Saturday, 8 March 2014

Another ride, another broken spoke - when will Southampton fix the roads?

The damage to my wheel today, thanks to rough roads!
I've never been to the moon, but I can imagine walking on it would be much like crossing any road here in Southampton. Potholes, rough surfacing, poor refills after contractors have laid broadband links and bad weather are all leading to roads that are a pain in the arse to use or cross.

I can imagine an elderly person, with limited mobility, tripping over and breaking a hip. Or a motorcyclist hitting a 5 inch deep hole and being sent over the bars. These things can kill, at the very least they can damage your property.

So today when I awoke early knowing that the weather would be probably the first warm day of the year, I donned my Castelli cycling shorts and got on the saddle for an hour. I had intended to ride further but heading into my 12th mile I heard that resounding "pop!" every cyclist knows and dreads - a spoke had broken. I limped home the 2 further miles, pissed off at yet further expense.

The last two times road surfacing has caused damage to my bikes I wrote to Southampton City Council to ask that they a) fix the roads and b) pay the bloody costs of my repairs. I never even got a "fuck off" in reply. Something is seriously going wrong at the transport department if they even fail to give a response. I did however manage to get Jacqui Rayment the Transport cabinet member for the council to give a response on the recent "CYCLISTS DISMOUNT" signs. They were duly removed. I've repeated my complaint via twitter to the same lady - perhaps this is a way to get the Council's attention?

I may not be a lightweight (a hard physical job and a love of food mean I currently top out just over 15 stone, if I could box I'd be a heavyweight punchbag) but I choose my bikes and wheels accordingly. A bicycle is a remarkably strong device, far stronger than a lot of people realise. 32 and 36 spoked wheels with good rims and thicker spokes will take some reasonable punishment - the trouble is this area is fast becoming mountain biking territory as the undulations and holes are now quite unreasonable.

Christ knows how much money I've lost to this in the past couple of years alone.


  1. How are your wheels built?

    I'm no lightweight and never have been, but have toured (including camping) on some very rough roads and have rarely pinged a spoke. Always ran 36 triple cross double butted spokes. I went though a spell of trashing spokes a long time ago (end of 80s), and it turned out to be poor quality spokes, machine built wheels, and the fairly inept trainee at the local bike shop making a hash of renewing spokes. That was when I learnt to replace spokes,and build wheels myself. Tourer & MTB have used my own wheels reliably now for years and years. That's not an advert.Would not want anyone else relying on my skills:-)

    It sounds to me like your wheels may be machine built rather than hand built. If so it could be incorrect tension on the wheels and spokes.

    I'd suggest getting wheels built or rebuilt using good quality branded (DT or sapim) double butted stainless spokes by a reputable wheelbuilder and or learning how to build yourself.

    1. Thanks Gaz. The wheels are the standard Alex rims supplied with the Genesis Croix de Fer. I think they are assembled on a machine but the rims/hubs are good quality - I have no idea what the spoke is.

      It is 36 cross laced on both wheels. The nipples are eyelet based too.When I ping the spoke the tone is similar on all, so I'd guess the tension is similar.

      The bike will be down the shop on monday and I'll speak to the guy in there. He's built me many wheels over the past few years - most of the issues I've had are with the rim splitting or buckling. I think I've lost a spoke at least once a year though on the cheaper wheels.

    2. Alex rims are Ok, but not the best. I have them on the Moulton, but those are 20 inch wheels 36 triple cross so would probably survive a landmine frankly.

      On the tourer & MTB I have always ran Mavic box rims (MA40 on the tourer so oldish now) & have never had a problem. When doing serious touring I used to bunny hop cattle grids with camping gear on when descending at speed which was real punishment. Often used to use off road tracks as well.

      Other thing is what tyre section are you running? Can you fit a larger section like a 28 or even a 32 (assuming you run narrower currently)? The slightly larger air pocket may well take the hits a bit better & offer slightly more stability on really rough surfaces

    3. I've had pretty poor experiences of Alex rims in the past, but these are the better ones they do. The tyres are 35c CXspeeds by Continental (came with the bike). They've been pretty good and comfortable.