Quick fix tips for replacing a snapped spoke

If you snap a spoke don't despair, here are 7 steps to replacing it

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.

You'll need:

  • Chain whip
  • T25 Torx key
  • Spoke key
  • Magnetic screwdriver
  • New spoke and nipple

1. For a rear wheel spoke, first remove the cassette

Remove the cassette
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 need a T25 Torx key
You'll need a T25 Torx key

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

Unwind the spoke with a spoke key
Unwind the spoke with a spoke key

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

Feed the nipple through the hole
Feed the nipple through the hole

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

Note the order of the spoke
Note the order of the 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

Check the spoke overlap
Check the spoke overlap

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

You'll need a spoke key
You'll need a spoke key

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 is vital for the home mechanic
A spoke key is vital for the home mechanic

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.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Seb Stott

Technical Writer, UK
Seb is a geeky technical writer for BikeRadar, as well as MBUK and What Mountain Bike magazines. Seb's background in experimental physics allows him to pick apart what's really going on with mountain bike components. Years of racing downhill, cross-country and enduro have honed a fast and aggressive riding style, so he can really put gear to the test on the trails, too.
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Steep!
  • Current Bikes: Focus Sam 3.0, Kona Process 111, Specialized Enduro 29 Elite
  • Dream Bike: Mondraker Crafty with Boost 29" wheels, a 160mm fork and offset bushings for maximum slackness.
  • Beer of Choice: Buckfast ('Bucky' for short)
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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