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Help! I’ve Broken a Spoke!

By Sarah Bonner

Broken-spokeThe rare twang of a broken spoke is no cause for heart break. Spokes are set under tension and hold a wheel true (straight). When one or more spokes break, the tension balance of the wheel is thrown off and your wheel becomes wobbly and hard to handle. A spoke can break off one end (at the rim or the hub), it can break in the middle, or it can lose tension and remain intact. In any case, you can’t continuously ride with a broken spoke because the unbalanced tension will eventually cause more spokes to break and damage your rim.

Here are a few simple adjustments you can make while you’re out on the road to get yourself home or to the bike shop.

1. If the spoke hasn’t completely broken, check which one it is by flicking each spoke. Then, to keep the broken spoke out of your drive train, fasten it to the spoke next to it with a cable-tie/tape/hair elastic or manually bend it so it wraps around another spoke. (See video below.)

2. Next, if you have a spoke key on a multi-tool, straighten out the wheel by tightening the two spokes next to the loose one on the same side and then loosen the two spokes directly opposite the broken one on the other side. Free spin the wheel to check how straight it is.

3. If you don’t have a spoke key don’t worry but you’ll need to adjust the brakes to allow the wheel to spin freely. Using the quick release brake lever, open your brakes until there is enough wheel clearance. If you need more space, turn the brake barrel to the right.

4. If you have more than one broken spoke or you can’t adjust the brakes enough for the wheel to spin clear, you need to call for a lift home.

5. Head directly home, riding slowly and extra carefully. Your wheel will feel wobbly. Avoid putting too much power down, hard braking, bunny hopping, and any pot holes.

6. Before your next ride, replace the spoke or take your wheel into the bike shop.


Sarah Bonner the author of two e-articles, How To Use A Foam Roller: An Illustrated Guide for Cyclists and The Clean Girl’s Guide to Cycling: How to Clean Everything from Bar Tape to Sports Bras, has lived and cycled in Canada, Africa, and Europe. Currently, she splits her time between the Netherlands and South Africa where she trains and competes at an amateur level. With a Masters in English and a Diploma in Sports Management, Sarah combines her love of writing and passion for cycling to share honest advice and inspiring stories. Follow her at sarahkimbonner.wordpress.com

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