The descriptions for spoke nipples focus on the spoke diameter (or gauge) compatibility as well as the overall length of the nipple but not really anything about the round part between the head and the square part which sits in the hole of a rim.

(________)   <-- head
  (    )
  (    )     <-- round part
   |  |
   |__|      <-- square part

    ||       <-- gauge

Do the nipples come with a standard body diameter for a particular gauge or is it possible to find slimmer or fatter bodies?

  • I have encountered different diameters, but only where the spoke gauge was different. Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 0:22
  • I don't know this for a fact, but I would think it could also vary with the material the nipple is made of. You could head to your local bike co-op with some calipers and dig through their spoke nipple bucket and report back
    – Paul
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 0:54

2 Answers 2


Here's measurements from 3 in my immediate vicinity:

Sapim Sil Brass 14G 12mm, I believe featuring the Sapim Polyax design: 3.7mm

Wheelsmith Duristan BN14 (Silver 14g Brass): 3.82mm

DT Sil Brass 14g (I think): 3.9mm

(I don't have al nipples to measure at home, sorry.)

That's more variance than I would have expected.

One major point of design consideration for this area of the nipple (the round part and the shoulder) has to do with different manufacturers' schemes to get the nipple to swivel as freely as possible in the rim at whatever angle the design of the wheel puts it at, to avoid bowing of the spoke due which can lead to failure, or to avoid having to take steps in wheelbuilding to correct the spoke line at the nipple (the Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt has more info on this). I imagine you get more swivel the thinner you make the round part, but the tradeoff is you want material there behind the threads to avoid failure, especially with an aluminum nipple.

Sapim emphasizes the swivel factor with their nipples so that might explain why their number is the smallest of the above.

A related note is that the outside diameter of the area in question doesn't really vary much between gauges. That's one reason why many prefer 1.8mm threaded-end spokes (either straight gauge or Supercomps) for disc brake wheels with al nipples - you get more material there to counteract the extra stress of the brake, which can contribute to nipple breakage.


The square part varies depending on the manufacturer and it determines which spoke wrench you use. I've seen multiple nipples for the same gauge spoke that used different wrench sizes. There is also slight variation in where the nipple is threaded, which means some can work with slightly shorter spokes. I'll have to take a look at a box of old nipples, but I'm sure nipples have had all kinds of variation over the years.

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