A personal friend called me up to discuss his Bontrager Aeolus wheels. These were specced with Bontrager sealed bearing hubs (with a DT Swiss freehub), DT Aerolite spokes (in glaring painted white) and glorious HED Carbon clinchers. Sounds good so far, doesn’t it? He had hit a pothole, and the wheels had come out of true. He approached a couple of local bike shops, but both had come to the same conclusion – the nipples were seized to the spokes. The only fix was to cut all the spokes out, and replace them all. At the time of writing, white painted DT Aerolite spokes cost AUD8.50 each. Then add on a couple of wheel builds (oh, and the cost of cutting out the spokes). You do the math.
So this leads us back to the phone call. He explained what had happened (including a nipple being broken in an attempt to true the wheel) and arranged to get the wheels to me. It is not uncommon for manufacturers to cut corners in order to save cost. Often this is in an area of a product that is less visible when you hand over your heard earned cash. In the case of system wheels, it’s very often the wheel build. The quality of build (to the untrained eye/hand) is difficult to see, and often wheels are ordered based on internet reviews or a catalogue only. So, you might never have touched a pair before.
A good wheel build requires time – I budget an hour, most of which is spent stress relieving and equalising tension. I am pretty sure that most wheel system manufacturers work on about 15 minutes or less. I even saw an internet video where a jovial Taiwanese man was proud of the 60 wheels he built in a day. 10 minutes a wheel?
I am prouder of the 6 to 8 wheels I build in a day. I can properly stress relieve them. I can check and recheck tensions. I can get them to pass my exacting standards – as good as they can possibly be.
So back to the Bontrager wheels. Loctite is something I very rarely use. Mr Bontrager had put it on every nipple to stop any spokes coming loose. Alloy nipples are something I use only when required. They hardly weigh less, and are almost guaranteed to seize over time. Mr B thinks that they offer some marketing kudos, or weight advantage.
Repeat after me …. Loctite + Alloy nipples = trouble.
I don’t keep many secrets, but I do have a little method that often works to release seized alloy or loctited nipples. Suffice to say, we replaced all of the nipples with good old brass, tensioned to original specs and equalised tension across both wheels.
The outcome, nicely true carbon clinchers reborn, and all spokes saved. No need to cut spokes out. No need to replace costly painted spokes. You do the math!
Got a problem with your wheels. We can usually fix it. Often, when the others cant. Get in contact via the “Contact Us” page.