tension, as something else will give before the spoke will, especially for a 14 ga. Most likely source of problem is a too-deep thread cut or a grain fracture. It's a one-of-a-kind failure, replace it and ride on.
sounds about right to me...Jekyll
Jul 1, 2002 7:20 PM
not a tension thing like the dissertation below assumes.
re: How do I know if spokes are too tight ?Fredrico
Jul 1, 2002 5:14 PM
Drive side spokes are the shortest, tightest, and most torsionally stressed from pedaling. Either the spoke was significantly tighter than the rest of them, or twisted from tightening. That's why it broke at the threads.

Plucking the spokes, they should all make close to the same tone on drive side, all slightly lower in tone on the non-drive side. If one spoke has a high tone, and the adjacent spokes on the same side lower tones, it could break from carrying more of its share of the load.

Wheelsmith and others have suggested loosening all the spokes first, then trueing the wheel, getting rid of hop first. After the wheel is really true with all the spokes snug but not tensioned, methodically tighten them all by quarter turns exactly the same amount, making minor adjustments to keep the rim centered and true. This way, when the spokes start to get tensioned they all make close to, if not precisely the same tone. If so, they're all sharing the load equally. The wheel will be very strong and stay true for years.

To avoid twisted spokes at the nipples, set the wheel on the floor on the axle and firmly push down on both sides of the rim, around the circumference. The first time this is done, some of the spokes will make popping sounds as they're seating. Oiling the nipples of course, and feeling the spokes twist, then correcting with the wrench by overtightening and backing off, is also a way of preventing breakage, especially when the spokes are tensioned and the nipples are hard to turn.

Patience here is a virtue! Good luck,