Replace a broken spoke

If one of your spokes breaks, you should be able to replace it yourself. Here’s how…

1. DO THE TWIST
Spokes usually break first on the drive side of your rear wheel – this is where the most forces are generated. If a spoke breaks on a ride, try to remove it from your wheel so it doesn’t cause more problems. But if this means any major dismantling then you can effect a temporary repair by taping – or twisting – the broken spoke around its neighbour to keep it out of the way. If the wheel starts ‘pretzelling’ out of shape, loosen the brakes on that wheel, then limp your way home carefully.

2. OUT WITH THE OLD
To remove the broken spoke, first remove the wheel from the bike, and then the tyre and inner tube from the wheel. Lift the rim tape above the broken spoke and push what’s left of the spoke out of the rim. Measure the length of the spoke – including any broken pieces – and buy a replacement. If necessary, take the broken spoke along to a bike shop to make sure you get the right one as there are numerous types and lengths of spokes out there.

3. IN WITH THE NEW
Insert the new spoke into the hub flange from the opposite side to its neighbouring spokes, and then thread it through the spokes all the way to the rim. Look at the spokes carefully on the rest of the wheel to match the threading pattern. Grease the thread on the end of the spoke, and screw on the spoke nipple from the outside of the rim.

4. DOING A JIG
When it’s close, wearing a glove, ‘relieve’ the tension of all the spokes by squeezing pairs together. Put the wheel in a wheel jig, or back on the bike with an Allen key Blu-Tacked to the chainstay to help you see how true it is, then match the tension of the other spokes as closely as possible – plucking will give you a good idea. As you tighten the nipple with a spoke key, the wheel should straighten.

5. CRASH COURSE
If several spokes have broken, especially after a crash or impact, it’s best to take the wheel to a good bike shop where the whole thing will be repaired, re-trued and checked for integrity and safety – a job that’s best left to the professionals.