Why Do My Mountain Bike Spokes Keep Breaking

It is no fun mountain biking when your spokes keep breaking. It is even worse to feel lost as to how this is happening. Let’s investigate and find out what is going on.

Why do my mountain bike spokes keep breaking? Mountain bike spokes will keep breaking because the spokes are unevenly tensioned, the spokes are low quality, and once one spoke breaks the rest will eventually follow. The rim could be bent, the wheels are unevenly tensioned, and the wheel could be poorly built. The rider could be too heavy for the wheels and spokes, and the rider might be hitting sharp edges too often.

Spokes don’t just start breaking all of a sudden, there is usually a process which happens before the breakage occurs. Knowing this will help us to prevent it from happening.

How Do Mountain Bike Spokes Keep Breaking

  • Many mountain bikers to save money buy machine built wheels. When this is the case sometimes the spokes have not been tensioned correctly. If the rider has not checked the tension of the spokes after buying the bike then when one breaks more will follow.
  • Mountain bike wheels which are less expensive are usually not as high quality. These types of wheels also use lower quality spokes and rims. These lower quality spokes will wear out faster and break quicker. If the spoke breaks at the nipple or just below, down from the nipple then the spokes are cheap quality.
  • When one spoke breaks and then another and another then the spokes are just wearing out. You probably need to replace all the spokes. If not then the newly replaced spokes with the older spokes will create uneven spoke tension. The older spokes will break soon after the replacements are put in.
  • Mountain bike wheels and rims take a beating every time they ride over rough terrain. The constant impact of rocks, roots, drop offs, and jumps can over time eventually bend the rims. As the shape of the rims change so does the spoke tension. Also the nipple, which connects the spoke to the rim can become less effective causing a break.
  • In order to keep your wheels perfectly straight and round mountain bikers should true the wheels every so often. If not and you keep riding with wheels that are not perfectly round or centered properly on the hub, then the spokes can loosen and eventually break.
  • Machine built wheels are usually not as good as hand built wheels. So if your spokes keep breaking at the bend then this usually indicates the wheel was poorly built. It was probably machine built. Machine built wheels have a wider spoke tension range, so it is not as precise as a hand built wheel.
  • If your spokes keep breaking you may just be too heavy for your wheels. Riders who weigh more than 250 pounds might be riding a bike which can not handle their weight. So no matter how many times you replace the spokes they will keep breaking. It is probably time to get better wheels to handle your weight. Wheels with a larger number of spokes.

What Should You Do If a Spoke Breaks While on the Trail

The first thing to do is to stop biking and get off your bike. If you are able to remove the spoke completely from the wheel. If you can’t remove it, then tie it to another spoke or tape it to another spoke depending on what you have available.

You don’t want the spoke dragging on the ground. Next if you have a spoke tension tool you can adjust the tension of the current spokes until you get home. You want to maintain the shape of the wheel as best you can. Finally, walk your bike home or back to your car.

Can You Ride Your Mountain Bike With a Broken Spoke

You can probably get away with riding your bike back home without damaging the rim. Try and ride back on smooth trails. Any rocks, roots, or bumps will increase the risk of other spokes breaking and or bending the rim. If the spoke is broke on the back wheel try and shift your weight forward to take weight off the rear wheel.

How To Avoid Broken Mountain Bike Spokes

Check Spoke Tension

  • If you are an aggressive rider then you should check the tension of your wheels spokes often. If you ride over rocks and roots, and go over drop offs and jumps, then once or twice a week. Especially if your wheels are machine made. Higher quality wheels need less attention.

True the Wheel

  • Every so often check to make sure the wheels and rims are round. Unless you have experience take your bike to your local bike shop. Have this done the right way. Don’t ride around on wheels that are out of shape.

High Number of Spokes

  • If you are a heavier rider, 250 pounds or more, consider getting wheels with more spokes on them. Many heavy riders do better with 36 to 48 spokes on the wheels. This offers a lot more support and strength for handling heavier riders. If you are a lighter to medium weight rider but are aggressive on the trails then wheels with a higher number of spokes will give you added support and less spoke breakages.

Use Hand built Wheels

  • Hand built wheels from beginning to end are built all by hand. They are built with more accuracy and have a lot more time spent on them. They will stay truer longer and last longer overall. Performance is better for a longer period of time. They are built specifically for particular types of mountain biking.

Use Single Butted Spokes

  • This type of spoke is a little thicker at the neck of the spoke. This is the part nearest to the hub. This gives the spokes increased strength and stiffness in order to handle severe impacts. They are a little heavier than other types of spokes, but they are for rough terrain.

Should You Replace The Broken Spokes Or Buy a New Wheel

If one spoke breaks and you replace it and then you ride your mountain bike for a couple of months and another one breaks. Then there is no need to buy another wheel. You should be okay continuing like this. Just check the rims periodically and make sure the wheel is true.

If a spoke breaks and another one breaks not too long after then be prepared. The issue could be more serious. If after replacing two spokes and making sure the wheel is true another one break, then it is time to consider a new wheel.

You could just replace all the spokes at one time. But consider the cost. One spoke is $2.00, so if you have 28 spoke on one wheel that is $56.00 plus $20.00 for labor depending on where you are. So a total of around $80.00. You might be better off just getting a new wheel. You will have to work the numbers for your situation.

How To Replace a Broken Mountain Bike Spoke

  • First you will need to remove the tire and the rim strip. If you have disc brakes then remove the rotor. We will assume the broken spoke is on the rear wheel since most spokes that break are on the back wheel. So you should also remove the cassette.
  • Now you can remove the old spoke from the hub. In order to get a proper replacement spoke you need to measure the old spoke. If the spoke broke at the nipple or the head then you can use a tape measure to get an accurate length.
  • If the spoke broke in the middle then you won’t be able to get a good measurement. An easier way is to just take out another spoke and measure that one. When you have the measurement then have a spoke cut to that length or buy one at that length.
  • Now put the spoke in the hub. The end of the spoke with no nipple is the head. Insert the head of the spoke into the empty hole of the hub. Next put the nipple through the hole in the wheel rim and screw it on to the end of the spoke. Tighten the nipple with your hand. Finally bring the spoke up to the right tension and true the wheel.