Need some help with my nipples (and spokes)

Just need some piece of mind real quick (or not),

I built up my 700c wheel using something like 286mm spokes, rounded up from the 285.3 (or whatever it was), that the UDC spoke calculator gave me. I don’t remember if those were the exact numbers, but the point is, I rounded ‘up’.

Built up my wheel without any problems so far.

Then I saw this post:

So I took my tire and rim strip off to take a look at my work, and my spokes are not even with the screw driver flat on the nipple. Instead, they are more like the spoke in the middle of the picture in that post, probably about a 2 threads from being flush.

When I first looked, they were more like 3 threads down, so I went around my wheel and tightened everything 1 turn with the spoke key, this brought my tension up a bit higher than I normally feel comfortable running it, but like I said, now I only have about 2 theads or so from being flush.

Is this going to be a big deal?

I thought I did everything right: used the spoke calculator, rounded up, tried not to over tension the wheel. But now I’m wondering. I’m not flush, and my wheels tighter than I really like it to be.

So, think I’d be alright to loosen it 1/2-1 turn back to where it was and have that 2-3 threads left in my nips? I don’t wanna break nips, or taco my rim…


Without seeing your wheel, or at least pictures of the spoke heads, it is really hard to tell. From your description it sounds like you’ll be fine.

The middle picture is the one that is level with the flat of the screwdriver slot. If that is where you are then you are golden. You have a couple threads up or down without any problems.

How did you gauge your tension? What is the tension? Most importantly, is it even?

I haven’t ever worked on a wheel built by an amateur that had enough tension. I know that you are being very particular, and probably have a better hand on it. The fact that you are bringing this up speaks volumes to your care and consideration.

Breaking nipples is a real problem. Over tensioning isn’t as much. Most people will under tension a wheel even when they think they are using enough. The dangers in over tensioned wheels include cracked rims, pulling out eyelets, Bulging rims, and broken hub flanges.

I would say that a low tensioned wheel is more likely to taco, and an unevenly tensioned wheel even more so. An evenly tensioned wheel on the high side would probably pose less problems.

I guaged my tension by feel. I know, not the greatest, but it’s what I’ve got. I tensioned it up to about what my 26er is, which is why I was thinking it’s a bit tight. Couldn’t give you a number though. As far as I can tell it’s even. I really try to make sure I’m careful about how I tighten and loosen spokes to true the wheel, and I use feel and sound to try and keep them as even as possible.

I tightened it a turn, and took some pictures. Sorry, they were the best I could do.

I put my tire back on, and once inflated and ridden for a few yards until the spokes stopped settling in, the tension has actually feels better than I initially thought. I could ‘probably’ even get another half turn if I needed to.

They look good. I don’t think you have anything to worry about. I built wheels for three decades without a tension meter. You can build great wheels by feel. I also had the benefit of a couple of very experienced builders mentoring me in my formative years.

Building by feel is a learned skill, and I think the root of much of the lore about the art vs. craft of wheel building. As a new builder it might be worth it to have someone look at it and check your work even if it’s just to verify what you think. Too bad you aren’t closer to Longmont. I’d be happy to look at it (and have a go at falling off of the freewheel 36).

Awesome, my mind is at ease! Thanks for the help jtrops. Wheel building is definitely a new skill for me, but I sure like doing it. It’s cool to start with a pile of parts, and end up with a cool looking uni when you’re done.

Anyways, thanks again! Very helpful.

As above - very few people over-tension wheels (especially on their first ever build), the opposite is far more common. For comparing spoke tension without a proper tool try plucking the spokes and comparing the tone.

I was going to suggest that most of the issues suggested by jtrops very rarely happen, but then remembered that I cracked the flange on my Schlumpf with too much tension :o - though I’d be surprised if you have anywhere near as much tension as I have in that (and most hubs have stronger flanges than Schlumpfs).

I agree that those issues rarely show up, but I’ve seen all of them. It used to be more of an issue before the rim quality jumped up a few notches in the late '80’s.

I guess I didn’t explain my point very well. It was in response to his worry about taco-ing his wheel. I was trying to say that it was really the least of the worries, and that it is hard to over tension a wheel to the point of failure. The list is more to show the kind of failure that you might see from too much tension, not to suggest that it is a real possibility. At the same time I wanted to underscore the reality of breaking nipples: something unicycles seem particularly prone to.

Again, I have had to tension every wheel brought to me by an inexperienced builder. Also, it’s worth noting that if you adequately stress relieve the wheel as you build it there won’t be any break in period. The wheel shouldn’t ever make ping noises when you ride, even on the first ride. That is an indications of low tension/poor stress relief.

I really try to stress relieve my wheel, I go around and bend all of my spokes around each other, and then grab the bundles and squeeze them together as hard as I comfortably can. I still have a couple of pings though when I first get on, though my wheel never goes out of true or anything like that.

My 36er wheel had a ‘break in’ period, my 700c has not yet gone out of true so much as a mm. I’m acually quite pleased with how true I’ve been able to get it.

As far as tacoing, for some reason I thought higher tension would = taco, but it only makes sense that lower tension would = taco. The tension right now is still higher than I would probably have it normally, but it sounds like now it’d probably be closer to what it should be.

Sorry, this is all still fairly new to me and I’m still learning a lot. :o

I’m taking this thing out for it’s first real ride on Thursday, so far it seems solid enough…

Thanks again guys.