A snapped spoke is a real nuisance but here are a few quick tips on how to fix and replace a broken spoke and nipple yourself.
- Chain whip
- T25 Torx key
- Spoke key
- Magnetic screwdriver
- New spoke and nipple
1. For a rear wheel spoke, first remove the cassette
If you’ve snapped a spoke on the front, skip to step 2. Otherwise, remove the cassette and with the wheel off the frame, hold it steady with a chain whip and use a cassette lockring tool, turning it anticlockwise.
Remove the cassette and put it somewhere safe.
2. Remove the brake rotor
You’ll likely need to remove the brake rotor.
If it’s a six-bolt, use a T25 Torx key to unscrew the bolts, anticlockwise.
If it’s a centre lock rotor, either a cassette lockring or external bottom bracket tool will remove the lockring. Then pull the rotor off the hub.
3. Unwind the spoke
If the spoke nipple is undamaged and there’s still a few cm of spoke left, you can replace it without removing the nipple, which is much quicker, though not the best long-term fix.
Bend the spoke stub by 90 degrees, use a spoke key to hold the nipple and unwind the spoke.
4. Check the nipple
If the spoke’s snapped inside or near the nipple, replace it.
Remove the tyre and rim strip, then use a magnetic screwdriver to pull the nipple out of the hole.
Thread a new one onto the end of a spoke, feed it through the hole and then unscrew the nipple from the spoke.
5. Remove the old spoke
Remove the old spoke from the hub flange, noting which side it enters from and if it passes over or under others.
Thread a new one through the hub flange in the same direction. If the spoke enters from the outside of the hub, bend it to clear the spokes opposite.
6. Thread in the new spoke
Bend the spoke slightly so it crosses behind the third one it crosses on its way to the nipple, so that they overlap and touch.
Some straight-pull spokes are designed not to overlap, so in that case thread it in the same way as the other spokes in the wheel.
7. Tighten the nipple onto the spoke
Thread the spoke into the nipple, but don’t push the nipple into the rim.
Tighten the nipple onto the spoke with a spoke key until the tension matches the others. Check the wheel’s still straight. Replace the rotor, plus the cassette, rim strip and tyre, as appropriate.
What’s a spoke key?
A spoke key or nipple wrench is a vital tool for any home mechanic. Look out for ones that have gauges to fit different sizes of nipples — they’re fiddlier to use but will allow you to work on most wheels.