Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Broken Spokes

August seemed to be the month where I had to deal with bike issues.  It's the first time that I've had to deal with a broken spoke, and before the month was out I'd have to deal with 2.  Of all of the things I've had happen to me to prematurely end a ride, I have to say that a broken spoke has to be the most disheartening.  Both times I've had it happen when I was in a groove, and feeling like I could put out a really good effort, just to hear a strange metallic "ping", and the feeling that something was off.  Unlike a puncture or some other mechanical issues, there really isn't anything you can do to fix a broken spoke, either. That said, these experiences have given me a chance to review a few things on my own form as well as reaffirm my decision to get Boyd wheels instead of a high end warehouse brand.  

Broken at the J bend

Not a sight you want to see
There's your problem, right there...

From a personal performance point of view, I have to re-evaluate how I ride.  One of the big stressors on wheels is compression, specifically from hitting pot holes and other road hazards.  Because of my larger size, I put a lot of instant stress on my wheels when I go over these hazards at speed than a typical ~150lb rider.  In general I have taken the attitude of being more willing to "eat" a pothole in order to stay stable and not wreck than to attempt to avoid hazards at the last moment.  I need to adjust this and pay better attention to road conditions.  On routes that I know fairly well, I know where to look for these hazards and make sure I'm in a proper place to avoid them.  Beyond that I need to make sure I'm looking far enough ahead to avoid issues when at all possible as well.  Swerving at the last minute isn't an issue, but I shouldn't need to swerve to avoid road hazards as much as just make sure I'm looking for them.

In the cases where I cannot avoid a hazard, I need to make sure I'm not sitting with the majority of my weight on my back wheel.  This put a lot of unneeded sharp stress on those spokes, which can in turn cause weak spots to form.  Ideally I should get out of the saddle to handle the hazard, but just evening out my weight should go a long way to helping relieve just a little of that pressure.  

I also need to start making a much more concerted effort to document when I've had hazard hits and verifying that the wheels stay true and inspect the spokes.  If I can determine that a spoke has formed a weak spot before it breaks, it should mean less time hobbling back to get my wheel fixed.  I'm already working on spending more time doing general bike maintenance, and I'm going to be making an effort to start having a regular monthly deep clean and review of the bike to look for issues.  I can definitely add a more thorough wheel review as needed.  Something as small as making sure that the rear derailuer is working properly, and isn't throwing the chain into the spokes at all could mean the difference between no issues and almost constant repair.  I can definitely improve in this area.

Shortly after having the second spoke break in the month, I started getting down about my wheel decision.  I had gone through a lot of research when picking out these wheels, and I felt that I had make a good decision when I picked up these wheels.  With 2 breakdowns so close together, I had started second guessing if I had made a good decision.  Personally I put a lot of stock in dependability and confidence, especially on my bike.  After I have any sort of breakdown or change it takes me several rides to get confidence back that I'm not going to have another issue that could cause me to damage myself or the bike.  Not having confidence in the machine that I am using definitely puts a major crimp in what I feel willing to do.  I start having doubts about longer rides.  I don't want to get stranded.  After reviewing how I can take better care of my ride, I think I have places where I can improve and see improvements on the longevity of my investment, both in myself and my bike.  It's just going to take a few good rides to get the confidence level back up.

Through all of this, the most phenomenal thing for me has been the service that I've gotten from Boyd's.  I've heard horror stories of people having to ship their wheels back to the manufacturer to have warranty work done on them, and having to deal with loaner wheels or even worse being unable to ride for weeks at a time.  Since I live in Greenville, where Boyd's puts together every wheel by hand, I have to luxury of bringing the wheel back and having them take a look at it easily.  Beyond that, the courteous nature of the staff and the confidence that I have when I get the wheel back that everything is okay is exceptional.  Instead of just repairing the broken spoke, they took the time to inspect the wheel and even replaced a few that I had somehow damaged without noticing it (more than likely from chain issues).  They also take the time to make sure to build it back up, instead of just putting in the new spoke.  In the end this gives me confidence that when I get the wheel back I'm not having continued issues, but I should have a wheel I can rely on.  

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Boyd wheels to anyone, even with the recent issues.  My current wheels should last well beyond the life of my bicycle, and serve me well.  If they do happen to have any more issues, I also have the confidence that I can get them taken care of properly and professional, by folks that know not just how to repair a simple issue, but know how to build a wheel the right way.

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