Title:
Vehicle wheel spoke connection
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A vehicle wheel, comprising a rim, a hub, a plurality of spokes extending between the rim and hub, a bracing element including a hole with a central axis, a sidewall, a longitudinally inward entrance, and at least one of an engagement surface and an engagement edge outward of the entrance, a connecting element connected to the bracing element, including an opening extending along an opening axis, and a multiplicity of prongs, with at least one of the prongs including a lateral overhang surface. The connecting element is resilient and may be flexed between collapsed and expanded orientations and is positioned within the hole, with the overhang surface overlying one of the engagement surface and engagement edge in a first overlie engagement. The spoke includes a laterally projecting surface to overlie the connecting element in a second overlie engagement that is preferably located longitudinally outwardly of the first overlie engagement.



Inventors:
Schlanger, Raphael (Wilton, CT, US)
Application Number:
13/573084
Publication Date:
02/21/2013
Filing Date:
08/20/2012
Assignee:
SCHLANGER RAPHAEL
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B60B1/04
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20140042797Retrofit Wheel KitFebruary, 2014Pillow et al.
20090140570REMOVABLE WHEEL SYSTEMJune, 2009Houkal
20050236887Wheel support bearing assemblyOctober, 2005Ohtsuki
20130292996WHEEL ROLLING BEARING UNITNovember, 2013Yokota et al.
20060071539Clad wheel assemblyApril, 2006Sereno
20080258540SWIVEL YOKE FOR SUPERMARKET MOBILE MATERIAL HANDLING EQUIPMENTOctober, 2008Hicks et al.
20110291467Wheel hub assemblyDecember, 2011Severini et al.
20040119330Non-metal hubJune, 2004Chuang
20070057565Coaxial structure for a wheel setMarch, 2007Chen
20110012419WHEEL BALANCE WEIGHTJanuary, 2011Taguchi et al.



Foreign References:
DE4212094A11993-10-14
DE4127500C11992-10-01
DE10355658A12005-06-23
Primary Examiner:
KOTTER, KIP T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
RAPHAEL SCHLANGER (WILTON, CT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A vehicle wheel, comprising: a peripheral wheel rim; a central hub with a central axle and an outer flange; a plurality of spokes extending between said rim and said hub with, a first portion connected to said rim and a second portion opposed to said first portion and connected to said hub and a span portion between said rim and said hub, wherein said spoke is a generally slender element with a length greater than its width and longitudinal axis along said length and a tensile axis of applied tensile load along said span portion; a bracing element including a hole therein with a central axis, a hole sidewall, a longitudinally inward hole entrance, and at least one of an engagement surface and an engagement edge adjacent said hole and longitudinally outward of said entrance, wherein said bracing element comprises at least a portion of at least one of said rim and hub; a connecting element connected to said bracing element, including a collar portion, an opening extending along an opening axis, and a multiplicity of prong portions to include a first prong and a second prong; wherein at least one of said first prong and said second prong includes an enlarged portion and a generally laterally projecting overhang surface; wherein said connecting element is positioned within said hole, with said collar portion extending to overlap said hole sidewall along said central axis and with said overhang surface laterally overlying at least one of said engagement surface and said engagement edge in a first overlie engagement to support said tensile load; wherein said spoke includes a laterally projecting transition surface and wherein said connecting element includes an engagement surface adjacent said opening and wherein said spoke is positioned within said opening with said transition surface extending to laterally overlie said engagement surface in a second overlie engagement to support said tensile load; wherein said connecting element is a resilient element that may be flexed between a collapsed orientation wherein said enlarged portion of said first prong is proximal to said second prong and an expanded orientation wherein said enlarged portion of said first prong is distal to said second prong; wherein said enlarged portion, while in said collapsed orientation, may be may be fitted within said hole; and wherein said second overlie engagement is located longitudinally outwardly of said first overlie engagement.

2. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said hole is a blind hole, where said hole is obscured longitudinally outwardly from said at least one of said engagement surface and said engagement edge.

3. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said bracing element is said rim, including a spoke bed wall and a tire bed wall, wherein said spoke hole extends within said spoke bed wall and said tire bed wall serves to obscure said hole longitudinally outwardly from said at least one of said engagement surface and said engagement edge.

4. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said spoke, or an intermediate element connected to said spoke, serves to provide a blocking engagement between said first prong and said second prong to limit proximal movement of said first prong in a direction lateral to said opening axis and to maintain a said overlie engagement.

5. A wheel according to claim 4, wherein said blocking engagement is located longitudinally inward of said engagement surface of said connecting element.

6. A wheel according to claim 4, wherein said blocking engagement is located longitudinally outward of said engagement surface of said connecting element.

7. A wheel according to claim 1, including a slot between said multiplicity of said prongs and wherein said spoke or an intermediate element associated with said spoke extends within said slot to limit proximal movement of said first prong in a direction lateral to said opening axis and to maintain a said overlie engagement.

8. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said spoke is directly connected to said connecting element.

9. A wheel according to claim 1, including an intermediate connecting element, wherein said spoke is connected to said intermediate connecting element and said intermediate connecting element is connected to said connecting element.

10. A wheel according to claim 9, wherein said intermediate connecting element includes a non-circular portion to facilitate manual manipulation of said intermediate connecting element relative to said bracing element.

11. A wheel according to claim 9, wherein said intermediate connecting element includes a cavity to receive said spoke, and wherein said cavity includes internal threads, and wherein said spoke includes external threads for threaded engagement with said internal threads of said cavity.

12. A wheel according to claim 9, wherein said intermediate connecting element includes a cavity to receive said spoke and an engagement surface adjacent said cavity and wherein said spoke includes a laterally projecting transition surface and wherein said spoke is connected to said intermediate connecting element by means of an overlie engagement between said transition surface and said engagement surface to resist spoke tension forces.

13. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said connecting element has a rotationally keyed engagement with said bracing element to limit relative rotation therebetween about said central axis.

14. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said bracing element is said rim, including a spoke bed wall, wherein said hole is in said spoke bed wall.

15. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said bracing element is said hub and wherein said hole is in said outer flange.

16. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said hole of said bracing element is a circular hole.

17. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said Hole of said bracing element is a non-circular hole.

18. A wheel according to claim 17, wherein said connecting element includes non-circular geometry to engage the sidewall of said non-circular hole to limit rotation of said connecting element relative to said bracing element about said central axis.

19. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said connecting element includes a flange portion longitudinally inward of said entrance.

20. A wheel according to claim 19, wherein said flange portion includes a laterally projecting surface that extends laterally outward of said entrance.

21. A wheel according to claim 19, wherein said flange portion includes a non-circular portion to facilitate manual manipulation of said connecting element about said central axis.

22. A wheel according to claim 19, wherein said flange portion provides a depth stop to limit the longitudinally outwardly advancement of said connecting element within said hole.

23. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said multiplicity of said prongs constitutes two prongs.

24. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said multiplicity of said prongs constitutes three or more prongs.

25. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said central axis and said opening axis are generally collinear.

26. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said central axis and said opening axis are generally offset.

27. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said central axis and said central opening axis are generally non-parallel, with an angle therebetween.

28. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said connecting element may be flexed between said unexpanded position and said expanded position with an axis of flexure that is generally parallel to an axial plane.

29. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said connecting element may be flexed between said unexpanded position and said expanded position with an axis of flexure that is generally perpendicular to an axial plane.

30. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said overlie engagement is a surface-to-surface overlie engagement between the generally matched surfaces of said overhang surface and said engagement surface of said bracing element.

31. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said connecting element is of a polymeric material.

32. A wheel according to claim 1, wherein said engagement surface of said connecting element is an end face adjacent the longitudinally outward end of said connector.

33. A vehicle wheel, comprising: a peripheral wheel rim; a central hub with a central axle and an outer flange; a plurality of spokes extending between said rim and said hub with a first portion connected to said rim and a second portion opposed to said first portion and connected to said hub and a span portion between said rim and said hub, wherein said spoke is a generally slender element with a length greater than its width and longitudinal axis along said length and a tensile axis of applied tensile load along said span portion; a bracing element including a hole therein with a central axis, a hole sidewall, a longitudinally inward hole entrance, and at least one of an engagement surface and an engagement edge adjacent said hole and longitudinally outward of said entrance, wherein said bracing element comprises at least a portion of at least one of said rim and hub; a connecting element connected to said bracing element, including a collar portion, an opening extending along an opening axis, and a multiplicity of prong portions to include a first prong and a second prong; wherein at least one of said first prong and said second prong includes an enlarged portion and a generally laterally projecting overhang surface; wherein said connecting element is positioned within said hole, with said collar portion extending to overlap said hole sidewall along said central axis and with said overhang surface laterally overlying at least one of said engagement surface and said engagement edge in a first overlie engagement to support said tensile load; wherein said spoke includes a laterally projecting transition surface and wherein said connecting element includes an engagement surface adjacent said opening and wherein said spoke is positioned within said opening with said transition surface extending to laterally overlie said engagement surface in a second overlie engagement to support said tensile load; wherein said connecting element is a resilient element that may be flexed between a collapsed orientation wherein said enlarged portion of said first prong is proximal to said second prong and an expanded orientation wherein said enlarged portion of said first prong is distal to said second prong; wherein said enlarged portion, while in said collapsed orientation, may be may be fitted within said hole; and wherein said connecting element includes a flange portion longitudinally inward of said entrance, wherein said flange portion includes a laterally projecting surface that extends laterally outward of said entrance.

34. A wheel according to claim 33 wherein said second overlie engagement is located longitudinally outwardly of said first overlie engagement.

35. A wheel according to claim 33 wherein said second overlie engagement is one of located longitudinally inwardly of said first overlie engagement and located longitudinally coincident with said first overlie engagement.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority of the following U.S. provisional patent applications:

  • 61/575,380, filed Aug. 19, 2011, and entitled “VEHICLE WHEEL SPOKE CONNECTION”;
  • 61/575,381, filed Aug. 19, 2011, and entitled “VEHICLE WHEEL SPOKE CONNECTION”; and
  • 61/575,374, filed Aug. 19, 2011, and entitled “VEHICLE WHEEL SPOKE CONNECTION”.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

(1) Field of the Invention

This invention is related to the means of attachment between the spoke and the rim of a vehicle wheel and between the spoke and the hub of a vehicle wheel. This invention is particularly related to the connection of a spoke with a rim structure having a “double-wall” construction with an unpierced tire bed wall for tubeless tire applications.

(2) Description of the Related Art

Bicycle wheel rims have historically been constructed to accept pneumatic tires that are designed to work in conjunction with an inner tube. This is the standard of the industry and is the arrangement that we are all familiar with. In such a prior art configuration, the rim's tire bed includes a through-hole that is drilled through for passage of the spoke nipple. In a rim of “single-wall” construction, the tire bed and the spoke bed are shared such that the spoke nipple bears directly against the rim's tire bed. In a rim of “double-wall” construction, the rim has two lateral walls, a tire bed wall and a spoke bed wall, usually with a radial gap or cavity therebetween. The rim is drilled through both walls, piercing both the tire bed and the spoke bed walls, with the spoke bed recessed below the tire bed to accept the spoke nipples. Generally, the spoke is presented through the spoke bed from the inside diameter of the rim and the spoke nipple is presented for attachment to the spoke through the tire bed and from the outside diameter of the rim. With single-wall or double-wall rim constructions, a rim strip is utilized to protect the inner tube from the sharp edges associated with the holes in the tire bed wall and/or with the spoke nipples. With rims of double-wall construction, the rim strip also serves to prevent the inner tube from extruding through the drilled access openings in the tire bed.

With the recent advent of tubeless tire technology, where the conventional inner tube is eliminated and the tire's beads are sealed directly against the rim, it is desirable that the tire bed wall be sealed and airtight to prevent air leakage from the tire cavity. This typically involves a rim of double-wall construction where the tire bed is sealed while the spoke bed is then adapted to accept the spokes. One preferable method for sealing the tire bed is to eliminate the aforementioned spoke access holes in the tire bed. If the tire bed is not pierced for the spokes, then the only hole through the tire bed will be for the tire inflation valve, which may be constructed of rubber and is relatively easy to seal against the tire bed. An example of such a tubeless arrangement is outlined by Lacombe et al. in U.S. Pat. No. 6,443,533, where the tire bed remains unpierced and the spoke bed includes extruded spoke holes that are directly threaded with internal threads to accept special externally threaded spoke nipples.

Reference is also made to prior art UK Patent Application GB2479870A by Jonathan Thulbon. Thulbon shows his spoke (3) connected to his rim (4) by eyelets (7). This eyelet is a one-piece element with slots (74) to provide flexure for installation with his rim. Thulbon's arrangement has several shortcomings: Firstly, the single overlie engagement between Thulbon's spoke nipple and eyelet is located inwardly from the outboard surface of his spoke bed, which requires that his eyelet include longitudinally outward extension portions that surround the head of his nipple to engage his rim. These extension portions require that the corresponding hole in his rim be significantly larger than the head of his spoke nipple. This oversized hole serves to further weaken his rim in this highly-loaded area. Secondly, these extension portions also serve to laterally offset the overlie engagement between his rim and eyelet from the overlie engagement between his eyelet and nipple. This offset places additional tensile and bending stress on the eyelet due to spoke tension forces, further weakening his spoke connection: Thirdly, Thulbon does not contemplate a longitudinal engagement between his spoke and eyelet and instead utilizes only a single overlie engagement at a single longitudinal location. Such a single overlie engagement requires a very large laterally projected area of overlie to resist spoke tension loads, which results in a larger eyelet and a correspondingly larger hole in his rim.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention utilizes an expandable connecting element or ferrule that is blindly inserted through a hole in the spoke bed. The connecting element expanded to engage the edge and/or adjacent surface at the distal end of the hole. The spoke or an intermediate element connected to the spoke is engaged to the connecting element to create a firm connection between the spoke and the spoke bed. It is noted that the spoke bed constitutes a portion of the rim or hub flange to which the connecting element is attached. As the novelty of a blind connection of the spoke is particularly advantageous in conjunction with rims associated with tubeless tires, most of the embodiments are shown with a spoke bed associated with the rim.

It is an object of the present invention to create a spoke connection: that may be blindly installed with the spoke bed of the rim and/or hub: that may leave the tire bed of the rim to remain unpierced; that may eliminate the necessity of a rim strip; that may permit a spoke connection that may otherwise be geometrically impossible by conventional means; and that may result in a robust connection capable of resisting spoke tension loads.

One aspect of the invention involves a method for assembling a wheel. For each of a number of spoke holes in the wheel rim, a resilient connecting element associated with a given spoke is inserted radially outward through the spoke hole in the spoke bed (or radially inwardly for a spoke bed associated with a hub). The connecting element may flex to expand and engage the edge or surface adjacent the distal end of the hole. Conversely, the connecting element may be contracted to permit its assembly through the spoke hole. A spoke is then connected to the connecting element, either directly or by means of an intermediate connecting element. This connection between spoke and connecting element preferably includes an overlie engagement.

In various implementations, the connecting element may or may not include a flange, the connecting element may be keyed to the hole, the connecting element may be keyed to the spoke bed surface, the connector may be normally expanded or open or else may be normally unexpanded or collapsed, the connector may have a fully threaded or a partially threaded opening, the connecting element's opening axis may be parallel to the hole's axis or the opening's axis may be at an angle to the hole's axis, the connecting element may include an extension.

Another aspect of the invention involves a wheel. The wheel has a rim with a spoke bed having spoke holes and a tire bed radially outboard of the spoke bed and lacking holes aligned with the spoke holes. Spokes couple the rim to the hub with connecting elements coupling the spokes to the rim. Each connecting element has a first portion (i.e. collar portion) extending within an associated spoke hole. An opening of each connecting element accommodates either an associated spoke or an intermediate element coupled to the associated spoke. The connecting element has a second portion (i.e. enlarged portion) radially outboard of the spoke bed and cooperating with an outboard surface of the spoke bed to prevent radial inward movement of the associated spoke and permitting tension in the spoke to be transferred to the spoke bed. In various implementations, the connecting element may consist essentially of a single piece. The spoke or an intermediate element coupled to the spoke may have a threaded engagement with the connecting element. The spoke or an intermediate element coupled to the spoke may serve to maintain the connecting element in its open and expanded orientation and its engagement with the spoke bed. As disclosed herein, the connecting element may also be utilized to connect the spoke to a spoke bed of the hub shell in a manner similar to that described above.

Another aspect of the invention involves a wheel rim. The rim has a spoke bed with a number of spoke holes that are commonly produced by drilling. A tire bed is radially outboard of the spoke bed and lacks holes aligned with the spoke holes. Lateral walls extend radially outward from opposite sides of the tire bed and cooperate with the tire bed to form a tire well. The rim may be substantially unitarily formed from a light alloy (e.g., aluminum alloy) or a fiber composite. A clincher tire may be mounted in the tire well advantageously in the absence of a separate tube. A valve may be sealingly mounted in a valve hole in the tire bed and extending through a valve hole in the spoke bed for inflating the tire.

The present invention provides a spoke connection that may be blindly installed in the spoke bed. The connector may be economically produced using conventional manufacturing methods. The connection is easy to install and is serviceable in the field. The connection may be designed to provide a clean appearance with enhanced aesthetics. The connector may be made of high strength material(s), such as fiber-reinforced plastic or metals. The connector may have a large overlap with the spoke bed for increased robustness of the connection. The connector may be designed to minimize the size of the hole in the spoke bed, thereby increasing the strength of the bracing element (i.e. rim or hub). The connector may eliminate the necessity of a rim strip or rim tape. The resulting spoke connection is exceptionally robust and supports substantial spoke tension forces.

In contrast to prior art UK Patent Application GB2479870A by Jonathan Thulbon the connecting element of the present invention includes a longitudinal engagement to connect the spoke. The overlie engagement between the spoke (or an intermediate connecting element connected to the spoke) and the connecting element may be located longitudinally outwardly from the outboard surface of the spoke bed, which serves to minimize the tensile and bending stress on the connecting element due to spoke tension forces, further strengthening the spoke connection.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention will be more readily understandable from a consideration of the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view schematically illustrating the general configuration of a prior art vehicle wheel as applied to a bicycle wheel;

FIG. 2a is an axial plan view illustrating a prior art bicycle wheel;

FIG. 2b is a cross-section view of the prior art bicycle wheel of FIG. 2a, as seen generally in the direction 15-15;

FIG. 2c is a fragmentary view detailing the view illustrated in FIG. 2b where the hub flange is shown in a partial cross-section to illustrate the connection with the spoke;

FIG. 3a is a partial radial cross-sectional view of a prior art single-wall rim;

FIG. 3b is a partial radial cross-sectional view of a prior art double-wall rim;

FIG. 4 is a cross-section view in the axial plane of a bicycle wheel, including an exemplary application of the present invention;

FIG. 5a is a partial perspective exploded view of a first embodiment of the present invention, with spoke bed in fragmentary view, describing a blind connection between the spoke and the spoke bed, including an expandable connector and an overlie connection between the nipple and the connector;

FIG. 5b is a cross section view, taken along 355-355, of the connector of the embodiment of FIG. 5a;

FIG. 5c is an exploded cross section view, taken along 355-355, of the embodiment of FIG. 5a, showing the initial stage of a first assembly step between the connector and the hole of the spoke bed;

FIG. 5d is an exploded cross section view, taken along 355-355, of the embodiment of FIG. 5a, showing a completed first assembly step with the connector assembled to the spoke bed;

FIG. 5e is a cross section view, taken along 355-355, of the embodiment of FIG. 5a, showing a second assembly step with the sleeve and spoke as assembled to the connector;

FIG. 5f is a cross section view, taken along 355-355, of an alternate configuration of the embodiment of FIG. 5a, showing the sleeve as integral with the spoke;

FIG. 5g is a cross section view, taken along 355-355, of an alternate configuration of the embodiment of FIG. 5a, showing a perimeter rib of the nipple longitudinally overlying the end face of the connector;

FIG. 5h is a perspective view, of an alternative connector corresponding to the embodiment of FIG. 5a, including three prongs and three overlying surfaces;

FIG. 6a is a partial exploded view of a second embodiment of the present invention, describing a blind connection between the spoke and the spoke bed, including a sleeve with ribs that engage the slots of the connector;

FIG. 6b is a perspective view of the connector of the embodiment of FIG. 6a;

FIG. 6c is a partial perspective exploded view of the embodiment of FIG. 6a, showing the spoke bed in cross section, and showing a completed first assembly step with the connector assembled to the spoke bed;

FIG. 6d is a partial perspective exploded view of the embodiment of FIG. 6a, showing the spoke bed in cross section, and showing a completed second assembly step with spoke engaged to the sleeve and the sleeve engaged to the connector in an overlie engagement;

FIG. 7a is a partial perspective exploded view of a third embodiment of the present invention, describing a blind connection between the spoke and the spoke bed, including a connector with a step face and spoke directly engaged with the step face;

FIG. 7b is a cross section view, taken along 505-505, of the connector of the embodiment of FIG. 7a;

FIG. 7c is a cross section view, taken along 505-505, of the embodiment of FIG. 7a, showing a completed second assembly step with the spoke as assembled to the connector in an overlie engagement;

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 describes the basic configuration of an exemplary prior art vehicle wheel, in particular, a bicycle wheel 1, as well as a description of the direction conventions used throughout this disclosure. For clarity, the frame and the quick release skewer assembly are not shown in this figure. The hub shell 14 is rotatable about the axle 9 and includes at least two axially spaced hub flanges 16, each of which include a means for connecting with the spokes 2. Axle 9 includes end faces 11a and 11b that define the spacing of its mounting with the frame (not shown). The axial axis 28 is the axial centerline of rotation of the bicycle wheel 1. The hub flange 16 may be contiguous with the hub shell 14 or it may be separately formed and assembled to the hub body 12 portion of the hub shell 14. The spokes 2 are affixed to the hub flange 16 at their first end 4 and extend to attach the rim 8 at their second end 6. The tire 10 is fitted to the outer periphery of the rim 8. The wheel of FIG. 1 is generic and may be of tension-spoke or compression-spoke design.

The axial direction 92 is any direction parallel with the axial axis 28. The radial direction 93 is a direction generally perpendicular to the axial direction 92 and extending generally from the axial axis 28 radially outwardly toward the rim 8. The tangential direction 94 is a direction generally tangent to the rim at a given radius. The circumferential direction 95 is a cylindrical vector that wraps around the axial axis 28 at a given radius. A radial plane 96 is a plane perpendicular to the axial axis 28 that extends in a generally radial direction at a given axial intercept. An axial plane 97 is a plane that is generally parallel to the axial axis. An axially inboard orientation is an orientation that is axially proximal to the axial midpoint between the two end faces 11a and 11b. Conversely, an axially outboard orientation is an orientation that is axially distal to the axial midpoint between the two end faces 11a and 11b. An axially inwardly facing surface is a surface that faces toward the axial midpoint between the two end faces 11a and 11b. Conversely, an axially outwardly facing surface is a surface that faces away from the axial midpoint between the two end faces 11a and 11b. Similarly, an axially inward direction is a direction that extends toward the axial midpoint between the two end faces 11a and 11b. Conversely, an axially outward direction is a direction that extends away from the axial midpoint between the two end faces 11a and 11b. A radially inboard orientation is an orientation that is radially proximal to the axial axis 28 and a radially outboard orientation is an orientation that is radially distal to the axial axis 28. While it is most common for the hub shell 14 to rotate about a fixed axle 9, there are some cases where it is desirable to permit the axle 9 to be fixed with the wheel 1, such as the case where the wheel 1 is driven by the axle 9. While it is most common for the hub shell 14 to rotate about a fixed axle 9, there are some cases where it is desirable to permit the axle 9 to be fixed with the wheel 1 such as the case where the wheel 1 is driven by the axle 9.

For general definition purposes herein, an “integral” joinder is one that is integrated and may not be easily disassembled at the service temperature without damaging at least one of the components that are joined or is difficult to disassemble or is otherwise not meant to be disassembled. This integral joinder involves a joining interface directly between two components. This joining interface is often a welded or adhered interface or some other interface where the two joining surfaces are solidly joined to each other to create a unified structure. Preferably this joining interface is a surface interface, rather than a point interface. The integral joinder is in contrast to a fastened joinder, where such a fastened joinder relies solely on a mechanically interlocked engagement to secure or connect the two components to each other. The term “integral” refers to two portions that are unitary, monolithic and/or integrally joined. Further, when two portions are considered “integral” with each other, they may be integrally joined or may be monolithic or otherwise combined as a singular element.

FIGS. 2a, 2b and 2c describe the current technology in conventional bicycle wheels that most cyclists are familiar with. This prior art design includes a rim 8, a hub shell 14 and a plurality of spokes 2. The hub shell 14 is rotatable about the axle 9 and includes a pair of axially spaced hub flanges 16. The wheel is assembled by first threading each individual spoke 2 through an axial hole 17 in the hub flange 16 until the j-bend 19 is hooked within the hole 17. The spoke 2 is then pivoted to extend in a generally radial direction toward the rim 8. The enlarged portion 34 or “head” of the spoke 2 prevents the spoke 2 from pulling through the hole 17 in the hub flange 16. The second end 6 of each spoke 2 is then fixed to the rim 8 via spoke nipples 21. Tightening the threaded engagement between the spoke nipple 21 and the spoke 2 serves to effectively shorten the length of the spoke 2. Thus, as the nipples 21 are threadably tightened, the spokes are drawn up tight and a degree of pre-tension is induced in the spoke 2. By selectively adjusting this threaded engagement, the spoke pre-tension may be adjusted to align the trueness of the rim 8. The spoke pre-tension is resisted by circumferential compression of the rim 8 and it is this balance of forces that imparts efficient structural integrity to the bicycle wheel 1. Also shown in FIG. 2b is bracing angle 38 between the radial centerline plane of the rim 8 and the tensile axis 36 of the spokes 2. As this bracing angle 38 is increased, the lateral stiffness (i.e. stiffness in the axial direction 92) of the wheel 1 is also increased.

FIG. 3a shows prior art single-wall rim 18 with a single lower web or spoke bed 22 wall. Rim 18 includes two hooked flanges 26a and 26b for capturing the bead of a tire (not shown). Tire well 24 is a circumferential channel bounded by spoke bed 22 and flanges 26a and 26b. Spoke 2 includes threaded end 31 for threadable engagement with spoke nipple 21. Rim 18 may be produced as an aluminum extrusion that also includes cavities 29a and 29b to accept pins (not shown) that serve to join the butted ends of the extruded profile to create a continuous rim hoop. During assembly, the threaded end 31 of spoke 2 is first positioned to extend through the inside diameter end of opening 23. Next, the nipple 21 may be threadably assembled to the threaded end 31 of the spoke 2 through the outside diameter end of opening 23. With all of the spokes 2 of the wheel assembled to the rim 18 in this way, a completed wheel assembly 1 is achieved. A rim strip (not shown) is commonly utilized to cover the radial outboard surface of the spoke bed and to protect the inner tube (not shown) from damage.

FIG. 3b shows a rim 20 of double-wall configuration with an upper web or tire bed 32 wall and a lower web or spoke bed 33 wall. Rim 10 includes two hooked flanges 36a and 36b for capturing the bead of a tire (not shown). Tire well 24 is a circumferential channel bounded by tire bed 32 and flanges 36a and 36b. Spoke bed 33 includes opening 36 and tire bed 32 includes concentric opening 35, which serve to accept a spoke 2 and spoke nipple 21. Spoke 2 includes threaded end 31 for threadable engagement with spoke nipple 21. Rim 18 is produced as an aluminum extrusion that also includes an internal cavity 20 bounded by the spoke bed 33, the tire bed 32 and sides 25. It may be seen that, during assembly, the threaded end 31 of spoke 2 is first positioned to extend through the inside diameter end of opening 35. Next, the nipple 21 is threadably assembled to the threaded end 31 of the spoke 2 first through opening 35 and then through opening 36. With all of the spokes 2 of the wheel assembled to the rim in this manner, a completed wheel assembly is achieved. It may be seen that, with the nipple 21 bearing against the spoke bed 32, opening 35 remains exposed as a passageway between the tire well 24 and the cavity 20. A rim strip (not shown) is commonly utilized to cover the radial outboard surface of the spoke bed and to protect the inner tube (not shown) from damage.

FIG. 4 shows an exemplary bicycle wheel 444 that corresponds to some of the embodiments described herein. This figure is shown to provide a generic assembly to illustrate an arrangement wherein the present invention may be adapted to utilization in bicycle wheel construction. The bicycle wheel 444 includes spokes 394, rim 448, hub assembly 450 and tire 447. The hub assembly 450 includes hub shell 451 with hub flange portions 455a and 455b, axle 452, axle caps 453a and 453b and bearings 454. The rim 448 includes tire bed 449 with geometry for mounting of a tire 447 and a spoke bed 456 with a multiplicity of spoke holes 457, each to accept an individual connector 366, and sidewalls 458a and 458b to define a cavity 460. Hub shell 451 includes hub flange portions 455a and 455b with a multiplicity of spoke holes 462, each to accept an individual connector 506.

It is noted that the rim 448 and hub shell 451 shown here are each exemplary representations of a bracing element that may take on a wide range of forms. The spokes 394 are connected at their first end 463 to the hub shell 451 and at their second end 464 to the rim 448. Spokes 394 are connected to the rim 448 by means of nipples 386 and connectors 366 as described in greater detail in FIGS. 5a-e and other embodiments described herein. Spokes 394 are connected to the hub shell 451 by means of an overly connection between a spoke head portion 534 and connectors 506 as described in greater detail in FIGS. 7a-c and other embodiments described herein. The spoke 394 is a generally long slender tensile element with a longitudinal axis 37 along its length and generally parallel to its sidewalls. The spoke 394 also has a tensile axis 36 of applied tensile load (i.e. spoke tension 30), which is generally collinear to the longitudinal axis 37. For the purposes of definition, the term “longitudinal” herein refers to alignment along the longitudinal axis. Further, the term “lateral”, as defined herein, refers to alignment and/or orientation in a direction that is generally orthogonal to the longitudinal axis 37. While the term “spoke bed” is commonly used in reference to the outer rim, as described herein, the term “spoke bed” may also refer to the portion of the hub shell to which the spoke is connected (i.e. flange portions 455a and 455b).

The connectors 366 and 506 are generally shown to serve as terminations to the spoke 394 and provide means to connect or anchor the spoke 394 to a bracing element (i.e. rim 448 and/or hub shell 451). Note that the span of spoke 2 is aligned in the direction of spoke tension 30 and along the tensile axis 36, which extends along the longitudinal axis 37 of the spoke 394. It is shown here that several spokes 394 of the wheel 444 may be terminated in this manner. For simplicity in describing many of these embodiments, a rim connection arrangement is described, with the understanding that such an embodiment may be easily adapted to hub connections as well. It is understood that FIG. 4 corresponds to a simplified arrangement for illustration purposes. Several of the embodiments of the present invention may be applied to this arrangement, as well as arrangements which include facility for creating and/or adjusting spoke pre-tension, as described in FIGS. 5a-e.

The present invention comprises a spoke (i.e. spoke 394), which may be considered as a longitudinal tensile element having an end portion and a cross-section thereof, a connecting element (i.e. connectors 366 and 506), a bracing element (i.e. rim 448 and hub shell 451), and a tensile axis of applied tensile load along the longitudinal tensile element. The spoke is connected to the connecting element by means of an overlie connection between the spoke (or an intermediate element connected to the spoke) and the connecting element. In the embodiments shown herein, the longitudinal tensile element is a vehicle wheel spoke, the hub shell or hub flange constitutes a first bracing element and the outer rim constitutes a second bracing element.

A longitudinal tensile element (i.e. spoke) is a generally long slender element, with a length greater than its cross sectional width, and with a longitudinal axis extending generally along its length. The longitudinal tensile element includes external sidewall surface(s) that extend generally along its length. As such, the longitudinal axis 37 is generally parallel to the sidewall surface. The tensile axis 36 is the axis along which tensile loads (i.e. spoke tension 30) are applied to the tensile element, and is commonly collinear with the longitudinal axis 37, particularly in the region of the structural span of the longitudinal tensile element. For the purposes of explanation herein, the term “longitudinal axis” is generally interchangeable with the term “tensile axis”, unless otherwise noted. Some examples of a longitudinal tensile element include the spoke of a vehicle wheel, a guy wire, a control cable, or a tendon. In most of the embodiments of the present invention, the longitudinal tensile element is capable of supporting tension, otherwise known as positive tensile loading, along its length. However, the tensile element may alternatively support compression, otherwise known as negative tensile loading, along its length, where the longitudinal tensile element provides columnar support between two bracing elements. The spoke span is considered as the portion of the spoke that is under tension and that extends between its anchor points and/or engagements at the bracing elements (i.e. hub and rim). A location outboard of the spoke span is a location along the longitudinal axis 37 that is beyond or external to the spoke span. Further, a longitudinally outward orientation is refers to an orientation along the longitudinal axis that is distal from the midpoint of the span. Conversely, a longitudinally inward orientation is refers to an orientation along the longitudinal axis that is proximal to the midpoint of the span.

For the purposes of using conventional terminology, the term “hub flange” is used herein to describe a region of the hub shell to which the spokes are joined. While the surface of the hub flange may be raised and flange-like in comparison to other surfaces of the hub shell, this is not a requirement for the present invention and the hub flange may alternatively be flush or recessed relative to other hub shell surfaces. An overlie engagement between two elements is an engagement wherein a first element includes a laterally extending surface that extends generally laterally from the direction of load. This laterally extending surface overlaps or overlies a mating surface or edge of the second element such that the first element is engaged and connected to the second element in the direction of load. The overlie engagement is preferably capable of supporting this load and maintaining this connection.

It may be termed that a longitudinal engagement is an engagement that includes a continuous longitudinal engagement interface or an engagement that includes at least two engagement interface locations that are longitudinally spaced along the longitudinal axis of the spoke. It is generally desirable that the longitudinal length of such an engagement be greater than the cross-sectional thickness of the spoke to create an effective engagement. Obviously, increasing the length of engagement may serve to increase the interface surface area and may therefore increase the load carrying capacity of the joinder between the connector and the spoke. A threaded engagement is usually considered to be a longitudinal engagement.

A bracing element is one that resists or braces against all or part of the load of a tensile element. In other words, in order for a tensile element (i.e. spoke) to maintain its tension (or compression) and remain a generally static structure, it must have a resisting or bracing element to bear against. Thus, the tensile element is generally anchored to two bracing elements and the tensile element thereby serves to connect the two bracing elements to each other. In an example where the tensile element is generally held in tension, such as the spoke of a tension-spoke vehicle wheel, a first bracing element could be the hub flange and a second bracing element could be the outer rim hoop. Similarly, in the case where the tensile element is generally held in compression, such as the spoke of a compression-spoke vehicle wheel, the bracing element is that element which the tensile element is pushed against.

The term “blind connection” or “blind engagement” is well known in industry and refers to a connection between a first and second element where the first element may be connected to the second element without necessarily requiring access to both sides of the second element. For example, in a blind connection, a spoke may be connected to a hole in a rim by manipulating the spoke (or a connector associated with the spoke) through the first end of the hole without requiring access to the opposite end of this hole. Such a blind connection is particularly useful when access to the opposite end of the hole is limited or restricted or when the opposite end of the hole is otherwise obscured. As an example relating to several of the embodiments of the present invention, a blind connection between the spoke and the spoke bed is shown to be achieved by means of access only to the opening of the hole at the inboard surface of the spoke bed and without requiring access to the outboard surface of the spoke bed. As such, the blind connection provided by the present invention is particularly advantageous since the connection between the spoke and the spoke bed may be achieved by means of assembly and manipulation only through the accessible exterior of the bracing element and does not require access to the inaccessible interior of the bracing element. Such a blind connection has particular utility in double-wall rims for tubeless tires where the tire bed wall may advantageously remain unpierced to provide effective sealing of the internal cavity of the tire. This unpierced tire bed wall serves to obscure the longitudinally outward end of the hole in the spoke bed.

FIGS. 5a-e describe an embodiment illustrating a blind connection between the spoke 394 and the spoke bed 356, showing the spoke bed 356, connector 366, sleeve 386 and spoke 394. Spoke bed 356 is shown in fragmentary view for illustration purposes and it is understood that spoke bed 356 constitutes a portion of the rim or hub flange to which the connector 366 is attached. The spoke bed 356 includes a radially outboard surface 359, a radially inboard surface 361. Spoke bed 356 also includes a hole 362 therethrough with hole sidewall 363 and circular diameter 364. Hole 362 extends along central axis 357, which is shown here to be generally radial in direction.

Connector 366 includes a flange 368 and is bifurcated to include two prongs 370a and 370b. Prongs 370a and 370b each include associated collar portions 372a and 372b, enlarged portions 374a and 374b, end faces 367a and 367b, ramped surfaces 375a and 375b and overhang surfaces 376a and 376b respectively. Slots 373a and 373b provide a gap between prongs 370a and 370b to provide for their flexure. Slots 373a and 373b are shown to taper inward toward the flange 368. Collar portions 372a and 372b have a width 382 across their external surfaces and enlarged portions 374a and 374b have a width 384 across their outer surfaces, with overhang surfaces 376a and 376b having widths 383a and 383b respectively. The opening 377 extends along the opening axis 378 through the flange 368 and the prongs 370a and 370b.

It may be seen that the flange is non-circular and includes flats 371 such that it may be manually manipulated with a wrench (not shown). Slots 373a and 373b are shown to be tapered, with a larger width at the opening adjacent the enlarged portions 374a and 374b and narrower width at the root 387 adjacent the flange 368. Flange 368 includes a longitudinally outward and laterally extending flange face 365 to interface with the inboard surface 361. Collar portions 372a and 372b are shown to extend between the flange 368 and their respective overhang surfaces 376a and 376b. It is noted that prongs 370a and 370b have external geometry that is laterally distal from the opening axis 378, such as the collar portions 372a and 372b and overhanging surfaces 376a and 376b, and internal geometry, such as opening 377 and slots 373a and 373b. Since light weight and ductility of the connector 366 are desirable attributes, it is preferable that the connector be formed from a polymeric material, such as an engineering thermoplastic, or from a light metal, such as aluminum. However a wide range of materials may be utilized to produce the connector 366.

Roots 387 of slots 373a and 373b are shown to be longitudinally inward of the flange face 365 by distance 380. In contrast to a longitudinally outward root location, this longitudinally inward root 387 orientation permits a maximal longitudinal depth of the slots 373a and 373b, which may be preferable to minimize the amount of flexure distortion and stress in prongs 370a and 370b and flange 368 when the connector 366 is collapsed as shown in FIG. 5c. This also may permit more favorable geometry of flexure as the connector 366 is collapsed, with the prongs 370a and 370b being displaced with a reduced longitudinal component distance (i.e. more of a parallel movement of enlarged portions 374a and 374b).

Nipple 386 includes a shank portion 388, an enlarged head portion 393 and a transition surface 392 therebetween, and flats 389 such that it may be manually manipulated with a wrench (not shown). Transition surface 392 is shown here to be generally planar and perpendicular to the longitudinal axis 37. Nipple 386 also includes longitudinal hole 390 therethrough with internal threads 391 to threadably mate with external threads 395 of spoke 394. Spoke 394 includes an end portion 396 with external threads 395. The spoke 394 is shown in FIG. 5a to be threadably preassembled to the nipple 386, with external threads 395 mated to internal threads 391 and with the end portion 396 extending through the hole 390 along the longitudinal axis 37.

As shown in FIG. 5c, nipple 386 and spoke 394 are first inserted through hole 362 with nipple 386 located longitudinally outward of outboard surface 359 and with spoke 394 extending through the hole 362 in direction 381. The connector 366 is then assembled to the spoke bed 356 in direction 381 by pressing the ramped surfaces 375a and 375b into hole 362 such that the ramped surfaces 375a and 375b cam against the entrance to the hole 362 to flex the connector 366 and deflect prongs 370a and 370b in respective directions 385a and 385b proximal to each other and collapsing slots 373a and 373b and other internal surfaces. This flexure occurs within the prongs 370a and 370b and within the flange 368 adjacent the bottom of the slots 373a and 373b, generally about a flexure axis 369 (shown in FIG. 5a) that is generally parallel to an axial plane 97. Thus, the connector 366 is flexed to achieve an unexpanded or collapsed orientation such that width 384 is reduced to allow the enlarged portions 374a and 374b to pass through the hole 362 as shown. It is noted that the nipple 386 is shown to be clear and beyond the opening 377 during the collapsing of the connector 366. This provides the requisite clearance within opening 377 to allow the connector 366 to collapse as shown in FIG. 5c. It is preferable that this flexure or deformation of the connector 366 occurs by means of elastic deformation of the connector 366, so that the connector 366 may spring back to its original expanded or open orientation. However, it is also permissible for some plastic deformation to occur, since the subsequent engagement with the sleeve 386 will still force the connector into its open orientation.

As the connector 366 is further advanced in direction 381, the flange face 365 abuts the inboard surface 361 and overhang surfaces 376a and 376b are aligned with the outboard surface 359 of the spoke bed 356 such that the connector 366 springs back to its original expanded or open orientation as shown in FIG. 5d. The width 382 is now closely matched to the diameter 364 such that the collar portions 372a and 372b are adjoining sidewall 363 to generally fill the hole 362. The overhang surfaces 376a and 376b now laterally overlie the outboard surface 359 and retain the connector 366 within the hole 362. Additionally, the width of the flange 368 is shown to be larger than the diameter 364 of the hole 362, thus providing a depth limit stop for the connector to prevent the connector 366 from advancing too far beyond the outboard surface 359 and potentially becoming lost and disengaged with the spoke bed 356. The flange 368 is now adjacent the inboard surface 361 of the spoke bed 356. The nipple 366 is still clear of opening 377.

Next, as shown in FIG. 5e, spoke 394 and nipple 366 are together drawn in direction 397 along the opening axis 378 such that shank portion 388 extends through opening 377 and transition surface 392 contacts end faces 367a and 367b. The diameter of shank portion 388 is a close fit with opening 377 and serves to plug the opening 377. This provides a bracing and blocking engagement between the prongs 370a and 370b to limit the inward and proximal movement of the prongs 370a and 370b and preventing the connector 366 from inadvertently achieving an unexpanded or collapsed orientation. The prongs 370a and 370b are now locked in their expanded or open and spread orientation. Thus, the overlie engagement between the overhang surfaces 376a and 376b and outboard surface 359 is now maintained, thereby locking the connector 366 to the spoke bed 356. This blocking engagement is located to be longitudinally inward of the overlie engagement between the transition surface 392 and the end faces 370a and 370b.

The hole sidewall 363 serves to retain the collar portions 372a and 372b, preventing prongs from expanding too far such that the overlie engagement between transition surface 392 and end faces 367a and 367b is maintained. Transition surface 392 now has an overlie blocking engagement with end faces 367a and 367b the nipple 386 is now engaged to the connector 366 to resist spoke tension 30 forces and to retain the spoke 394 to the spoke bed 356. Thus the spoke 394 is connected and engaged with the nipple 386, which is connected and engaged to the connector 366, which is connected and engaged to the spoke bed 356. It should be noted that the nipple 386 serves as an intermediate connecting element between the spoke 394 and the connector 366. These connections effectively join the spoke 394 to the spoke bed 356 to resist spoke tension 30. Thus, a blind connection between the spoke 394 and the spoke bed 356 is achieved. It may be seen that the present invention, when use to provide a blind spoke connection to the rim, provides particular advantage in tubeless tire configurations, since the sealed tire bed (not shown) is not required to be pierced and may now be used as a sealing air barrier.

Since the shank portion 388 extends through the opening 377, flats 389 are now accessible on the exposed longitudinally inward side of flange 368, the nipple 386 may be rotated for threadable adjustment relative to the spoke 394 in the conventional manner and the spoke tension 30 pre-load may be adjusted by means of a wrench (not shown) engaged to flats 389. Further, the connector 366 may be prevented from inadvertently rotating during this adjustment by means of a wrench (not shown) engaged with flats 371.

End faces 367a and 367b are shown here to be flat and coplanar surfaces that are orthogonal to the opening axis 378. This permits matched surface-to-surface engagement contact with the mating transition surface 392, which is also planar and orthogonal to the opening axis 378. Alternatively, end faces 367a and 367b may define a wide range of alternate geometries. Opening 377 is shown here to be a straight circular cylindrical cavity that extends along the opening axis 378 as may be preferable. Alternatively, the opening 377 may be tapered and/or stepped and/or noncircular or of a wide range of alternate geometries. It is preferable that the overhang surfaces 376a and 376b be generally matched to the outboard surface 359 in a surface-to-surface overlie engagement. This maximizes the area of contact and minimizes the contact stress at this engagement interface. Alternatively, the overhang surfaces 376a and 376b may contact only an edge of the spoke bed 356, such as the longitudinally Outward edge of the hole 362, in a surface-to-edge overlie engagement. Such an engagement has comparatively reduced contact area and results in higher contact stress.

It is noted that end faces 367a and 367b constitute the longitudinally outward terminus of the connector 366 and that the overlie engagement between transition surface 392 and end faces 367a and 367b is located to be longitudinally outward from the outboard surface 359 by distance 379. This longitudinally outward orientation is preferable, since it allows the diameter 364 of hole 362 to be sized for close clearance fit with the diameter 398 of head portion 393. This permits the diameter 364 of the hole 362 to be minimized to insure the minimum amount of material removal (due to hole 362) and the maximum strength of the spoke bed 359. Alternatively, the overlie engagement between transition surface 392 and end faces 367a and 367b may be located longitudinally inward from the outboard surface 359. However, this requires that the prongs 370a and 370b must also include extension geometry that surrounds the head portion 393 and extends longitudinally outwardly through the hole 362 such that overhang surfaces 376a and 376b may engage the outboard surface 359. Thus, the diameter 364 of hole 362 must now be substantially larger than the diameter 398 of the head portion 393, since it must also accommodate this additional extension geometry of the prongs 370a and 370b. The larger hole 362 is less preferable, since it corresponds to more material removal and greater weakness of the spoke bed 359. The spoke bed 359 may require greater thickness and weight as a result.

FIG. 5f describes an embodiment similar to the embodiment of FIGS. 5a-e in all respects, except that the geometry of the nipple 386 is shown to be integral and monolithic with the spoke 394 to create spoke 404. Spoke 404 includes span portion 405, a shank portion 406 and an enlarged head portion 408. Transition surface 410 extends between shank portion 406 and head portion 408 and is shown here to be generally planar and perpendicular to the longitudinal axis 37. Shank portion 406 is of larger cross-sectional dimension than span portion 405 and includes flats 411 such that the spoke 404 may be manually manipulated with a wrench (not shown). Connector 366 and spoke bed 356 are identical to those described in FIGS. 5a-e. Thus, the spoke 404 may alternatively be substituted for spoke 394 and nipple 386 in FIGS. 5a-e.

FIG. 5f corresponds to the assembly sequence of FIG. 5e. Spoke 404 is assembled to the connector 386 and spoke bed 356 in a similar manner as that described in FIGS. 5a-e. Shank portion 406 extends through opening 377 and transition surface 410 contacts end faces 367a and 367b. The diameter of shank portion 406 is a close fit with opening 377, thus providing a bridging or blocking engagement between the prongs 370a and 370h to limit the inward movement of the prongs 370a and 370b and preventing the connector 366 from inadvertently achieving an unexpanded or collapsed orientation. The prongs 370a and 370b are now locked in their expanded or open and spread orientation. Thus, the overlie engagement between the overhang surfaces 376a and 376b and outboard surface 359 is now maintained, thereby locking the connector 366 to the spoke bed 356.

Further, transition surface 410 now has an overlie blocking engagement with end faces 367a and 367b the spoke 404 is now engaged to the connector 366 to resist spoke tension 30 forces and to retain the spoke 394 to the spoke bed 356. Thus the spoke 404 is connected and engaged with the connector 366, which is connected and engaged to the spoke bed 356. Unlike in FIGS. 5a-e, the spoke 404 is directly connected to the connector 366 and there is no intermediate connecting element required in this embodiment. Thus, a blind connection between the spoke 404 and the spoke bed 356 is achieved. Flats 411 are now accessible on the exposed longitudinally inward side of flange 368 and the spoke 404 may be rotated relative to the connector 366 by means of a wrench (not shown) engaged to flats 411. This rotation may be used to provide a threadable adjustment at the opposite end of the spoke (not shown).

FIG. 5g describes an embodiment similar to the embodiment of FIGS. 5a-e in all respects, except for a difference in the geometry of end faces 421a and 421b and the geometry of transition surface 410. FIG. 5g corresponds to the assembly step of FIG. 5e. FIGS. 5a-e show the geometry of end faces 421a and 421b and the geometry of transition surface 41 to be mating flat planar surfaces. In contrast, FIG. 5g shows the corresponding transition surface 431 of nipple 429 to be concave, including a longitudinal relief depth 434 and a perimeter rib 435. Similarly, corresponding end faces 439a and 439b of connector are shown to have convex geometry, with a longitudinal extensions 440a and 440b nested and mating within the concave transition surface 431. Perimeter rib 435 is shown to longitudinally overlap the longitudinal extensions 440a and 440b along the longitudinal axis 37, with perimeter rib 435 distal from the longitudinal axis 37 relative to longitudinal extensions 440a and 440b to thus surround and enclose longitudinal extensions 440a and 440b. The geometry of nipple 429 and connector 437 is otherwise identical to the geometry of nipple 386 and connector 366 respectively.

As the spoke tension 30 is increased, the contact stresses between the transition surface 431 and end faces 439a and 439b can be quite high, potentially causing end faces 439a and 439b to deflect laterally outwardly from the longitudinal axis 37. The longitudinal overlap between the perimeter rib 435 and end faces 439a and 439b serves as a barrier to restrict this outward deflection, thereby maintaining proper alignment between end faces 439a and 439b and transition surface 431.

FIG. 5h describes a connector 414 similar to connector 66 in most respects, except that the connector 414 includes three prongs 416a, 416b, and 416c, which include collar portions 418a, 418b and 418c respectively, enlarged portions 420a, 420b and 420c respectively, overhang surfaces 422a, 422b and 422c respectively, end faces 421a, 421b and 421c respectively and slots 424a, 424b and 424c. Connector 414 also includes flange 417 and opening 426. The connector 414 may alternatively be substituted for connector 66 in FIGS. 5a-e. This embodiment is representative of a range in quantity and configurations of prongs that may alternatively incorporated into the present invention.

The embodiment of FIGS. 6a-c is similar to the embodiment of FIGS. 5a-e. However, while FIGS. 5a-e shows a nipple 386 with a circular cylindrical shank portion, FIGS. 6a-d shows a nipple 470 with a non-circular shank portion 472 that includes longitudinal ribs 474a and 474b. Spoke bed 356 is identical to that shown and described in FIGS. 5a-e and is shown in fragmentary view for illustration purposes. It is understood that spoke bed 356 constitutes a portion of the rim or hub flange to which the connector 366 is attached. The connector 366 is identical to that shown and described in FIGS. 5a-e.

As shown in FIG. 6a, nipple 470 includes a shank portion 472 with longitudinal ribs 474a and 474b, an enlarged head portion 482 and a transition surface 480 therebetween. Transition surface 480 is shown here to be generally planar and perpendicular to the longitudinal axis 37. Nipple 470 also includes a countersink 479 and longitudinal hole 478 therethrough to accept the spoke 484. Spoke 484 includes a shank portion 486, an enlarged head 488 and a transition surface 489 therebetween. The spoke 484 is shown in FIG. 6a to be loosely preassembled to the nipple 470, with the shank portion 486 extending through the hole 478 along the longitudinal axis 37.

As shown in FIG. 6c, nipple 470 and spoke 484 are first inserted through hole 362 with nipple 470 well past the outboard surface 359 and with spoke 394 extending through the hole 362. The connector 366 is assembled to the spoke bed 356 in direction 381 in a manner identical to that described in FIGS. 5a-e. The overhang surfaces 376a and 376b now overlie the outboard surface 359 and retain the connector 366 within the hole 362. It is noted that ribs 474a and 474b are longitudinally aligned with slot 373a and 373b respectively.

Next, as shown in FIG. 6c, spoke 484 and nipple 470 are together drawn in direction 487 along the opening axis 378 such that shank portion 486 extends through opening 377 and transition surface 480 contacts end faces 367a and 367b. The diameter of shank portion 486 is a close fit with opening 377, thus providing a bridging or blocking engagement between the prongs 370a and 370b to limit the inward movement of the prongs 370a and 370b and preventing the connector 366 from inadvertently achieving an unexpanded or collapsed orientation as previously described. Additionally, the ribs 474a and 474b are nested and longitudinally overlapping slots 373a and 373b respectively. Thus, the nested engagement between ribs 474a and 474b and slots 373a and 373b further serve to provide an additional bridging or blocking engagement between the prongs 370a and 370b to limit their inward movement. In addition, the engagement between ribs 474a and 474b and slots 373a and 373b serve to rotationally key and lock the nipple 470 and connector 366 to each other about the opening axis 378. These blocking engagements are located to be longitudinally inward of the overlie engagement between the transition surface 480 and the end faces 370a and 370b. The prongs 370a and 370b are now locked in their expanded or open and spread orientation. Thus, the overlie engagement between the overhang surfaces 376a and 376b and outboard surface 359 is now maintained, thereby locking the connector 366 to the spoke bed 356.

Finally, as spoke tension 30 is applied to the spoke 484, the spoke 484 is drawn in direction 487 and the transition surface 489 is nested within the countersink 479 in an overlie engagement. Further, transition surface 480 now has an overlie blocking engagement with end faces 367a and 367b and the nipple 470 is now engaged to the connector 366 to resist spoke tension 30 forces and to retain the spoke 484 to the spoke bed 356. Thus the spoke 484 is connected and engaged with the nipple 470, which is connected and engaged to the connector 366, which is connected and engaged to the spoke bed 356. It should be noted that the nipple 470 serves as an intermediate connecting element between the spoke 484 and the connector 366. These connections effectively join the spoke 484 to the spoke bed 356 to resist spoke tension 30. Thus, a blind connection between the spoke 484 and the spoke bed 356 is achieved. It may be seen that the present invention, when use to provide a blind spoke connection to the rim, provides particular advantage in tubeless tire configurations, since the sealed tire bed (not shown) is not required to be pierced and may now be used as a sealing air barrier.

The embodiment of FIGS. 7a-c is similar to the embodiment of FIGS. 5a-e. However, while FIGS. 5a-e shows a nipple 386 as an intermediate connecting element and shows a connector with a straight opening 377, FIGS. 7a-c eliminates the nipple 386 in favor of a cylindrical head portion 534 that is integral with the spoke 530 and utilizes a connector 506 with a stepped opening 524. Spoke bed 356 is identical to that shown and described in FIGS. 5a-e and is shown in fragmentary view for illustration purposes. It is understood that spoke bed 356 constitutes a portion of the rim or hub flange to which the connector 366 is attached. The spoke 530 includes shank portion 532 and an enlarged head portion 534, with a transition surface 536 on the underside of the head portion 534 and extending to the shank portion 532. Transition surface 536 is shown here to be generally planar and perpendicular to the longitudinal axis 37.

Connector 506 includes a flange 510 and is bifurcated to include two prongs 512a and 512b. Prongs 512a and 512b each include associated collar portions 516a and 516b, enlarged portions 520a and 5201), and overhang surfaces 522a and 522b respectively. Slots 518a and 518b provide the requisite gap between prongs 512a and 512b and are shown to taper inward toward the flange 510. The opening 524 extends along the opening axis 523 through the flange 510 and the prongs 512a and 512b. In contrast to opening 377 of FIGS. 5a-e, the opening 524 is stepped to include an enlarged counterbore 538 and a smaller necked opening 528 and a step face 508 extending between the two. Step face 508 is shown here to be generally planar and perpendicular to the opening axis 523. It may be seen that the flange 510 is non-circular and includes flats 514 such that it may be manually manipulated with a wrench (not shown). Slots 518a and 518b are shown to be tapered, with a larger width at the opening adjacent the enlarged portions 520a and 520b and narrower width at the root adjacent the flange 510. Collar portions 516a and 516b are shown to extend between the flange 510 and their respective overhang surfaces 522a and 522b. It is noted that prongs 512a and 512b have external geometry such as the collar portions 516a and 516b and overhanging surfaces 522a and 522b, and internal geometry, such as opening 524 and slots 518a and 518b.

The spoke 530 is shown in FIG. 7a to preassembled to the spoke bed 356 in direction 540 with head portion 534 extending outboard of outboard surface 359 and with shank portion 532 extending through hole 362. The connector 506 is positioned longitudinally inward of inboard surface 361 and preassembled to the spoke 530 in direction 540, with the shank portion 532 extending through the opening 524. Next, the connector 506 is assembled to the spoke bed 356, in a manner as described in FIGS. 5c-d, such that overhang surfaces 522a and 522b engage outboard surface 359.

Next, as shown in FIG. 7c, spoke 530 is drawn in direction 542 along the opening axis 523 such that shank portion 528 extends through necked opening 528, head portion 534 is nested in counterbore 538 and transition surface 536 abuts contacts step face 508. The diameter of head portion 534 is a close fit with counterbore 538, thus providing a bridging or blocking engagement between the prongs 512a and 512b to limit the inward movement of the prongs 512a and 512b and prevent the connector 506 from inadvertently achieving an unexpanded or collapsed orientation. The prongs 512a and 512b are now locked in their expanded or open and spread orientation. Thus, the overlie engagement between the overhang surfaces 376a and 376b and outboard surface 359 is now maintained, thereby locking the connector 366 to the spoke bed 356. In comparison with the embodiment of FIGS. 5a-e, this blocking engagement is located to be longitudinally outward of the overlie engagement between the transition surface 536 and the step face 508.

Finally, as spoke tension 30 is applied to the spoke 530, the spoke 530 is drawn in direction 542 and the transition surface 536 bears against step face 508 in an overlie engagement. The spoke 530 is now directly engaged to the connector 506 to resist spoke tension 30 forces and to retain the spoke 530 to the spoke bed 356. Thus the spoke 530 is connected and engaged with the connector 506, which is connected and engaged to the spoke bed 356. These connections effectively join the spoke 530 to the spoke bed 356 to resist spoke tension 30. Thus, a blind connection between the spoke 530 and the spoke bed 356 is achieved. It may be seen that the present invention, when use to provide a blind spoke connection to the rim, provides particular advantage in tubeless tire configurations, since the sealed tire bed (not shown) is not required to be pierced and may now be used as a sealing air barrier.

It is noted that the overlie engagement between transition surface 536 and step face 508 is located to be longitudinally inward from the outboard surface 361 by distance 525. It is also noted that this requires that collar portions 516a and 516b surround the head portion 534 and extend through the hole 362 in order for overhang surfaces 522a and 522b to engage the outboard surface 359. Thus, the diameter 364 of hole 362 must be substantially larger than the diameter 535 of the head portion 534, since it must also accommodate the additional lateral offset distances 537a and 537b in addition to the diameter 535 of head portion 534. This is in contrast to the embodiment of FIGS. 5a-e, where the overlie engagement between transition surface 392 and end faces 370a and 370b is located to be longitudinally outward from the outboard surface 359. In FIGS. 5a-e, the hole 362 does not need to be sized to accommodate this additional lateral offset geometry. Thus, the diameter 364 of hole 362 may be comparatively reduced relative to the diameter 398 of head portion 393, requiring only a clearance fit between diameters 398 and 3364. In contrast to FIGS. 5a-e, the larger hole 573 and/or smaller head portion 534 of FIGS. 7a-c results in a reduced projected area of overlie engagement between transition surface 536 and step face 508 (corresponding to higher stress at the overlie engagement) and/or a larger diameter 364 of hole 362 (corresponding to a weaker spoke bed 356).

While shank portion 532 and head portion 534 are shown to be generally circular and concentric about the longitudinal axis 37, shank portion 532 and/or head portion 534 may alternatively be noncircular and/or eccentric about the longitudinal axis 37. In such a case, the necked opening 528 and/or the counterbore 538 may include corresponding noncircular geometry to provide a rotationally keyed engagement between the spoke 530 and the connector 506.

While my above description contains many specificities, these should not be construed as limitations on the scope of the invention, but rather as exemplifications of embodiments thereof. It is to be understood that the invention is not limited to the illustrations described and shown herein, which are deemed to be merely illustrative of the best modes of carrying out the invention, and which are susceptible of modification of form, size, and arrangement of parts and details of operation. For example:

The connectors of the previous embodiments are shown to be “normally open” and expanded in their relaxed state. These connectors are pressed into their respective holes or are otherwise collapsed to the point where the enlarged portions may pass through the hole in the spoke bed. Alternatively, the connector may be “normally closed” such that it is collapsed in its relaxed state. This “normally closed” connector is first assembled to the spoke bed as previously described. Upon the subsequent assembly and insertion of the spoke and/or nipple to the opening of connector, the connector is biased to the open and expanded position, thus locking the connector to the spoke bed as previously described.

While it is shown in many of these figures that the central axis of the opening of the connector is generally collinear with the central axis of the corresponding hole in the spoke bed, the central axis of the opening may alternatively be offset or may be angular with respect to the central axis of the corresponding hole. Further, while it is shown in many of these figures that the central axis of the opening of the connector is generally collinear with the tensile axis of the spoke span, the central axis of the opening may alternatively be at an angle to the tensile axis. In such a case, the spoke may be bent or deflected such that its longitudinal axis is aligned with the opening.

The nipple may be regarded as an intermediate component in the connection between the spoke and the ferrule. In other words, the spoke connects to the sleeve, the sleeve connects to the connector, and the connector connects to the rim or hub. Further, there may also be additional intermediate components inserted in this chain of connection.

These figures show the connector component to include a flange located externally and longitudinally inward relative to the hole to which the connector is assembled. Such a flange may be useful in creating an external overlie engagement with the inboard surface of the spoke bed to control positioning of the connector and also prevent the connector from inadvertently being pushed clear through the hole. However, it should be recognized that the primary engagement of the present invention is the engagement to resist spoke tension, which is in the opposite direction to the overlie engagement of the flange. Therefore, the flange may provide a desirable convenience to aid in the assembly and/or retention of the ferrule but may not be a requirement for proper function of some or all of the embodiments described herein. The present invention may still be functional without incorporating an external flange of the connector.

The connector component may remain stationary with respect to spoke bed, while the sleeve and/or the spoke may be rotated about the longitudinal axis. Alternatively, the connector component may be permitted to rotate relative to the spoke bed. If desired, this would allow the connector to rotate and slip at its interface with the spoke bed.

The embodiments described herein show a hole in the spoke bed that is generally circular about the central axis as well as prongs with generally circular cylindrical collar portions. This circular hole may be preferable, since such a hole may be easily achieved in a simple drilling operation. However, the hole in the spoke bed may alternatively be non-circular about the central axis. Further, the collar portion(s) of the connector may have projections or reliefs or other non-circular geometry. Still further, the noncircular geometry of the connector may mate with the noncircular hole of the spoke bed for a rotationally keyed engagement about the central axis and/or about the longitudinal axis.

Several of the embodiments described herein also show a spoke bed with generally flat inboard and outboard surfaces. Alternatively, the inboard and/or outboard surface of the spoke bed may be non-flat and employ a configured surface with projections and/or recesses. Further, the overhang surface(s) and/or flange of the connector may have non-flat geometry where these portions contact the spoke bed. Still further, the non-flat geometry of the overhang surface(s) and/or flange of the connector may mate with the non-flat geometry of the inboard and/or outboard surface of the spoke bed. Such mating of non-flat surfaces may provide a rotationally keyed engagement between the connector and the spoke bed about the central axis and/or about the longitudinal axis.

The embodiments described herein show a blind connection with a blind hole through which the connector is connected. However the present invention may prove to be advantageous to achieve such a blind connection even in arrangements where the hole itself is not a blind hole and there is access to both ends of the hole.

While the embodiments show a surface-to-surface overlie engagement between a surface of the spoke and a surface of the connector, it is also envisioned that this overlie engagement may include a surface-to-edge engagement, where the spoke or the connector includes an engagement edge that has an overlie engagement with a surface of the other of the spoke or connector.

The embodiments described herein show the spoke as connected to the connector via a connection between the spoke and both prongs of the connector. However it is envisioned that the spoke may alternatively be connected to only one of the prongs and not connected to another of the prongs.

The embodiments described herein show the each prong of the connector to include an overhang surface to engage the spoke bed. Alternatively, one (or more) of the prongs may not include an enlarged portion or an overhang surface such that at least one of the prongs includes the requisite overhang surface to engage the spoke bed. Further, many of the embodiments described herein show a connector with all of the overhang surfaces coinciding with a generally common plane. It is envisioned that the multiple overhang surfaces of a single connector may be offset from each other and may correspond to different longitudinal heights.

Accordingly, the scope of the invention should be determined not by the embodiments illustrated, but is instead intended to encompass all such modifications that are within its spirit and scope as defined by the claims.