Constantly loosening spokes, should I just rebuild the wheel?

The rear wheel on my Kona Sutra is the standard wheel, however, when I bought the bike second hand last month I noticed several spokes were loose to the point of almost falling out. No problem I thought, I tightened them up and re-trued the wheel. I then noticed a few weeks later when cleaning the bike that several spokes where loose again. Again I tightened and re-trued, then today the same problem. I've not taken note of which spokes or even which side of the wheel, however, today, before I re-tighten them I'll mark them somehow or take a photo and then check again next week. I've not had a spoke break yet and the use I put the bike to is defiantly not outside the parameters of what it's designed for. I'm a little flummoxed as to why it's happening.

Looking around the internet, a few folk seem to suggest that the best way forward is to just loosen off all of the spokes and re-tighten/re-true as if a new build. Is this a good idea or is there another underlying problem that I should be addressing? I don't have a spoke tension tool, so I've not been accurately re-tensioning the spokes that I've retightened, just going by feel and wheel trueness, could this also be the source of my troubles?

Thanks in advance for any thoughts or help.
 
Yes, it needs retensioning completely. You don't really need a tension meter if you know what a good wheel feels like. Stress-relieve all the spokes again, to be on the safe side.
 
Location
Loch side.
The rear wheel on my Kona Sutra is the standard wheel, however, when I bought the bike second hand last month I noticed several spokes were loose to the point of almost falling out. No problem I thought, I tightened them up and re-trued the wheel. I then noticed a few weeks later when cleaning the bike that several spokes where loose again. Again I tightened and re-trued, then today the same problem. I've not taken note of which spokes or even which side of the wheel, however, today, before I re-tighten them I'll mark them somehow or take a photo and then check again next week. I've not had a spoke break yet and the use I put the bike to is defiantly not outside the parameters of what it's designed for. I'm a little flummoxed as to why it's happening.

Looking around the internet, a few folk seem to suggest that the best way forward is to just loosen off all of the spokes and re-tighten/re-true as if a new build. Is this a good idea or is there another underlying problem that I should be addressing? I don't have a spoke tension tool, so I've not been accurately re-tensioning the spokes that I've retightened, just going by feel and wheel trueness, could this also be the source of my troubles?

Thanks in advance for any thoughts or help.
You don't say how many spokes the wheel has, nor what style rim is on there. However, spoke loosening is 90% of the time, due to not enough tension to start off with. This is usually far more than the novice wheelbuilder realises.
I would recommend you loosen all the spokes to a given point (i.e. until the first thread shows or similar), oil the nipples where they meet the spoke and where they meet the rim, and tighten until you get a nice musical tone out of the spokes when plucked. Think soprano tone, not baritone.

Spokes act counter-intuitively. In the load-affected zone by the tyre's contact patch, the spokes lose tension and the nipples can then unscrew. There should always be more tension in the spokes than can be taken away by your weight.
 
OP
chriswoody

chriswoody

Guru
Location
Northern Germany
Thanks for the quick replies. @Yellow Saddle it's a Mountain Bike rim, specifically a WTB i23 rim, laced to a novatec hub with 32 spokes. It's also a disc specific hub. Full specs are here.

I suspected that the lack of tension may be the issue, so it seems that the best course of action will be to loosen the lot off, as you both suggest and start anew. We've some bad weather coming up and with the short days as well, a few nights in the cellar rebuilding the wheel could be a satisfying way to pass the time.
 
Location
Loch side.
Thanks for the quick replies. @Yellow Saddle it's a Mountain Bike rim, specifically a WTB i23 rim, laced to a novatec hub with 32 spokes. It's also a disc specific hub. Full specs are here.

I suspected that the lack of tension may be the issue, so it seems that the best course of action will be to loosen the lot off, as you both suggest and start anew. We've some bad weather coming up and with the short days as well, a few nights in the cellar rebuilding the wheel could be a satisfying way to pass the time.
All you need is 1 hour and 1 beer. Do it in the lounge, your fingers will remain more nimble.

I see the wheel has straight gauge spokes. This makes it easier to build as it has less windup. Nevertheless, ensure you have removed all windup before riding.
 
You don't really have to loosen the spokes first, if the tension is reasonably even throughout. On the last set of pre-built wheels I bought for myself (only because it was cheaper than buying the components separately!) I just gave all the nipples one extra full turn and then trued/stress releived as normal.
 
You don't really have to loosen the spokes first, if the tension is reasonably even throughout. On the last set of pre-built wheels I bought for myself (only because it was cheaper than buying the components separately!) I just gave all the nipples one extra full turn and then trued/stress releived as normal.
One of benefits of releasing tension throughout is that you can ensure you tension them all back equally with a nipple driver. Doing as you did, you may not be starting out with equal tension, so you have solved nothing!
 
Hence the bit about "if the tension is reasonably even throughout"...
 
OP
chriswoody

chriswoody

Guru
Location
Northern Germany
This is the problem, I'm not completely confident that the tension is reasonably even throughout when the wheel is trued. I'd rather be cautious and go through the process of de-tensioning just to be sure.

As for taking a few nights over it, well by the time the kids are in bed there isn't a lot of time left before I feel like crashing, so two nights in my life is equivalent to a normal evening in someone else's!
 
Location
Loch side.
This is the problem, I'm not completely confident that the tension is reasonably even throughout when the wheel is trued. I'd rather be cautious and go through the process of de-tensioning just to be sure.

As for taking a few nights over it, well by the time the kids are in bed there isn't a lot of time left before I feel like crashing, so two nights in my life is equivalent to a normal evening in someone else's!
The tension won't be even, you said several spokes were loose. This means others are tighter. Start from a known point, i.e. at the beginning of the thread or second thread or whatever's convenient.
 
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