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My friend bought a Trek Verve 3+ in December 2022 to use as his work bike. He is the bike patrol at a planned community consisting of approximately 17,000 acres. He works 5 days/40 hours and rides 52-55 miles/day.

In less than 3 months he has popped several spokes, upgraded to a stronger tire, and now 4 broken spokes in 4 weeks.

Yes, the shop fixes at no charge. However, he cannot always get it back the same day, which results in loss time at work.

At first, the bike shop was telling him that he was incorrectly riding the bike although he has been riding a long time without any broken spokes.

He reached out to Trek corporate who graciously is sending a replacement rim. At this point, he has had the bike for less than 3 months, and is not happy.

Could it be the bike vs being the rim? Anyone else experience this or have any suggestions/feedback?

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    It could be a lot of things - something wrong with the bike/wheel, or how it's being ridden. Or both. How is he riding the bike? Off road? Only on the road? How much does he weigh? Is he carrying or pulling anything like a trailer? Exactly which spokes are breaking? Front wheel? Rear wheel? Which side of the hub are the broken spokes on? Both sides? Left side? Right side? For example, if all of the broken spokes are on the left side of the rear wheel (non-drive side), that almost certainly means the wheel was built with too low spoke tension. Feb 25, 2023 at 15:27
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    (cont) And if they're both sides of the front wheel? Quit riding into curbs at full speed. He isn't 9 years old and this isn't a small, cheap, kid's BSO from Walmart. :-) You can edit your question to add details. Feb 25, 2023 at 15:28
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    Where is the spoke breaking? What side of what wheel? Breaking at the J-bend? At the nipple? More photos/info please. I'm a wheel builder, need more info to work with 🙂 Feb 26, 2023 at 1:45
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    "the bike shop was telling him that he was incorrectly riding the bike" a good indication to change bike shop
    – njzk2
    Feb 26, 2023 at 11:36
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    I would love to learn how the bike shop recommends he ride his bicycle. Slower? Faster? With his hands? No curbs? Stay off pavement? Stay off dirt? No turning? Feb 26, 2023 at 20:25

5 Answers 5

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Most spoke breakages are failures from fatigue that occur due to small (microscopic) areas in the spoke operating beyond their fatigue limit as a result of residual stress areas in the spoke. These stresses are leftover from the spoke manufacturing and wheelbuilding processes. Good wheels have had various means taken to eliminate these built-in stresses, and will never or rarely break spokes in fatigue.

The use case here is high-mileage and is proving able to expose faults in the quality of the wheels. It is unfortunate and frustrating but there's no getting away from it. There is one solution and that's to start over again with new spokes and a quality build. Getting them hand built by a good wheel builder is typically the most expedient way of getting a guarantee of reliability; there are off-the-shelf sets that are also quality but going that route is the same kind of crap shoot that got you here, especially when you need something from the heavy-duty utilitarian categories as opposed to sport/performance.

Do not make any attempt to re-use any of the existing spokes. They should be presumed unreliable due to fatigue incurred.

It is not true that the rider's choices, style, or habits cause this issue. The spokes in properly built wheels operate well under their fatigue limit and, in terms of resisting fatigue, can stand up to very hard or abusive riding.

Rim choice dictates how effectively loads are shared between spokes and so it does have the potential to exacerbate the problem. The stiffer the rim, the more effectively compressive loads are shared between spokes. Because rim strength influences the severity of the load per cycle on individual spokes, it is a factor in whether fatigue breakage will occur. However, when rims are too light or flexible for the application such that this is relevant, you'll tend to encounter other problems first with the rim being prone to damage and/or the wheel not being able to stay in true. The same person building your wheels will be able to make sure the rim is appropriate for the use case. The rim's own resisance to fatigue is very important for a high-mileage working bike, although it is important to understand that they'll all fail someday.

For this bike and usage, it would be best to not go further with the existing rims or hubs, and instead go with an all-new wheelset where everything is chosen for daily high-mileage use. You can get components that will stand up to 14000 mile years, but yours has wheel components that would be more at home on a basic hybrid bike. This is frustrating given the price tag, but almost all of that price goes to the drive system on a bike like this. The actual lost value from needing to replace the wheels is relatively minimal.

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    What is the meaning of the table? Feb 25, 2023 at 16:08
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    @VladimirFГероямслава I pulled the spec list to verify it has typical hybrid wheels, and thought I might as well paste it into the answer instead of linking it. Feb 25, 2023 at 16:10
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    Spec list of the bike in the question? I can see something different on the Trek site. Maybe they differ in different regions? Feb 25, 2023 at 16:11
  • The Trek website does not even let me check the US version. Even if I do select USA, it says I landed on the wrong page and that it happens to everyone and when I try to go anywhere, it forces me to the local version. Feb 25, 2023 at 16:14
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    Given what I've ridden on amateur-hand-built (i.e. by me) wheels, with a heavy me and a heavy load, a decent set of wheels should be able to take a lot. That suggests this wasn't a decent set of wheels, and once a couple of spokes have gone the wheel probably isn't salvageable. But once he's got new wheels on there, it's always helpful to unweight the saddle for big bumps (like riding off kerbs), and to have a bit of give in the tyres. They're 50mm - they shouldn't be rock-hard. It's not that these are necessary steps on a decent wheel, but they help reduce wear and tear.
    – Chris H
    Feb 27, 2023 at 15:59
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I have a Trek from the same "range" (not a Verve though), with similar wheels. My impression was that Trek cheaped out on the wheels. I also had more broken spokes (3 - rear drive side, where the thread of the nipple starts) that I ever had with a bike - it took a few months though, but I'm not riding that much.

I gave up on these wheels when the bearing cones worn out: finding replacement cones for the Formula DC20/DC22 hubs was close to impossible. I replaced the wheels since, and now I rode more with the new wheels than stock ones, no issue since.

My recommendation with this kind of mileage would be to just replace the wheels by quality and serviceable wheels. Once of out warranty (or if the shop considers it becomes "normal wear"), dealing with bad quality wheels can be expensive: there is an important labour component if you need to replace a rim or a hub, changing the wheels is a better operation on the long run.

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It would be interesting to know which spokes he is breaking. Drive-side rear spokes are more highly tensioned and (I think) more susceptible to breakage. In my experience, once one breaks, its neighbors are more likely to break due to uneven tensioning when replacing the broken spoke (more specifically, if you break one drive-side pulling spoke, you're more likely to break the other drive-side pulling spokes). It doesn't need to happen, but unless the person repairing the wheel goes to some effort to re-tension the other spokes—which is a significant fraction of the work involved in building a wheel from scratch—it probably will happen.

Replacing the tire will have no effect on this. Replacing the wheel is probably the most cost-effective thing to do. As Nathan points out, this bike is intended for casual, low-mileage riders. Trek did not contemplate someone riding over 10,000 miles/year on it when they specced it.

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    All true, except a well-built 32-spoke wheel should be able to handle 10,000 miles/year easily, assuming it's not being overloaded or otherwise abused. And note that the bike is barely two months old so it probably has about 2,000 miles on it - a good base training month. ;-) Feb 25, 2023 at 17:55
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I've seen absurdly poorly assembled bikes from even the top companies (a Specialized that falls apart during city cycling...). I would recommend the following preventative measures(in decreasing order of importance).

  • I totally agree with all the above answers
  • One month (or half) after purchase, visit the shop for (free of cost) re-tuning of everything including spokes.
  • Improve Your technique. MTB and road biking have surprisingly much in common despite both communities being unfriendly to each other. IMHO to be able to ride well one You need to be able to ride the other style somewhat.
  • Once a month or two do a spoke test. Grab opposing spokes and squeeze them. A loose spoke shows immediately. An over-tightened one not so easily but the feel is learn-able.
  • Learn the sound and feel of a loose spoke, it rattles like a broken frame.
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I have a Trek 920 Tourer/Semi-gravel. I broke 2 rear wheel spokes in the first year. The local dealer was most unhelpful, wanting to charge me for what should be warranty claims. I emailed Trek {address at the end of the "international" [email protected] Terrific response < 24 hours, Both times they contacted Trek Australia,who organised rectification promptly

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  • Hi, welcome to bicycles. While it is nice to know that Trek arranged for service, this doesn't really answer the question which is about the reason that spokes are breaking on OP's bike.
    – DavidW
    Mar 3, 2023 at 21:50

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