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Broken Spokes
#1
I ride a TREK 7100 Hybrid that I bought in 2003. I put about 2000 miles on it before last year when I got a little more serious and put another 1300 miles on it. I am on pace for about 2000 this year. I have never had to replace anything on this bike other than brake pads and tires. I was on a ride in April of this year and broke the rear derailleur. While it was at the bike shop getting that repaired the mechanic told me that the rear wheel had gotten a little loose and the bearings had worn the inside of the hub unevenly and that I needed to replace the rear wheel.

It was in the shop over two weeks getting the derailleur fixed so I had him put it back together so I could ride while he got the wheel in. I rode a couple of weeks and then took it back to have the new wheel installed. about 100 miles after the wheel was installed I heard a pop and looked down to see my wheel wobble, I found that I had broken a spoke. I went back to the shop where they actually found three broken spokes replaced them and sent me on my way. 50 miles later I broke another spoke. they replaced it and sent me on my way. 40 miles later another broken spoke. After some discussion they installed another new wheel. This one is dual wall and heavier spokes. They tell me that the first one is the replacement wheel that TREK sells for my bike.

Anyway I broke a spoke on this wheel at about 60 miles and another one after only 20 more miles. This is a freewheel hub. Every spoke has broken on the opposite side of the hub from the gears and all of them at the hub end right at the bend in the spoke. I am 250 lbs. I never broke a spoke on the original bike wheel and I was always this big.

Today the bike shop told me that if this keeps happening I may need to change to a wheel with a cassette because they can't figure out why this is happening so maybe the torque would be different on the new wheel. They have been good about not charging me for all the spoke replacements so I really think they just don't know why this is happening. I don't really care if I need to buy a new wheel. I just want to be able to ride without worrying about it and I don't understand why I never had any trouble until I replaced the wheel. I would appreciate any help/advise you can offer.

Thanks
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#2
yes indeed it is strange.Do you know if they built the wheel or was it pre-made. it sounds as if the spokes were not pre stressed correctly when the wheel was built whom ever built it. spokes fatigue in time and usually break on the drive side first but not always, and are like shoe strings in as the others are not far behind.when this happens for dependability I would rebuild the wheel with new spokes.

so if you are still having this problem and do not have basic wheel truing knowledge or a truing stand get another wheel from someplace other than that shop.

if you do want to try it.firmly squeeze your spokes by grabbing two at a time on each side of wheel alternating back and forth to seat the spoke elbow in the hub and then true the wheel.
this should take care of the problem.
There are two kinds of people in the world, "Those who help themselves to people, and those who help people!"
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#3
I would ask them to rebuild the wheel by hand with new spokes. These wheels are almost certainly machine built. Machine built wheels are usually fine, but it clearly sounds like wherever they get their wheels from is not building them properly. No new wheel should be breaking spokes like this. Just swapping them out as they break is not going to fix the issue.

Maybe if you offer to buy the parts (hub, rim) and they do the labor they will go for it. Remind them that you'll just be in getting new spokes constantly otherwise. I don't think you need super high end parts, but at least go with a double wall rim like on the second wheel.

A cassette hub is stronger at the axle, but there's not really any inherent difference at the spokes. If you're going to get a new hub, maybe it makes sense to switch over to cassette at the same time (if you can do it without changing your shifters, etc.) You'll have to get a new gear cluster in the back and should probably get a new chain at the same time if it hasn't been replaced very recently. But you could just try to get them to hand build the hub and rim from the last wheel you got. As long as they have someone who knows how to do it properly, it should cure the problem.
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#4
Thanks Painkiller and Dave.
So if I understand correctly if the wheel was not properly stressed or tensioned when it went on I may have broken only one spoke but weakened several or all others so that once the first broken spoke was replaced, and even if the wheel was properly tensioned at that point, I may continue to break spokes because they were already weakened. Is that correct?

And just for my own understanding are truing, tensioning and stressing all the same thing? Can a wheel be true (I understand that to mean spinning true, without a wobble) yet not have properly tensioned spokes?
Thanks again
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#5
Right on all counts. Using all new spokes might be overkill, but might not be. There's no easy way to tell.

Truing, tensioning, and stress relieving are all parts of the wheel building process. But completely different issues. I'm sure they trued the wheel when the replaced the spokes. But they probably did not check the tension beyond a casual feel with the fingers. Ask them if they use a tensionmeter when they build wheels. If not, no go. (Unless it's the old grizzled guy in back who's done it so many times his hands are the tensionmeter Wink )
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#6
wheels can be built so that the spokes will are incredibly unlikely to fail (as in almost never fail). The process is:
*tension
*true
*stress relieve
*true
*repeating the last two steps until truing is no longer needed.

I always tighten on truing, never loosen - but to do this the rim by itself much be round and flat. As others have recommended; I would take your "new" wheel and rebuild it with all new spokes - I like Wheelsmith spokes, see Peter White's website for an explanation.

FYI; I am over 300# and have no spoke issues with the wheels I build/re-build.
Nigel
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#7
Yup, and this is why pro wheelbuilders give a long (5 years or so) guarantee on their work (unless you abuse it, try to do freeriding with a light weight road wheel or such follies). I couldn't give such a guarantee as I'm no pro, but when you do this for a living, you should (and could). (even though all of my wheels have kept up quite well so far, even when riding down stairs with a cyclocross bike and a bad riding technique...)

Oh, and spoke breakage is usually a result from a poor build (I read that on the Sapim home page, another spoke manufacturer with a good reputation).
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#8
OK so the shop replaced the spoke again and after answering many of my questions about tensioning the spokes assured me they did not need to replace all the spokes in the wheel just the broken one. I rode 20 miles and broke another spoke. I went to a different shop that several local bike guys told me was the best and the mechanic acted like this was not at all unusual. He told me that I should replace the wheel with a higher quality one with removable cassette, then as he is talking to me he starts plucking the spokes and says "well here is the problem these spoke are not tensioned right let me replace this spoke and tension this thing and I don't think you will have any more problems". He also said I don't need to replace all the spokes (by the way he says the spokes are 11ga and the other shop says 12ga).

I brought it home and went out for about 20mi with no problem. This morning I got all geared up for 40 mi which is big for me and broke a spoke at 4.5 miles in. I went back to the first shop because now I am totally discouraged and they are local. Now they want to put a tandem wheel on it because "it is made for additional stresses". To me that is not fixing the problem that is just trying to put a heavy enough wheel under me that the problem doesn't matter. They seem to have come to the conclusion that my riding style is the cause. I is possible and I guess even probable that my technique is not perfect but I keep coming back to the fact that I never broke a spoke in the 8 years I rode this bike until I replaced the rear wheel and now after replacing the replacement I can't go more than about 20 mi without breaking a spoke. I guess I will have to take your advise and try to build a wheel myself.
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#9
wow! bummer dude. on the bright side you will not do any worse than those guys. take your time and follow the advice above and more power to ya!
There are two kinds of people in the world, "Those who help themselves to people, and those who help people!"
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#10
Why do I get the impression that pk has broken a lot of stuff other than spokes and, shed flesh in the process??
Wheelies don't pop themselves. (from a QBP fortune cookie)
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#11
Robar, Because i let you! remember what goes on in Illinois stays in Illinois ha ha!
but really about the only thing i really broke the most was my Amp research forks. but I still love em
There are two kinds of people in the world, "Those who help themselves to people, and those who help people!"
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#12
(09-04-2011, 02:03 AM)painkiller Wrote:  Robar, Because i let you! remember what goes on in Illinois stays in Illinois ha ha!
but really about the only thing i really broke the most was my Amp research forks. but I still love em
I never forget my cape. Yours has a big hole in it. Smile
Wheelies don't pop themselves. (from a QBP fortune cookie)
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#13
I've had the same problem. I have an Electra Townie that I rode for years that was trouble free. I saw cracks in the rear wheel so I thought I would replace it. Now I have spoke issues all the time. Two different repair shops have worked on it.

Did you ever find a solution?
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#14
nearly 100% of the time spoke failure is caused by improper wheel building. Mostly improper stress relieving and the seating of the spoke to the hub flange. Find another repair shop or learn how to do it yourself. There are many books and sites to guide you along the way. But it does take some tools to get set up correctly for the task.
There are two kinds of people in the world, "Those who help themselves to people, and those who help people!"
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#15
(01-25-2012, 03:30 AM)painkiller Wrote:  nearly 100% of the time spoke failure is caused by improper wheel building. Mostly improper stress relieving and the seating of the spoke to the hub flange. Find another repair shop or learn how to do it yourself. There are many books and sites to guide you along the way. But it does take some tools to get set up correctly for the task.

Learn to do it your self - it is not hard, wheel building can even be therapeutic.
Nigel
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#16
I wonder if he should call Peter White & get a quote on a wheel using his old hub & Peters rim & spokes?
I have had so much trouble with this that I changed bikes to a cruiser (7speed, 26" wheels, fat tires) & now I break spokes after hundreds of miles, not dozens.

If I lived closer to Nigel I would beg/pay him to re-do all my rear wheels. He is heavy like myself.
He says "it's not hard", but I think he's an engineer, so easy for him may be neuro surgery with a fork for others.
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#17
Nigel is right. Wheelbuilding is not hard, otherwise I couldn't do it. It just needs
- patience
- basic mechanical understanding (what happens if I tighten this spoke?)
- lots of patience
- some basic tools (search for the homebuilt truing stands)
- tons of patience
- a good reference (e.g. Roger Musson's Wheelbuilding Handbook)

and more patience. When I build a wheel I usually do it over two or three sessions (as those are usually after my real job, late in the evening). I need to be in the right state of mind and not try to rush things. In contrast to Nigel I do loosen spokes sometimes during the truing process, especially when I'm concerned with keeping the radial true-ness (which I find hardest to achieve).
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#18
So... If I am an impatient type person, I shouldn't try to get into wheel building & truing? Or I should to help with my impatience? I'm so confused! LOL! Seriously though, I have a very good mechanic at my LBS in Libertyville, IL who does my wheel truing for me. I will take it up in the future when I can afford the time and tools and look forward to all the advice from theese forums when I do.

Ride on, keep on riding
Riding on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on
Ride on, gonna have myself a good time - AC/DC

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