Spokes, those slender strands of wire that join rims to hubs, seem to be better made today than they were in the 1970s. I don’t hear of as many broken spokes, anyway. (It could also be that the hubs the spokes fit into are more precisely drilled.)
But sometimes I wonder whether the past 40 years in the United States were nothing more than the bicycle equivalent of the Renaissance, a time when ancient learning was finally regained and improved upon—but only after years of ignorance, disorder and galvanized decay.
Case in point: The spokes on a set of wheels recently discussed by Wheelsmith co-founder Ric Hjertberg on his website, Wheel Fanatyk.
Unlike the spokes I use, these connectors are single butted (thicker where they enter the nipple at the rim), chrome-plated and direct pull.
Direct-pull spokes eliminate the J-bend where the spoke enters the hub in favor of maintaining an absolutely straight line between the hub and the rim. The idea is to make a stronger wheel by eliminating the most failure-prone portion of the spoke.
Ric says the original spokes on the front wheel were connected to a 100-gram hub, and that he is preparing to replicate the spokes for both wheels of a shaft-driven bicycle…built in 1901.