FLO Cycling Releases Blog Post Answering Frequently Asked Questions About Road Bike Spokes

FLO Cycling, a maker of high-performance carbon bike wheels, has released a blog post that answers the most frequently asked questions about one of the most important parts of a road bike - the spokes.

Spokes are still an integral part of the overwhelming majority of road bike wheels manufactured and in use today. The spoke connects the bike hub to the rim. The traditional tensioned wire-spoke performs the critical function of adding rigidity and reducing the overall weight of the vehicle’s wheels. Modern spokes carry a combined load from a number of principle sources and are subjected to repeated complex loading conditions that are referred to as fatigue cycles. To address all of these challenges, modern spokes come in a range of lengths, forms, materials, finishes, and attaching methods.

Primarily, road bike spokes carry the weight of the bicycle as well as the weight of the rider and any other tertiary loads. They also absorb the irregularities of the road and ensure the comfort of the rider. They also transmit the acceleration power and braking effort of the rider. The amount of pulling force exerted along a spoke can be quantified as the spoke tension and is usually measured in kilograms of force (kgf) or Newtons (N). The key factors that determine the spoke tension load, according to the article, are wheel tension, the weight of the rider, torque loading, tire pressure, presence of potholes, pavement characteristics, spoke length, rim depth, lateral loading, and placement (rear vs front wheel).

Spoke tension has to be uniform and needs to be maintained across all spokes over the entire wheel system or else the rim of the wheel will start rotating in a wobbly manner which may lead to crashes and injuries. If the tension is too low, the spokes might be subjected to a snapping effect, putting too much stress on both the spokes and the rim. Too much tension on the spokes can lead to wheel failures such as cracked rims, broken spokes, or even damaged hubs.

The correct spokes for a rider depend on the intended riding style and the amount of load that the spokes will bear. They are typically available in three shapes - round, bladed, and oval (elliptical). The best spoke shape is determined by rider goals including simplicity of use, speed, durability, and others. Round spokes are durable but are not aerodynamically performant, leading to slower speeds. Bladed spokes are used for high-performance applications as they reduce weight and control high tension wind-up. Bladed spokes can, however, cause lateral flex issues for heavier riders or during hard accelerations, braking, or cornering.

Oval spokes mix the best of both worlds as they are laterally stiffer than a bladed spoke while providing more aerodynamic benefits than a rounded spoke. The article then notes that FLO Cycling has chosen to use the oval Sapim CX-Ray spokes. The article then talks about the different types of butted spokes that are made in such a way that they have varying thickness throughout their length.

The article then discusses tangential and radial spoke patterns. Tangential patterns are stronger than radial patterns, but radial patterns are more lightweight. The number of spokes on a road wheel affects wheel strength, stiffness, and weight. For rim brake wheels, FLO Cycling’s front wheels have a 20-spoke radial lacing pattern, while its rear wheels have a 24-spoke two-crossed, tangential lacing pattern. For disc brake wheels, FLO’s front and rear wheels have a 24-spoke two-crossed, tangential lacing pattern.

The article then discusses rim brakes and disc brakes by saying that disk brakes place more stress on spokes than rim brakes. The article also talks about spoke nipples which secure the end of each spoke to the rim of the wheel. The parameters that go into selecting the correct spoke nipple include its diameter, the materials it is made out of, and its size. FLO Cycling uses the Sapim Hex Head Nipples with their SILS system that helps hold the nipple in place once spoke tension is set.

Readers can head over to the FLO Cycling website to read the discussed article in its entirety and check out many more such helpful resources that discuss all the science and engineering that make for high-quality road bike wheels.


For more information about FLO Cycling, contact the company here:

FLO Cycling
Jon Thornham
FLO Cycling Headquarters
Las Vegas, NV 89135