When I tried to practice tuning my wheels, I found my spokes turn with the nipples. I tried to drop some lubricant on on the nipples, but I had the bike for two years now and there are a lot of dust clog in it. So the lubricant doesn't help too much. What can I do in this situation?

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    If they are Aero spokes, there are tools to hold them. Other spokes will spin a bit before the rotational (?) tension is less then the grip of the nipple; this is okay/to be expected for about a half to 3/4 turn. If blue or green loctite was used you may have to break that loose. If red loctite was used, start over.
    – Ken Hiatt
    Commented Jan 20, 2013 at 22:41
  • @KenHiatt that would be the torsional tension :o) Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 13:07
  • In addition to a drop of oil on each nipple, I also tap each a few times with a screwdriver, and wait a while for the oil to soak in. Still, you will always get twisting, so you need to learn the anti-twist technique.
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 18:35

5 Answers 5


When I build/maintain wheels, I specifically make an extra quarter-turn to the nipple and then quarter-turn backward to release the rotational tension. This was recommended by Sheldon Brown

Lubing the spoke can help, but if your spokes are rusted, you might as well replace them with the new ones.

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    I saw somewhere adding little bits of tape to the spokes to act as flags. By using the above technique and flags as a visual aid you can make sure you are ending each adjustment with non-twisted spokes.
    – Glenn
    Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 0:08
  • that might help. However, never had to do that - just always added extra quarter turn. On the backwards turn you could actually feel the spoke getting "relaxed" and setting into the place.
    – trailmax
    Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 2:17
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    @trailmax: You may want to point that link to the paragrah about avoiding torsion.
    – Bengt
    Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 20:33
  • @bngtlrs Thanks for the link - I did not find the way to link to the paragraph. Updated the answer.
    – trailmax
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 0:33

A lot of this has to do with how the spokes were prepped when the wheel was built, as well as the material that the nipples are made out of. There are two primary materials that spoke nipples are made out of- brass and aluminum.

Brass is strong, cheap, easy to work with and doesn't have the same tendency to seize that aluminum does. Aluminum nipples are typically a tad bit more expensive, can be more temperamental when building or truing the wheel, and more attention needs to be paid to spoke preparation because aluminum nipples tend to seize to the spokes. The upside is that aluminum is lighter than brass so you can shave off some grams in terms of rotating weight.

For round spokes, you'd be surprised how far you can turn the nipple without damaging the spoke. For most wheels in decent shape, after a third of a turn or so, the spokes will usually break loose from the nipples with a distinct "ping!" sound and an obvious drop in resistance to being turned- this is especially true of aluminum nipples. Go much beyond a half a turn without movement and you're risking snapping the spoke or damaging the nipple. If the nipple doesn't want to let go, you can try a tiny bit of penetrating lubricant and let it sit for a while.

If you have flat/aero spokes you aren't afforded the same wiggle room in terms of what the spoke will tolerate in terms of torquing a seized nipple free. As mentioned in the comments there are tools made specifically for holding aero spokes in place while tensioning them.


Have you removed the tire,tube and rim tape then applied the the penetrating lube to the open end of the nipple?


The best to do is to disassemble everything, specially remove the nipples from the spokes and rim, and maybe remove the spokes from the hub for best cleaning.

If you are exercising wheel maintenance, then this would be a good exercise, and lubing the spoke threads is what you need so that spokes stop turning along.

Now if your nipples are so rusted that you just can't turn the nipples in anyway, then you should CUT the spokes out with a wire-cutter and replace them for new ones, before you need to true the wheel and discover you can't.

Once more, the "secret" is to lube the threads, not the nipple body (where it touches the rim). I guess any lube would do, but only a very small amount is needed.

Hope this helps!

  • Oh goodness, that is just not a good idea- especially for someone who is not a wheelsmith!
    – joelmdev
    Commented Jan 22, 2013 at 2:26
  • I agree. It works best if you have another wheel to use as a "mirror" to rebuild the disassembled one. But actually not everyone would want to mess with loose spokes hanging from a hub. It's pretty frustrating for the first few times. Commented Jan 22, 2013 at 12:41
  • If you've never built a wheel, and try to reassemble one, do not expect it to work well. There is a lot more to wheel building than getting the right parts in the right place.
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 18:33
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    @JayBazuzi although I totally agree that there are many subtleties on rebuilding a wheel, I also think that it's not rocket science. Looking at it like rocket science might discourage many people who actually could do the job but are scared away due to a difficulty that is not so big. I have self-taught myself on this, and although it's very clear that my last built wheels are much superior than my first ones, the first ones performed fair enough. These things must be practiced, there's no other way. Of course, professional work can be much more stress-free in some circumstances. Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 19:02

Give it all a good clean then try some of this this

  • If you use penetrating oil, then you must clean the threads of the spoke afterwards (I like a spray degreaser followed by a good wipe) and reapply spoke prep (I will use blue loctite in a pinch...others think this an evil practice).
    – Ken Hiatt
    Commented Jan 20, 2013 at 22:43
  • Blue loctite is better spoke prep than real spoke prep ;)
    – joelmdev
    Commented Jan 22, 2013 at 2:49

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