Frozen Solid
Thursday January 21st 2010, 9:14 pm
Filed under: Advice & Tips

Today I got to work on some wheels. Really just installing new—brass—nipples. I started the job yesterday, and was surprised and hindered by the lack of this tool at the shop; today I brought mine from home. It really makes the job of inserting nipples a breeze. This dude’s wheel was built with alloy spoke nipples and from all the corrosion or whatever, they were cracking and causing all sorts of havoc. So much so that when I was deflating the tire to start replacing them, another one snapped in half. Brass yo!

Anyway, I’ve not been working on—or building—many wheels lately, much to my dismay, so it felt good to sort of go through the process of lacing and building a wheel. The last time I really worked on a wheel like this I was investigating why my neighbor’s rear wheel wouldn’t stay tensioned. From what I could tell it didn’t look like any spoke prep or thread locker was used in the original build—difficult to determine to be sure, but for all intents and purposes the spokes wouldn’t stay tense. So unbuild and rebuild, just to be sure, I thought I’d apply a little spoke thread locker to each spoke.

I had a small bottle of DT Spoke Freeze on hand. The directions on the bottle indicates the following:

Instructions for use: after truing the wheel, apply to the nipple drop by drop

Seems simple enough, albeit vague. A little clarification would help, because using the bottle provided the act of dripping it “drop by drop” makes a huge mess all over your rim, and whether or not the liquid actually penetrates into the threads of the spoke/nipple interface is quite unclear. I’ve attempted to use the stuff a couple of times, never really coming to trust it.

Working on my neighbor’s wheel, deciding to use some liquid resistance, I looked in my toolbox to discover no options except the aforementioned DT product. Well, I thought, I’ll unwind the wheel to it’s extreme lowest tension and drip the Spoke Freeze into the head of the nipple with one of the hypodermic needles I use for lubricating. Seemed like a clean and straight-forward idea. Pretty quick process too.

Not quick enough however. By the time I finished dripping, drop by drop, and began spinning the wrench to add tension to the spokes, the liquid in the nipples had gelled almost completely solid preventing the spokes to turn any further into the nipples. Wow, lesson learned. What would have been a half hour job at most just became a two hour job of incrementally chipping out  the solid red cement and slowly tensioning the spokes a quarter turn at a time. My sturdy dental pick won the tool of the day award for that job. Tediously, the wheel was eventually brought up to proper tension, true and round. My intention through the process was to just leave some as much residual thread locker as would prevent unwinding spokes but still allow tensioning. It worked, and last I checked, the wheel is still straight and tight.

Moral of the story: follow the directions, if you don’t understand them, follow them anyway. Kidding—maybe look up the instructions online for more in-depth instruction (PDF). To clarify, DT makes great spokes, tools, hubs and rims, I’m a big fan; their Spoke Freeze WORKS, but from here on out, I’m using straight up Loctite or at the least Wheelsmith’s Spoke Prep; I don’t have much experience using linseed oil, or without any thread prep. What’s been your experience with these types of de-tensioning fluids?


4 Comments so far
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I read that heavy weight (10W-30) motor oil works pretty well. The last I’ve built I’ve dipped 3 spokes into the oil then twirled them with three undipped spokes. Seemed to spread out the oil to a pretty reasonable level. I don’t use any thread locking compounds, but my last couple builds have been for me; DT Alpine spokes and serious rims, heavy tension all around. Haven’t had any loosen up in the first year of riding them.

Comment by Busse 01.21.10 @ 10:25 pm

we only use linseed oil at Clever. Seems to work fine.

Comment by James 01.22.10 @ 3:49 am

Never heard using motor oil. That’s an interesting one.

Yes, straight tension is supposed to suffice. In fact, I’ve heard rumour that one rather large bike part distributor builds their house wheels dry too.

Comment by presta 01.22.10 @ 7:11 am

James, are you back from the southern hemisphere?

Comment by presta 01.22.10 @ 7:12 am



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