Broke Spokes

Barkme Wolf

Active Member
After a run of bad flats I ended up with a broke spoke. After a considerable amount of negotiation, the manufacturer agreed that it was indeed covered by my "all-inclusive" warranty. They were going to fix it for me but made the appointment on a day they were not opened so I picked up my free one and a few extras at 2 dollars a pop.

My LBS found I had 3 spokes that needed to be replaced. I had the tire trued once(see earlier posts) but put almost 2000 miles on it in all. Looks like I need to learn how to tighten the spokes to prevent any more issues. Also thinking about getting some fancy Swiss Alpine spokes. Need to find out if they are worth the expense.
 

walawn

Active Member
@Barkme Wolf Anything on these bikes is worth the expense. Trust me. All the money you spend on the RPB line of bikes goes into the motor, controller, and battery. Everything else is dirt cheap and not reliable or durable at all. My derailer broke less than 100 ft. from my back door, not to mention a host of other parts that have failed (i.e. front fork, derailer hanger, crankset, headlight, front wheel boss, brakes, etc.) Even with the warranty, why would I replace cheap with cheap? Why replace a part that failed with the exact same part? Any part that has failed on my bicycle I have replaced with the best (usually most expensive) aftermarket part I can find after some research. Sorry for hijacking the thread, but I was all excited to find my RR, buy it and wait a couple of months for delivery, only to be left wondering what I spent my hard-earned $1,500 on (plus $174 shipping).
 

Barkme Wolf

Active Member
I took upgrades into consideration when I bought the Radwagon. I can drop 1000 bucks on it and still be under what the next best thing costs. I am local so shipping is not an issue. So far I have not had any issue that were unexpected.

If I get better spokes and they last a year longer than the cheap ones OK but if I am only getting an extra couple months out of them it might not be worth the expense.
 
Hey Barkme,

Glad you got it all sorted! Spokes are covered under the warranty if there is a defect, but anything that is associated with normal wear and tear is not covered under warranty (brake pads, tires, spokes that are damaged from impact with a curb, etc)..... but in any case I am glad tech support got you squared away, let them know if anything else is needed! All the RAD bikes use 36 hole rims and 12 Gauge Stainless Steel spokes and nipples to help reduce the frequency that wheel service is needed.
 
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Kelly Essmeier

New Member
I just want to put this out there....after about 1000 miles on the bike, I have had multiple failures with the rear wheel spokes. I've had two replaced so far and another just broke.

I should back up and say that a couple/few weeks after I bought the bike in February/March of this year I was noticing some weird creaking and it turned out that spokes were all really loose. I've had tons of trouble with the rear wheel. I should also say the folks at Rad Power Bikes have been nothing but helpful and have repaired, tightened and replaced things. But it seems like every two months, riding about 200 miles a month something goes wrong with the real wheel spokes. Not sure if this is just mine or a design concern.

What is normal wear and tear? I've riden the same streets on my regular bike for years and never had an issue.

When it's running it's the best, but i've not had a bike ever this prone to issues. This is my first ebike.
 
Hi Kelly!

A couple things contribute to most ecargo bikes rear wheels requiring some additional upkeep:

1) Hub motor puts more stress on the rear wheel, requiring spoke tightness to be more frequently checked out, and wheels trued. The same applies to mid drives where torque and stress on the rear wheel is much greater than a personal pedaling can output.

2) Ebikes weigh more, especially cargo bikes with a second passenger sitting directly over the rear wheel and/or cargo, increasing fatigue of the spokes. We limit the rear rack payload to 120 lbs and bike total payload to 350 lbs in the owners manual to help limit the stress however it is helpful to keep a close eye on this.

Normal wear and tear is regular riding conditions within the stated limits and not abusively for example. Maintaining correct spoke tension is the responsibility of the owner, but we try our best to go above and beyond wherever possible and keep bikes rolling true!
 

Kelly Essmeier

New Member
Hi Mike,
The manual doesn't have the spoke tension anywhere does it? It would be great to know so I can have a regular weekly check. And I guess I'm going to have to learn to repair the spokes myself, because I can't have it out of operation every two months, sounds like a common RadWagon problem, more likely s factor of design.

We keep the total weight of this bike below the limits for sure. We were hoping to haul two kids, but as they grow we are getting close to the max that is stated above.
 
Hi Kelly,

The manual does not contain the manufacturer recommended spoke tension but the recommendation is to keep the spokes between 100-120 kgf.

You may continue to have regular spoke failures since higher stress could have been placed on the remaining spokes when the original few failed. A wheel builder will likely recommend re-lacing the entire wheel with new spokes that are all evenly tensioned, if you continue to have a higher frequency of spoke failures.

Rear wheel tensioning and spoke failures are one of the most common service items on all eBikes in general, but we outfit the wagon with a larger number of spokes (36) to help spread the load and reduce stress on the spokes caused by cargo hauling and lots of forces. You are always welcome to swing in the Ballard shop and the mechanics can take a look, happy riding!
 

Barkme Wolf

Active Member
Yeah, I had my Radwagon in for regular check ups. I would say I have had to take it in about every 2 weeks. Had the spokes checked and trued when needed. No cargo, paved trails and roads and keep it under 500w on 16% hills.
 

Ann M.

Well-Known Member
@Kelly Essmeier , there are several reasons that you could have repeated spoke breakage on a rear wheel with a hub motor. The first is too light weight of spoke gauge for the type of ebike, including its weight, torque of the motor and how much load is going to be sitting over the rear wheel. Another issue is improper spoke tension from the factory with little or no thread lock being used to prevent the spokes from backing out of the nipple. Tension can be too tight as well as too loose, which puts too much stress on the point where the spoke head bends over the hub or on the spoke nipple itself looking like its distorting the hole in the rim. Even a mediocre hub with little to no counter sink for the spoke hole can add to the stress on the spokes. How the wheel is laced can figure in to correct support for the wheel overall and that will vary based on the type of bike and uses. One final issue can be the rider, how much is loaded in the back, how they start from a dead stop- does the rider pedal with the motor to start or just use a throttle; that can contribute to spoke failure. Over the lifetime of a wheel, then it's important for the owner to regularly check the spoke tension and get service if needed. But you have to start with adequate construction and components for any of that to matter. The shorter length of spokes laced into a hub motor makes them more vulnerable to issues but a bit of regular attention can prevent a lot of problems.
 

Andrew S.

New Member
Replaced my first spoke today after 580 miles of riding. It was an easy job, took about ten minutes for a first time go at it. I ordered ten to have a backups. I am not surprised they had gotten loose as our roads are rough and I always carry about 130 lbs of kids on the back.
 

Kelly Essmeier

New Member
@Ann M. @Mike Radenbaugh Thanks for the primer. I come from commuting on my regular bike, so I'm always pedaling and keep my motor at the lowest level of assist unless I'm climbing a hill. I rarely go past the mid level of assist and when I do it's only for a short while if I'm manuvering in the flow of traffic. The majority of my riding is solo. We have rough roads, though mostly i'm on smooth trail.

What I know is that other types of e-cargo bikes aren't having the same issues. The amount of maintenance on the radwagon is unique among the bike community I talk with.

I don't mind doing regular maintenance if that's what it takes to keep me on the road without incident, but I wish I had known about this before the failures so I could have prevented cost and down time. Not to mention that this rear tire came with loose spokes out the gate, so the damage likely happened in those first few weeks. If a full relacing on the rear tire is necessary I'm going to be pretty bummed. I will swing by the shop tomorrow.
 

Andrew S.

New Member
What I know is that other types of e-cargo bikes aren't having the same issues.
As an aside and completely anecdotal with no scientific basis, I have a friend with a Yuba ElMundo ($3499 bike) that he ultimately removed the Electric motor from because he had so many broken and loose spokes and issues with the rear wheel staying true. They were not as heavy gauge as the the Rad as well. What he decided was that the motor was not worth the trouble and since he was not carrying very many heavy loads or children he could take 30+ pounds off of the bike in components and get the same benefit up the hills as having a motor on a heavier bike provided. Again this is anecdotal and proves nothing, but tells me that this is not an issue isolated to rad.

Pedego actually publishes a video on how to tighten spokes:

This guy did a lot of tightening on his Pedego in the first months: https://www.pedegoelectricbikes.com/well-built-electric-bike/

10 pages of issues with spokes across all brands: https://electricbikereview.com/forums/search/9457787/?page=10&q=spokes&o=date
 
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Kelly Essmeier

New Member
Wow, thanks for this info. I appreciate knowing that this is not isolated to the Radwagon though I haven't seen or heard of this issue with the others in my area. More anecdotal unscientific information... I have a friend with a extracycle edgerunner who has had zero spoke maintenance and she is running two kids regularly on effectively the same route, we both ride ride everyday.

I will be checking out the spoke maintenance video along with teaching myself replacement.
 

woodsusa

Member
I have 3 spokes on the front wheel of my new Radrover that are loose and will not tighten? Are they stripped? Too long? Are they a standard size I can order online? Thanks in advance.
 

drcollie

Member
When I used to race Motocross and run competitive Enduros years ago, one of the things we did to increase wheel spoke strength and prevent failure was to wire the spokes where they cross one another using safety (aircraft) wire. Twist it tight and clip off the excess. This is still required on SCORE and BAJA race motorcycles to pass tech inspection, so its been around a long time. Some people use zip-ties, but the wire holds the spokes tighter together.

I've never tried that on a bicycle wheel, but it certainly did work on motorcycle spokes. May be worth a try if you are constantly having issues with breakage. Easy and cheap to do, and won't hurt anything
 

J.R.

Well-Known Member
When I used to race Motocross and run competitive Enduros years ago, one of the things we did to increase wheel spoke strength and prevent failure was to wire the spokes where they cross one another using safety (aircraft) wire. Twist it tight and clip off the excess. This is still required on SCORE and BAJA race motorcycles to pass tech inspection, so its been around a long time. Some people use zip-ties, but the wire holds the spokes tighter together.

I've never tried that on a bicycle wheel, but it certainly did work on motorcycle spokes. May be worth a try if you are constantly having issues with breakage. Easy and cheap to do, and won't hurt anything
Tied and soldered wheels. It's done in cycling as well. I think it's a practice that's been done since metal spoked wheels were invented. A couple of articles on tying and soldering bicycle spokes:

https://www.sheldonbrown.com/brandt/tied-soldered.html

http://www.instructables.com/id/Tie-and-Solder-a-bike-wheel/
 

woodsusa

Member
So my spokes are good to go. I should know better at my age to wear reading glasses so I make sure I use the right size wrench to tighten the spokes. The 3 loose spokes on the front were not stripped after all. I found one loose spoke on the rear, all are tightened now and I checked all the others and snugged most just a tad.
 

RyanConway

New Member
I just had 3 break as well. I'm going to try some sapim strongs, which are 2.3mm (11ga) butted at the elbow, and 2mm (12ga) for the rest. These are $1.95 in black with alloy nipples from wheelbuilder.com

After reading up on it, the consensus seems to be that butted is better than straight as the thinner part can properly stretch, and that the china-brand spokes that come with any of the hub motors are less than half as strong as quality ones.