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.
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…
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…