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Trek Fx 7.3, 1 year old, 1900 miles

3 days short of my 1 year bike purchase anniversary I discovered some broken spokes on the rear wheel. The bike shop gave me a new wheel they had in the shop, an extra wheel they had and said it was better than my wheel. There was no charge for this I presume because it was under a year and though I'm not sure I would guess Treks warrenty is 1 year. 2 weeks later another spoke breaks and I replace that at a 30 dollar cost. The "sales" person tried to sells me a $160 wheel saying that factory wheels are junk and this expensive one is so much better.

This morning which is about 3 weeks from the last spoke, another spoke breaks. I commute to work and this is becoming a problem. I probably need a new wheel but I'm debating whether I want to bother with this shop anymore.

Any thoughts? thanks

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4 Answers 4

So, there are several reasons which can cause spokes to break continually. Metal Fatigue is one, but it should take longer than that to be as serious a problem as it appears that you have.

They will also break if there is damage to the wheel in some fashion. Meaning if you hit a speedbump at reasonably high speeds, and the rim gets out of true, even if you true and tension it again, it may need more attention for the rest of its useful life.

If you break one spoke, and replace it, and the problem goes away, then you're fine. Breaking 2 or 3, or more, spokes on a wheel in a reasonably short period of time, especially if it is without apparent cause, like hitting something, is usually an indication that the wheel is permanently damaged and needs to be rebuilt or replaced.

This can also be the result of poor maintenance practices. A basic wheel should be trued and tensioned properly again after the first 100-200 miles of riding, and may need to be retensioned regularly to stay strong (at much longer intervals, like say every 6 months when ridden regularly). This interval will vary depending on rider weight, riding style, and skill. If this is not done, it allows the poorly supported rim (because the spokes are loose) to flex and bend as you ride, and even if you later tension the wheel again, it will not be as good as it was new.

The economy of scale in the USA and Europe means that it is often cheaper to buy a good prebuilt wheel than it is to have a handbuilt wheel made for you, even if they use the same parts.

I would think about where and how you ride the bike, and whether it is possible that you could be causing the damage in some way, and I would find a different shop with a good reputation, and ask them the same questions. If you get similar answers, then you can trust that the shop you are going to is doing well for you. Most shops do their best, in my experience, but not all shops have similarly skilled and knowledgable staff.

Last, there are definite quality and durability differences between a good wheel, even a good basic wheel, and a cheap factory built wheel of the type that would come on a sub $500 bike. What wheel do you have? What bike? If we know that I can help more directly, but these are good general rules to follow.

Hope that helps.

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Trek Fx 7.3, 1 year old, 1900 miles, bontrager wheels –  Rusty Jul 20 '11 at 19:30
    
I've found a shop with a good rep, the owner has a good rep for building wheels and seemed very knowledgable in the area. I'll be paying a visit tomorrow. Thanks for the information –  Rusty Jul 20 '11 at 19:31
    
No problem. If you're happy with the info, please accept this answer. –  zenbike Jul 20 '11 at 23:52
    
i marked it as helpful –  Rusty Jul 24 '11 at 14:28
    
The shop I took it too replaced all the spokes with stainless steel spokes. He told me the original spokes were cheap ones. All is well now and he fixed a couple of other annoyances along the way that the other shop had ignored. –  Rusty Jul 24 '11 at 14:30

This largely depends on how frequently you check the true and tension of the spokes. If one gets loose you are likely to break spokes frequently, and once you've had a few break the others are likely to go more frequently.

As part of my daily pre-ride check I spin the wheels looking for significant wobbles and will take care of them right then.

As part of my monthly check (usually the first weekend in the month) I squeeze pairs of spokes together around the wheel to check that the tension is approximately the same. If spokes are loose or if the wheel is out of true I remove it and use a truing stand to true it up.

My general rule of thumb has been if I've broken 4+ spokes it's time to have the wheel rebuilt, which at my LBS cost me about $60-80 depending on the quality and quantity of spokes I choose.

Breaking spokes is not usually a reason to need to buy a new wheel unless there is some kind of defect in the rim or the hub.

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I've found a shop with a good rep, the owner has a good rep for building wheels and seemed very knowledgable in the area. I'll be paying a visit tomorrow. Thanks for the information –  Rusty Jul 20 '11 at 19:31
    
@Gary.Ray: If you've broken 4 or more spokes, then that is a likely indication that there is a problem with the rim. A smart shop will not rebuild a wheel using the old rim, as there is no way to guarantee your work. And if you replace the rim and soles and rebuild it, that is the same as replacing the wheel. Most US shops I've worked at charge 100USD to rebuild a wheel, plus $1-3 per spoke, depending on type and quality. Where do you live? (Just curious) –  zenbike Jul 20 '11 at 23:58
    
@Rusty getting a hand built wheel is definitely worth the money. They don't even have to be that expensive, but the difference is really noticeable. Every new bike I've had I've trashed the wheels quickly and then bought hand built ones that then last a long time. The story might be different for really expensive bikes, but certainly on anything midrange and down they seem to be useless. –  Colin Newell Jul 22 '11 at 20:53
    
The shop I took it too replaced all the spokes with stainless steel spokes. He told me the original spokes were cheap ones. All is well now and he fixed a couple of other annoyances along the way that the other shop had ignored. –  Rusty Jul 24 '11 at 14:30
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@zenbike I usually break spokes when touring or commuting fairly heavily loaded (and I'm a big guy) so it's typically a load issue, not a defective rim or hub. And I live in Utah. Last rebuild was in 2006 or 2007 so there has likely been some inflation. –  Gary.Ray Jul 26 '11 at 22:10

There are a few factors not mentioned here:

  • How much do you weigh?
  • Do kerbs get taken to?
  • Are the broken spokes on the cassette side?

These factors come into play with the general question.

Out of the specifics you gave, sadly the Bontrager wheels on Trek hybrids are not the best and are most definitely prone to spoke breakages.

The sales guy you 'spoke' to probably knows this due to what gets booked into the workshop.

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I asked something similar here:

Why am I breaking a ridiculous number of spokes?

tl;dr: I was breaking a lot of spokes even after replacing and retruing, and it is not unlikely that you need to replace your wheel.

Also, someone correct me if I'm wrong, but $30 to replace some spokes seems like a lot, and it's a relatively trivial task. If you can your hands on some tools and find a guide (or, ideally, someone who has replaced a spoke before) you can do it yourself and feel all wonderful and confident and walk around your house with oil on your hands like its the blood of a buffalo and you can give yourself a Native American sounding name like Spoke Foot or Grease-in-his-hair.

I'd go with Spoke Foot, it's got a good assonance to it.

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