Technology

  • Overview
  • Spokes
  • Nipples

Our Facilities

In 1984 we introduced Wheelsmith spokes. Today, Wheelsmith is known worldwide for a line of spokes whose strength and beauty are unmatched. With thirteen different types of spokes in hundreds of sizes, there is a Wheelsmith spoke for virtually every conventional wheel. And, with all spoke production taking place in our Milwaukee factory, we can offer speed in delivery and a growing range of custom options.

Some of the best features of Wheelsmith spokes are the ones designed for wheelbuilders. Each detail of the spoke itself, as well as our service, packaging and technical support, is designed to make the wheelbuilder’s job easier, whether building one wheel for a world record attempt or 1,000 wheels on a production machine.

Wheelsmith Stainless Steel Spokes

All Wheelsmith spokes are produced from a specially drawn 304 stainless steel using a variety of cold forging techniques, some proprietary. All of these processes work to increase strength and fatigue resistance and at the same time incorporate a system of multiple QC inspections that ensures remarkable consistency.

Fatigue Life

Spokes are loaded and unloaded every time a wheel rotates or hits a bump. How much stress they can take before breaking is their “fatigue life”. To understand more about spoke fatigue life, Wheelsmith closely recorded the experience of riders and conducted years of laboratory fatigue testing. What did we learn? Elbow radius, height, mandrel shape, lubrication and forming rate all affect fatigue life. The metal itself is also crucial. The spoke must be soft enough to resist fatigue and uniform enough to prevent the start and migration of fractures. A precise balance must be struck.  All of these characteristics have been built into Wheelsmith spokes.

Specially Designed Elbow

Wheelsmith spokes are “cold headed” with great accuracy, and marked with the distinctive “W”.  Elbows are formed over a radiussed mandrel rather than a flat surface as with other popular spokes.  This results in a larger bend radius, and preserves the round cross-section of the elbow.  Consequently, Wheelsmith spokes require a minimum of bending to conform to a hub, thereby maximizing fatigue life.

Double-Butted Spokes

Wheelsmith’s double-butted spokes are extremely light. The center sections are forged rather than cut, ground, or drawn to smaller diameter, giving them greater strength and uniformity. The butt transitions are visible and distinctive so you can quickly tell them from the straight gauges.

Strength and Tensile Properties

Spokes must possess exceptional qualities to work optimally. They are exposed to extremely corrosive conditions and severe cycles of loading and unloading—from near breaking tension to zero tension, often many times per second. Even the smallest of surface imperfections can lead to the failure of a spoke. Wheelsmith® spokes are made from ultra-grade stainless steel which is progressively drawn and heat treated to produce fine gauge wire. The drawing process, performed at room temperature, produces tremendous tensile strengths and leaves the wire with a lustrous and extremely smooth finish.

Better Threads

Threading is ISO standard 56 threads per inch, compatible with most brands. Rolled threads are used for two reasons. First, since the thread is formed by rollers, not cutters, the resulting metal is stronger (just like the forged center sections of our butted spokes). The metal grain structure has been realigned rather than interrupted. Second, a cut thread reduces the average diameter and strength of the wire. Since no metal is removed from a rolled thread, the wire’s strength is less diminished. If the wire’s strength were to change abruptly at the thread, a weak spot would be created.

Thoroughly Cleaned

Wheelsmith spokes are made from corrosion-proof stainless steel and do not need a coating of grease or oil for protection. Following threading and final checking, the spokes are thoroughly cleaned of any residual oils and packaged in bags of 50 or 500. Although we recommend lubricating threads for building, we know you will appreciate working with clean spokes.

Precision Forged

Wheelsmith nipples are precision forged from high-grade brass or 7000 series aluminum. Their strength is enhanced by forging the spoke wrench flats, keeping them full-width and very uniform. All Wheelsmith aluminum nipples are anodized to guarantee maximum strength and service life.