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The Myth Of Stress Relieving Spokes

by John Neugent

Tech articles | Commentary articles

John Neugent probably knows more about bicycle wheels than anyone else alive. Maybe more about bikes as well. He's spent his life in the bike business, at every level. He now owns Neugent Cycling, a firm devoted to delivering world-class equipment at the lowest possible price. If you are in the market for a set of wheels, please, check out John's site. He really knows his stuff. —Chairman Bill

John Neugent

John Neugent

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John Neugent writes:

Since I am in the wheel business, I occasionally check out wheel building videos on YouTube. In fact I just posted a new one today on tensioning wheels. There is a myth that has been around ever since I was in the business about stress relieving spokes.

Even many good wheel builders don’t understand exactly what it is they are doing. Many people will immediately stretch the spokes as soon as the wheel is laced. Which does absolutely nothing.

Many will also do this multiple times when building. Some even claim that by standing on the spokes when the wheel is on the floor they achieve the ultimate method.

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When you stress relieve spokes you bring them to their yield point. A new spoke is somewhat elastic. When you bring it to its yield point it changes the properties of the spoke to make it behave like a plastic in that it is no longer elastic. You only need to do this once. It either is or is not past its yield point. A strong squeeze of the hand on the spokes is all you need and is superior to stomping on it.

I actually tension wheels past their yield point with just the high spoke tension I use. When you buy spokes, their actual length is 1 mm shorter than the specified length. A 270 mm spoke is 269 mm. The spoke makers figure you are going to stretch it.


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The reason why stress relieving is important is that spokes fail by fatigue and by turning them into a plastic state rather than an elastic state reduces either the number or extent of fatigue cycles.


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John Neugent was was one of the first to establish quality hand building in Taiwan around the turn of the century. He now owns Neugent Cycling, a firm devoted to delivering world-class equipment at the lowest possible price.