Author Topic: In-sourcing Bike Spoke Replacement  (Read 1776 times)

LD_TAndK

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In-sourcing Bike Spoke Replacement
« on: September 18, 2017, 08:44:34 AM »
I recently broke a bike spoke for the first time after ~3000 miles commuting on a 4 year old bike. The bike shop near me charged $30 for replacement. I'm wondering if I can expect this to happen more often now that the bike is aging, and if investing in DIY equipment is worthwhile.

From what I gather I'll need a truing stand (one near me for $70 on craigslist currently), and a spoke wrench ($10 or so). I'd also expect some trial and error in getting the exact right spoke length, in addition to having to buy in bulk (maybe another $20). Is there any other essential equipment I'm missing? Overall, it looks like ~$100 DIY vs. $30 in shop.

I'm probably totaling 200lbs with all my gear, so I don't think I'm loading the spokes very severely. Do you all experience many bike spoke breakages or is this a rarity?

spokey doke

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Re: In-sourcing Bike Spoke Replacement
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2017, 09:02:52 AM »
I've been riding road and (mostly) mountain bikes for 30 years as my primary hobby.  I've broken 1 spoke in that time, and that was because a stick got stuck in my wheel.

While I support DIY bike maintenance and repair, I would not purchase a wheel working setup to try to save money on spoke repair because one broke.  This is partly because I don't think it is likely to end up saving money, but also because wheel building and repair is fairly challenging, and gets easier with lots of practice and good guidance

Rather than going all in, I'd just get a spoke wrench to start, and begin learning about how spoked wheels work and how to true a wheel.  You don't need a truing stand for that...if you can put your bike in a repair stand so the wheel can spin freely, you can do a lot (you can eyeball, or use your finger, or clip a piece of rigid material to the frame so that a clean edge sits right next to your rim as a gauge).

Good luck...


GuitarStv

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Re: In-sourcing Bike Spoke Replacement
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2017, 09:39:16 AM »
I've broken and repaired dozens of spokes on cheap wheels.  I weigh 200 lbs, and used to regularly carry 40 - 50lbs of gear around.  Bike wheels are incredibly strong for their weight, but they (sadly) aren't indestructible as you're finding out.  Spokes are just bits of stainless steel, and they'll fatigue given distance ridden.  Specific stuff you want to look for:
- Spoke tension should be roughly even all the way around.  (If your rim is damaged it gets bent out of shape  . . . a common fix for this problem is to correct the bend in the rim by loosening/tightening spokes . . . which means you can't ever get even tension, which means you'll start getting regular spoke failures)
- Low spoke tension tends to be worse than high spoke tension.  I think that lower tension spokes move and bend more as the wheel revolves which fatigues the spoke much faster.
- Fewer spokes in a given rim will lead to a weaker wheel.  If you're regularly hauling around 200+ lbs on a bike, you probably should be riding a 36 spoke rear wheel.  Most bikes these days come with 32 or fewer spokes.
- The rear wheel breaks spokes much more often than the front wheel, partly because it's carrying more weight, partly because it's got uneven tension since it has to be dished to accommodate your cassette.


You absolutely do not need a truing stand to replace a spoke!  Here is what you do:

- Flip your bike upside down.
- Take the wheel off.
- Take the tire and tube off the wheel.
- If it's the rear wheel, take your cassette off (sometimes you can get away without taking the cassette off depending on which spoke is broken)
- Remove the broken spoke if it's still stuck in the wheel and throw out the old spoke nipple
- Put a small amount of grease on the threads of the spoke
- Replace the spoke in the wheel (Look at the other spokes to see the pattern of how it fits in there, most wheels are built so that each spoke crosses three other spokes) and thread a new spoke nipple on
- Put a bit of masking tape on the new spoke you've added so you don't lose track of it.
- Put the wheel back on the bike
- Adjust the brake pads so that they're almost touching the rims and spin the wheel.  The wheel will bulge out in the area that you've broken your spoke and rub the pads.
- Keep tightening the new spoke until this bulge is mostly gone and the wheel is spinning easily between the pads.  When you flick the spoke with your finger it should ring out at roughly the same note as other spokes on the same side of the wheel.


Stuff that you'll need:
- Cassette removal tool (10 - 15$)
- A wrench
- Chain whip (or you can make do with a rag, but it's possible to build a chain whip out of an old chain and a bit of wood and they're much easier to use)
- A spoke wrench that is the correct size for your nipples (10 - 15$)
- A spoke of the correct length (maybe a buck?)
- A new spoke nipple (.30$)

Takes about 15 - 20 minutes to replace a spoke once you know what you're doing.  Why do it on your own?  Because you learn to true your wheel!
 Truing wheels is something that you'll regularly need to do if you cycle a lot (probably a good idea at least once a year), particularly if you carry heavy stuff.  If you have rim brakes, you will have poor braking if your wheel is out of true.  It's much faster and easier to do it yourself than depend on going to a shop.  I'd put truing a wheel up there with changing a tire as essential skills for any cyclist.

Laserjet3051

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Re: In-sourcing Bike Spoke Replacement
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2017, 10:17:51 AM »
I've been riding road and (mostly) mountain bikes for 30 years as my primary hobby.  I've broken 1 spoke in that time, and that was because a stick got stuck in my wheel.

While I support DIY bike maintenance and repair, I would not purchase a wheel working setup to try to save money on spoke repair because one broke.  This is partly because I don't think it is likely to end up saving money, but also because wheel building and repair is fairly challenging, and gets easier with lots of practice and good guidance

Rather than going all in, I'd just get a spoke wrench to start, and begin learning about how spoked wheels work and how to true a wheel.  You don't need a truing stand for that...if you can put your bike in a repair stand so the wheel can spin freely, you can do a lot (you can eyeball, or use your finger, or clip a piece of rigid material to the frame so that a clean edge sits right next to your rim as a gauge).

Good luck...

I agree with spokey doke. While a truing stand is ideal for perfection, you can get really close to perfect, just truing the wheel on the bike using the brake pads as a guide while spinning it and adjusting spokes as necessary. Total investment would be a $10 spoke wrench and you could probably get that free from one of your bike buddies who may have 3 or 4 of them sitting in his tool kit. It does take practice to get good at truing.

frugaliknowit

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Re: In-sourcing Bike Spoke Replacement
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2017, 11:21:56 AM »
NO.  Not worth the effort and money.

If you keep breaking spokes, you might need a heavier rim (dual wall) which is what I needed in the past on one of my bikes.  My other bike broke one spoke in 7 years.  This was due to my running over a branch and a stick getting jammed in the wheel (~$35...).

LD_TAndK

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Re: In-sourcing Bike Spoke Replacement
« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2017, 11:46:00 AM »
Thanks for the replies everyone! I definitely won't be shelling out for the truing stand. I do think it'll be worthwhile to have the spoke wrench and extra spoke, even though breakages may be infrequent.


McStache

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Re: In-sourcing Bike Spoke Replacement
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2017, 04:26:26 PM »
You should also check if your multi-tool (assuming you have one) already includes a spoke wrench.  Mine does - it's not as nice as the park tools version, but it works well enough especially considering how little time I spend truing wheels/fixing spokes.

My other piece of advice is to consider getting a new wheel if this becomes an ongoing problem.  Once I started breaking spokes on my rear wheel, it became an ongoing problem.  To add insult to injury, they were all driveside rear wheel spokes, so more of a pain to fix.  A new rear wheel with 38 spokes cost me about $90 including installation.

spokey doke

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Re: In-sourcing Bike Spoke Replacement
« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2017, 08:41:07 AM »
I'd agree with GuitarStv about checking spoke tension at least once a year as basic maintenance.  You go around the wheel plucking spokes and listening to the pitch...if you run into extreme outliers, bring them in line (pitch-wise) with the majority of the other spokes.  Realize that with rear wheels you can have different pitch/tension for the spokes on different sides of the hub (asymmetric).

And yes, if you have rim brakes, they make great (and built in) guides for how (laterally) true your rim is.

LD_TAndK

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Re: In-sourcing Bike Spoke Replacement
« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2017, 12:15:40 PM »
I broke a spoke again! It's by far the cleanest spoke so I suspect it is the same spoke I broke about 6 weeks earlier. Wondering if it was installed improperly in the shop or just a material defect.

I was able to do it myself for about 40 cents. This is a 32 spoke wheel btw

msheldon

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Re: In-sourcing Bike Spoke Replacement
« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2017, 12:42:14 PM »
Does your town have a Tool Library and/or bike co-op? Here in Seattle we have several, and the NE Seattle Tool Library co-houses with a co-op bike repair shop: free access to tools (thank you took library!) plus regular maintenance lessons and expert advice. Something like this would be a great way to learn spoke repair before investing in your own tools.

You may find that spoke repair and wheel truing is great fun, or you may decide it's terribly fiddly and something you'd rather pay for. My brother does all his own bike maintenance, and after a couple years of doing his own wheels, he now happily pays the bike shop for this service.

Slee_stack

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Re: In-sourcing Bike Spoke Replacement
« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2017, 12:52:56 PM »
I'd agree with GuitarStv about checking spoke tension at least once a year as basic maintenance.  You go around the wheel plucking spokes and listening to the pitch...if you run into extreme outliers, bring them in line (pitch-wise) with the majority of the other spokes.  Realize that with rear wheels you can have different pitch/tension for the spokes on different sides of the hub (asymmetric).

And yes, if you have rim brakes, they make great (and built in) guides for how (laterally) true your rim is.
I've never been good at assessing if different spoke pitches are 'good enough'.

That got me thinking though, if one has a guitar tuning tool on hand, does anyone know what the acceptable 'note spread' is so to speak?

frugaliknowit

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Re: In-sourcing Bike Spoke Replacement
« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2017, 06:49:25 PM »
I broke a spoke again! It's by far the cleanest spoke so I suspect it is the same spoke I broke about 6 weeks earlier. Wondering if it was installed improperly in the shop or just a material defect.

I was able to do it myself for about 40 cents. This is a 32 spoke wheel btw

Good chance your rim is messed up...it will likely break again:(

Askel

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Re: In-sourcing Bike Spoke Replacement
« Reply #12 on: October 01, 2017, 07:42:30 AM »
On the subject of spoke replacement- anybody got a good online source for single spokes? 

Dicey

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Re: In-sourcing Bike Spoke Replacement
« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2017, 02:09:51 PM »
I used to do a lot of cycling and have a many, many miles of touring with full gear. I've broken and replaced dozens of spokes over the years, virtually always on longer trips with a full complement of gear. I got to be really nimble at replacing them. Didn't take a whole lot longer than fixing a flat. I've never had a stand, so I'd count that as an unnecessary "want". Mostly posting to say 30-40 bucks to replace a spoke, even if it includes truing, cracks me up. Hell no, I'm not gonna pay someone to do a repair as simple as that. I can also true a wheel and repair a broken chain. They're knacks, and not all that difficult with practice.