Blog: Buyers guide

30 May 2018

Using beefy spokes

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The typical spoke decision is between straight gauge and some double-butted model. For conditions outside the bell curve, there are two specialty models.

Sapim Force is a triple-butted spoke with a 2.18/1.8/2.0mm profile. They are similar to Sapim Race with a little more meat on the vulnerable elbow section. There is a cost penalty but weight and stiffness are about the same. Fatigue life is better — if you’ve been burned by broken elbows, Force might be the ticket. I often use Force on touring and bikepacking wheels to work with 32 spoke wheels when 36 might be more conventional (opening up more choices for hubs and rims).

Sapim Strong is a single-butted spoke with a 2.3/2.0mm profile. These are the biggest bicycle spokes I sell and I stop at this gauge because it’s the biggest spoke that works with regular nipples. Strong shares the massive stiffness of Sapim Leader but has a serious amount of extra material on the elbow. People use Strong for e-bikes, cargo bikes and the heaviest touring applications. For regular day-to-day use they’re overkill though I’ve used them for riders >400 pounds.

13 Feb 2018

New nipple washer

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There’s a new nipple washer available from Sapim — the Sapim MS washer has a generic V-shape profile compatible with all nipples (compare to Polyax washers with a Polyax-shaped cup). It has a thick, flat bottom for superior weight distribution however needs a flat resting spot 7.7mm in diameter. Where applicable, these stainless washers will impart a lot of strength.

Not much information is searchable for Sapim MS washers so I’m posting the product sheet to give you information from the source. Note carefully: my measurements put the diameter at 7.7mm compared to the nominal 7.4mm. Get MS washers and three other types of nipple washer here.

30 Jan 2017

New nipples noted

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I’ve consolidated the regular brass and aluminum nipples in one product listing because they’re the same design (Polyax). At the same Sapim hex nipples were added to the shop.

About hex nipples

Hexagonal head nipples have an additional wrench surface on the rear. With more contact points and a larger contact surface, higher torque is permitted. Higher torque can help free seized nipples down the road and keeps the finish of the front tool flats pristine when building in the first place. Some wheelbuilders may find the wrench turning direction more intuitive from the rear however hex drive nipples retain regular wrench flats for day-to-day truing as needed.

01 Aug 2016

Brass or aluminum

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The choice of nipple material inspires zealotry — some prefer brass, some prefer aluminum, others a mix of materials. Brass nipples are more popular because they’re cheaper, stronger and more corrosion resistant. Aluminum nipples feature superior finishes at one third the weight. How to choose? If you’re hard on gear, clean infrequently or ride in adverse conditions, then brass is a sensible choice. For scenarios where weight and performance matter, aluminum is the way to go.

Working with aluminum nipples shouldn’t inspire fear — in fact you may find aluminum nipples turn more smoothly. How do pros work with aluminum? First, use liberal lubrication. When building in the first place, make sure threads are fully covered with oil or other spoke preparation compound. When making adjustments down the road, dribble a thin oil into the nipple and into the rim at the base of the nipple. Second, avoid stressing aluminum nipples by using a 4-sided spoke wrench (e.g. Park Tool SW-40). Compared to a regular 3-sided wrench, a better tool distributes forces more evenly. If your nipple has a secondary hex interface on the rear, that’s a safe way of applying torque too.

Find the right nipples for your wheels in the shop.