First they reinvented the wheel. Now they’re rethinking the spoke. And all to save a few tenths of a gram.
When it comes to improving bicycle performance, weight is crucial. With so many parts, designers have endless opportunities to shave a gram here or carve off an ounce there. The caveat is maintaining the bike’s integrity and strength when making reductions. To solve the weight problem, engineers at Minnesota’s Berd are building spokes from an odd material: “ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE)” — essentially fabric.
According to GearJunkie, wheel sets sporting the spokes will be up to 250 grams lighter. The spokes are patent-pending, and Berd offers custom builds on its site.
Berd PolyLight spokes, as they’re called, “leverage the latest advances in polymer technology to create the world’s lightest spoke while maintaining exceptional strength, aerodynamics, and durability,” the company states on its website. They are supposedly lighter than anything you can find on the market. And just as importantly, Berd claims that its PolyLight spokes are “stronger than most” of the spokes out there.
PolyLight spokes are compatible with standard rim and hub connections, so you can easily add them to your rig. On the hub side, they use an eyelet that is pulled through the hub hole and secured with a rod. On the rim side, a stainless steel rod is screwed into a nut. The polymer spokes can be maintained in the same manner as steel spokes, so you won’t have to learn any new methods.
In addition to their weight-saving properties, Berd’s spokes damp road vibrations and are more resistant to impact, smoothing out the ride while reducing rider fatigue.
Polymer construction give the spokes a long life thanks to reduced stress on the material itself. Steel spokes are more susceptible to fatigue as the wheels turn and deal with bumps in the road.
Berd’s special spokes use a customized coating to increase resistance to wear and tear, abrasion, moisture, and UV exposure as well.
If you’re concerned about the legality of the spokes when it comes to racing, Berd has answers. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the governing body for sports cycling, has itself approved Berd’s PolyLight spokes for competition.