Ask Pinkbike - Spokes, Lever Adjustments and Noises in the Back

May 30, 2014 at 10:25
by Pinkbike Staff  
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Here at Pinkbike we get inundated with all kinds of questions, ranging from the basic "Can I have stickers" to more in-depth, soul searching types of queries like if you should pop the question or what to name your first child. Ask Pinkbike is an occasional column where we'll be hand picking and answering questions that have been keeping readers up at night, although we'll likely steer clear of those last two and keep it more tech oriented.

New spokes required?

Question: Pinkbike user JasonCronk asked this question in the All-Mountain, Enduro & Cross-Country forum: I was riding around and ended up bending my rim a good half inch out of true in one spot, and now the wheel can't even spin because the tire hits the frame. I could have it trued, but I decided the wheel was too cheap to pay any more for. I was looking into purchasing a better and stronger rim, and I was planning to keep the hub because it's in great shape still, and the rim is the only part that's ruined. I was just wondering if I should purchase new spokes with a new rim, and how much and how long it would take a shop to put together a wheel. Thanks!

bigquotesYou re-using or replacing those spokes is going to come down to one thing: your new rim's ERD. That acronym stands for 'effective rim diameter', which, just as it sounds, is the diameter of the rim measured across the ends of two spokes holes on opposite sides of the rim. If you want to get really technical, you could also minus the height of each nipple head at those two spoke holes. Wheel builders use a rim's ERD and the hub's flange heights to determine what length of spokes to use for the build - spokes that are too long could protrude above the nipple head, or their threads could bottom out in the nipple; or too short of spokes might not have enough thread engagement with the nipple. None of that really matters to you if you're paying for someone to build your new wheel, but the one fact that could either save or cost you money is that many rim models feature different ERDs. If your new rim's ERD is within a millimeter or two of your old one, you might get away with using the same spokes and saving some dough, but if it's larger or smaller by more than that you'll need new spokes as well. As for how long a wheel build takes, that will depend on the mechanic doing the job, although I think that most would get the job done in under an hour. However, don't forget that you're paying for their skill and knowledge, not just for an hour's worth of labour. For that reason, don't be surprised to see that your labour bill is a bit higher than you expected. - Mike Levy

check spokes for tension

JasonCronk will need fresh spokes if his new rim sports a different ERD number.

Brake lever motion adjustment?

Question: Member kawiMX216 asks on the All-mountain, Enduro and Cross Country forum: Is it possible to adjust the overall range of motion of brake levers? On my Enduro, the way I hold the grips, I like to be able to put one finger on the levers at all time, and have full use of the brakes. The front is fine, as it doesn't take much lever movement to brake, but with the rear, I cannot get full power, because the lever will hit my fingers. I had a friend change the brake pads and re-bleed the brakes, but it didn't help much. Is there a way to adjust it with some tools? I want it to be near instant, that the brakes work - I don't want to have to pull the lever in very far.

bigquotesIf your friend gave your rear brake a successful bleed, then without knowing your specific brake model, there are only four obvious possibilities: The first is that you haven't dialed in your lever's reach adjust screw to give your lever blade full travel, but I'm guessing you've done that. The second option is the bite point adjustment that controls where in the lever's stroke that the master cylinder piston kicks in and starts squeezing the brake pads. This is either a dial near the base of the lever blade, or for many Avid and Formula levers, you turn the fitting where the hose exits the lever body. Third is simply moving the levers inboard so you can only reach the lever with one or two fingers and it will clear the rest - but you have probably tried those two tips as well - so the third option is most suspect. Because you describe the front brake feeling firm and the rear feeling soft, the culprit is most likely to be that your cheap hoses are ballooning. The longer, rear-brake hose eats up more fluid volume, so it feels more spongy when you squeeze the lever. You can get quality aftermarket hoses here, or purchase the top-line replacements from your original brand at a good bike store. I had that Issue with early Avid Elixir levers because the shape of the blade did not afford much room underneath. - RC

SRAM Guide RSC Trail Brake 2014

SRAM's latest Guide brakes use stiff hoses to eliminate the ballooning that is the suspect in kawiMX216's case. The lever reach adjust dial is the knob on the front side of the lever blade, while the bite point, or engagement adjustment dial, is the wheel set into the master cylinder. Both dials are used to set the lever to engage the brake at a specific point in its stroke.

Drivetrain rumbling?

Question: PB user Tinfoil asked this question in the Mechanic's Lounge forum: "I like to think I'm a halfway decent mechanic, but my drivetrain has been trying to prove me wrong the last little while. Help very much appreciated here. The bike is an older 06 Enduro Expert running a Deore XT triple crankset converted to 2x9 at 22/36. At the beginning of the season I did what I felt was an adequate drivetrain overhaul and replaced cassette, chain and big ring on the front. The components as they stand are Shimano front rings, original Deore XT FD, SRAM PC971 Chain, SRAM cassette, original X9 RD.

When I did the changeover, everything felt great except for a light rumbling sort of feeling when pedalling, only in the big ring. I gave it plenty of lube and time to seat, which it seemed to have done but after a few wet days in Whistler the rumble is back and it seems angry. It has now gotten much much worse and seems to have migrated mostly to the little ring. It's to the point that I'm worried about damaging something and I still can't f*cking find it. Without the chain everything spins great, so I'm thinking not the freehub or BB. My best guess is something in the chain/cassette interaction, but I'll be damned if I can figure out what it actually is. I'd really, really like it to go away.

bigquotesMy first guess would be that the angry rumbling is coming from your rear derailleur's pulley wheels, especially if it's still the stock derailleur. After 8 years of riding those teeth are likely worn down to little nubbins, and they probably aren't meshing well with the new chain. The rumbling may be worse in different gear combinations because of the angle of the chain on the pulley. I'd recommend replacing them and seeing if quells the rumbling. Another possible option could be your B-tension screw - make sure there's enough clearance between your upper pulley wheel and your cassette - if there's not, that could also cause a rumbling noise when the upper portion of the derailleur contacts the cassette. Finally, if none of this works, I'd check the rear hub bearings. Even though you said everything is spinning freely, a rumbling sound could be caused by a worn cartridge bearing with no lubricating grease remaining. - Mike Kazimer

X0 DH in Les Gets France

Worn derailleur pulley wheels may be the cause of a rumbling drivetrain.

Have some unresolved tech questions? Jump in the Pinkbike Forum and we'll look to answer it for next time.


  • 91 1
 My tip: If you are doing a rim swap, first tape the spokes where they cross one another before you undo the nipples. Then when you take the old rim off, the spokes will stay exactly where they are and you just need to put the new rim on and put the nipples back. No need to relace the wheel.
  • 68 0
 You sir, are a f*ucking WIZARD
  • 9 1
 The downside is you have to be careful of scratching the new rim. Tape it if you want.
  • 72 0
 Even better wizardry: tape the new rim to the old rim in three or four places with the valve holes lined up, loosen all the old spokes from the old rim to give the hub and spoke lots of play -- but leave them in -- then swap each spoke from the old rim to the new rim starting at the valve hole, new nipples, please. Bonus tip! rub a little bees wax on the spoke threads -- makes tensioning easier later AND keeps them tight. easy enough to do well even in a compromised mental state!
  • 13 0
 This is awesome. Just want to comment so I can find this easily again.
  • 4 0
 what mtbfunfunfun said
  • 1 0
 yep. what mtbfunfunfun said. I've done this many times and as long as the erd is similar it works great.
  • 5 0
 Slightly off topic, but another tip is that there is a good chance you can swap hubs with different flange diameters/widths without having to get new spokes (unless your wheel is radially spoked). This is because a spoke is on a tangent to the hub so a 4 mm difference in flange size does not mean a 2 mm change in spoke length. This works for hubs with normal flange sizes (e.g. you can swap DT to Hope front hubs). It may not work swapping between a Hope/DT to something with an extra large flange (e.g. Chub Hubs or I9). For shits and giggles, put some measurements into an online spoke length calculator and change the ERD value 4mm - you'll see the spoke length change a couple of mm. However, increase/decrease flange width/diameter and you'll see the spoke length change very little.

This means there is a good chance you can convert your old QR axle to 15mm TA for only the cost of the hub and your time.

Obviously you can't use either of the two methods described above.
  • 5 4
 I get this loud to high pitched sound every time I eat a burrito then immediately go for a 5 mile uphill blast on my XC bike. Spandex is not doing it's job of containing these rumblings.
  • 2 2
 To me there is no way to tell if the spoke has exceeded its yield strength when the rim is bent -that is unless you take the time to get some precise initial measurements of the spoke and have taken a basic strength of materials class. Behavior under tension will be different for any spoke that has exceeded its yield point. These spokes are also much weaker. I have had spokes from bent rims that measure a little longer than others when I remove the rim. All of this makes me hesitant to use spokes from a radially bent rim.

Spokes are cheap and fresh one's always seem to build up nice. I keep 158, 260 and 262mm spokes on hand as these seem to be the lengths for many 26" hub rim combinations -you could do similar for 27.5 and 29. Spokes can be within 1mm length of the length calculated from ERD and hub dims. This is why I stock the home shop in 2mm increments. Buy them in bulk. If you buy from a shop make sure they will match the price you can get online. Many shops will charge as much as 3 times the price per spoke you can get online. This is fine if you are looking to replace a broken one. If you are buying a 70 spoke dt box or 50 ws that is just stupid.

I will reuse spokes if I just dent a rim beyond repair. If the rim is bent beyond truing I throw the spokes in the recycle bin. Note for speed, you can use cable cutters to cut all the spokes to save you from having to remove nips.

Best preventative measure is to keep your wheels true and balanced. I check new builds and new bikes after the first ride. After that, I will check every couple of weeks on DH bike and maybe as long as a month on trail bikes. Wheels go to the stand after any really rough ride too.
  • 3 2
 So you guys re-use spokes? Isn't that dangerous? I always got new spokes + nipples when changing a rim.
  • 1 2
 Make sure you don't take the spokes off the hub and you should be fine. That way the spokes won't get laced back on the hub facing they opposite way and bending them.
  • 5 0
 I've built 100s of wheels for paying customers - mountain (lots of DH/FR,DJ and XC), road and hybrids. have also done lots of repair work on 'factory wheelsets' like Zipp, Roval, Mavic, Easton, DT Swiss

I always use fresh, quality spokes (Dt or Sapim) and new brass nipples as you are guaranteed to have the best chance of building a balanced, durable and strong wheel. I build with a Park spoke tension meter and Park wheel jig / dishing tool, as well as using my experience.

using old, used parts can lead to dubious results, and since double butted spokes are generally affordable, it makes sense to use fresh spokes to ensure the best outcome
  • 8 0
 Hey, cool. Just for reference to my question if anyone else has a similar problem, the jockey wheels have been replaced twice and I understand how B-limit works. Just today I ended up tracking the problem to the hanger bolt on my derailleur, which was so worn that it was causing play in that interface and making the obviously very old and worn bearings in the rest of the mech move around as well. Hub bearings may still be suspect, and since Easton provides a free replacement for my hub, I will be taking them up on that as well.
  • 3 0
 I replaced those old school SRAM hanger bolts too often till my derailleur died. New designs are a big improvement
  • 9 2
 i really like these series of articles. but i always thought you should never really re use spokes to build a new wheel. as they will be all stressed and worn from the previous build.
  • 6 0
 You can definitely re-use spokes. As long as they are in decent shape, with no big kinks, bends, or chunks taken out of them, then they're fine to lace up to another rim.
  • 1 0
 If the old spokes are already stretched, wouldn't that give you a more stable tension?
make sure to replace the ones that are visibly damaged ( dropped chain behind the cassette, rock strikes ect, )

If your using the same model as your old rim for your swap, simply tape them together and transfer the spokes one at a time.
This way you wont need to re-lace the hub and such, and its MUCH faster that taking everything apart and having to line up your hub with the valve hole, blah, blah, blah,

But ALWAYS change the nipples, this will assure that your tension doesn't change and gives you a new surface for your spoke key to mesh with
  • 9 0
 But make sure you use new nipples. the old ones are most definitely stretched and more often then not the area needed to use a spoke tool is ovalized. Plus I always jump at the chance to talk about nipples....
  • 1 0
 Steel is elastic within a certain range, and what you are doing while screwing in the nipples is actually stretching a.k.a. tensioning the steel. As long as you do not exceed the upper tension limit of the particular spoke, a.k.a. elastic limit, you are good to go
  • 5 1
 Always brass nips, IMO. (As opposed to alloy)
  • 2 0
 I always reuse spokes. I even collect broken wheels specifically with the propose of harvesting the spokes and in some cases hubs. Local bike shops are always obliging as they just want them out of the way. You can even get money for scrapping the old rims. Combined with cheap mavic rim deals on line there is lots of scope for profit for the amateur wheel builder
  • 1 0
Re: Brass vs Alloy. 10 years ago I would have agreed, brass all the way. These days however using high quality 7075 alloy and good anodising alloy nipples are now infact better/stronger/lighter/more durable than brass. Which is good. Cos now my wheels can be lighter Smile
  • 6 0
 Can we see a tech Tuesday on how to build at home tools?

Examples: Ghetto headset press, Headset removal tool, ghetto bearing removal and press tool, etc.

I've made a headset removal tool out of a copper pipe and it worked well.......
  • 3 0
 If you have a large enough selection of threaded rod, nuts, and washers, you're often golden for all but headset removal. I nice selection of sockets is great too. I don't think Park Tools will be sponsoring that one.
  • 2 0
 Take a tube, cut slots in it, bend the sections outward, Presto- headset cup remover.

I've also found a 6-pack at the bike shop= free use of tools at the shop.
  • 1 0
 You don't always need tools for bearings, heating and cooling expands and shrinks metal a lot more than you realize. Most press fits are only around .0005 to .001
I recently put new bearings in my bottom bracket. Heated the bearing cups and was able to push the old bearings out by hand. Got the new bearings super cold, and with the cups still hot the bearings basically fell in. Let them sit together until the temps equal out and the bearings are locked in place.
I have access to a bearing heater and liquid nitrogen at work but you can do the same with a stove/oven and your freezer. A lot of grocery stores sell dry ice which works well. Heat guns are good for swapping bearings in a frame.
  • 1 0
 Nice work. What were you using for heat and for cooling?
  • 8 0
 This is good stuff thanks PinkBike tup
  • 6 0
 Bleed em or buy some shimanos, I know I'll never go back!
  • 5 0
 Do you get on your bike and then put on your helmet, or put on your helmet and then get on your bike?
  • 17 0
 That's a good question. I remember teaching my kids to pull down their pants then crap, as opposed to crap and then pull down their pants.
  • 2 1
 Hey RC, for the brake issue, advancing the pistons manually might be more effective than getting new hoses (and cheaper)! I had exactly the same problem with my Shimano SLX's (M666), over time the levers moved closer to the bars before the pads engaged, even with brand new pads and multiple bleeds. The culprit was Shimano's own yellow bleed block being too big, so when I bled the brakes the pistons ended up sat too far into the calliper. A bit of time spent advancing the pistons manually made the brakes feel like new again!
  • 2 3
 The wheel issue... First off; dont have the shop build your wheel. its expensive and there is a strong possibility of not getting a properly true and tensioned wheel. learn to do this yourself i know its a bitch but its absolutely essential. i dont know how many wheels ive checked that have been "professionaly" built that have virtualy no equality in spoke tension, and or, are way too loose. also many shops will skip an important step of lubricating your spoke and nipple threads. aside from your brakes your wheels are the most important part of your bike so take care to understand and maintain them. same goes for your brakes learn to do it yourself or else its never going to be perfect for you.
  • 5 1
 Don't get a pro to do it, cos most likely he will do it wrong?? Thats a bit silly. If you are confident doing it yourself, do so. If you are at all worried, take it to a pro. and if he does it wrong? Then bloody well take it back and get him to fix it for free. Then next time go to a proper pro. Simple. We aren't all just trying to swindle you out of money. Some of us are just quite good at fixing bikes (and I'm not afraid to say, probably better than you) and need to earn a living somehow.
  • 2 2
 i wasnt trying to attack your profession. i know theyre are a lot of exceptional bike techs out there
  • 1 0
 No worries. I am also aware that there are a lot of lets say "less than honest" techs out there. I have met a few myself sadly. However find yourself a good one, who knows his stuff and more importantly enjoys what he does and your bike will thank you. Also, I must say I strongly agree with the sentiment that people shouldn't be afraid of having a go themselves. Thats how I started after all, but if you are unsure, a good mechanic should be able to provide invaluable knowledge.
Happy trails Smile
  • 1 0
 the FR 6.1 D from DTSWISS is made of cheese and butter. Cheese and butter folks. for that you don't need spokes, you need an oven !
  • 2 2
 Re-use spokes=full rebuild sooner on new rim, I did just that and ended up popping multiple spokes, on two separate wheel builds...never again!
  • 2 2
 Can we get links to one or a few sites that can inform people of the air PSI in different forks and rear shocks as they are not all the same.
  • 1 0
 what is better to have your spokes touching where they cross or not touching at the cross?
  • 1 0
 Hanging the DH bikes or Enduro in the garage... Front tire or Rear tire?
  • 1 1
 "New spokes required" - but do you think that spokes after the crash are OK to reuse with regard to their future strength?
  • 1 1
 anyone know what size seat clamp i need for my yt wicked 160 pro? cheers all..
  • 2 1
 When is PB releasing an Iphone / all other inferior phones app?
  • 1 1
 I have the same problem with a Rear Avid Elixir 5... :/
  • 15 0
 The problem is that you have Avis Elixir brakes! hahaha
  • 5 0
 If bleeding em doesn't work just buy some shimano deores!
  • 2 2
 Hope your not using Elixer 5 for DH.....whimpy whimpy whimpy

Dont forget to de-gas the syringes when you bleed, this will get all of the tiny air bubbles out and then flush it through your hoses at least twice to get the residue that builds up out of your lines.\

DOT become acidic when it mixes with air, that will break down your seals and leave a black gunk in your MC or caliper cavities
  • 1 1
 @enduroelite Well, I change those Elixir for M4's Hope in my DH, problem solved. But put the Elixirs in other bike and the problem is still there haha.
  • 2 1
 Man i had the same problem with the avid elixir 5 brakes and as a recommendation I got rid of that sh*t and bought shimano xt brakes with the icetech rotors (best thing I have done to my bike) this brakes can handle anything and have such a great power by the time you barelly touch the lever.
  • 2 1
 anything below the elixir 7's is going to be a pile of steaming shit. they're irreversibly squishy and no matter how many times you bleed them they will always feel that way. 7's and up are definitely an improvement but not the best out there. so basically you might as well go another route......
  • 1 1
 Popping them while riding... Not during the build
  • 1 1
 What better Servical protection? alpinstars , moveo our leatt brace?
  • 1 1
 why no hope front break for djii's?
  • 1 1
 Do anglesets change the wheel base of a bike?
  • 3 1
 Yes, because it changes the angle of the fork therefore setting the front wheel either further or closer to the bike. How much though, I believe, would be marginal.
  • 2 1
 slackening the head angle pushes the front wheel further in front of you in relation to the steerer tube, so yes but only very slightly i doubt you would notice the change in length over the confidence boost and increase in high speed stability a slacker head angle will give you!
  • 1 1
 I have one bent spoke, am in need of a replacement?
  • 1 1
 As long as you have steel spokes, and the rim is trued and has no "hop" ( up and down mouvement ) leave it be, steel is quite resilient even when plastic deformation occurs.
  • 1 1
 Cool thanks!
  • 1 0
 Freehub body...
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