"Can you ride a bike with a broken spoke?" Let's find out.
Anyone who rides a bike for more than just a few months has probably broken a spoke.
Usually, it springs out and knocks against the wheel and other spokes as it comes loose.
Then you’re left with the dilemma of whether to stop or ride on.
So what should you do?
What causes a broken spoke?
Let's go back to basics to explain the causes of a broken spoke.
The wheels of bikes have rims. Each rim has a series of spokes connected to it. Half of the spokes pull to the left and the other half pull to the right.
These keep tension on the rim and cause the wheel to run ‘true.’ This simply means it isn’t wobbling to the left or right, it’s a straight, smooth ride.
Over time the rim picks up dirt and dust. This grime begins to wear it down, and the tension begins to change. The danger of a spoke coming loose increases over time. They need tightening or loosening to readjust and maintain the tension.
Sometimes a wheel may buckle through hitting a curb or another bump at the wrong angle.
Hitting stuff can cause one or more spokes to come loose.
The more damage to the rim the likelier spoke damage occurs.
Can I continue riding my bike with a broken spoke?
Whether or not to continue riding once you’ve discovered a broken spoke depends on how many are broken and where you are at the time.
If a single spoke comes loose and you’re in the middle of a commute to work, then it’s relatively safe to ride the rest of the way. Finish your journey and then examine the problem.
Ideally, every cyclist should have a small roadside kit to make quick repairs. Then, when a single spoke breaks, you can replace it before any more damage is done.
On the other hand, if three or four spokes come loose or break you'll need to stop cycling. If you don't the wheel will buckle significantly and lead to more expensive repairs.
And if you've got some wheel lights they may fall out if too many spokes break at once.
It’s possible to ride a bike with just one spoke missing for several months, but the longer it goes un-repaired, the more damage will be done. Other spokes will come loose. The wheel may begin to buckle and eventually it will have to be taken into a shop.
Click here to see how much an average bicycle tune up would cost you.
How do I repair a broken spoke?
The good news is you can repair wheels. Although to repair it you'll need the right tools. A Spoke Key and Wheel Truing Jig (only if the wheel is buckled) are the two tools needed to complete the job.
The spoke itself is between $1-2 to buy. (which is why you should repair your wheel before it starts to buckle).
Some bike shops will also put on workshops that teach cyclists how to do this so check with your local store. If you’re not 100%, it may be best taking the bike to a repair shop.
The likely cost will be about $25 or £35.
The majority of the cost involved with fixing a spoke is paying for the labour. If you need to take it into a shop, then take some time to compare prices.
For more info on how to repair a broken spoke check out the excellent video below by the GCN guys.
Roadside repair kit
No one wants to be stranded halfway to work because they have a broken spoke or flat tyre and can’t do anything about it.
It’s no fun lifting your bike up over your shoulders and carrying it five to ten miles.
Damaging your bike is something no one want's, but everyone should expect.
Before you start your journey think about the bare minimum that needs to be in your kit.
Since we’re focussing on spokes for this post, I won’t go into any more details about the repair kit. Just remember that you need to carry one and the more you’re prepared for, the better.
What can I do to prevent a spoke breaking?
There are some things you can do to minimize the chances of a spoke breaking. First, don’t ride up curbs. In places with lots of pavement, it can be tempting to take shortcuts that take your bike over curbs. Don’t do it (like I do)!
If you hit the hump head on or at a strange angle, you can cause serious damage to the wheel, rim, and spokes. The same goes for any bikes that are using trails.
Secondly, wash your bike often, particularly the wheels. Dirt and grime build up over time and begin to corrode the wheel and rims. Get in the habit of wiping the bike down after every long trip, and once a week after commuting.
Washing a bike only takes a few minutes. Use a hose/bucket of soapy water, a sponge, and a brush. A clean bike also has the added benefit of allowing you to spot minor glitches before they become a major problem.
Spokes are one of the often overlooked but necessary components of your bike. They keep the wheel true, the ride smooth and can even be accessorised if that’s your style. Look after them.