I will be using sapim D-light spokes for my wheel build. But I want to make one spoke on each wheel a different color, next to the valve stem. The sapim spokes are not available in colors. Would it matter very much if I was to use different brand spoke for that? It would obviously be the same length but it may not exactly match the other characteristics of the sapim spokes such as the double butting, etc....

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    The standard practice is to put the tyre on so that the most logo is at the valve hole. No special spoke required. You could also slip a piece of coloured heatshrink over that one spoke at wheel-building time.
    – Criggie
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 21:21

1 Answer 1


You don't need to mis-match, but if you choose carefully, you should be able to.

D-light come in both black and silver (links are to my local supplier/wheel builder, but demonstrate that they exist). That would be a good option especially on low spoke-count wheels, which are fussier.

Shocka spokes sell powder-coated D-light in any colour you want, so you're not even restricted to a black/silver combination if you live somewhere they ship.

If you really want to buy something different, you should find one that's double-butted with the same centre thickness as well as end thicknesses. The exact details of the taper are less important but if they're not butted in nominally the same way, tensioning and truing the wheel will be a little harder. I do only mean a little, if the spokes are broadly similar; they'll just respond slightly differently to tension. You should be avoiding vastly different tension anyway. My 36-spoke touring wheels could get away with a lot more variation than one with a minimal spoke count (they stay almost true with a broken spoke). I would avoid matching to the cheap un-butted spokes on AliExpress. They're probably weaker as well as tensioning very differently

An alternative, which may not do what you're after but is worth mentioning, is to just use a coloured nipple. That's good if it's as an indicator of where the valve is, not the same if it's about looks.

  • Why would tensioning and truing be harder? You can set the odd spoke to the same tension easily. The main difference (and potential problem) is different elastic behavior under dynamic load.
    – Michael
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 9:44
  • @Michael you wouldn't want the same tension, but the same length. A 2mm straight spoke will stretch differently to a 1.65mm (in the centre) butted spoke. So to get the wheel round and true you end up with a different tension. So long as the difference is slight, that's not a problem, as anyone who's rebuilt wheels on old rims or replaced some spokes without knowing the specs of the originals will know. Elastic load is also an issue, and something I was hinting at when I mentioned spoke count - 1 in 36 behaving slightly differently is very different to 1 in 16
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 9:48
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    "A 2mm straight spoke will stretch differently to a 1.65mm (in the centre) butted spoke. So to get the wheel round and true you end up with a different tension." No, why? Static wheel round-ness and true-ness depends entirely on spoke tension. You could replace all the spokes with a magic force vector which points in the direction of the spoke and end up with the same wheel. Mayyybe when mixing spokes of different diameter there would be a very small difference in angle/deflection where the spokes cross.
    – Michael
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 9:57
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    @Michael a magic force vector won't elongate when you adjust its magic spoke nipple. A real spoke will, and not by the same amount if it's a different thickness. That's just the spring constant. Because they're all spokes and not rubber bands or rebar, they'll be close. I'm used to building wheels with lots of spokes and stiff rims. In a way they're too forgiving - you can get true and round with an odd slack spoke if you're not paying attention to turning the nipples the same amount. With a stiffer spoke, you'd need to turn that nipple more.
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 10:07
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    You’d be right if we’d build wheels by simply turning each nipple N times. In that case the thicker (stiffer) spoke would come up to tension quicker and would be over-tensioned in the end. But we don’t do it that way. Instead we aim for equal spoke tension and slightly tweak it to make the wheel true.
    – Michael
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 10:52

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