Can You Ride A Mountain Bike With A Broken Spoke? (Cautions!)

Updated On:

Did you experience being on a long, off-trail ride, and suddenly, one of your spokes snaps?

A broken mountain bike spoke may seem worrisome, as spokes play a major role in maintaining your brake mechanism and acceleration.

Thankfully, it’s possible to ride a mountain bike with a broken spoke. In fact, you can reach your destination safely with a broken spoke or two.

This post will address some of the most common questions about broken mountain bike spokes and what you should do when this happens.

How Do Bike Spokes Work?

Spokes are long, thin rods that compress throughout every revolution to increase the wheel’s strength.

So, during the ride, the rider’s force and weight are transferred and distributed into the spokes. In return, the wheel absorbs the rider’s force while withstanding the tension and irregularities from the road.

For a better understanding, here’s a little historical trivia as an example:

In the early days, particularly around 2000 BC, spoked wheels were made using wood or iron for strength to accommodate heavy loads.

There’s a drawback, though. Since the wheels are heavy, they require much force and energy to accelerate.

Thanks to technology, modern-day spokes are lightweight and efficient in accommodating heavy weights without compromising speed.

What Happens When a Spoke Breaks?

Once a spoke breaks, you may hear something snap, and the bike will feel wobbly and unstable during the ride.

Since one of your mountain bike spokes is broken, its ability to support your weight is compromised.

For this reason, the load is unevenly distributed to the remaining spokes, therefore causing stress. Eventually, the other spokes end up damaged as well.

Can You Ride a Mountain Bike With a Broken Spoke?

Yes, you can ride a mountain bike with a broken spoke, but there are some things to take into consideration.

For example, you’ll feel the impact more when you encounter bumps along the road. On that account, you shouldn’t expect a smooth ride with a broken spoke.

Other common issues associated with broken spokes:

  • More spokes may snap or come loose in the long run
  • Broken spokes may puncture your wheel
  • More damage in the rim
  • The wheels rub against your brakes while you cycle

Seeing as a broken spoke compromises the overall stability of your wheel, we can’t rule out the likelihood of accidents when riding your mountain bike.

How Far Can Your Bike Go With a Broken Spoke?

On average, a mountain bike with a single missing spoke is still good for up to two rides. Meanwhile, some sources claim that bikers can ride their mountain bikes for several months without problems.

How long your bike’s going to hold up with a broken spoke depends on the following:

1.   Number of Broken Spokes

Damaged mountain bike wheel

One missing spoke may be harmless, but if you have more than two damaged spokes, it’s totally unsafe to ride your bike.

The other spokes will start breaking because they need to absorb stress that’s greater than their maximum capacity. In effect, your wheels might collapse, increasing your risk of accidents.

2.   Total Number of Spokes

Remember this rule of thumb: more spokes mean more strength.

Since mountain bike wheels have up to 32 spokes, one missing spoke may not be troublesome.

As long as the other components of the wheels are good, you don’t have to worry about your trip.

3.   Overall Integrity of Your Wheel

The affected wheel may have a distorted or bent rim. As a result, it becomes imbalanced and misaligned, which can be quite dangerous.

Why Do Spokes Break?

If you’re out exploring rough terrains, ending up with a broken spoke is not surprising at all.

Constantly riding through rocky trails and hitting potholes, sudden bumps, and drops put a lot of tension on your bike’s rim.

As a result, the rim bends or becomes misshapen in the long run. In turn, the nipple to where the spoke is rooted breaks, and then one of the spokes snaps.

Here are other factors that may cause your spoke to break easily:

1.   Too Much Weight

Heavy mountain bike rider

In some cases, the rider’s weight, combined with other equipment or gear, is too heavy for the bike’s capacity.

Unless your bike has 36 spokes or more, you shouldn’t be loading it with more than 250 pounds of weight.

2.   Poor-Quality Wheels

Did you know that handmade wheels are better than machine-built ones? Handmade wheels last longer as they are true and round.

In addition, handmade wheels’ spokes have higher tension and are more precise than those created by machines.

Sometimes, factory defects are to blame.

3.   Spokes Are Old

Your spokes won’t last forever. Due to normal wear and tear, they become less efficient over time. On that account, it’s important to have old spokes replaced.

While trying to save money by not replacing your old spokes, you might not realize that you’ll have to spend more on repair later, once the damage cascades to other parts of your bike.

How to Prevent Your Spoke From Breaking?

Check your spoke’s tension and the condition of your wheels before going on rides. You may do the following to keep your spoke from breaking easily:

  • True your wheels. Truing keeps your wheels round, properly aligned, and easy to maneuver during rides.
  • Do a regular maintenance check with your local mechanic. Nothing beats the guidance of experts when it comes to the prevention and maintenance of bicycles.
  • Use soft tires to absorb stress better. Consequently, the amount of stress that penetrates your spokes is much less.
  • Clean your bike to prevent the build-up of dirt and rust.

What to Do if a Spoke Suddenly Breaks During the Ride?

Fix your spoke temporarily by detaching it from its nipple and coiling it to another spoke. When the broken spoke hangs loose, it may puncture your wheel during the ride. It’s important to avoid aggressive trails that may further aggravate your spokes. In addition, you may opt to shift your weight to the unaffected wheel to prevent inflicting stress on your damaged wheel.

Photo of author


Paul Tuthill
Growing up in Scotland, Paul developed a love for the outdoors and a desire for adventure from an early age.