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I bought a Specialized Sequoia in January. It’s got Alex AT-400 rims with 14 gauge steel spokes. After about 500 miles one of the spokes (rear wheel, drive side) broke at the hub. It happened while I was spinning on flat even ground at about 17 MPH. The LBS mechanic replaced the spoke and got the wheel amazingly true. That was about 200 miles ago. I rode the bike on Saturday, put it on its stand, and strangely, actually checked the wheel for true before walking away. It was still near perfect. I go to ride it on Sunday and notice a warp in the wheel as I walk up to it. It hasn’t been off the stand, but there’s a spoke broken at the hub. It went during the night with zero weight on the wheel. It’s not the same spoke- still the drive side, but 90 degrees away from the one that went before. Is this just teething pain on a new bike? Two defective spokes that went within a short time of one another, or do I have some problem with the factory or with the guy setting up/repairing the bike? The one thing that makes me a little suspicious is that when I took it in with the first broken spoke the mechanic said, “After you break three you should have the wheel re-laced,” as if in his experience it was common to break three spokes. I didn't question him on it, but before that one I'd never broken a spoke before.
 

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There was a recall on some cheap wheels from Taiwan last year... don't know if that would apply to your situation though. There was a bad batch of spokes.

At any rate, it isn't your mechanic's fault. Cheap factory wheels are not stress relieved or properly tensioned, so the spokes don't tend to last long anyway. Breaking two after <1000 miles sounds pretty bad, though.

I'd check on the recall, and if that isn't it, just get the spoke replaced. If the LBS wants to redo the wheel for free after the 3rd one, I'd say that is a good deal for you. That is assuning that you bought the bike from them...
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
rruff said:
There was a recall on some cheap wheels from Taiwan last year... don't know if that would apply to your situation though. There was a bad batch of spokes.

At any rate, it isn't your mechanic's fault. Cheap factory wheels are not stress relieved or properly tensioned, so the spokes don't tend to last long anyway. Breaking two after <1000 miles sounds pretty bad, though.

I'd check on the recall, and if that isn't it, just get the spoke replaced. If the LBS wants to redo the wheel for free after the 3rd one, I'd say that is a good deal for you. That is assuning that you bought the bike from them...
Thanks for the info. I'd think after the first spoke was replaced everything would be properly tensioned :) I registered the bike with Specialized online, so I'm assuming if there was a recall they would have let me know.
 

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If I were you, I'd have the wheel rebuilt by a very good wheel builder, (not just any shop lacky). I've had a few spokes break over the years, a quite a few recently. With most of the recent ones, I've had the wheel rebuilt. If you're having odd troubles as you say you are, your spoke heads may not be seated properly and you'd benefit from a rebuild. Generally not that pricey and worth it, especially if your spokes are breaking just sitting there. I have to admit, I've never heard of that one.

Best of luck.
 

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3's the charm

California L33 said:
Thanks for the info. I'd think after the first spoke was replaced everything would be properly tensioned :) I registered the bike with Specialized online, so I'm assuming if there was a recall they would have let me know.
Your mechanic gave you good advice. One broken spoke = random event. 2 broken spokes makes you suspicious. 3 means that you need a rebuild. Short of a rebuild, your mechanic would have had a difficult time getting the wheel evenly tensioned without spending a LOT of time. Most likely, and the right thing for him to do, was to just replace the spoke, bring it up to tension, and touch up the wheel.
 

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California L33 said:
I registered the bike with Specialized online, so I'm assuming if there was a recall they would have let me know.
Maybe recall isn't the right word... maybe you need to show that you are experiencing the problem before they will do anything. In my case nobody told me... until I mentioned it at the LBS. Then I got the wheels relaced with DTs for free. With mine anyway, it was a corrosion issue... the SS spokes would rust and snap in the middle... so your problems might be unrelated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
rruff said:
Maybe recall isn't the right word... maybe you need to show that you are experiencing the problem before they will do anything. In my case nobody told me... until I mentioned it at the LBS. Then I got the wheels relaced with DTs for free. With mine anyway, it was a corrosion issue... the SS spokes would rust and snap in the middle... so your problems might be unrelated.
Thanks for the clarification. I took the bike back to the LBS where I bought it. He replaced the spoke while I waited, but said don't be surprised if a third spoke goes, because in his experience, Specialized is using Chinese spokes of inferior quality- the steel is just too brittle and it snaps at the hub where it was bent- exactly what's been happening to me. He said at my weight (200 lbs.), a 32 spoke (14 gauge) wheel should fine, but he's seen this happen before. He also said Specialized won't consider it to be a defective wheel until that third spoke breaks. After that they usually pay to have the wheel re-laced, which he'll do with DT (Swiss) spokes and the wheel will probably never have another spoke issue.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
rruff said:
Maybe recall isn't the right word... maybe you need to show that you are experiencing the problem before they will do anything. In my case nobody told me... until I mentioned it at the LBS. Then I got the wheels relaced with DTs for free. With mine anyway, it was a corrosion issue... the SS spokes would rust and snap in the middle... so your problems might be unrelated.
Just to let you (and everyone else who followed this thread know), a third spoke did finally go- like the second, as the bike sat on its stand. Instead of paying to have the wheel re-laced, Specialized decided instead to send a new wheel. Because of this I'm assuming they think they got a batch of bad spokes. I put the first 30 miles on the new wheel at extremely slow speeds- the first 10 miles at 7 MPH or less, the next 20 at 12 MPH or less. (Someone suggested that a slow break-in period might spread the stresses in the spokes and make for a longer lasting wheel so I gave it a try, though I did feel a little foolish watching a 300 pounder on a Costco mountain mike pass me.) I can't say much about the new wheel yet, as it's only got about 50 miles on it and the first one didn't start popping spokes until about 500. The one thing I did notice is that the freehub is much quieter. It's almost silent. The other one wasn't, even when new, so they may have changed hubs.

Oh, and as way of an omen (I don't know whether it's good or bad). I almost ran over a piece of metal on the first ride- it turned out to be a bent spoke.
 

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California L33 said:
Someone suggested that a slow break-in period might spread the stresses in the spokes and make for a longer lasting wheel so I gave it a try
That's silly. If you want your wheels to last you need to stress-relieve them, and make sure they have high and even tension... you *don't* need to break them in slowly.
 

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To prevent a repeat performance

Take your new wheels to your shop and have them properly tensioned. OEM wheels are notorious for low spoke tension. Tension makes wheels work. Undertensioned spokes bend more per revolution of the wheel, and thus break sooner. I've literally never seen a factory wheel that I thought was tight enough.

Your LBS is unlikely to do this for free, and really, they shouldn't have to. They're not getting paid by the manufacturer, and the mechanic doesn't work for free. For the cost of having this done, you could probably buy an entry-level truing stand and spoke wrench. Wheels look scary and complicated, but you'll be doing the same thing to every one of those spoke nipples, and everything you do is reversible. There are some very experienced wheelbuilders here who will help you out. There are several methods for determining proper spoke tension without a tensiometer. Everyone has their favorite, and most are willing to share.

Good luck!

--Shannon
 

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tube_ee said:
For the cost of having this done, you could probably buy an entry-level truing stand and spoke wrench.
And you don't even need the truing stand... just flip your bike upside down, and there you go. A fingernail steadied by the brake block will show you the high spots on the rim...

You *will* need some oil to lube the nipples... and patience is also important.
 

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rruff said:
And you don't even need the truing stand... just flip your bike upside down, and there you go. A fingernail steadied by the brake block will show you the high spots on the rim...
I wonder if this is good advice for someone who's never played with wheels before? I sure found having a stand, even a cheap one, to be quite reassuring while I was learning. Once I knew better what happens when you turn that wrench, and how the wheel responds to tension changes, I could do a good job with the wheel in the bike. Having those calipers right there seemed to make the whole "if I do this, the wheel's going to do that" thing a lot clearer.

And truing stands are cheap.

--Shannon
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
tube_ee said:
Take your new wheels to your shop and have them properly tensioned. OEM wheels are notorious for low spoke tension. Tension makes wheels work. Undertensioned spokes bend more per revolution of the wheel, and thus break sooner. I've literally never seen a factory wheel that I thought was tight enough.

Your LBS is unlikely to do this for free, and really, they shouldn't have to. They're not getting paid by the manufacturer, and the mechanic doesn't work for free. For the cost of having this done, you could probably buy an entry-level truing stand and spoke wrench. Wheels look scary and complicated, but you'll be doing the same thing to every one of those spoke nipples, and everything you do is reversible. There are some very experienced wheelbuilders here who will help you out. There are several methods for determining proper spoke tension without a tensiometer. Everyone has their favorite, and most are willing to share.

Good luck!

--Shannon
I have an entry level truing stand, and a spoke wrench- but I don't have a tension meter. So, what's your favorite method of determining spoke tension without a tension meter? The last thing I want to do is pull a nipple through a brand new rim.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
tube_ee said:
I wonder if this is good advice for someone who's never played with wheels before? I sure found having a stand, even a cheap one, to be quite reassuring while I was learning. Once I knew better what happens when you turn that wrench, and how the wheel responds to tension changes, I could do a good job with the wheel in the bike. Having those calipers right there seemed to make the whole "if I do this, the wheel's going to do that" thing a lot clearer.

And truing stands are cheap.

--Shannon
There is an old trick to this- turn your brakes into truing calipers by tightening them slowly as you true the wheel. Once you learn that you turn the spoke wrench counter-clockwise to tighten things get a lot easier.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
rruff said:
That's silly. If you want your wheels to last you need to stress-relieve them, and make sure they have high and even tension... you *don't* need to break them in slowly.
Thanks for the information. I wasn't sure about the advice, but didn't think it would hurt. Next time it's full speed ahead.
 

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California L33 said:
I have an entry level truing stand, and a spoke wrench- but I don't have a tension meter. So, what's your favorite method of determining spoke tension without a tension meter? The last thing I want to do is pull a nipple through a brand new rim.
I use Jobst Brandt's method from "The Bicycle Wheel." You start with one full turn per spoke. As the wheel comes into tension, you keep adding tension in 1/2 turn increments, stress-relieving after each round (all spokes.) When the wheel just starts to "taco", or gets two long waves in it, you back each spoke off 1/2 - 3/4 turn and true the wheel. The idea is that you overshoot the maximum tension by around 1/2 turn, which is what puts the wave in the rim. You then back off by just a bit more than you overtightened, and you're now at or near the maximum safe tension for that rim.

Sounds scary, and it is the first time you do it, but it works for me. I have heard that deep-v rims may be too stiff for this method, i.e., they start to taco at a much higher tension than you want them to have. I've never built any, so I wouldn't know about that.

--Shannon
 

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I bought a new bike with Alex wheels, 32 spokes, I have 350 miles and I've broken 4 spokes, all on the drive side. I weight 240#. The LBS says they are probably cheap spokes and he suggest buying all new spokes from him and redoing the wheel if I have 2 or 3 more broken spokes.
 

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lawrence said:
I bought a new bike with Alex wheels, 32 spokes, I have 350 miles and I've broken 4 spokes, all on the drive side. I weight 240#. The LBS says they are probably cheap spokes and he suggest buying all new spokes from him and redoing the wheel if I have 2 or 3 more broken spokes.
At your weight, you might want more spokes, especially in the rear. Ask your shop if it makes more sense to build a 36 spoke rear wheel for you. If not, then you certainly need to respoke the wheel. Rule of thumb is to rebuild after the third broken spoke. You're already passed that. Spokes fail primarily from fatigue, and every spoke in the wheel has seen the same number of load cycles. Once they start breaking, they keep breaking.

I suspect that the reason for the fialure was not so much spoke quality as undertensioned, machine-built wheels. Even DT or Wheelsmith spokes won't hold up in an undertensioned wheel.

--Shannon
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
lawrence said:
I bought a new bike with Alex wheels, 32 spokes, I have 350 miles and I've broken 4 spokes, all on the drive side. I weight 240#. The LBS says they are probably cheap spokes and he suggest buying all new spokes from him and redoing the wheel if I have 2 or 3 more broken spokes.
What does the warranty say? When my wheel broke its third spoke Specialized had a new wheel at the LBS in about 3 days. (Now if the old wheel was under-tensioned, and the new wheel is under-tensioned, I should have exactly the same problem in about 500 miles. If it was a batch of bad spokes, maybe it will last longer. I'm toying with the idea of just buying a tension meter and seeing if the new one is under-tensioned.)

I did find an article on the web about bikes made by Specialized, Trek, and a few other makers with wheels built during mid-late 2005 with a batch of bad Korean steel. The result was many spoke failures. However, it did say that the spokes were breaking in the middle, and all mine went at the the hub, like yours.

I don't see anything in the Specialized manual about rider weight and spoke count, and frankly, I'm dubious that a 32 spoke wheel can't hold a 240# rider unless you just thrash it- and I see a lot of guys around here beat their stuff like the team car is right behind them. Speaking of the pros- OK 160lb riders, best of the best components and builders, but still- 20 spoke wheels driven 30 MPH over cobblestones by legs as thick as logs. Let the maker tell you your warranty is void because you're too heavy for the spoke count, and point out the clause, or let them either replace or have the wheel relaced.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
tube_ee said:
I use Jobst Brandt's method from "The Bicycle Wheel." You start with one full turn per spoke. As the wheel comes into tension, you keep adding tension in 1/2 turn increments, stress-relieving after each round (all spokes.) When the wheel just starts to "taco", or gets two long waves in it, you back each spoke off 1/2 - 3/4 turn and true the wheel. The idea is that you overshoot the maximum tension by around 1/2 turn, which is what puts the wave in the rim. You then back off by just a bit more than you overtightened, and you're now at or near the maximum safe tension for that rim.

Sounds scary, and it is the first time you do it, but it works for me. I have heard that deep-v rims may be too stiff for this method, i.e., they start to taco at a much higher tension than you want them to have. I've never built any, so I wouldn't know about that.

--Shannon
Was this Jobst Brandt sober when he wrote his book :) OK, it does sound a little scary. I looked at Sheldon Brown's wheel building page, but I still don't understand what "stress relieving" is. Is it just flexing the spokes? If so, is there any set amount you want to flex them?
 
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