Strategies For Dealing With “Runaway” Spoke Nipples 

from Rookie’s keyboard

Hello, friends

Today, I will teach you how to deal with annoying spoke nipples that fall into the rim and refuse to get out. That’s a fairly common issue that you will face when re-building a wheel. 

(And by the way, thank you for the nice e-mails, lately.)

If a nipple falls between the walls of a double-wall rim and starts rattling, consider the following solutions:

The“Shake It Baby” Method

Tighten the spokes that are already attached to the rim. Otherwise, they will get in the way of the nipple. (If no spokes are mounted yet, skip this step).

Hold the rim perpendicularly to the floor with the valve hole facing the ground.

Shake the rim up and down while keeping it vertical. 

Ideally, the nipple will come out of the valve hole in 10-20 seconds.

Get a Vacuum Cleaner

Another way to get rid of a “runaway spoke nipple” is to use a vacuum cleaner. The method is as follows:

Hold the rim perpendicularly with the valve hole facing the ground again. You can also hang it from a bike stand or clamp it gently in a vise (you use wooden blocks between the vise’s jaws to avoid rim damage).

Install the thinnest addon on the vacuum cleaner. Start the vacuum cleaner and place its attachment on the valve hole. Increase the power maximally if needed.

The vacuum will grab the nipple fast, and you can then found in the dust container. Alternatively, if you have many and don’t care about losing one, you can leave it there.

Masking Tape

A piece of masking tape can also be used to catch the “runner”. I recommend using masking tape as it leaves no adhesive residue but duct tape is also fine.

Cut a small piece of tape and slide it through the valve hole.

Make sure that the sticky side isn’t flattened.

Spin the wheel.

The sticky side of the tape should catch the nipple.

Slowly remove the tape and the nipple.

This method is based on trial and error (like all the others, ofc, but I expect this to take the longest).

A Paper Funnel 

Another way to remove the nipple is to use a piece of paper to catch it and funnel it out.

The steps are:

  • Make an arch (half-pipe) out of a piece of paper.
  • Make two cuts on both sides. Those will act as wings opening inside the rim and catching the nipple.
  • Slide the paper through the valve hole until the “wings” are in the rim.
  • Gently swing the rim back and forth until the piece of paper catches the nipple.
  • The nipple should come out through the paper funnel.
  • Use tweezers to remove the paper and minimize the chances of tearing it.

Note: You can also use a straw instead of paper.

Glue(Last Hope)

The methods above have at least a 90% success rate. But if you face epic frustration, you could also pour some glue into the rim through a spoke eyelet and spin the wheel.

After a few rotations, the nipple comes in contact with the glue and remains glued to the rim.

This method doesn’t get the nipple out but stops the annoying rattling sound.

Prevention Tip

As they say, “Prehabilitation is the best rehabilitation”. In other words, it’s better if you never have to deal with the issue in the first place.

And below I will share a secret weapon of mine that will reduce the chances.

  • Get a spoke and thread a nipple turned upside down on it (in reverse).
  • Guide the nipple through а spoke eyelet and place it onto the spoke that’s going to be used for the wheel. 
  • Once the nipple is partially tightened onto the intended spoke hold it in place with a spoke wrench while unscrewing the other spoke.

I highly recommend making a long nipple driver out of a spare spoke. You can see mine in the images below.

Note: The nipple on it acts as a limiter.

Thread the nipple that you want to install in reverse until it touches the nipple on the driver.

Thread the nipple onto the targeted spoke.

Once the nipple is on the new spoke, hold it or use a spoke wrench to prevent it from moving. 

Unscrew the nipple driver.

The nipple is now on the wheel spoke. Tighten it as much as needed.

This 150 IQ method minimizes the chances of losing a nipple. 

Additional Notes

Spoke nipples are made of aluminum or brass, and you can’t use magnets to attract them.

Until next time, 

– Rookie





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