False economy and the broken spoke – a tale

Last summer I wore through my trusty and dependable set of Deore LX/Mavic T224 wheels, handbuilt by a good friend and former bike shop colleague back in 2001. They never went out of true and I never suffered broken spokes, despite a total lack of tweaking and all manner of abuse and overloading.

However, the rims eventually wore through and I replaced them with a cheap set of factory built 36 hole hybrid/touring wheels. On paper they looked OK – machined sidewalls, wear indicators, a nice width, 36 spokes and decent hubs. Nothing fancy but good enough for commuting duties…

Or so I thought until I heard a twang from the rear wheel the other night on my way home from work. A wobble ensued and upon inspection, a spoke had broken at the bend on the non-drive side.

Now a broken spoke is no biggie – easily replaced if you know what you’re doing. But, if you know what you’re doing, you’ll also know that a broken spoke is a portent of nasty things to come. Normally, the sound of one’s first spoke breakage is the beginning of a sad symphony of pinging and twanging, accompanied on percussion by brake-rub and the sounds of a penny-pincher beating his own chest in anger.

I’ve got a new set of wheels lined up – at least in a virtual sense – Spa Cycles of Harrogate have their own master wheelbuilder who can make up a set of quality touring wheels from Rigida or Exal rims on Shimano Deore hubs for around £140 – handbuilt with double butted spokes with plain gauge on the rear drive side – the preferred setup for touring wheels the world over.

I’m going to replace the broken spoke and see how we go, but I’ve got a funny feeling that an internet order at Spa Cycles is on the horizon…

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3 thoughts on “False economy and the broken spoke – a tale

  1. KarlT

    The stress and strain of my hippo like bum, plus a wood screw induced puncture caused the rear Alex rim of my tricross to give up the ghost. Depressed (but not particularly surprised) to find that replacement was roughly the same price as repair. Ended up with buying an m:wheel with Deore hub, dt-swiss spokes and Mavic rim for £80 from Evans. Nice wheel, but I don’t seem to be able to find the matching front on their website. Ho hum.

  2. Alcyon

    Still working my way through your blog, and still liking it. Here’s an idea, don’t recoil in horror, build your own wheels!

    When I first thought about taking on a wheel build I thought “Impossible! Might as well try weaving a spider’s web!” After reading the books put out by Jobst Brandt and Gerd Schraner, I reconsidered. It takes me three times as long as a pro doing it every day, but I’ve never had to retrue a wheel, and certainly have never broken a spoke. When a rim wears out, I replace the rim and keep going. I’m not the slightest bit mechanically gifted, and my wheels have to support a man that gravity loves more than most, so how hard could it be? i will admit to having more time on my hands than some though.

    Just a thought…and if you only read the books (I recommend both:slightly different approaches to arrive at the same end) you’ll find out why plain gauge spokes shouldn’t be on a quality wheel at all.

    1. theeverydaycyclist

      I’ve built a couple of wheels way back in another life, when I worked in a bike shop. You’re right. It’s not black magic, though there’s a skill to doing it right and quickly.

      Truth is I wasn’t completely sure about doing it myself with my own parts after such a long layoff. It’s different when you can practice on shop parts and customer wheels!

      I will build myself a pair of wheels one day…

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