Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Spoke Card Etiquette

First, if you are planning any sort of urban ride, Pedalpalooza adventure, alley cat race, or bicycling event wherein your duty is to provide a dandy good time for your riders, and possibly perpetuate the reputation and therefore future attraction to your ride:

You shall provide spoke cards*, **

*except in the case where attendance far surpasses your expectation, or you have gamified the spoke card giving (as in the case of the In Search Of...ride series where riders were challenged to find hidden spoke cards along the route to win prizes).
**or in the case that you're giving away some other prize(s)/memento(s)

Second, these spoke cards must be your own art or imagery, or at least art or imagery you have permission to use.  The art or imagery must reflect the flavor, or branding (if you will) of the event.  Your spoke card must be two-sided and appropriately-sized so that it may be fitted between two neighboring spokes on a standard 32-spoked wheel with a double crossover lacing pattern.

The spoke card you create is required to be weather-proof, which may mean different things in different localities.  For Portland, it means: waterproof.  In Mexico or other points south, this means UV-proof.  Near the ocean?  Salt-proof please.  Etcetera.

If you are offered a spoke card, you may only refuse it if you have radially laced spokes on all wheels on your rig, or a minimum of eight spoke cards already installed and in good condition.  Otherwise, you must graciously accept this handmade gift and immediately install it on your steed, whip, ride, or whatever the heck it is you call your two wheeled tumbler.

Unless you are on a tricycle, cargo bike, or dragging a trailer, you will only have two installation choices for your new memento.  Front wheel or back.  Either is acceptable.  If you already have spoke cards installed, it is best to pair the new card with the existing card by displaying them in the opposing position on the same wheel.

Spoke cards installed on the rear wheel will ideally be on the drive side, where most photography seems to point, and opposite the valve stem.  Spoke cards installed on the front wheel will also need to be on the opposite side of the valve, except when an existing spoke card is present, in which case the new card shall be placed on on the same side as the valve.

The spoke card must not be deliberately removed in any case, with the following exceptions:
  • it is of shoddy quality and is shredding (shame on the maker)
  • it is compromising your aero-ness and you've registered for a triathlon
  • it is compromising your aero-ness and you've registered for a time trial
  • it is making noise and cannot be adjusted enough to be quiet*
  • someone died
  • you have crashed or otherwise "tacoed" your wheel
  • you are having new wheels built
*this condition is voided if your bike is making other noises including but not limited to chain squeak, bottom bracket chirp, disc brake squeal, spoke violin, rim brake-pad rubbing and/or mystery ticking.

If you are a bike mechanic, wheel-builder or somehow have found yourself in charge of someone else's bike which has a spoke card displayed, you may only remove the spoke card if it is required by the scope of work you are performing.  Please do not re-install the spoke card.

In the case of a new wheelset, the spoke card is removed from the old wheelset and handed to the customer (or friend you just did a massive favor for) when they are receiving the new wheelset.

That is all.  Unless it's not, in which case, please add your comments and I will amend this article immediately.

Many thanks to the Missing Link's talented mechanic Matt, who recently built new wheels for me and brought this important issue to my attention.  (He placed the spoke card he removed from my wheel into my basket, which is the preferred and premium method for those of you with baskets).


  1. I've only done one ride with you but I was disappointed not to find a spoke card. I assume it's kosher to receive a spoke card and install it on a different bike than one was riding that day, right?

  2. Hi Ted. I apologize for not providing a spoke card. Which ride was it? It may have been before I developed my elaborate rules for spoke card etiquette!

  3. it was Ripplebrook. You said there were cards "hidden" along the route. It's okay, I need to ride with you more :)

  4. Aha! I will amend the code to mention that the gamification of spoke card gifting may act as an exception to the rule of giving one to each attendee. And, yes, let's ride more!

  5. Thank you so much for your all great explanation, I liked reading this. Jimmy