Never Break a Spoke

I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve never broken a spoke. Never, not even while cycling coast to coast on light weight 16 spoke wheels over some of the worst roads I’ve ever seen. I can’t say for sure to what I owe my good fortune, but I believe it has to do with maintaining properly tensioned spokes.

Correctly tensioned spokes are critical for strong reliable wheels. I’ve learned that just because a wheel is true, doesn’t mean the spokes are properly tensioned. Consequently, it is important to check spoke tension even on a true round wheel.

But how do you check spoke tension while touring? Unless you are tone deaf, plucking the spokes is a quick and easy method to determine if the spokes are at different tensions. I simply pluck all the spokes on the same side of the wheel. Similarly tensioned spokes will have the same pitch. If the spoke has a higher pitch, it is tighter than the rest. If it has a lower pitch it is looser. Therefore, it is easy to hear an unevenly tensioned wheel and determine whether the spoke needs to be tightened or loosened.

Ken Whittaker


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