The best spoke for the job

products spokes testing Uncategorized

TLDR Version: As disc and tubeless usage increases, responsible wheel builders are discarding the idea that any single spoke is "best," and are instead focusing on which spoke is the best for any given role. This also holds for different wheels of the same format, where different purposes may place higher emphasis on one trait over another. The idea that there is some universal "best spoke" for all purposes is as outdated as wooden rims.

As we've grown, one of the more difficult things for me to manage has been inventory. As a child of the Great Depression with Scottish and German heritage, I'm by nature what some might call parsimonious, and acclimating to ordering spokes in quantities appropriate for our current use rate has taken some time. We go through massive quantities of them, so I'm adapting. 

The right spoke for this particular job

There are two things that bring the topic of spokes to mind. One is a comment I read on a forum recently, comparing our wheels to those from a competitor. The comparison was Nimbus hubs and Lasers, versus OEM Asian-sourced hubs and CX Rays. The gist of the evaluation was that our wheels were less expensive, our hubs might be slightly better, but  our spokes were decidedly lesser, which I found intriguing. I won't bore you again with why or how much I think Nimbus Ti hubs beat the pants off of what's out there at any price, but calling Lasers decidedly lesser than CX Rays really got me. Lesser how? Aerodynamically? Don't guess at that when you can know. Weight? It's the same. Strength? Far beyond relevant needs in both cases. Cycle life? If we do our job correctly, also very (very) secondary. Cost? A blooobath in favor of Lasers.

When we put the Nimbus Ti packages together, we studied the spoke question from every perspective and came up with the decision that when you consider all of the factors, Lasers are a pretty obvious choice for that package. I'd LOVE to switch to bladed spokes simply because they're so much quicker to build with, but delivering quality at a price doesn't allow us that luxury. At some point the efficiency might be worth it, but we're not there yet. Also, don't ever forget that a bladed spoke is not a bladed spoke is not a bladed spoke - if that were the case we'd use bladed spokes for sure, but it's not. A good round spoke beats the snot out of a lesser (that word again...) bladed spoke. 

Interestingly, our thinking was reinforced by the recent "fall colors" promo (sorry, if you missed it, you missed it, but judging from the response to the thing, no one missed it), where very very few people wound up choosing CX Rays for an extra $80. The $80 premium for CX Rays over Lasers is as low as we can reasonably make it, and represents slightly less than the price gap between the two wheel sets in my earlier example. So it seems that, on balance, people agree with our choice but still we are forced to question things.

Sienna Miller makes every blog post better!

The increasing popularity of disc-, and tubeless-, and tubeless-disc-wheels, especially road tubeless and the new generation of cx tubeless with tight-fitting reinforced beads, calls a lot of the old dogma and assumptions about spokes and builds into question. At this point, I'd say it's silly and simplistic and quite flatly wrong to call any well made, quality spoke the lesser of another. I'm quite certain that there will be applications where spokes we previously never had much use for will become important to us. The spokes in a Rail 52 front and those in the rear non-drive side of a Nimbus Ti CLD build experience such different dynamics and forces that to carte blanche say that one spoke is universally "better" is preposterous. 


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  • Scott on

    Why do you guys always have to make everything so complicated… Oh, right, because it is! Keep up the good honest work!!

  • Rico on

    Using the Sapim D-Light spokes on the Nimbus Ti CLD wheels is a very savvy move. The Nimbus CLD wheels have zero wind-up, or lateral deflection, as far as I can detect.. That I can't say about another road disc wheelset using Grail rims, and Laser spokes. Not a huge difference, but it can be felt. Reckon some of the increased stiffness of the Nimbus Ti CLD is due to the (only fractionally-heavier-than-laser) spokes. The D-Light is the right spoke for that application, and the Nimbus CLD is a very competent wheelset.

  • Dave on

    Thanks Scott. Tony, they're a good date in a crazy number of scenarios, much like Ms MillerBrian, I guess on the plus side this means I get to wear a serape unironically, which is awesome.On the downslope, I'm staying far away from mirrors and rolled up $100 dollar bills, and helicopters.

  • Brian on

    You Sir are the Stevie Ray Vaughan of wheel builds!

  • Tony on

    You had me at Sienna Miller. Interesting take on the spoke debate, haters gonna hate, but I choose Lasers as my date.


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