Can You Ride A Mountain Bike With A Broken Spoke?

Navigating through rocks, tree roots and other obstacles is one of the great draws of mountain biking. Unfortunately this difficult terrain will sometimes lead to bike wrecks. Breaking a bike spokes is one of the more common things that can happen. In this post we’ll discover if its safe to ride your mountain bike with a broken. I’ll explain exactly how to fix your bike spoke if it happens to you.

Can You Ride A Mountain Bike With A Broken Spoke? If you have a 32 spoke wheel then your bike should still function properly for a short ride home. If you have a 16 spoke wheel losing 1 or 2 spokes is a much bigger deal. In both cases you should replace the spoke as soon as possible as you are at risk for further wheel damage.

So since breaking a spoke is such a common issue let’s dive in and answer a few more questions.

  • Should I Try To Ride Home After I Break A Spoke?
  • Should You Repair The Spoke Yourselves or Hire A Pro?
  • How Much Does It Cost To Repair a Broken Spoke?

Mountain Biking | Broken Spokes 101

Should I Try To Ride Home After I Break A Spoke?

You are in the middle of an epic ride and BAM! You wreck and look down and see one of your spokes is broken. Should I risk and try to ride home. If you have a 32 spoke wheel your probably going to be ok getting home but travel at safe speed and avoice obstacles.

If you have a 16 spoke wheel then the risk of damaging your wheel goes way up because you essentially lost over 6% of your wheels stability. Losing a spoke on a 32 spoke wheel you only lose 3% of your wheels stability.

In either case riding a mountain bike with a broken spoke will create more stress on the other spokes. Overtime this will cause greater damage to the wheel. It is recommended that you replace the spoke right away.

“If you break one spoke you should replace it immediately. Failure to do so will result in more of your spokes breaking.”

Nytro Multisport

Should You Repair The Spoke Yourselves or Hire A Pro?

To answer this question you really need to have an honest assessment of your bike repair skills. Do you have the proper tools & equipment that is needed to repair the spoke? If you aren’t savvy in repairing things do you have the adequate time available to repair the wheel. Although repairing a spoke seems like a very easy process it can go sideways fast if you don’t have the right tools to make sure its done right.

The greatest benefit when hiring a professional is that they are pros and have probably replaced 1000s of spokes in the shop. A broken spoke might not be the only issue. You may have also damaged the interior portion of the rim. The rim tape might also be compromised so you’ll have to replace that as well. The tools needed to replace a mountain bike wheel are very specific to bike repair. If this is your first bike and you don’t have these tools it might cost you more to repair it yourself rather than having a shop fix it.

The spoke itself only costs between $2-$5. So that in itself is extremely cheap. If you take it to a bike shop for the repair you can expect to pay somewhere between $30-$65 for the spoke repair. Keep in mind these are simple and easy repairs for a bike shop can be extremely difficult for someone that hasn’t ever worked with mountain bike wheels.

One last benefit of hiring a pro is that there could be a bigger underlying issue going on that you might miss. If your rim is slightly damaged and you miss it you’ll have more issues with your bike down the road. The pros have the right tools to be able to check for any other issues that could have occurred.

How Much Does It Cost To Repair a Broken Spoke?

The actual spokes only cost between $2-$5. If you take your bike into a shop you’re looking at about $30-$65 to repair a spoke. If you break more than 1 spoke it should raise this price too much.

If you have wheel damage and need to replace that you are looking at a replacement cost of $200-$500.

Another important thing to consider is the time cost you’ll incur for repairing a broken spoke. If you don’t know what you’re doing you could take a long time to complete this relatively simple repair.

Although repairing a broken spoke seems like a simple and easy repair you’re also adjusting critical components on the bike. If any of these components get compromised you could end up damaging parts of your bike that were previously working fine.

8 Steps For Repairing A Mountain Bike Spoke

OK so you want to take it on and repair this spoke yourself. Here is what you’ll need and a step by step guide on how to get it done.

  • Tools Needed To Repair A Mountain Bike Wheel
    • Replacement Spokes
    • Replacement Spokes Nipples
    • Allen Keys To Remove Wheel From Bike
    • Chain Whip
    • Cassette Removal Tool With Adjustable Spanner
    • Rim Tape
    • Spoke Keys
    • Spoke Tension Meter
    • Wheel Jig

8 Steps For Repairing A Mountain Bike Spoke

Step 1 – Prep the wheel

Prepare the wheel for repair. Check the rim and spoke area to make sure it isn’t damaged.

Step 2 – Remove cassette or disc rotar

Remove the cassette. If you are repairing the the front wheel you’ll just need to remove the disc rotar.

Step 3 – Check to your spoke type

Make sure you have the correct length and type of spoke for your bike. The easiest way to do this is match up the remaining spokes on your bike with your new replacement spokes.

Step 4 – Check for other damaged spokes

Check for any other damaged spokes and remove them as well. Once they are removed your ready to put in the new spokes. Be sure to eye your rim as well some bends and dents are hard to see.

Step 5 – Insert the new spokes

Insert new spokes into the wheel. Follow the exact same pattern as the other spokes. Just hand tighten the spokes for now. Just enough to hold it with a little bit of tension. Once all are hand tightened use the spoke key to finish the tightening.

Step 6 – Adjust the tension

Make adjustments on the spokes to make sure the tension is right and balanced for all spokes. It should coast smoothly while in the wheel jig. Keep making adjustments until your wheel rolls straight. You’ll be using your spoke key for this step. It’s important to make sure you purchase the correct spoke key. If you are confused on which one to purchase ask a pro.

Step 7 – Add new rim tape

If the rim tape was punctured you’ll need to add the rim tape at this time. You can also use gorilla tape for this job. Many bike manufacturers use gorilla tape.

Step 8 – Add your tube and tire

Once the rim tape is installed you are ready to add your tube and tire back onto the bike. Pump up that tire and you are ready to get back out there.

If you are a visual learner, The Global Mountain Bike Network put together a great resource that takes you through the step by step process of repairing a mountain bike spoke.

Related Questions

What does riding on a bent wheel feel like? If your wheel is bent it will decrease the performance of your bike. It could also be connecting with your break pads while rotating which will cause you to slow down. Most mountain bikers will try to have someone straighten out there wheels before riding on a bent wheel.

How dangerous is a bent rim? Bent rims can be very dangerous especially if it is severely bent. You’ll lose control at some of the most critical times. Bent rims are easy to spot to the naked eye and rimes can normally be replaced for around $200 to $500.

Mike Rausa

I'm a 42 year old married father of 3 that fell in love with mountain biking late in life. Mountain biking quickly became my go to fitness activity. I created this blog to help beginners to advanced riders with tips and strategies to improve your riding experience. More About Me...

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