A Quick Guide to Spokes & Nipples

*This page is work in progress: but do have a prod around!*

Spoke choice is a question many people have: here I’ll introduce you to the different types we use as well as the basic whys and wherefores.

Plain Gauge Spokes

Trusted Stainless Steel Plain Gauge Spokes such as the Sapim Leader should be considered the absolute minimum qaulity of spoke to use but are great for builds needing an especially short or thick spoke such as in small wheelers of E-Bikes. For all other builds use either butted or bladed spokes.

Likewise unless Silver is your aesthetic of choice the process of blackening spokes adds a further chemical barrier (a quality spoke is never painted) between spoke and nipple materials and thus they are more resistant to corrosion within the thread.

Butted Spokes

The classic choice of all wheelbuilders. Not only does the thinner middle section of butted spokes save weight but it also greatly increases the fatigue life of a well built wheel over plain gauge spokes. Here the number and type of spokes in each wheel will mostly be guided by rider weight and intended use: with lightweight climbers able to get away with a 20:24 spoke count front and rear whilst touring cyclists or heavier riders at 100kg+ will want to run 32-36 spokes per wheel, tandems and especially burly builds can go as high as 48.

Likewise Sapim offer butted spokes in several flavours: the ‘Strong’ is a single butted spoke with a 2.3mm elbow and 2.0mm the rest of the way, with middle portions from 1.8mm through to 1.5mm are found in the performance driven Race, D-Light and Laser spokes.

Bladed Spokes

The Legendary Sapim CX-Ray.

If you’re buying a pair of performance oriented wheels then this should be your go to spoke. Bladed spokes don’t exist purely for aerodynamic advantages (of which they certainly have), they are also the lightest available whilst also having an insanely high shear strength and a fatigue life numbering in the millions of revolutions: a  skilled builder will get the best out of the butted spokes above but they maxes out at about 800,000 revolutions. As such they are more than suitable for high end off road wheels and will shave often drop over 100g off of your hoops compared to the usual Sapim Race. Their fatigue life also means it’s the only spoke we’ll ever happily re-rim onto with a used wheel so they’re also less wasteful and represent a worthwhile investment.

On our our own Road and Mountain Bikes they’re the only spoke we ride. Almost all of our Ready to Roll range use CX-Rays; combined with our other go to components they allow amazing performance driven builds to be achieved from £400; a figure that smashes a lot of high cost factory builds.

A Quick Nipple Note…

Brass NipplesThey’re cheap, and they work: nothing wrong with them and they save you money, what more can I say?

Available in 12/14/16mm options, in Silver or Black (although the black oxidisation does rub off a little with use) alongside internal, hex drive, and ‘locking’ options for downhill use.

Great for budget builds and those looking for wheels with no worry.

Alloy Nipples

Sapim’s 7075 T6 Heat Treated Nipples are simply superb and they’re the only alloy nipple I use. After extensive long term building and riding everything claimed about them is true (we still lube ’em) and you’ll save an easy 20g on a 32 spoke wheel whilst adding a bit of anodised bling.

Alloy nipples do need perfect spoke length alongside a careful builder who understands their use and we have several tricks up out sleeve to add to the longevity of all nipples; all that adds up to an upgrade that I believe to be a no brainer.

Custom Cut Spokes

My Morizumi Spoke Cutting Machine allows me to supply direct to bike shops and you at higher quality control yet much cheaper price than many others.

I am proud to offer the South-West’s only high quality custom cut spoke service.  Be it J-Bend or Straighpull, Black or Silver, my spoke inventory is extensive with all lengths available to suit any wheel from large hub Bromptons to 27 1/4″ box section vintage rebuilds and beyond.

 

Are you a bike shop?

Then I can provide high quality, custom cut spokes at a cheaper price than your distributors with free delivery to the city centre or surround and with a much smaller quantity limit.  Additionally I can also offer same or next day rush job deliveries of hard to find spoke lengths to help you finish that crucial job.

Are you a member of the public?

Then you can browse my eBay store HERE for all your Sapim Spoke needs and to see what’s available.  Once you’ve found what you want then simply get in touch via this websites contact page.