​How Can I Replace Bike Spokes

How Can I Replace Bike Spokes

They’re Small and Skinny But Oh Are They Important

How many times have you gotten on your bike and just went for a ride without wondering if your wheels were going to be able to support your weight. Even with the fact that the size of our spokes are really quite small and can be bent with little effort at all when not connected to our wheels. For most of us, we seldom worry about things like this; we just accept that the pieces of our bikes are going to do the job that they were intended for.

Wondering why bike maintenance and repair is so important to me; go to my Where It All Began page to find out.

Most people lack a formal bicycle maintenance program where they check all the major items on their bikes before setting off. Let’s talk about why it might be a good thing to start completing a quick pre-ride check before leaving the house and in particular why you should be asking yourself “how can I replace bicycle spokes“.

The Ditty on Bicycle Spokes

Let’s take a quick look at the parts of the typical bicycle wheel and in particular our often misunderstood bicycle spokes. A wheel is made up of a tire, metal rim, a hub and spokes (See picture).

Each spoke is composed of nipple and a metal body (i.e. the spoke itself). One end of the spoke is hooked onto the hub and the nipple is threaded onto the other end and then tightened (see picture below).

If you really think about it, a well built wheel that is “true” (i.e. straight) makes for a very nice ride. On the other hand, if your wheels are loose (i.e. spokes not tight or are tightened to varying degrees); this situation can make for a wobbly ride that is no fun and could be downright dangerous.

Remove The Spokes and What Are You Left With?

You may want to try this yourself or just accept it when I say that a rim without spokes is a very flexible piece of metal. There is basically no strength whatsoever in your metal rim; but once the spokes are added, it becomes a very stiff and strong unit. The keyword here is “unit”, since individually each spoke is not all that strong but when all of them are acting together they provide the strength required in order to provide us with a safe ride.

Remove the Tension and Watch Out!

What happens then if one or more of your spokes becomes loose or even worse breaks? When all the spokes are not of equal tension then your wheel is considered out of true, which accounts for the wobbly feel you may have experienced at one time or another. A wobbly wheel is the best case scenario though because as you continue to ride your wobbly wheel, you are exerting more stress on some already loose spokes. Over time this can lead to spoke breakage which then puts your wheel at risk of becoming unsafe for riding.

Another potential problem when spokes start to flex is that the metal on your rim starts to become fatigued. One of the first things that a bicycle maintenance program looks for with your wheels is spoke tension. An easy test to check tension is done by simply plucking each spoke. There should be a consistent sound coming off of each of the spokes which tells you that they are all tightened to the same tension.

Another test can be done by flexing 2 spokes between your fingers. All your spokes should feel similar in tension (see picture).

How Can I Replace Bicycle Spokes – It’s Your Turn

You’ve decided to go all in on a bicycle maintenance program and good thing you did because you noticed that one of your spokes was loose and damaged. Time to get that spoke replaced with a new one before your next ride.

First thing that you are going to have to do is to remove your wheel from your bike and also remove your tire and inner tube from your rim (See the guide on repairing a punctured inner tube).

Once these are off you will need to peel back the spoke tape to reveal the spoke nut. Using your spoke wrench (see picture), you will need to loosen the spoke enough that you can then unscrew the nut.

Once the nut is off you can then remove the spoke from your hub. The job is now half done! Simply re-install your new spoke in the opposite way you removed your old one.

Once installed, you will need to ensure that the tension of the new spoke is very similar to that of the other spokes. You can do this using the plucking as well as the 2 finger grab method discussed above.

​Time to Ride Again

​As you can see, the answer to how can I replace bicycle spokes is really no big deal. Just remember that your wheels take a lot of abuse when riding so you want to ensure that they are always in a well maintained condition. With the fixing done, you now owe yourself a nice long relaxing bike ride.

Time to Ride Again
Robert Flaherty

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