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Straight-pull spokes have been around for awhile on MTB wheels, but mainly just on very expensive wheelsets (Mavic Deemax for example). Recently the better wheel component manufacturers have been getting in on this by selling straight-pull spokes and compatible hubs individually, and they are generally considerably more expensive than the 'normal' variety.

However in my many years of snapping spokes they have never snapped at the elbow (the 'weak' point straight-pulls are supposed to address), they always break in the centre - presumably because the double-butting process has moved the weak point there.

So my question is this: Are straight-pull spokes worth it, or are they another expensive marketing gimick to solve a problem that doesn't exist?

  • Well, my spokes have always broken at the elbow, but that would be from fatigue, not stress, since I don't ride off-road or such. But, yes, for the most part straight-pull spokes are designed to separate you from your money. – Daniel R Hicks Feb 14 '12 at 13:33
  • I hadn't thought of road use, I can see fatigue doing that. But the components I have seen are marketed specifically at DH racing - about as far removed from road racing as possible! – cmannett85 Feb 14 '12 at 14:05
  • Well, they're marketed to everyone, especially young people who have to have the latest (and who have more money than sense). – Daniel R Hicks Feb 15 '12 at 1:16
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    I ride both mtb and road. Spokes have always broken at either the elbow (90%) or the nipple (10%). Yeah, I know it sounds weird but the nipple as snapped on me twice in my 35 years of riding. I use regular spokes on the mtb and butted on the road. I also stay away from the top end parts because they are made for racing and have the lifespan of a fruit fly. I've always gone 1-2 steps down from the top and get far longer use than my buddies with a weight cost of a latte. Just something to think about. – Chef Flambe Feb 15 '12 at 5:57
  • I've mainly used DT Swiss Competition spokes (or nearest equivalent) over the years, they're fairly regular despite the name. On average I break a couple a year, and always when landing a drop, or hitting a particularly nasty square-edged obstacle. Never broke a nipple though! – cmannett85 Feb 15 '12 at 8:00
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This is debatable, but since you asked, here go my cents:

A wheel has three "parts": rim, hub and spokes.

Spokes have two functions:

  1. Sustain the vertical forces on the wheel (weight of the rider, landing, etc.);
  2. Transmit torque while accelerating (rear wheel only) and braking;

Any properly laced wheel will do it, but there are many ways to design the connection of the spokes to the hub, or to the rim. These manufacturers have chosen to make the spokes "elbowless", which could result in less chance of failure, and could result in other side-benefits, like flangeless hubs, or fancier-looking wheels.

I'd much rather use standard components only, since they are easily replacable and swappable. I sometimes damage some rim, then I can change the rim only, because the nipple-hole connection is standard. I also can change the hub if needed, because the flange-elbow connection is standard. In the other hand these fancy wheels are proprietary, and you have only a single source of spare parts, which tend to be VERY expensive and sometimes are not available on the shelf.

As a bottomline, my spokes tend to break at the elbow, rarely at the thread end. I don't use butted spokes, so that could make some difference. Recently, I had some breakages at the mid-length, but I suppose this is due to excessive weight per wheel (tandem) and sub-optimal quality spokes.

Final thought: I would only spend big in such a wheel if I have a very well-defined reason. These are made for racing, and for anyone who doesn't race (and isn't sponsored), I'm pretty sure the cost is too much for the benefit.

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Yes, straight pull spokes are technically superior to traditional J-bend spokes. The only reason that J-bend spokes are relatively more popular is because it's cheaper to machine a hub with simple flanges on a lathe. Well-designed straightpull hubs typically cost more.

Note that a straight-pull spoke in generally can and should be tensioned higher than the equivalent J-bend spoke. As always, build quality is key, and the average bike shop won't necessarily have the experience to do it well. Nevertheless, in comparison to a J-bend, a straight pull spoke properly assembled onto a properly designed hub will:

  1. Not fatigue as fast -- especially if a J-bend is not kept adequately tensioned. in other words, a straightpull spoke will not relax as quickly.
  2. Eliminate spoke rubbing typical in most traditionally laced wheels.
  3. be stiffer radially AND laterally than most traditional lacing for the same spoke gauge (though it is hard to do a direct comparison because hub and rim geometry varies widely)
  4. Be lighter for the equivalent capability -- or, more importantly, will have less inertia due to the ability to use fewer spokes and/or narrower gauge butted spokes with no loss in stiffness & strength
  5. Will last longer -- the J-bend spoke beds in, then frets and ovalizes the spoke hole, losing tension as the wheel wears in, as well as wearing out the hub. In a straightpull spoke, there is much less motion & wear at the hub and nipple.

Bottom line: straight pull spokes, properly designed and built, will be lighter, stiffer, and require less truing than a conventional wheelset with the same number of spokes.

What are the advantages of J-bend spokes? Price and parts availability.

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    Why should a straight-pull spoke be tensioned higher than a J-bend? – Codebling Mar 29 '16 at 21:03
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Engineering aside, there is one huge advantage to straight spokes: you can always replace a spoke without ever having to take off the cassette or disk rotor. This is awesome.

The matching huge disadvantage is that you won't be able to afford (or find) replacement spokes, so the ease of replacing them is entirely academic.

One other disadvantage is that when you're tensioning them they tend to spin when you turn the nipple, so unless you want to carry a big-arse pair of pliers with you to hold the spoke and stop it spinning, forget about being able to do a roadside repair.

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  • All three points are only half-true. 1) On my wheels you have to take off the cassette/freewheel body because the gap between hub and cassette is too narrow to get the spoke head through. 2) If you are travelling you can easily carry 1 or 2 spare spokes inside the seatpost or taped to the top tube. Always a good idea. 3) Use bladed spokes. A bladed spoke holder weighs only a few grams and solves this issue completely. – Michael Oct 4 '19 at 7:57
  • The spoke holder sounds like a great idea. I guess I'm lucky with my wheels that point 1 works for me. So I can replace a broken spoke, but I'll still have to remortgage the house. – stib Oct 4 '19 at 8:02
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    Remortage? It should be a few dollars. If someone changes a traditional spoke for you, he would normally ask more for the work. – Vladimir F Oct 4 '19 at 11:43
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    Related to this answer: I heard from a wheelbuilder I know that straight pull spokes are easier for machines to lace. In principle, this means that companies can mass produce stock wheelsets a lot more cost-effectively. Related to your point #2, straight pull spokes can be ordered online. At least for DT Swiss spokes, the straight pull versions are comparably priced to the j-bend versions. – Weiwen Ng Oct 4 '19 at 11:52
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    I think that straight pull spokes were a much more rare thing in the 2000s. I recall Cane Creek making a big deal about the purported advantages in their own wheelsets. Shimano, Campagnolo, and Mavic made prebuilt wheel systems with straight pull spokes, and these proprietary parts were all expensive to replace. Perhaps this is why you think straight pull spokes are super pricey. Currently, both DT Swiss and Sapim regularly produce straight pull spokes in various grades (i.e. not just the top level spokes). So I suspect straight pull spokes are no longer super-pricey. – Weiwen Ng Oct 4 '19 at 14:53

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