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What to Do When a Bike Spoke Breaks While Riding

Were you casually riding in nature, and suddenly your bike’s spoke broke? This can be difficult, and it is okay to be clueless because we are here to fill you in on everything you need to know. 

When a bike spoke breaks, you can continue riding and take your bike home. To fix it, you will identify the spoke, remove it from the nipple, and replace it with a new one. Do not hesitate to ask for help from a bike technician. 

Please continue reading for more information on bike spokes and how you can best take care of them. 

Image of a bicycle's pedal and wheel.

What Are Bike Spokes?

Bike spokes are thin metal rods connecting the wheel’s hub to its rim. They are essential for providing strength and support to the wheel and come in various lengths, materials, and designs. The number of spokes used on a wheel will vary depending on the type of bike and its intended purpose.

Why Do Bike Spokes Break?

Bike spokes can break for a variety of reasons. We will discuss all of these in detail below. 

Poor Maintenance

Poor maintenance can lead to bike spoke breaking in a few ways:

  1. If the spoke tension is not adjusted properly and consistently, the spokes will be too loose and can break with normal riding.
  2. If the spoke nipples are not properly lubricated, they can become corroded, weaken, and break.
  3. If the spokes are regularly trued and tensioned, they can stay strong and break easily due to flexing.

Riding On Rough Terrain

Riding on rough terrain can put a lot of strain on bike spokes, which can cause them to break over time. The jarring and impact of riding over uneven terrain can cause the spokes to bend and become fatigued, leading to breakage. 

Additionally, when riding over rocks, bumps, and roots, the spokes can become entangled and cause them to break. When riding on rough terrain, it is important to ensure that your spokes are tight and that your bike is in good condition to reduce the risk of spoke breakage.

Wear And Tear

Image of a bike wheel.

Wear and tear in bike spokes can be caused by various factors. These include the spoke being stretched beyond its limit due to the weight of the rider and their gear, the spoke coming into contact with a sharp object, or the spoke being subjected to constant cycles of tension and release due to the pedaling motion. 

When the spoke has been stretched beyond its limit or when it has been damaged, it can break due to wear and tear.

Over-tightening The Spokes 

Over-tightening the spokes on a bicycle wheel can cause damage to the wheel and other components. Over-tightening the spokes can put too much tension on the wheel, which can cause the wheel to be out of true and cause the spokes to snap or bend. 

This can lead to poor performance and even catastrophic failure of the wheel. Additionally, over-tightening the spokes can lead to premature wear on the hub, rims, and other components.

Incorrect Tension On The Wheel

Incorrect tension on the wheel can cause bike spokes to break by putting too much strain on them, causing them to become brittle and eventually snap. This is because the tension on the wheel affects the tension in the spokes. 

If the tension is too high, the spokes become over-stressed, causing them to become brittle and break. If the tension is too low, the spokes become loose and can also cause them to break.

Poor Quality Materials

Poor quality materials can cause bike spokes to break due to fatigue. Low-grade metals can be weaker and more prone to cracking and breaking under the stress of cycling, especially when exposed to wet or salty conditions. 

Poorly made spokes may also be too thin for the intended use and, therefore, more likely to break. Poorly formed threads can prevent spokes from properly gripping the hub and rim and contribute to premature failure. 

Finally, improper spoke tension could cause spokes to fatigue and break from the constant flexing.

Image of a bike wheel and spokes.

What To Do If The Bike Spoke Breaks While Riding?

If the bike spoke breaks while riding, you should stop immediately and assess the situation. If the spoke is still attached to the hub, try to tighten it as much as possible. If the spoke is loose, you may need to replace it. If the spoke is completely broken, you will need to replace it with a new one. 

If the spoke is severely bent, you may need to replace the entire wheel. It’s best to take your bike to a bike shop for professional help.

Can The Bike Still Work With A Broken Spoke?

Yes, in most cases, a bike can still work with a broken spoke, but it is not recommended. The wheel may become slightly out of truth, meaning it may wobble or slightly bend. A broken spoke can put extra strain on other spokes, making them more likely to break. It can also cause the wheel to become out of true, making it difficult to ride.

How To Fix A Broken Bike Spoke? 

If you are faced with a problem with your bike spoke, here is how to fix it. 

  1. First, you will need to identify which spoke is damaged. This can be done by inspecting the wheels and looking for any bent or broken spokes. 
  2. Once you have identified the damaged spoke, you will need to remove it. This can be done by using a spoke wrench to loosen the spoke nipple. 
  3. Once the spoke has been removed, you can replace it with a new one. You will need to cut the new spoke to the correct length and then thread it through the rim and hub. 
  4. Finally, you will need to tighten the spoke. This can be done using a spoke wrench to tighten the spoke nipple. Make sure to tighten it evenly on both sides. 
  5. Once the spoke has been tightened, you can check the wheel for true. If there is any wobble, you can adjust the spokes until the wheel is straight.

For more assistance, watch this video:

Why Is It Dangerous To Ride With A Broken Bike Spoke?

Riding a bike with a broken spoke is dangerous because it affects its ability to ride safely. The broken spoke can cause the wheel to become misaligned, which can cause the wheel to wobble and can lead to an unstable ride, which can cause the rider to lose control and potentially crash. 

The broken spoke can also stress the other spokes more, leading to the wheel becoming further out of true and the other spokes breaking. Moreover, the wheel’s rims are impacted and become weaker as they experience more strain. 

Do Mountain Bike Spokes Break More Often?

Yes, the spokes of mountain bikes are more susceptible to breaking compared to other bikes. Mountain bikes experience a lot of wear and tear due to the terrain, which can cause the spokes to break more often. 

The rougher terrain means more vibrations and shocks, which puts more strain on the spokes. Poorly maintained wheels are more prone to breaking, as are wheels that need to be better tensioned. A

dditionally, riders may need to be more comfortable with the terrain, leading to more abrupt stops and starts, which can cause spokes to snap under strain. 

How Often Do The Spokes Of Road Bikes Break?

The spokes of road bikes rarely break. Most spokes will last for years if they are properly tensioned and maintained. However, if a spoke is loose or damaged, it may need to be replaced. 

It is also possible for a spoke to break due to an impact or due to a manufacturing defect. In any case, checking your bike’s spokes regularly and replacing damaged spokes as soon as possible can help to prevent broken spokes.

How Often Do The Spokes Of A Gravel Bike Break?

The spokes of a gravel bike rarely break, as gravel bikes are designed for durability and strength. However, the spokes may become damaged if the bike is used on rough terrain or is not maintained properly. 

If this happens, it is important to have the spokes replaced as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

How Often Do The Spokes Of A Touring Bike Break?

The spokes of a touring bike can break from time to time, depending on how often the bike is used and the terrain it is ridden on. Generally, it is rare for the spokes to break often; however, if the bike is frequently ridden on rough terrain or off-road, the spokes may need to be replaced periodically. 

Moreover, the amount of weight put on a touring bike impacts the durability of the spokes. If a touring bike is laden beyond its capacity, the bike spokes will be likelier to break. 

How Often Should Bike Spokes Be Replaced?

The frequency of spoke replacement depends on how often and hard you ride. Generally, regular cyclists should inspect and replace spokes every six months to a year. If you ride frequently and hard, you may need to inspect and replace them every few months.

Bike Spoke Care And Maintenance

Maintenance and care are crucial to ensure your bike spokes’ longevity. Incorporate the following tips into your bike care routine and watch the results. 

  • Bike spoke care and maintenance are important to keep your bike running smoothly. Spokes that are not properly cared for can cause your bicycle to become unstable and even dangerous to ride. Here are some tips for maintaining and caring for your bike spokes:
  • Inspect your bike’s spokes regularly for signs of damage or wear. If your spokes are bent, cracked, or otherwise damaged, replace them as soon as possible.
  • Make sure the spoke nipples are tight and secure. Loose spokes can cause your bike to become unstable while riding.
  • Clean your spokes with a brush and a mild soap and water solution. This will help remove dirt, debris, and rust that can build up over time and cause your spokes to become weak or damaged.
  • Lubricate your spokes with a bike-specific lubricant to help prevent rust and corrosion.
  • Inspect your bike’s wheel rims for wear. Worn rims can cause your spokes to become loose and cause your bike to become unstable.
  • Regularly check your wheel bearings for wear. Worn wheel bearings can cause your spokes to become loose and cause your bike to become unstable.
  • Take your bike to a professional bike shop for regular maintenance and adjustments. This will help ensure that your spokes are in good condition and that your bike is running smoothly.

What To Do If The Bike Wheel Hub Breaks?

If the bike wheel hub breaks, you should take the wheel to a bike shop to be inspected and repaired. Depending on the severity of the damage, the shop may need to replace the hub or the entire wheel. You may also need to replace the spokes if they are damaged. It is important to consult a professional to ensure the wheel is repaired correctly and safely.

Why Does The Hub Break?

The bike wheel hub can break for several reasons: stress fractures, bearing failure, improper installation, and inadequate maintenance. Stress fractures occur due to the constant strain of riding on the bike while bearing failure can be caused by a lack of lubrication or excess contamination. 

Improper installation can lead to the hub needing to be able to handle the load it was designed for. Finally, inadequate maintenance can lead to a build-up of dirt and debris in the hub, which can cause it to become brittle and eventually break.

Image of bike handlebars.

What To Do If The Handlebar Of The Bike Bends While Riding?

If the bike’s handlebar bends while riding, it is important to stop immediately, as this could be dangerous. The bike should be inspected to determine the cause of the bend and then taken to a bike shop to repair or replace it. 

If the bike is too damaged to be repaired, it may be necessary to purchase a new handlebar. Here’s how you can align the handlebar: 

  1. Remove the handlebar from the stem.
  2. Place the handlebar in a vise and adjust it, so the bend is even.
  3. Clamp the handlebar firmly and use a rubber mallet to tap the bend back into place gently.
  4. Re-install the handlebar to the stem and tighten the stem bolts firmly.
  5. Test the handlebar for proper alignment.
  6. If necessary, adjust the stem and handlebar clamp to align the handlebar with the wheel.

Final Thoughts

Riding a bike is fun, but it comes with risks. One risk that we identify in this article is the fragility of the bike spoke, as it may break if the rider is not paying attention to their bike. This is why we encourage regular inspection and assessment of your bike to catch any wear and tear that may be leading to long-term loss.