The rim is connected to the hub by several spokes under tension. Original bicycle wheels used wooden spokes that could be loaded only in compression, modern bicycle wheels almost exclusively use spokes that can only be loaded in tension. There are a few companies making wheels with spokes that are used in both compression and tension.
One end of each spoke is threaded for a specialized nut, called a nipple, which is used to connect the spoke to the rim and adjust the tension in the spoke. This is normally at the rim end. The hub end normally has a 90 degree bend to pass through the spoke hole in the hub, and a head so it does not slip through the hole.
Double-butted spokes have reduced thickness over the center section and are lighter, more elastic, and more aerodynamic than spokes of uniform thickness. Single-butted spokes are thicker at the hub and then taper to a thinner section all the way to the threads at the rim. Triple-butted spokes also exist and are thickest at the hub, thinner at the threaded end, and thinnest in the middle.
Apart from tubeless wheels, which do not need them, tubed bicycle wheels require rim tapes or strips, a flexible but tough liner strip (usually rubber or woven nylon or similar material) attached to the inner circumference of the wheel to cover the ends of the nipples. Otherwise, the nipple ends wear a hole in the tube causing a flat tire.
In 2007, Mavic introduced their R-Sys, a new bicycle spoke technology that allows the spokes to be loaded in both tension and compression. This technology is promised to allow for fewer spokes, lower wheel weight and inertia, increased wheel stiffness, with no loss of durability. However, in 2009 Mavic recalled R-Sys front wheels due to spoke failures leading to collapse of the entire wheel.
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