Sapim hails from Belgium. A spoke manufacturer founded by Herman Schoonhoven at the end of WW1 in 1918. 2018 marks a century of innovative production, and I am sure a lot of unique expertise has been gained over those many decades. So what is it that separates Sapim from it's competition.
As an ISO 9001 certified company Sapim takes quality control very seriously. Its SCFT system (Sapim Advanced Cold Forging) produces spokes with a proprietary manufacturing process that enables them to stand apart from the competition. It's no wonder that world champions and olympic athletes have stood on the podium thankful that they put their trust in Sapim's products.
Their are a few spoke models that are perennial favourites with many wheel builders including myself. The most famous spoke would undoubtedly be the CX Ray. A bladed "aero" spoke that boasts a super light weight as well as being the strongest spoke that Sapim makes. This model is fairly ubiquitous in the pro peloton as the default ultimate racing spoke. The middle section of this spoke has a strength of 1600 N/mm2 which may not mean a lot to the uninitiated but believe me that's impressive! It's dimensions are 2.0 x 0.9 x 2.2mm. It's weight is close to that of a titanium spoke which is also a notable achievement. Available in both a standard J bend and a straight pull version. Each Sapim spoke is stamped with the companies name, proudly displaying who made it.
The Sapim Race is their meat and potatoes double butted spoke. I really like this particular spoke as it suits the needs of probably the most cyclists buying hand built wheels. It has excellent strength characteristics and is an ideal weight for most riders. A 14 gauge spoke with a 2.0 x 1.8 x 2.0mm dimension. A very respectable middle section strength of 1300 N/mm2. Available in both black or a silver finish in either straight pull or J bend. Perfect for a set of racing or training wheels. MTB riders could choose between these and CX Rays.
The Sapim Force flies a little under the radar but it really shouldn't. It's actually a fave spoke of mine. It's very close to the dimensions of the Race model but has a slightly thicker section closest to the hub flange. This slight increase in size has a noticeable increase in overall strength. Perfect for slightly heavier riders or those who aren't exactly careful with their wheels. I use them to help beef up MTB or gravel wheels or even for light touring wheels. A great solution when just a little extra strength is desired, with next to no weight penalty. It has a dimension of 2.18 x 1.8 x 2.0mm. The centre section boasts 1400 N/mm2 in tensile strength.
Sapim also manufacturers their own spoke nipples. I was happy to see them finally add a hexagonal nipple to the selection. I have used 5.5 mm hex head nipples almost exclusively for the last 5 years and therefore most of the old school slot head nipples hold no interest for me. The advantage of hex head nipples are twofold. The ability to work from behind the nipple affords the use of different kinds of tools to turn nipples, yet it still has the conventional 3.2mm square interface for normal spoke keys on the other side of the rim. It also has a taller head which means more of the threaded end of the spoke is held by the nipple. This strengthens this junction and gives the wheel builder a little bit of grace for the spoke length. If a spoke is a half millimetre too short it's no big deal.
The humble Sapim HM washer should not be forgotten. This little round washer cups most spoke nipples perfectly providing just the right amount of support for rims that have no eyelets. I have been using it for years now and i appreciate the protection it offers to alloy rims without eyelets. This helps to prevent rims from cracking, which is not uncommon for many modern alloy rims that have forgone the use of stainless steel eyelets.
Recently Sapim enlisted the help of the folks at P&K Lie, makers of the most desirable wheel truing stand in existence to design them a suitable spoke tension meter. This German company came up with a plier style design not that dissimilar from the well known DT Swiss Tensio 2. It's a good quality meter that comes with all the necessary paperwork to correlate actual spoke tension with the various Sapim spoke models.
These days I am predominantly using Sapim spokes for most of my custom wheel builds. I have found the quality control to be quite excellent, which is essential for high end wheels.
I certainly haven't discussed every single product that Sapim makes, so a trip to their website wouldn't be a bad idea if your curious about what else they make.