We only sell spokes in wheels. We don't sell loose spokes, except in sealed bags of 500 for wheelbuilders.
I build wheels with Wheelsmith spokes. I mostly use the DB14 style which are 2.0mm at the ends and 1.7mm in the center. This makes for an extremely strong spoke that's light weight and flexible, which helps to prevent cracks in light weight aluminum rims. I used to build with DT but changed to Wheelsmith after DT changed their spoke designm in 2000. See this page for all the details. My DT spoke page.
Wheelsmith's quality control is excellent. I give my lifetime guarantee on wheels I build with Wheelsmith spokes. Wheelsmith spokes are made from stainless steel. Wheelsmith DB14, XL14 and DH13 spokes are all "butted" spokes. That means that the thickness of the spoke is greater at the end than in the middle. For instance, the DB14 measures 2mm at the ends and 1.7mm in the center of the spoke. Since spokes generally only break at the ends, that puts extra strength where you need it most. The thinner section in the middle saves weight, and allows the spoke to stretch slightly as the wheel is subjected to stress while riding, resulting in fewer cracks around the spoke holes in the rim, and less stress at the elbow of the spoke.
The transition between the spoke and the head on a Wheelsmith spoke is a bit different than on other brands of spokes. Instead of a sharp angle at the base of the head, the spoke has a smooth curved shape. The sharp angle on other spokes is a stress riser, and can cause the spoke head to pop off. I've never seen this happen with a Wheelsmith spoke, and I have seen it happen often with other brands. That's the primary reason I only build with Wheelsmith spokes.
XL14 spokes have been available for several years now. They save quite a bit of weight with little or no loss in durability. The XL14 spokes are 2.0mm at the ends, and 1.5mm in the center. Since the center cross section is so thin, these spokes cannot take as much tension as thicker spokes, and are not suitable for use on the right side of dished rear wheels. As you tighten them, they don't achieve high tension, they only stretch out longer and longer until they break. They are great for front wheels and for the left side of dished rear wheels, which don't use as much tension. I recommend them for front wheels and the left side of rears.
Wheelsmith DB14 spokes are 2.0mm at the ends, and 1.7mm in the middle. They make a heavy duty spoke for tandems as well, the DH13, which is 2.3mm at the elbow, and 2.0mm all the way to the threaded end. DH13 spokes are extremely strong and should only be used with very strong, stiff rims. Lightweight rims are likely to crack around the spoke holes with heavy spokes like the DH13.
In order to use the Wheelsmith DH13 spokes, the hole in the hub flange must be large enough for the thicker spoke end. Shimano road hubs like Ultegra and Dura Ace have small spoke holes.
The latest fad in wheels is black spokes. Since I purchaced a Phil Wood spoke cutting and threading machine in 2000, I can just stock black DB14 spokes in a couple of sizes, and then cut and thread them to the size I need for a particular wheel. So if you want the latest bit of fluff for your bike, here's your chance! ;-)
When you order black spokes, I'll use black brass nipples, unless you ask for standard brass nipples. Some people want black nipples with their unplated stainless spokes. I can do that for a small upcharge.
Please don't ask me to build wheels with other brands of spokes, or to rebuild wheels with your rims or spokes. I only build wheels with the rims I sell and the spokes I sell. I go to great lengths to be sure that the wheel components I use are good enough that I can give them my lifetime guarantee. The fact that I don't use certain products doesn't mean that they're no good. That's absurd. What it means is I haven't determined to my satisfaction that they are good enough for me to stake my reputation on them, or that I don't consider them a good value. I can't know everything, and life is short. So I stick with what I know and that keeps me out of trouble, even if it annoys a few people. ;-)
If I've built you a wheel in the past and you've worn out the rim, and you now would like the wheel rebuilt, it's not cost effective to have me re-use the spokes. Nor will I re-use the spokes if you take the time to unlace them from the rim. There are too many potential issues when re-using spokes, and I will not risk having a wheel fail in order to save a few dollars. And I'm perfectly willing to lose some business to uphold my standards. This is not a negotiable issue.
So, in a nutshell, if I'm going to build you a wheel, it will be with new spokes that I sell you, and a new rim that I sell you. Also, the hub must be suitable to the task. Whether or not you buy it from me is irrelevant, and whether or not it's suitable is something you and I can discuss either in person or over the telephone.
Remember, aluminum nipples are more expensive. I have them in silver and black finish, and if you insist I'll even quote you a price if you ask. But, I don't recommend them. If you order a wheel built with aluminum nipples, and if those nipples should ever crack, they are not covered by my lifetime warrantee. So to true your wheel, if I need to replace cracked nipples, there will be a charge.
Since I build wheels with proper tension and since I stress relieve every wheel, there should be no need to re-true the wheel before the rim wears out. So using aluminum nipples isn't too much of a risk. I've never seen aluminum nipples crack spontaneously; but only while being trued after several years of regular use. If you need the lightest wheels possible, aluminum nipples are a reasonable choice, I suppose. But if they do crack, please don't say you weren't warned. ;-)
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This page updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Peter White Cycles