Sign up for our newsletter


Tutorial: How to replace a spoke

9 Nov 2017

Don't let a busted spoke write off your wheel – replace it instead with the help of our step-by-step guide

Spokes snap sometimes. And when they do it’ll throw your wheel out of whack.

This is because each spoke is under tension, so when one goes the surrounding spokes, emanating from the opposite side of the hub, will pull the rim in that direction causing a buckle.

Unfortunately, accidents that result in serious damage to the wheel can also snap your spokes will meaning it’s curtains for your hoops.

If the rim looks twisted or dented, or if multiple spokes go at once it’s probably game over.

If you’re unsure take them to your local bike shop and they can advise if they’re fixable, rebuildable or junk.

How to replace a spoke

1. Remove the broken spoke

Spokes normally break at the hub, or where they reach the nipple. If yours has gone at the hub end you can usually unscrew it using a spoke key and leave the nipple in place.

On a rear wheel you may need to remove the cassette first. Otherwise you’ll need to replace the nipple too.

2. Take out the nipple

To do this you’ll need to remove the tyre and tube. Next pry back the rim tape. There should be a hole in the rim above the nipple. Remove the nipple.

If it gets lost inside the rim, don’t worry, just give it a shake until it drops out.

3. Find a replacement

Measure the old spoke, or take it to the shop to get a replacement. It’s probably worth getting a couple.

Once you’ve got the replacement spoke, a drop of oil on the threads and on the nipple will make it less likely to seize and easier to tension.

4. Lace it up

Once you have the spoke, insert it through the hub flange, being careful to keep it in the same orientation as the spoke it replaced.

Lace it as the other spokes in the wheel, either crossing under or over any adjoining spokes, unless it is a radially spoked wheel, in which case it goes straight out to the rim.

5. Fix in place

Replace the nipple into the rim. The easiest way to do this is to screw the back of it onto another spoke, allowing you to place it neatly into the rim.

Tighten the nipple onto the newly replaced spoke. Sometimes you can do this with your fingers, or by using a flathead screwdriver from above the rim.

6. Tension and true

Using the correct spoke key, slowly tension the spoke by turning the nipple clockwise, as viewed from above the rim. With the wheel in the frame, or a truing stand, spin the wheel and check as the buckle begins to straighten.

Now’s also a good time to thoroughly true the wheel.

Read more about: