Words and Photos by Ryan Palmer
Spoke manufacturer, Wheelsmith, has been making high quality stainless steel spokes in the U.S. Since the mid-nineties. Disc-brake company, Hayes acquired Wheelsmith in 2007 and moved production from Montana to Hayes’ headquarters outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Wheelsmith now produces spokes for the Hayes-owned SunRingle wheel systems as well as the the OEM market and bike shops around the world. We stopped by the Mequon, Wisconsin plant and were lucky enough to see some pretty impressive machines in action.
It all starts with a roll of stainless steel wire
The wire is fed into the cutting machine
This machine's job is to cut the wire into the determined length.
If the spoke is going to be butted, it goes to the rotary swager. As the spoke is automatically fed through the machine, a set of dies hammer the wire to the desired diameter. The butted spokes drop into this catch bin.
The extreme pressure from the swager leaves the spoke slightly warped. This machine re-straightens them before they head off to to the next step
During the swaging process, the spoke can gain as much as 3 millimeters in length. This machine trims the butted spokes to their final length.
Finished spokes ready for packaging.
Keeping the crew cool