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  1. #1
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    Aluminum Nipples & The Fat Bike Life Don't Mix?

    I've had a really long streak of a 100% reliable working bike (3 or 4 months knock on wood) and have been loving the fact I can go ride, then simply hang my bike up in the garage until the next time I can ride.

    Well there is a race this weekend, so I figured that Ted deserved some attention before the big day. Upon closer inspection, I realized that have have close to 10 broken spoke nipples (split parallel to spoke). The majority of them are on the nds, with a few being on the ds. After reading around a little, it seems like aluminum nipples (mine are lbs built wheels with DT Swiss nips) might not fit the model for typical fat bike use in Wisconsin? Hard use hot and real cold weather, plus some road salt, plus large aggressive rider=fail?

    Not my pic, but illustrates exactly what I am seeingAttachment 867001

  2. #2
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    This is why I use brass, better corrosion resistance and durability...

  3. #3
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    Salt absorbs moisture from the air, that's why it eventually clumps. If you don't rinse your bike off (think I saw that in a recent thread) it may look dry but the salt will continue to corrode.

  4. #4
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    Aluminum Nipples & The Fat Bike Life Don't Mix?

    Welp - guess I'll be taking a look at mine too... Were the split ones randomly spaced or was there an apparent pattern?

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    Man you save so much weight with those aluminum nipples you just have to use them!!

    There are smart things and unsmart things done with bikes. So many of the weight weenie things done are unsmart. Brass nipples FTW

  6. #6
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    Aluminum nipples are great....

    If you want to rebuild your wheel after a season to replace bad nipples...

    Not worth the weight savings, IMO.

    Edit: Just to clarify, I live in a city that salts the crap out of the roads, and I'm inclined to choose any of 3 bikes from the stable for the ride into work. Replacing after a season is a slight exaggeration, but I've never got more than 2 seasons out of aluminum nipples on anything that sees considerable saddle time in the winter.
    Last edited by jcaino; 02-03-2014 at 11:19 AM.
    Oh noes. I'm going to drink the Kool-Aid.

  7. #7
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    I recently disassembled a wheel with alloy nipples so corroded that every time I tried turning the nipple to loosen, it just twisted the spokes to the point that the spokes broke.

  8. #8
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    The tradeoff from brass to alu is an ounce, per wheel, of perimeter rotating weight. Some care, some don't.

    I use alu nips on 100% of my personal bikes, simply because it takes 4-5 years for corrosion from salt/road schmeg to make a difference where I live and ride.

    No point in worrying about corrosion 5 years from now is the way I see it.

    That said, the cracks in the pic you attached are NOT corrosion related.

    Not sure exactly what to chalk that up to, to be honest, but my first guess would be spokes too short/not completely filling up the nip.

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    Not a weight weenie by any means fellas....and I did question my lbs on the use of alum. when he built the wheels. He said no worries, and now I am left with a wheelset that needs a rebuild, and after discussion with him, don't know that I really want to give him any more of my $$.

    There is no pattern to the issue that I can tell, and it appears that the spokes get a good amount of penetration into the nipples. I will take pics of the nips and report back.

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    Sorry to hear about it man. Will this keep you out of the race?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToastR View Post
    Sorry to hear about it man. Will this keep you out of the race?
    I don't think so, Terry was going to make me wait 2 weeks to black brass nips (to fix his error in judgment, he was prob drunk when he built up the wheels), so I gave my money to a bike shop in Cali. Nips will be here Wednesday, and Travis is going to build them up for me. But I am thinking that the root cause for the issue is spoke length, as every broken nipple had a spoke that seamed to not have many threads into the nipple. 263mm is stated to be optimal for my Rolling Darryl and Hope hub. I will have to see how far off his calculations were.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jonshonda View Post
    Not a weight weenie by any means fellas....and I did question my lbs on the use of alum. when he built the wheels. He said no worries, and now I am left with a wheelset that needs a rebuild, and after discussion with him, don't know that I really want to give him any more of my $$.
    Any LBS, with a mechanic worth his salt, would rebuild them free of charge assuming that they are in good condition as it is. I've built wheels for 10 years and guarantee all my wheels from failure. Additionally, if this is a discussion that you had with him and he assured you, I'd hope that he would fix it.

    Quote Originally Posted by jonshonda View Post
    There is no pattern to the issue that I can tell, and it appears that the spokes get a good amount of penetration into the nipples. I will take pics of the nips and report back.
    The reason that the nipples are cracking like that is that aluminum, as far as materials go, is strong, but brittle. The breaking strength is around 1200Nm, where as Brass is in the 2000-2100 range. Most production wheels that use aluminum wheels are built on a machine that gets them to essentially just before the breaking point, same with mountain. With hand-built wheels, that can be more carefully regulated. They're ok for mountain wheels as long as they aren't going to take a beating (XC, light mountain biking, etc) but not designed for the stuff that most of us try to put our fat bikes through. Yes, there is a weight penalty, but as my roadie friend says, take a **** before you ride, you'll make up for the 2.5 ounces you added with wheels that are going to last. My philosophy is always do it right, and do it once. If you build wheels as a disposable, they are going to ride like a disposable, and you'll end up disappointed.

    EDIT: Looks like there was a reply while I was typing my novel over here. Glad you're getting it fixed, and yes, sometimes we get drunk and build wheels... it happens to the best of us.
    do it right, or do it twice....

  13. #13
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    panda, thanks for the insight, I am hoping he carries the same thoughts you do regarding the wheelset. I had him build me a set for my mtnbike, which was the best Chris King had to offer, and FlowEX. He knows I am a big dude who rides fairly aggressive.

    I took a spoke out and measured it (from the start of the inside of the bend to the very end of the spoke), and came up with just a smidge over 260mm. Thing is that I went with the WHITE DT Swiss Comp spokes, which are ****ING expensive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jonshonda View Post
    panda, thanks for the insight, I am hoping he carries the same thoughts you do regarding the wheelset. I had him build me a set for my mtnbike, which was the best Chris King had to offer, and FlowEX. He knows I am a big dude who rides fairly aggressive.

    I took a spoke out and measured it (from the start of the inside of the bend to the very end of the spoke), and came up with just a smidge over 260mm. Thing is that I went with the WHITE DT Swiss Comp spokes, which are ****ING expensive.
    Ah, big dude + aggressive riding = cracked nipples every time, it's an unfortunate truth. Even at cost those things are OUTRAGEOUS, I priced some out for a guy today...and proceeded to just laugh because they were so much. I hope he gets you squared away and doesn't hassle you about it. If not, let me know, I'll build you some wheels myself.
    do it right, or do it twice....

  15. #15
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    Slightly OT, I had an old Cross bike that needed new rims. So I bought the exact rim as it's replacement and decided to do brass spokes (I don't actually remember why I made this decision as I don't build wheels all that often.) In the process of building said wheels I was quite surprised at the brittle nature of the allow nipples. We don't salt the roads, but even with a little oil, I would bet half the nipples broke before I could get them completely off the spoke. Kinda elementary, but an ah-ha moment for me.....

  16. #16
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    I prefer brass.
    I like turtles

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by masta_panda View Post
    They're ok for mountain wheels as long as they aren't going to take a beating (XC, light mountain biking, etc) but not designed for the stuff that most of us try to put our fat bikes through.
    This is one of, if not *the* most, ridiculous things I've ever read. I'm truly laughing out loud, while shaking my head in disbelief! Where do people like you get this, um, "information"?

    I have alloy nips on all of my bikes. All of them. DH, trail, cross country, fat, single speed. I've been riding and racing for 25+ years. Know how many nip failures I've had in the last 25 years?

    Zero.

    But perhaps I'm misunderstanding? Perhaps *you* might take a half step back and give some context to the quoted statement above?



    Quote Originally Posted by masta_panda View Post
    My philosophy is always do it right, and do it once. If you build wheels as a disposable, they are going to ride like a disposable, and you'll end up disappointed.
    Until you provide some context to this statement, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt here. I'd like to assume that you aren't calling alloy nips disposable, but it kind of sounds like you are.

    Your turn,

    MC

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by masta_panda View Post
    Ah, big dude + aggressive riding = cracked nipples every time, it's an unfortunate truth.
    Your credibility is more or less in the toilet already, and yet you keep digging yourself deeper into this hole.

    Big dude + aggressive riding = happy dude. That's about the only "truth" that is guaranteed in that scenario.

    Alu nips work fine for bigger dudes riding as hard as they want to. Perhaps it's time you pointed the finger at yourself?

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    mikesee, before you get too heated and relate my username with bad feelings, I need your help. I am about 90% sure my wheelbuilder selected the wrong length spokes or built the wheels wrong, as all of the broken nips had spokes the were 2-3mm (down in the hole aka not flush).

    170mm 9zero7
    Hope Pro 2 rear hub Rolling Darryl
    9zero7 front hub Rolling Darryl

    Hook a brother up with spoke calcs?

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonshonda View Post
    mikesee, before you get too heated and relate my username with bad feelings, I need your help. I am about 90% sure my wheelbuilder selected the wrong length spokes or built the wheels wrong, as all of the broken nips had spokes the were 2-3mm (down in the hole aka not flush).

    170mm 9zero7
    Hope Pro 2 rear hub Rolling Darryl
    9zero7 front hub Rolling Darryl

    Hook a brother up with spoke calcs?
    I don't have the dims for the 907 front, but for the rear I would use 263 on both sides. That's a 3x build.

  21. #21
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    I'm no Mikesee but off the top of my head, I think you need 263 both sides on the front and 266 non drive rear and 264 drive side rear.
    I can check for certain when I get home.

    Edit: OOps... Sorry. I reread it and see you're looking for specs for a 170 hub.

    Edit again at 10:00 pm... Johnshonda, Home checking my notes...
    Darryl on a 170mm Hope, 263 both sides, Darryl on a front 907, 262 both sides.
    I gotta stop trying to remember spoke lengths.
    Last edited by NYrr496; 02-04-2014 at 07:00 PM.
    I like turtles

  22. #22
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    Re: Aluminum Nipples & The Fat Bike Life Don't Mix?

    I had my lbs build me a set of Marge Lites, and they used aluminum nipples. They pretty much suck. I'm going to have to take them back and have them rebuilt with brass. The alu nips are deforming under stress and looks like they're about to pop any second. I'll have another bike built with alu nipples, let alone a fat bike.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    This is one of, if not *the* most, ridiculous things I've ever read. I'm truly laughing out loud, while shaking my head in disbelief! Where do people like you get this, um, "information"?

    I have alloy nips on all of my bikes. All of them. DH, trail, cross country, fat, single speed. I've been riding and racing for 25+ years. Know how many nip failures I've had in the last 25 years?

    Zero.

    But perhaps I'm misunderstanding? Perhaps *you* might take a half step back and give some context to the quoted statement above?





    Until you provide some context to this statement, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt here. I'd like to assume that you aren't calling alloy nips disposable, but it kind of sounds like you are.
    Keep it classy dude, "people like me" might have something viable to say if you dont' jump to judgement right away.

    I'm not saying that al nipples are disposable, I'm not saying you haven't had good luck with them, and I'm not saying that they haven't worked for you. Aluminum nipples are more prone to shearing, that's scientific fact, as it's a more brittle material. I'm glad you're wheels have worked well for you, clearly it's not working for everyone. I've built a lot of wheels, as in I do it professionally, and it's what I've learned from experience. Do I build wheels with alloy nips, sure, just not high-tension wheels. The context for that quote is exactly what I said earlier, alloy is more brittle than brass, doesn't deform like brass, and therefore fails. I'm not attacking anyone, or saying your wrong for it. I've ridden alloy on my DH as well, and with that wheelset, haven't had any breaks, and that's awesome. Depends on how you ride, how big you are, etc. There are more than just alloy vs. brass considerations when building wheels.
    do it right, or do it twice....

  24. #24
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    I've built a lot of fat wheels this season. Almost all of them had aluminum nipples. They built up fine and so far, are lasting fine. Haven't had one wheel come back.
    For ME however, I used brass nipples on my rear wheel and aluminum on the front.
    I originally started staying away from alloy nips when I kept breaking them on my 08 Stumpjumper. I was blaming the nipples being weak as the problem.
    Now that I know more about wheels and how to properly build them, I understand that it was more likely poor build quality. My bikeshop boss is 230 pounds and only uses alloy nipples and never has a failure.
    Next set of wheels I build for my Stumpy will probably employ aluminum nipples on Comps. We'll see how it goes.
    I like turtles

  25. #25
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    NY - way to figure out what works for YOU! Clearly people have different schools of thought, and have different things that work. I think it has a lot to do with what you're riding in as well as how you ride.
    do it right, or do it twice....

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