When to replace wheel due to torn spokes?

I’m doing most of my outdoor rides on a Trek Crockett 5 gravel bike. I’ve had the bike for 5 years and 20,000+ miles without any issues. However, in the past two months I had two torn spokes (without any obvious cause such as hitting a pothole).

I’m wondering, at what point do I stop replacing individual spokes ($40 a pop at the local store) and spring for a new wheel (~$200 if I can get it). Are spokes at some point just worn out and start breaking?

Rebuild the wheel. 3 is my tell tale, and it’s done. But, it sounds like you’ve hit the point of rebuild, within 2 months, 2 broken spokes…assuming it’s not due to something like a branch in the spokes.

Spokes break because the spoke tension is compromised. I expect further spokes to break.

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I would agree with iamholland. Time for a rebuild or at least a re-tentioning of all the spokes. I had a wheel that just would not stay true (no broken spokes though). I brought it into the shop they relaxed the entire wheel and re-tentioned the whole thing. Problem solved. I imagine something similar would work for you. I would however make sure the shop knows what they are doing with building wheels. It’s a bit of a dark art and is easy to screw up.

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Old timer’s (worked in a bike shop in the '80s, when we had a VHS copy of American Flyers playing constantly on the shop’s TV) take here: A well-built wheel should last well beyond 5 years assuming no crashes or abuse. Problem is, “well-built” – or at least “well tensioned” – is pretty rare. Most shops let the bikes they sell out into the wild with poorly tensioned wheels, and they almost never do the requisite re-tensioning after the first month or so of riding. Wheel building and truing/tensioning aren’t dark arts, but they are sadly becoming more rarely found skills. Your best bet (easier said than done) is to find a decent wheel person at an LBS and have the wheel properly tensioned and trued. It doesn’t need to be rebuilt or replaced unless it’s really been crashed or abused.

An aside: wheel-truing and tensioning are not difficult skills to master, and it’s super satisfying to bring a wheel up to its potential. In all honestly the hardest parts about replacing a broken spoke on an otherwise good wheel are having to deal with replacing rim tape and removing the cassette on the rear wheel. Try giving it a shot – there are countless youtube videos that should get you most of the way there. Anyway good luck!

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I second this. Paying $40 to replace your spoke is OK for once. But if you’ve ridden 20k+ miles in last 4 yrs, it’s time you learn some DIY! It’s not hard and the guys at the LBS just watched the same YouTube video you will (I know for sure
Bc I worked there).

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lol, that’s funny.

@MarioN if you’re going to learn building, this is a good book. You will need some tools, and it’s an investment, but it’s a bit of buy once and reuse multiple times (or never use again, which does happen).

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Another option is to upgrade wheels. If these are entry-level wheels, maybe this is an opportunity for an upgrade.

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I’d agree with the rebuild after a few have “pinged”. :grin: Did that myself a few years ago. Introducing a new spoke just keeps moving the problem around the wheel.

I’d love to be able to build my own wheels.

$40 a spoke? Are they made of gold? Maybe that is why they are breaking? Spokes should be like, $1!

It is super easy.

I think that includes nipples, installing the spoke, re-taping, and truing/dish.

Having watched a couple of videos on it, it does seem pretty straightforward. Not sure how I’d feel taking them for a ride though… :grin:
I may actually try this one day though since I’m retired…

In the very least, building a wheel is pretty easy. You can pay a shop to true and tension for you for about the cost of replacing a spoke. I have built a wheel and trued it by hand installed in my bike frame, that is now my backup wheel on my long travel bike in case my new wheels have problems.

These are on my Enduro which sees a LOT of abuse. Big air, hard hits are pretty normal. I haven’t had a wheel fail yet from a build issue. Not because I am super skilled, but because it is pretty easy.

I did buy a truing stand for my most recent wheel build.

Take them for a ride locally around the block a few dozen laps, when you’re done. Your first wheel will probably have spoke windup and not de-stressed properly. It’ll probably ping and pang and unwind itself, and get wobbly, within an hour.

Also, don’t get hung up on spoke tension values. All the spoke tensiometers are inevitably wrong. It’s good to get relative numbers, but an accurate tension value depends on the material, thickness, etc. of the spoke and have to be supplied by the spoke manufacturer for the specific thickness as well as how deflection is measured, if using a dial gauge.

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don’t agree with that… I build a set with the musson book as a reference guide, and they are as solid and true as the first ride (after 2+ years on a MTB).

As mentioned above, it’s no dark art, but it’s a precise job, if you miss a step, sometimes you have to go back 5 steps to correct it… so the first time probably takes very long (at least in my case).

Agreed on the tension part, tension should be as even as possiblle per side, and not too loose or too tight, but the bandwidth of proper tension is pretty large and way less important as even tension.

Anyway, building/truing wheel is a nice skill to have and it’s pretty satisfying to ride your “own wheels”

for the main question in this topic… If the wheel was not proper tensioned after the first replacement (maybe it was way out of whack and the after replacing they could not get the right balance of true and even tension… it’s easy to get the wheel straight, but just turning the nipples without looking at the overall tension, but a good wheelbuilder would check the tension and try to get a straight wheel WITH even tension. that requires some more dedication (not experience, anyone can learn / do this).
So I would bring this wheel for proper inspection to someone how knows what he’s doing, if the spokes are nice and even, and proper tight, they should not break. If they do, it’s probably fatique and you need to replace all spokes or the wheel. But I would only conclude that after I know the previous spokes broke when the wheel was in good condition (currently, that information is missing)

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Not wanting to de-rail this thread but is there any benefit in building my own wheels? As an example if we looked at these wheels…
https://www.merlincycles.com/dt-swiss-er-1600-spline-32-disc-road-wheelset-700c-112361.html
Then the component parts. The rims are 150 for a pair, the same hubs around 230 and around 130 for the same spokes we’re looking at 510. Whereas the wheels already built costs a good deal less at 430.
Or am I missing something here - which I do tend to.
I’d like some deeper section alloy wheels and be happy to try building a set but it just seems cheaper to buy them. :thinking:

Not really, especially when comparing to DT Swiss wheels. If the prices were similar and it was another brand maybe, but DT use good components and are well built so you’d likely do worse as a first attempt.

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The benefits for me building my own wheels is getting to choose the component parts. For what I ride on my MTB, that is important. And also being able to make my own repairs, especially when traveling. I have had to cut trips short twice due to a failed wheel*, and prefer being able to correct that without waiting for a shop to get around to it.

If I can buy a wheel that meets my requirements for less money, I would do that.

*I now travel with a spare rear wheel as both of those times the wheel was unrepairable anyway.

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Only rebuild if the wheels have sufficient spoke numbers for your weight and style of riding otherwise you might just end up at the same place