Results 1 to 25 of 25
  1. #1
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    486

    Proper Spoke Tension

    I'm your average mountain biker. I like my bike to be properly set up but I do not get anal about it. Having said that I recently had to true my front wheel. Pretty simple for a newbie. However after doing some reading to gain more knowledge I have a question.

    I have read that "most" wheels are not built properly. They do not have optimal spoke tension. This in turn leads to decreased strength and more of a chance of failure or at the least needing more frequent truing.

    So should I invest in a spoke tensiometer or is this reserved for fanatics and pros?

    DT Proline T/E/N/S/I/O Spoke Tensiometer > Accessories > Tools > Spoke Wrenches | Jenson USA Online Bike Shop

    My wheelset is Black Flag Pro and I always assumed it was built properly. Does mass production mean less attention to detail? Is one better off getting "hand built" wheels?

    I assume the tension on spokes is adjusted by hand prior to leaving factory but maybe there is a machine that does this. And maybe a machine is very precise as far as tension.

    Anybody know if in fact "most" wheels leave factory with improper tension and am I better off checking tension on each and every spoke? Maybe have LBS do this one time.

    Thanks

  2. #2
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    95

    Proper Spoke Tension

    Because high-end bikes are not the majority, yes "most" wheels leave the factory with a sub-par build. AFAIK there are some pretty high end wheels being cranked out, neglected of skilled human hands, that will no doubt perform poorly. As you probably now know, even King hubs and Enve wheels will make for a crap wheel if not built correctly.

    I haven't taken measurements myself but I suspect that a lot of the wheels sitting on the floor of most LBS have fairly uniform tension to start. But then the spokes start to settle against each other and the hubs, then a few lose tension and unwind, etc.. I used to wonder why the wheels on my first couple bikes would ping and creak and need lots of attention. After learning to build a wheel or two, I now know.

    Wheel building robots are highly efficient and even do a pretty respectable job, enough to make most people happy. I think the main difference is in the meticulous attention to detail like evenly setting the spoke heads and "stress relieving" the spokes throughout the tensioning process. Maybe this is why we are seeing more straight spokes that don't weave around each other?

    One option for robot wheels is to remove tension from all the spokes and start over (assuming correct spoke lengths were used). Then you basically have a pre-laced wheel and can ensure that you are applying small steps of uniform tension and "stress relieving" the spokes. IMO, a respectable bike shop should do this for no charge if you are laying down serious $$$.

  3. #3
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    486
    Quote Originally Posted by conekilr View Post
    Because high-end bikes are not the majority, yes "most" wheels leave the factory with a sub-par build. AFAIK there are some pretty high end wheels being cranked out, neglected of skilled human hands, that will no doubt perform poorly. As you probably now know, even King hubs and Enve wheels will make for a crap wheel if not built correctly.

    I haven't taken measurements myself but I suspect that a lot of the wheels sitting on the floor of most LBS have fairly uniform tension to start. But then the spokes start to settle against each other and the hubs, then a few lose tension and unwind, etc.. I used to wonder why the wheels on my first couple bikes would ping and creak and need lots of attention. After learning to build a wheel or two, I now know.

    Wheel building robots are highly efficient and even do a pretty respectable job, enough to make most people happy. I think the main difference is in the meticulous attention to detail like evenly setting the spoke heads and "stress relieving" the spokes throughout the tensioning process. Maybe this is why we are seeing more straight spokes that don't weave around each other?

    One option for robot wheels is to remove tension from all the spokes and start over (assuming correct spoke lengths were used). Then you basically have a pre-laced wheel and can ensure that you are applying small steps of uniform tension and "stress relieving" the spokes. IMO, a respectable bike shop should do this for no charge if you are laying down serious $$$.
    So you have wheel building experience. Think I should tackle tensioning all spokes to optimal tension or leave well enough alone? I did find tensiometers for less than the $500 one I referenced in my post.

    I have been riding the Black Flags for about 3 months and this is my first problem.

  4. #4
    psycho cyclo addict
    Reputation: edubfromktown's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    1,898
    No need to invest in a tensiometer if you can discern differences by plucking the spokes- equal pitch generally indicates uniform tension.

    Sub par wheel builds aren't uncommon. A decent rim and stout enough spokes for the rider compensate nicely for it. I'm a 195 lb. rider and run a couple of prefab wheel sets that have held up reasonably well over 4-5 years. One set is on my single speed and was definitely a poor build... I've replaced 6 drive side spokes over a couple of years (all of them broke at the elbow where they meet the hub flange). I've put 3000+ miles on them so that should give you some idea that poor builds are "good enough" for most people.

    I use a Wheelsmith tensiometer when building a new set of wheels (I run three hand built wheel sets as well) and occasionally before truing someone else's wheels.

  5. #5
    dwt
    dwt is offline
    mtbr member
    Reputation: dwt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    3,668

    Proper Spoke Tension

    Just for the record, I have built a whopping total of 8 wheels, 2 of which were road. I'll just say that once I got them dished, round and true, I lacked the tools, skill AND patience to check and even out the tension. I sold the 26" set; and am still riding 27.5", 29" and road wheels. The road wheels are the oldest and all are still true after a couple of seasons of bashing. Very lucky or what?
    Old enough to know better. And old enough not to care. Best age to be.

  6. #6
    mtbpete
    Reputation: changingleaf's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Posts
    343
    If you use a tension meter or sound (plucking the spokes) to true your wheels you will be able to determine if the rim is damaged. If you can produce a true wheel, but the tension is far from even then you may have a damaged rim. Note, when truing left to right you also want to pay attention to runnout or up/down variance when spinning the wheel in a truing stand.

    Some factory built wheels are hand finished, but it's still unlikely that the same amount of care is taken vs. a completely hand-built wheel.

  7. #7
    Viva la Vida!
    Reputation: Camaleon's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    784

    Proper Spoke Tension

    No matter who or how they build your wheels after sometime the spokes have to settle down and then a proper adjustment has to be done the same goes for the hubs there is an adjustment or settling period.
    So save your money buy the tensioner app for less than $10
    Make sure the tension is uniform (both sides on the front) on the rear wheel I usually add an extra 10 kgf on the drive side.
    Once you get it all tensioned correctly apply loctite and you should be good for years to come.
    We do not stop playing because we grow old;
    We grow old because we stop playing

  8. #8
    mtbr member
    Reputation: One Pivot's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Posts
    4,123
    ^ Dont do any of that, you'll build very bad wheels and none of that is true!

    If you have nothing known-good to compare to, you cant tell if you have sufficient tension, or too much. Tension meters are pretty cheap (park) and let you know where your wheels are.

    The "good" factory wheels are ALL over the place. Some ship out great, some ship out a train wreck. Some last, some dont. The better brands tend to be better... but not always. I just had a set of mavics in my hands that were uselessly slack and undertensioned. Ive seen some perfect too.

    You never know until you check them. I think its worth checking them.

  9. #9
    Nouveau Retrogrouch SuperModerator
    Reputation: shiggy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 1998
    Posts
    47,801
    Quote Originally Posted by Camaleon View Post
    No matter who or how they build your wheels after sometime the spokes have to settle down and then a proper adjustment has to be done the same goes for the hubs there is an adjustment or settling period.
    So save your money buy the tensioner app for less than $10
    Make sure the tension is uniform (both sides on the front) on the rear wheel I usually add an extra 10 kgf on the drive side.
    Once you get it all tensioned correctly apply loctite and you should be good for years to come.
    This post is just scary.
    Please go read MikeT's info ( Wheels ) and the other links in the sticky on the top of the page.
    mtbtires.com
    The trouble with common sense is it is no longer common

  10. #10
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    486
    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy View Post
    This post is just scary.
    Please go read MikeT's info ( Wheels ) and the other links in the sticky on the top of the page.
    I'm heading there now!
    Scary post? Why? Suggestion to use Locktite or just all in all bad info.

    Thanks.

  11. #11
    Nouveau Retrogrouch SuperModerator
    Reputation: shiggy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 1998
    Posts
    47,801

    Proper Spoke Tension

    Quote Originally Posted by drjay9051 View Post
    I'm heading there now!
    Scary post? Why? Suggestion to use Locktite or just all in all bad info.

    Thanks.
    Almost all bad info.

    Yes, you want uniform spoke tension, but you also need the wheel to be true, round and centered (dished).
    Having the same tension on both sides of a wheel is OK if it does not have offset hub flanges (mostly front rim brake wheels).
    Disc brake and rear wheels will have different tension on each side, because the rim needs to be centered over axle ends, not the hub flanges (the side with the flange closer to the center of the hub requires higher tension).
    Just adding 10kgf is unlikely to dish the wheel properly. You need to check the rim position. Set the tension on the tight side to the level you want/need and the tension on the other side will be what it needs to be.

    A well built wheel does not need any threadlocker to remain tight and true. It just masks problems and makes adjustment tougher later.
    mtbtires.com
    The trouble with common sense is it is no longer common

  12. #12
    A wheelist
    Reputation: Mike T.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    5,563
    Quote Originally Posted by Camaleon View Post
    No matter who or how they build your wheels after sometime the spokes have to settle down and then a proper adjustment has to be done
    That's a load of rubbish. That might be necessary for some wheelbuilders but don't tar us all with the same brush thank ya very much.

    the same goes for the hubs there is an adjustment or settling period.
    King hubs are the only ones I'm aware of where this is true. In fact for most hubs there is no adjustment.

    Make sure the tension is uniform (both sides on the front) on the rear wheel I usually add an extra 10 kgf on the drive side.
    Extra above what and why?

    Once you get it all tensioned correctly apply loctite and you should be good for years to come.
    What will Loctite do for a properly built wheel?
    Mike The Bike's home wheelbuilding info - dedicated to providing Newby wheelbuilder information and motivation.

  13. #13
    screamer
    Reputation: budgie's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Posts
    1,128
    Just so we're all talking about the same thing here, what would be an acceptable range of tension on any given side? How uniform is "uniform?" I gather it's preferable to accept some variation in tension readings when making the final truing adjustments. But how much variation would be considered cause for concern?
    On heavy rotation: White Lung: Deep Fantasy

  14. #14
    Nouveau Retrogrouch SuperModerator
    Reputation: shiggy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 1998
    Posts
    47,801

    Proper Spoke Tension

    Quote Originally Posted by budgie View Post
    Just so we're all talking about the same thing here, what would be an acceptable range of tension on any given side? How uniform is "uniform?" I gather it's preferable to accept some variation in tension readings when making the final truing adjustments. But how much variation would be considered cause for concern?
    I build to about a 5% range. Would consider 10% OK. More can work, but is not acceptable to me.
    mtbtires.com
    The trouble with common sense is it is no longer common

  15. #15
    Viva la Vida!
    Reputation: Camaleon's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    784
    I don't build wheels.
    I just use them and that's is my personal experience most of the wheels I had either hand build or factory build needed to be readjusted (true) after the breaking in period (about 100 miles) at that point my wheel builder (best in town) true them once again and applied loctite to prevent the nipples from moving. (Flows w/CK hubs) I don't know why I just know that's what he does.
    My other set of wheels is a Sunringle Charger Pro and after the initial breaking period I noticed that some of the spokes where a little lose so I tried to true it myself and was just getting worse so eventually I just bought the Tensioner App and made sure that all of my spokes had the same tension 110 kgf on the brake side and 125 kgf which was what most of them where at, once again why, I don't know. I did these without even spinning the wheel to see if it was true I went on tension alone after I was done the wheel was true and haven't had any problems since.
    I am sure you guys will point out that that is not the right way to do it but so far that has worked very well for me.
    Go figure..
    We do not stop playing because we grow old;
    We grow old because we stop playing

  16. #16
    psycho cyclo addict
    Reputation: edubfromktown's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    1,898
    Quote Originally Posted by drjay9051 View Post
    I'm heading there now!
    Scary post? Why? Suggestion to use Locktite or just all in all bad info.

    Thanks.
    Musson's Pro Guide to Wheel Building mentions use of Loctite 222 for client builds and Gerd Schraner's The Art of Wheel building mentions using in on weak side rear wheel spokes. Both authors state that it is not necessary in most cases.

  17. #17
    A wheelist
    Reputation: Mike T.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    5,563
    Quote Originally Posted by edubfromktown View Post
    Musson's Pro Guide to Wheel Building mentions use of Loctite 222 for client builds and Gerd Schraner's The Art of Wheel building mentions using in on weak side rear wheel spokes. Both authors state that it is not necessary in most cases.
    I'm not a professional wheelbuilder (just a home wheelbuilder) but I would imagine the use of a thread locker is a dilemma for all of them. They build wheels, not really knowing who they're going to and how they're going to be used (or abused) and hoping that they never hear from the buyer in any form of a negative context. I'm sure all wheel builders, no matter how much care they put into their builds, have had a spoke loosen at some time in their careers. For our own personal wheels it's no big deal at all. We snug up the nipple, re-true and try to figure out why it happened. But for a wheelset that's been shipped 1/2 way across the country it's a different matter. Either the buyer ships it back or they get a LBS to work on it - either way costs money and someone is not happy. If the buyer could fix the problem then maybe they would have built the wheels themselves in the first place.

    So the dilemma is - does the pro builder use a thread locker to guard against the odd rogue nipple or not? Thread lockers range from relatively weak ones like Wheelsmith Spoke Prep to semi-permanent things like Loctite. As a good percentage of wheels will never need re-tensioning or re-truing then maybe the come-back issue of a rogue loose nipple overcomes the issue of re-truing ease months or years down the road.

    The problem isn't going to go away either, especially to builders of road bike wheels. As the number of rear cogs rises (now they're up to 11) the drive side flange moves inward thus making the ratio of DS spoke tension to NDS tension greater. As DS spokes can't be made tighter (due to rim strength issues) then the tensions of NDS spokes, relative to the tension or DS spokes, gets lower. This causes spoke tension swing, due to the load/unload cycle as the wheel rotates, to be greater, contributing to nipple loosening (and spoke metal fatigue).

    So to glue or not to glue, that is the question. Maybe it's acceptable for a pro builder who wants to prevent all possible wheel come-backs but it should never be used as a crutch by someone who has never learned how to build wheels correctly.
    Mike The Bike's home wheelbuilding info - dedicated to providing Newby wheelbuilder information and motivation.

  18. #18
    Nouveau Retrogrouch SuperModerator
    Reputation: shiggy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 1998
    Posts
    47,801

    Proper Spoke Tension

    Quote Originally Posted by edubfromktown View Post
    Musson's Pro Guide to Wheel Building mentions use of Loctite 222 for client builds and Gerd Schraner's The Art of Wheel building mentions using in on weak side rear wheel spokes. Both authors state that it is not necessary in most cases.
    I agree with MikeT.
    Loctite 222 (purple) is also the lowest strength version, for small diameter fasteners (<6mm). The most available and normally used version by consumers is 242 (blue), medium strength.
    mtbtires.com
    The trouble with common sense is it is no longer common

  19. #19
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    389
    I've only built four sets of wheels all for MTB. I gladly spent the money for a park tension meter, dish tool, and the holy driver. With these tools <$150, building wheels with even tension is quite simple and doesn't depend on complete uniformity of spoke threading or anything else.

    As far as loctite goes, if you stress relieve your build and re-check tension, you shouldn't need it. In fact the combo of locktite and alloy nipples can make for some bad outcomes when it comes to truing or re-tensioning.

    Of course wheels should be round, true, and properly dished, but the test of a well built set of wheels is uniform high tension for each side of each wheel.

  20. #20
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Saul Lumikko's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Posts
    1,089
    If you're going to use a thread-locking agent, you need to apply it to the threads beforehand. Where on earth would you add it on a finished wheel?

    Proper spoke tension depends on a lot of things. The way I see it there's a minimum required tension (to prevent the wheel from going slack), from there you can increase it to a hypothetical optimum tension, up until the point where the tension is too high and components are damaged. Note that increasing spoke tension within these boundaries does nothing for wheel stiffness.

    I can't say I'm more than a beginner when it comes to building wheels (I've only built a dozen), but I ride a lot on the wheels I've built and they perform as I think a good wheel should. Proper tension is important, but there's a range instead of one nominal optimum that you must achieve precisely. You'll build better wheels if you direct your attention on other things that make a good wheel.

  21. #21
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    389
    I'm going to politely disagree. The tension contributes to lateral stiffness, through the sine of the angle formed by the spoke and the rim. That's why wider hub flanges can and do lead to laterally stiffer wheels. I would say that once you get to a reasonable tension not to exceed the rim manufacturer's specs you're fine. Perhaps not as important is uniformity of tension. But it's a goal. By the way, if the tension is high and uniform, the wheel should end up being true.

    Last weekend I was talking to the wheel builder at the LBS. I asked him why so many wheels came with straight gauge spokes. He said that wheel building machines are good at building straight wheels to a set tension, but they can't deal with windup and thus straight gauge spokes, which don't suffer from windup nearly as much as double butted spokes. Windup does lead to non-uniform spoke tension after a few rides when everything unwinds.

    while hand making wheels it's pretty simple to get most of the windup out and recheck tension so as to get to a uniform spoke tension.

  22. #22
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    486
    I appreciate all of your replies. I have learned quite a bit.

    I did look into the so called spoke tension app and frankly I am very skeptical. So I pluck my spokes and the program can determine (from the frequency of vibration) if my spokes are tensioned equally. Not at all sold on this.

    I trust my feel much more. Problem with the tension app and feel is that you just don't get a firm number. I would imagine that if all the spokes feel similar they are all fairly close in terms of tension but again not a solid numerical value just same ballpark.

    After checking my wheels I found one spoke that was clearly "looser" than the others. A quick 1/4-1/2 turn and all is good. They are also not out of true as far as I can see by just eyeballing without use of truing stand.

    This is a deep subject and I am now intrigued. I plan on playing with some inexpensive rims and doing a bit of building.

    Shiggy: Appreciate the link to Mike T webpage. Lots of good info.He states that over say 200 pounds should not go with 28 spokes front/rear.
    I'm at 240 and my Black Flag Pro have 28 f/r. Maybe I'm just lucky but so far have not tacoed a wheel.

    Than again I do NOT take big drops at my skill level. Im thinking the spoke recommendation by Mike is a generalization.

    Again thanks to all who provided info.

  23. #23
    Epic rider
    Reputation: rapsac's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Posts
    317

    Re: Proper Spoke Tension

    Quote Originally Posted by nbwallace View Post
    The tension contributes to lateral stiffness, through the sine of the angle formed by the spoke and the rim.
    No, the geometry contributes to the lateral (and vertical) stiffness, as does the cross section and material properties of the spokes and rim.
    Spoke tension is needed to prevent spokes getting at zero tension due to loadings in use and should be set high enough to prevent this, within limits of the components used.
    Provided that there is a proper spoke tension, there is no contribution to stiffness from additional tension.
    12 Anthem X29
    07 Epic Marathon carbon
    04 Stumpjumper FSR Anniversary
    03 Stumpjumper FSR Pro
    00 Rockhopper Pro

  24. #24
    transmitter~receiver
    Reputation: meltingfeather's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Posts
    7,785
    Quote Originally Posted by nbwallace View Post
    I'm going to politely disagree. The tension contributes to lateral stiffness, through the sine of the angle formed by the spoke and the rim.
    I'll politely disagree back.
    The tension does not contribute to lateral stiffness because it is a static system with tension counterbalanced and only if the elasticity of the spokes changed with tension would this be true. It does not, so whether the spokes are at 40 kgf or 100kgf, the same force is required to laterally displace the rim a certain amount, which is stiffness by definition.
    Quote Originally Posted by nbwallace View Post
    That's why wider hub flanges can and do lead to laterally stiffer wheels.
    No, wider hub flanges lead to laterally stiffer wheels because of the increased bracing angle. With the wider angle, each mm of lateral deflection at the rim causes greater elongation in the spoke, which requires greater force. As with narrower spaced flanges, though, the stiffness does not change with spoke tension.
    Quote Originally Posted by nbwallace View Post
    By the way, if the tension is high and uniform, the wheel should end up being true.
    I will also point out that this is incorrect, it is both possible to have a wheel that is dead on true with tension that is all over the place as well as a wheel that is wobbly and out of round with tension that is even.

    Quote Originally Posted by nbwallace View Post
    Last weekend I was talking to the wheel builder at the LBS. I asked him why so many wheels came with straight gauge spokes. He said that wheel building machines are good at building straight wheels to a set tension, but they can't deal with windup and thus straight gauge spokes, which don't suffer from windup nearly as much as double butted spokes. Windup does lead to non-uniform spoke tension after a few rides when everything unwinds.

    while hand making wheels it's pretty simple to get most of the windup out and recheck tension so as to get to a uniform spoke tension.
    This I agree with.
    Quote Originally Posted by pvd
    Time to stop believing the hype and start doing some science.
    29er Tire Weight Database

  25. #25
    Epic rider
    Reputation: rapsac's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Posts
    317
    This seems to pop up every few months ;-)
    12 Anthem X29
    07 Epic Marathon carbon
    04 Stumpjumper FSR Anniversary
    03 Stumpjumper FSR Pro
    00 Rockhopper Pro

Similar Threads

  1. Proper spoke tension?
    By pjbaz in forum Fat Bikes
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 06-06-2012, 03:13 PM
  2. Spoke tension
    By ocguy2004 in forum Wheels and Tires
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 03-30-2012, 05:13 AM
  3. Even spoke tension
    By Jwiffle in forum Wheels and Tires
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 02-19-2012, 10:53 AM
  4. Spoke Tension
    By glenndandy in forum Tandem Mountain Bikes
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 12-02-2011, 02:48 PM
  5. Spoke Tension Help!
    By TRAIL CRANKER in forum Wheels and Tires
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 04-23-2011, 08:19 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •