Name a spoke-hub connection that is entirely overlooked (except by veteran mechanic, Jim Langley). Of course, the Z-bend spoke, also known as dog-leg or S-bend. An abrupt left and then right bend enables it to connect with a hub drilled for J-bend spokes, bear full tension, and last as long as a J-bend.
I rode a 1951 Raleigh 3-speed for years, equipped from England with Z-bend spokes front and rear. Hubs were drum brake Sturmey’s with internal 3 speed for the rear.
On the smaller side of the front hub spokes have an extra kink as the trimmed end exits the hub hole; an unnecessary feature to make coming loose even more impossible than it already is.
The trouble is making close-spaced bends in stiff spoke wire. 14 gauge is hard to bend and it’s nearly impossible to place a second bend near enough to the first. High spec pliers and a vise are no use. A dedicated tool is needed but the last on record is the Eldi repair plier described by Jim:
The potential usefulness of this sort of tool boggles the mind. For clever shops, for ride support (charity, gravel, fondo, tri), having the means to swiftly create a reliable substitute spoke without a 30 lb spoke machine is awesome. The Z-bend shape holds full tension for a lifetime and can often be inserted without removing cassette or disk. What convenience and economy!
Z-bend made a brief appearance in the ’80’s and ’90’s with Hoshi bladed spokes. The obstacle to truly aero spokes is getting the blade section through the hub hole. Hoshi offered theirs with Z-bend ends.
Once a Z-bend has been pressed into shape on a hub like that above, it will not look like a freshly pressed spoke. The fit is easy and thumbs can do the shaping.
I began buying tools that might work and finally found one. Similar to the Eldi of yore, it’s produced by an RC Airplane supplier to make control rods. RC planes don’t use wire as thick as 14g but this plier can do it. The others failed.
Here is how it works:
(1) Inexpensive, we sell it for $21.95 (MSRP is $29).
(2) Compact enough to live in any versatile wheel shop or with a mass ride support program.
(3) Overbuilt, so indefinite lifespan.
(1) You will need a wire cutter, to first trim the right length from a spare spoke,
(2) While compound action or longer handles would make it a one-handed task, the cost would rise and the tool weigh more.
(3) This particular Z shape is ideal for 2mm thick flanges, perfect for cheap and steel hubs. Better hubs have 3mm flanges. For these, the bend is good for elbow-inside fitting:
For elbow-outside, just fit the replacement and bend the spoke down towards the correct angle. The same as we often do with normal spokes. Has no effect on integrity or longevity.
Here is a perfect “sleeper” tool. In time of need, when everyone is resigned to a DNF, whip out this baby and be a hero. Embrace time-tested solutions on your quest to become a complete builder. Oh yes, plenty of practice on junk wheels first!