It was another rainy ride. A day for grinding out moderate miles while watching the steady drip off the brim of your cycling cap.
Drip. Drip. Drip. 
Then I noticed a rhythmic rubbing sound. I glanced down at my fenders, thinking they had shifted into the tires. Nope, they were centered and had plenty of clearance. The sound persisted. As I rode, I continued to search for what might be making the noise. It wasn't what I'd call a significant sound, like a grinding or popping, just a light scuff with every tire rotation. I couldn't isolate it to the front or rear, but it was definitely coming from the wheels. I thought maybe I picked up a leaf or a twig that was rubbing. Meh.

Eventually I got to a place where I could stop and check it out. Actually, I just stopped because I really needed to pee. I spun the front wheel and didn't get the sound. I spun the back, but the noise was immediately masked by the freehub ratcheting. When I stopped the rear wheel, a broken spoke flopped out to the side. It had been neatly tucked behind other spokes so my casual examination hadn't revealed its current state. The sound was coming from the now-warped rear wheel's brake track intermittently rubbing on the pads. The rain had lubricated them to the point it wasn't as noticeable, and the fenders obscured the whole conspiracy.
I pulled off the spoke, and the spoke nipple immediately fell down into the wheel's carbon fairing. Not a great move, but when the wheel was spinning it didn't rattle around. I opened up the brakes a bit, reflecting the wheel would probably spin a little easier on the return trip. I turned around, cutting the planned ride a little short but not overly upset about it. It would do no good to get mad about a broken spoke or a curtailed rain ride. I just rode normally and somehow survived all the way back.
When I got home, I cleaned up the bike and took a long, hard look at the rear wheel and debated my options. The first is to just replace the broken spoke and get on with life. The problem with that is that when a single spoke breaks (especially on relatively low-spoke-count wheels), more stress is placed on the remaining spokes. Often this leads to more failures down the road. To avoid this, you can replace all of the spokes with new ones. That isn't a bad idea, because it also ensures the spokes are properly tensioned. The problem with this plan is that I suck so bad at building wheels that I leave it to the experts. A single spoke? Not a big deal. All of the spokes? I don't have skills, tools, time, or patience. The people that do have those things charge accordingly, and rightfully so.
To put this in perspective- these are cheap Chinese carbon fiber rims with an imbedded aluminum brake track. The carbon fiber is structural, and is where the spoke nipples mount. A heavy hand will just destroy the rim. The hub is cheap-but-serviceable-enough Novatec. The rim itself seems solid enough, although there is a small dent in part of the brake track and a cosmetic scrape in the carbon thanks to my friends at TSA. I (and TSA) have not been gentle with these wheels. I doubt there's a pothole in Anchorage I haven't run them through at full speed. I've ridden them in the rain to the point that there was water sloshing around in the carbon fairing. The bearings are probably on their last legs from straining under my impressive bulk... I mean my massive peak power. Who know what the state of the carbon fiber is structurally? By carbon fiber, I mean the old dishrags and superglue they're probably constructed of. At this point, I'm not sure they're worth dropping significant money into with the expectation that I'll get many more years abusing them.
On the other hand, I hate throwing things away that could be repaired and serve some purpose.
Here's the problem- to get the rear wheel re-laced with new spokes would be two thirds of the price to get a brand new wheel. Like I said, they were cheap wheels. Add in bearings... well, you get the point. And yeah, you can see where this is going.
I got on the eBay box and started looking at replacements. I quickly found several suitable replacements, sorted them by price and other features, and narrowed them down to a likely contender. Then I noticed the same seller was having a sale on wheelsets, and I could get the front wheel too for only $75 more with the same shipping cost. I likes me a bargain.
The old set? I'll probably have the broken spoke replaced and leave it at that. The rear wheel will probably hang for a while, and the front will probably go on the trainer bike. Aero is everything on Zwift.
Now I need to start putting up more hooks for wheels in the garage, because they're starting to pile up. 


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