A 4.167% Reduction in Radiation

Spokes are amazing things – pieces of wire that let the hub (and on the rear wheel, cassette) hang from the rim and keep the wheel round and the ride smooth. But only when they are radiating outward from the hub like rays of cheery sunshine.

1 of 24 spokes just decided to be different

Went out yesterday at lunch time, on an amazingly sunny and cool August day in Maryland during a spell of rainy and muggy and hot days. The plan was to do a 24 mile loop that I can sneak in and get back home for lunch and work. But…

A Ping! in Scaggsville shortened the ride to 9 miles

About 5 miles in while climbing a hill, I heard Ping! and then a tick tick tick. I knew this sound very well – before moving to a disc brake-based bike, it would be accompanied by it getting much harder to pedal as the warped rear wheel would start rubbing against the rim brake pads. I had broken a spoke on the rear wheel.

I weigh 220 lbs and have been heavier in the past and have broken many a spoke on many different bicycles over the years. Once, on a 5 day Cycle Across Maryland ride (which no longer exists) I broke 6 spokes in 5 days on a new wheel that I had put on to avoid breaking spokes! I eventually ended up moving to 28 and 32 spoke triple cross laced wheels, often using rims made for tandem bikes. Really cut down on the problem.

But, I lost a good deal of weight, made a deal with my self that if I reached 220 I’d buy a bike 10 lbs lighter than my Trek 520 that had the tandem rear wheel on it, because I wasn’t doing loaded touring anymore – mostly local rides and some light touring. So, at age sixty I bought my “mid-life crisis” bike – a 2017 carbon Trek Domane Disc – with carbon wheels, only 24 spokes on the rear – and bladed spokes, at that. All first for me.

I’ve really enjoyed riding that bike. Two years and about 5,000 miles no broken spokes. Third year one broken spoke. This is the fourth year, now 9,800 miles on the wheels, and one more. My past experience said that if more than one spoke broke, the other spokes would start breaking faster and faster.

In my spoke-breaking heyday, I bought Jobst Brandt’s Bicycle Wheel book (no YouTube videos back then) tried replacing spokes and truing the wheel – I sucked at it, gave up. My local bike shop is backed up in service, like most shops here – I may be riding my Jamis gravel bike (which replaced the 520 and my old hybrid for light touring and unpaved stuff) on the road for while – enjoying its 32 spoked rear wheel…

Avid cyclist, sometimes touring cyclist. My main road bike is a Trek Domane SL6, my touring/unpaved riding bike is now a Jamis Renegade. I'm located in Maryland, about midway between Baltimore and Washington DC.

4 response to "A 4.167% Reduction in Radiation"

  1. By: The Navigator Posted: August 18, 2020

    Glad you got a break in the weather and have a spare bike to ride while waiting for repair. You definitely know your spokes. I’ve carried the fiber-fix spokes in my repair kit for at least 35,000 miles. I’ve never broken a spoke (touch wood), though I have gone through two rear rims. I am not good with mechanical things, but I’ve always hoped that in a desperate situation I would figure out how to make the fiber-fix spokes work!

  2. By: Rich-Illinois Posted: August 18, 2020

    Jobst’ book is WAY over my ability to understand most of what he is talking about!
    So far I’ve been able to do my own wheel work, but no expert for sure!
    Good you have a back-up ride — bicycle shop in Champaign, IL is so backed up on work and shortage of parts they actually closed for a week or so.

  3. By: BobinVT Posted: August 18, 2020

    I, like Em, have never broken a spoke. Having said that, if I break one tomorrow, I’m going to be an unhappy camper. Our local bike shop(s) are similarly backed up. I’m currently in a ‘one bike’ situation, so I’m thinking about another bike for no other reason than it would be nice to have a backup. Of course, none of the bike shops have any bikes in stock either, so I’m just keeping my fingers crossed a lot.

  4. By: jpescatore Posted: August 19, 2020

    For day rides, a broken spoke usually just meant opening up the brakes and finishing the ride – though doing so probably caused the other spokes to get over-stressed and shorten their life. That’s why this time I turned around.

    The spokes that I’ve broken are invariably on the rear wheel, meaning to replace you have to pull the cassette. For my old 7 speed 520, I bought the tools and could replace the spoke at home but could never really true the wheel. Then, when the next spoke broke the rear wheel would really go out of true!

    After that Cycle Across Maryland spoke break-a-thon (which had mechanical support at the end of each day,) for multi-day rides, I carried one of those fiber spokes – and of course never again broke a spoke on any of those rides.

    Service update: my favorite bike shop responded that they usually say on a 24 spoke wheel to wait until the 3rd spoke goes before going for full rebuild and if I get the bike there today, they could replace and true by Friday.

    Of course, our home AC system stopped radiating cool air yesterday and have to schedule a repair visit, so we will see when I can get it there…

Leave a Reply