Emergency Spoke Repair: FiberFix FTW!

The rear wheel of my bike popped a spoke while I was riding along a section of unimproved trail trail. Actually, it’d be more accurate to say “as-abandoned” railway line; they ripped out the ties and graded the baby-head ballast more-or-less level. It wasn’t really suitable for a long-wheelbase recumbent bike, but I really hate white-water rafting, which was the other choice.

Anyhow.

Of course, the broken spoke was on the sprocket side of the rear wheel. I discovered this when we were out of the most rugged section, so I have no idea how long I’d actually been abusing the wheel.

I released the rear brake, gingerly rode to the campsite, then installed the FiberFix emergency spoke I’ve been carrying around for a few years. After snugging the cord and tightening the nipple, I added a turn to each of the two adjacent spokes, making the wheel true enough to continue the mission.

FiberFix spoke in action

FiberFix spoke in action

The other end simply passes through the spoke hole in the hub. It doesn’t mind the deformation pressed into the hub.

Hub end of FIberFix spoke

Hub end of FIberFix spoke

Much easier than removing the sprocket cassette under field conditions, that’s for sure!

Back home in the shop, I installed a new spoke, tightened it up to match the others, backed out the extra turn in the adjacent spokes, and the wheel trued right up.

I originally built the wheel using a Park Spoke Tension Meter, which is a wonderful tool. If you build wheels, even occasionally, you really, really need one. Lace ’em up, tighten uniformly, then tweak just a little bit for a perfectly true wheel.

And, yeah, Phil hubs on all three bikes. I hate adjusting bearings. The man is gone; may his legacy live forever.

Memo to Self: Tension = 23±1 on the drive side.

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  1. #1 by smellsofbikes on 2010-08-18 - 11:37

    Zowie that’s a lot of useful in one post. I had no idea you could get a tensionmeter for under $150. (When I build wheels I twang the spokes as my gauge of tension, but this is much nicer.)
    I’d always wondered about those fiber spokes; it’s good to know they worked. That’d be a lifesaver for several bikes of mine that still use screw-on freewheels, where nothing short of a machine shop gets the freewheel off the hub for pull-side spoke replacements.

    • #2 by Ed on 2010-08-18 - 15:18

      twang the spokes

      Being utterly tone-deaf, I have a lot of trouble with that sort of thing.

      We went to an African drumming seminar at Vassar a while back, whereupon I discovered that I’m also arrhythmic. The Great Man is ripping off these intricate patterns and I’m totally compute-bound trying to find just the downbeats. Pathetic, that’s what it was, pathetic.

      screw-on freewheels

      Oh, man, I remember those and still have the weird sprocket clamp and chain whip wrench to suit…

      I like cassettes, although I must apply the BFW to the special tool when it’s time to get that locknut off. I doubt very much I could do it by the side of the road.

      Next time I’m ordering something, I’m gonna get me another FiberFix, just to have a spare!

      • #3 by smellsofbikes on 2010-08-19 - 12:40

        >although I must apply the BFW to the special tool when it’s time to get that locknut off.

        I’m not going to say this is anything like a good idea, but: the locknut sees no torque in use, so it’s been my experience, over 100,000 km or so, that if I tighten it finger-tight with the splined hex tool mine uses, it won’t come loose. As such, I can in a broken spoke emergency remove it with a pair of needlenosed pliers by jamming them in there and gripping the axle hex lock nut, because the tops of the needlenoses engage two of the splines. I can’t see any metal deformation on the splines when I do this.

        And yeah, a freewheel on a tandem, especially a road tandem with a triple chainring and a 32 tooth large cog, is essentially a single-use item. I don’t mind their disappearance in the slightest.

        • #4 by Ed on 2010-08-19 - 12:54

          if I tighten it finger-tight with the splined hex tool

          The Force is strong with you, Grasshopper…

  2. #5 by peter on 2011-06-10 - 14:20

    I thought the fiberfix was a nice thing, but a bit too expensive (he said, strengthening the prejudice that the Dutch are cheapskates….)

    I’ve made my own emergency spokes from spokes that are too long for regular use, as explained in this site (see tip nr. 5): http://www.m-gineering.nl/tipsoldg.htm

    Downside of that method is that if the spoke broke on the freehub side of the rear wheel and near the spoke nipple, you’d still have to remove the cassette to be able to remove the old spoke, as you need the hole in the hub for the emergency spoke. I don’t see myself using a hypercracker or Next Best Thing out in the field to remove a cassette. That’s when I’d throw in the towel and reach for the cell phone to call in the cavalry. Or maybe carry a battery-powered Dremel to cut the old spoke? :-p

    With a fiberspoke, you can be creative at where to anchor the spoke, so you don’t necessarily have to remove the stub of the broken spoke.

    (With apologies for the flood of comments from me, but am perusing your blog and old posts, as you may have noticed :-) )

    • #6 by Ed on 2011-06-10 - 14:55

      if the spoke broke on the freehub side

      Which is always where they break; I believe that’s a legal requirement around here. [grin]

      Fortunately, in every case I can remember, the spoke snaps just under the head and by the time I notice, the head has long since vanished and it’s easy to remove the rest of the spoke. Hard to find it, sometimes, as the other spokes hold it firmly in place.

      My tool kit weighs more than an entire candy-ass carbon-fiber bike frame, but I can fix just about anything that goes wrong and ride home to tell the tale… [grin]

      I like your shop style: keep up the good work!