Evening out spoke tension - with or without the tyre on the rim?

Yeah, that’s strange. It almost seems like it might be the tool since it would only be one thing that would have to be off to explain the 36 other things.

I wish I had a spare spoke. I could tension it with ~1 kN to calibrate the tool.

On a friends bicycle the tool shows reasonable values between 110 and 120 kg.

I took a couple of samples, reducing the tyre pressure. A pressure drop of 200kPa resulted in a 3 to 8 kg increase in tension. So the effect is significant, but does not explain it all.

So I upped the tension, this time with the tyre installed (200 kPa above atmospheric pressure). Which resulted in a wheel a lot less true. I put some work into truing it and increased the pressure again, in two steps to my desired 400 kPa above atmosphere.

The tension seems reasonable, now. The wheel is just true enough to be bearable. On the test ride the wheel felt much stiffer (good), but the creaking returned with the first turn. And it stayed (bad).

I think I’ll give it up, just true the wheel and lubricate the spokes.

I believe that I read in Jobst Brandt’s book that an inflated tire can have a 5 to 10 percent effect on spoke tension. I don’t remember the number specifically but he did acknowledge that.

I know that “tuning spokes” by it’s sound is not entirely accurate to have equal tentsion.
I pretty much have all wheel building tools, but not a tension meter.
Therefor I’m curious when you listen to your spokes is there much (unexpected) difference in tone levels?

No, it’s kind of the opposite. There is only little tone difference for huge tension differences.

Any way, after reading about twisted spokes I spent another 4 or so hours retensioning all spokes putting some lubricant on the threads. This time I made it 200 metres before the first noise and 600 metres before the annoying persistent noise returned. Which is about 10 times the distance I covered last time, before my work proved futile.

I wonder, do the spokes just unwind? Do I need to use loctite? Or did the wheel builder maybe not stress relieve the spokes?

I have talked to some people who built wheels and when I asked them about stress relieving they told me they’ve never done that.

How do I determine the wheel was built properly?


Don’t use loctite on nipples! It is too strong for such fine threads, and if there’s enough tension it shouldn’t be needed anyway. I use boiled linseed oil to prep my spokes. It acts as a mild thread lock, and anti-seize after it cures. As a lube it benefits the initial build, but it persists after the oil has cured as well. I have never had a seized nipple on a spoke that was prepped with it.

I don’t know why it’s called “stress relieving,” but I don’t know any wheel builders who don’t do it. It is really setting the spokes, and nipples so that everything is in its proper place at rest. Then when you bring it up to tension all of the force is exerted in a straight path between the rim and hub. If you don’t do it there is wasted energy in having to straighten everything out. It is uneven, and as the spokes “set” themselves it will introduce slack into the system. The result at best is an out of true wheel, and at worst is a wheel that lets the nipples unwind.

I guess there is a difference between people who have built wheels, and a wheel builder.

As for determining a good wheel build, I don’t know how you could tell. If it is a machine built wheel the lacing is fine, but it probably wasn’t “stress relieved.” I would detention the wheel, and treat it as a new build that is already laced. Take the slack out of the spokes so that the tension is still low, and use my nipple driver between each crossed pair to bend the spokes around each othe slightly. I also use a small plastic hammer to tap the outside heads establishing a little tighter bend in the elbows. This is simple, and fast, and removes many problems later on. There are more things you can do to relieve tension, but these two things probably make the biggest impact.

Then bring the tension up a bit so that it is still low, but the wheel feels solid for the most part, maybe 60-80kgf (I’ve never gauged it). This is when you dish and true the wheel. Finally bring it up to final tension. At this point you shouldn’t need to do more than minor adjustments for trueness, and the dish should still be good.

As you turn the nipples you can get a feel for when you are winding the spoke. If you feel the spoke wind a quarter turn before the nipple starts tightening, then unwind that same quarter turn when you are done. This becomes intuitive. You can also use spoke pliers if you need to keep the spokes from winding up, but I only use them on very light spokes like Lasers.

That should get you a strong wheel.

There’s this link floating around the forums:

I quote:

I don’t know how credible the source is, though.

This is different than what we are talking about. Bedding the heads into the hub doesn’t matter for the reason you quoted. I’ve built wheels where I took time to set each head with a center punch just to see if there was any difference, and in the end the wheels were as strong as any others I had built.

OK, I have to admit I struggle with the wheel building lingua. My imagination comes short when reading about it. The picture in my head is an old dude who has built racing wheels his entire life, bending the spokes with a spoon handle where they meet.

But I have no idea about a lot of details, like how are the spokes anchored? Are they already suspended from the hub? Are they already connected to the rim? But how do I “grab and yank” them?

I probably should just watch one of those youtube tutorials, though I hate learning from videos. Most videos are done by hacks who teach you bullshit and I don’t like not going through it at my own pace.

Yup. That’s pretty much what I do with my nipple driver. I only use the driver because I don’t have a spoon at my truing stand.

After thinking about it a little more I think it is worth saying that while the tension will bed the spoke heads if you see them moving around while you are working on the wheel it is a sign that there is an improper fit. Either the holes are too large, or the flanges are too thin for the spokes. In the first case you need lower gauge spokes (bigger diameter). In the second case spoke washers will fill the extra space. The large hole problem is not likely to come up in a prebuilt wheel, but I have seen prebuilt wheels that could use washers. Unfortunately the only way to get them into place is to completely disassemble the wheel.

Can a lack of stress relieving be the cause of my creaking? Is there a way to detect whether my spokes are stress relieved?

E.g. could I take out one spoke to see if it is bent?

on new spokes the elbow is 90 degrees. The outside spokes on your wheel should have a set that is a bit tighter than that (maybe 70 or so), but it might be hard to see. It might be easier to see if the spoke aims pretty much at the rim when it is laced loose and not attached to the rim, or if it wants to point perpendicular to the axle.

If you keep doing all this cool stuff to the spokes to stop the creaking and you still hear the creaking, do you think maybe it’s not the spokes? I repeat, in my experience creaking (that sounds just like the spokes) always comes from the crank-taper interface.

Ditto to Harper’s comment. I went almost mad trying to get my spokes to stop creaking until I realized it was my cranks. I my case, the creaking is happening between the right pedal and the crank, and I only hear it when I apply pressure on the right pedal. I verified that by putting my right crank in a vice and then loosening and re-tightening that pedal. As I both loosened and re-tightening it, I was able to reproduce that dreaded sound perfectly. It did also seem to “ring” through the spokes, but it couldn’t have been the spokes or the taper as they were suspended in the air with no effective pressure or torque on them.

I haven’t fixed it yet. Not really sure what to do, and it’s become a low priority. As Ned Flander’s beatnik parents said on an episode of the Simpsons, “We’ve tried nothin’ and we’re all out of ideas!”. While it is a bit annoying, at least knowing that nothing is mechanically wrong with my uni is a huge relief, and better yet, I can stop trying to mess with the @#$% spokes!

I’ve been working on that front, too. Cleaning and regreasing the interface has no effect. I’m getting some new cranks and I might also try shorter spacers, when I get desperate. But I don’t think it’s the crank/ISIS interface.

Tensioning the spokes helps after all. They just untension themselves again, the first time I make a turn.

Which hub are you using? I once had a similar phenomenon and the noise came from the bearing seat on the hub which was undersize, allowing the bearing to move axially.

Also have those spoke sounds before discovering that one of my bearings was sliding on the hub stem.
Then I glued it with a special bearing glue and no spoke noise anymore.

Which glue did you use?
I shimed the bearing radially with aluminium foil and clampded it axially with spacers to solve this issue.

Loctite 603