Bike spokes are a small but significant part of your bicycle. Their purpose is to support the weight to the center of the wheel. It’s a balancing agent that suffers from the occasional fatigue and craps out on you.
Breaking a spoke is not that uncommon and this article will advise you on how to avoid them, repairing the spokes yourself, costs involved, as well as some top-rated bike recommendations.
Why Your Bike Spokes Keep Breaking & How To Stop It? Bike spokes break most commonly due to wear and tear. A high-frequent cause for spoke breaks is that the rider has hit a curb or pothole, doesn’t maintain the bike well, or the passenger is too heavy for that model. Rougher terrain will also deteriorate the rims faster, which in turn deteriorates the spokes faster.
Investing in a quality bike that is suited to your specific terrain is what will save you time, money, and energy.
If you own a bike for fun or for commuting purposes, you ought to know the correct bike for your body type and environment so it can be enjoyed as intended.
There is nothing worse than riding down the street on your way to an important appointment or even simply trying to get home after a long day of work, and you hear that pop from your back tire. This article is to help you avoid that situation altogether.
Why Are Your Bike Spokes Breaking?
Let’s first address why spokes break. The spokes purpose inside the wheel is to balance the rider’s weight evenly, distributing the force around the entire wheel so it doesn’t collapse like a pancake.
If you still aren’t sure what the spoke is, it’s all the thin metal bars like spider-webs around the wheel. Some are more ornate and ‘Spokefull’ than others, but the standard model has anywhere from 28 to 144 spokes.
The average bike has 36 spokes. All of which are subject to break at some point.
It is not uncommon and riders say it will happen eventually so it’s best to know the drill. Spokes are no joke (forgive me for that one) as they maintain the entire wheel and also keep you in a straight line and moving forward.
Reasons may be:
- You’re riding too hard. – If you’re that rider that’s fearlessly hitting every curb at maximum force and coming off the curbs even harder, you’ll need a bike that’s made for that. If yours keeps squashing like spaghetti, it may be the wrong design for you. Later in this article, I will give affordable recommendations that may suit your needs.
- The wheel is badly constructed. – Often designers will cut corners and the price will reflect that if your spokes seem to bend at every jolt. I’ll lead early in this article by saying that if you’ve broken more than 4 spokes this month (which is happening to many riders right now) invest in better wheels. Don’t try to fix them spoke by spoke which many do as well. At a certain point, the wheel will be too far gone to mend and repurchase will be in order.
- You’re too heavy for that bike. – No shame in your game, many of the people popping spokes are 6’7″ football players weighing 250lbs or more. If this is the case for you, you probably have wheels with too few spokes. Invest in higher quality and higher spoke-quantity. This could ultimately fix everything for you.
- Is it the right side? – If you notice the damage keeps coming from one side in particular – it could be the right side popping against your chain drop and the cassette. In this case, you’ll need drive-side spokes to prevent this from giving you future trouble. The free tip here: change all of your right-side spokes at once so you don’t have to go back one at a time. It will save you a headache and you’ll thank me later.
- It’s just a cheap bike. – If you’re riding in the city hitting curbs on a mountain bike with fewer spokes than you need, you’ll be repairing spokes far more often. But you’re here reading this article, so you get points for trying to educate yourself. If the spokes are breaking too frequently, invest in a top-rated wheel to avoid the headache.
What Professional Bikers Say
To prove to you that it is fairly common if you’re a committed rider, here are some forum discussions from bike fanatics and expert riders:
- “My buddy who weighed 290 used to break spokes like crazy, as well as destroy headsets. At least until he got a bike with properly-built wheels and a more robust headset. All this assumes a reasonably strong rim. A weak rim will flex more and force the spokes to do more work (or not, and fatigue and break).”
- “I had the same issue with a set of wheels. I was breaking a spoke every week or two. My advice was that it was a cheaply built wheel with weak spokes. Whenever I replaced a spoke I marked it and I confirmed that it was always the original spokes that were snapping.”
- “I upgraded to a new set of wheels and haven’t had any trouble since. Wheels are a pretty safe investment because you can transfer them to a new (similar) bike relatively simply.”
- “I wish I’d changed them all at once, instead of one at a time.”
How to Check It:
Spokes will fatigue at some point as all metals do. You can repair them up to a few times, especially if you’ve already invested in a quality wheel that you know has some life left in it. Don’t throw it out, just know how to maintain them.
Check your wheels on a regular basis and adapt them to your road-type and terrain.
This is not difficult and the technique is similar to playing the guitar. String it like you’re playing a note and notice if each sound relatively similar. You’ll hear the note flatten and sound off-pitch compared to the others if it’s loose. This is the spoke that needs to be tightened.
Don’t overtighten your spokes either as this could cause more spokes breaking. You’ll feel the perfect friction that should sound melodic and in tune with the other spokes’ pitch.
If You Need a Fast Repair
You’re on your way home and hear the dreaded pop. Don’t stress, you can ride it about another half an hour or so if you take it easy. Riding quickly will disperse your weight faster and allow you not to touch the ground as long, essentially you weigh less when you’re going faster.
If you feel the bike is giving out, don’t push it. This could further damage the other spokes and they’ll start turning into the dreaded J-bend until they all pop under pressure. This will permanently damage your tire rim and is not worth it.
At this point, hop-off and push until you can get home or to a repair shop. Which leads me to my next section –
Replacing Your Own Spoke
You are a professional biker and think it’s about time you learn to mend this on your own. Save some cash too through these simple steps:
- Have your replacement spoke readily that fits the diameter of your wheel. It’s easy to take it into a bike shop and they can show you a match.
- Fit the spoke into the hole where it needs to be threaded, keeping the pattern of your bike’s spokes and their sequence.
- Notice if your bike has spokes going over other spokes, lacing through and where it hits the nipple, the center of the bike wheel. Don’t be afraid to bend it a bit to find the position that feels supported.
- Have a spoke wrench to screw it into place. Again, use the guitar string method to find the tune that matches the other spokes’ pitch.
It should give out a nice buzz if properly tuned and tightened. This is generally easy to repair and will work out well if you follow the steps above to determine the proper tension.
Climate Could Be Breaking Your Spokes
A funny culprit of your common spoke breaks maybe your hometown.
If you’re living in a place with high saltwater content in the air, humidity, or frequent rain showers – it will affect your bike. Be sure that you store your bicycle in a dry place away from the elements as rust will ensure and spokes will start breaking before their time.
Be certain that your spokes are stainless steel as this will be helpful to your climate. It’s not completely immune to the water but certainly more immune than other materials.
Prevent your bike from corroding and store with thought. It shouldn’t be an issue as long as you bring your bike inside with your, in a garage, or perhaps in a water-resistant shed.
If you go to a quality bike shop, don’t be surprised if they charge $100-200 including labor. At this cost, it may be cheaper to buy a new wheel depending on your usage and purpose. Shops often charge separately for spokes ranging from $1-10 per spoke.
A rule of thumb is that if you’ve had more than 5 spokes break, it’s possibly time to consider a new wheel or new bike altogether. At this point, it could be an issue with the hub or the rim, which will only keep breaking more spokes.
Something isn’t working whether that’s the bike’s spokes, the terrain you’re using it against, weight, climate, or any other factor. Spend what feels right to you on a new tire and read reviews on mountain bikes, street bikes, cruisers, or unicycles to see what’s right for you.
Quality Bikes Worth Investing In
If your spokes keep breaking – It might just be time to invest in a new bike. Don’t make the same mistake of buying the cheapest on the market. Read reviews and understand the purpose for which you need the bike and therefore the quality you need.
If you’re replacing bike spokes every other week like many out there, it seems more cost and time-efficient to put a bit more into the next bike purchase.
Some things to consider when searching for your new bike are:
- Where are you riding? (dirt terrain, gravel, concrete jungle, actual jungle)
- If you want to bike in the city with a riding group, you won’t be able to keep up with their street cruisers if you’re on a mountain bike. Road bikes are unique as they can’t go on dirt or sand, as the name would suggest they’re strictly for the road.
- If the thought of driving besides traffic terrifies you – perhaps a mountain bike is what you’re looking for.
In sifting through research, articles, and forums, there are tons of options when it comes to the bike market. I’ve done the digging so that you don’t have to.
Through discussions like, ‘Best Bike of the Year,’ and ‘Bike Bargains’ (still actually over $2,000 in many cases). And compiled a small list of the best affordable bikes that are worth investing in.
Hand-selected options under $1,000 that are top-rated in 2020
- Best Road Bike – Specialized Allez – Great value for racing
- Best Mountain Bike – 20
- Best Ride for Kiddos – Strider 12 – Classic and affordable
- Best for Commuters – Raleigh Redux – Amazon so Prime Shipping!
- Most Adorable Vintage Dream Bike – Schwinn Wayfarer Bicycle
Read reviews and know what you need. Quality can’t be sacrificed if you’re sick of the spoke-mending life.
If you break a spoke, don’t sweat it. The tips and YouTube videos and the entire internet are here for you to help you replace it. If you hit a curb or breaking spokes has become too common of a chore in your life, invest properly.
Spokes will break from fatigue and remind me of all humans that way. But with a little love and care, they can be maintained. Being a knowledgeable shopper will go a long way.
Then you’ll be free to ride off into the sunset, the Bermuda Triangle, or wherever the devil you please.