How to Re-Spoke a Bike Wheel

How to Re-Spoke a Bike Wheel
Many inexperienced cyclists falsely believe that a broken spoke means the end of a rim's life. While a bicycle should not be used when it has one or more broken spokes, spokes can be replaced. Spokes are important for supporting the wheel, and keeping it straight and centered on the axle. Missing spokes can throw the wheel out of alignment and could damage the rim.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Wrench
  • Spoke key
  • Spoke
  • Pliers
Step 1
Remove the wheel that contains the broken spoke. Unscrew the bolts at the axle with a wrench. Use your fingers to flip the safety clips located at the axle. The clips help hold the wheel in place and keep it from coming off completely in the event the bolts come undone. Not all bikes have this safety feature, but for those that do it is as simple--literally--as flipping a light switch.
Step 2
Pull the tire off the tube and rim of the wheel, and remove the tube. Tube removal might require some work, since it is usually held to the rim with an adhesive--often rim tape. Remove any rim tape once the tube is off.
Step 3
Unscrew the broken spoke nipple with a spoke key. Even if it looks like a clean break, unscrew the nipple to make sure there are no small pieces left. The nipple connects the thin spoke to the rim of the wheel and looks like a small bolt with four flat sides. Attach the spoke key to the sides of the spoke nipple and turn it to the left until the spoke can be moved.
Step 4
Bend the spoke and remove it from the spoke nipple, then pull it out of the hub flange with your hand. The hub flange is the circular feature just outside the axle of the wheel. All other spokes around the axle will be fixed in the hub flange. You may need a pair of pliers to pull the spoke out of the hub flange, depending on how long it has been in there and whether rust and corrosion has fixed the spoke to the hub.
Step 5
Place the new spoke into the hub flange first, then gently flex it and slip it into the spoke nipple around the rim's periphery. Note that spokes are held in the hub flange curving into a hole and being held in place with tension. The curve in the spoke is pre-made, so no additional bending is necessary. If the spoke falls in line with the spoke design, it has been installed properly. Add lubricant, such as linseed oil, onto the tip of the spoke before placing it in the nipple.
Step 6
Tighten the spoke key to pull the rim back into even tension. When the spoke broke, it likely caused a misalignment that now needs to be trued. Slowly move the wheel back and forth in front of the brake pads where the spoke broke on the wheel. Continue tightening until the tire no longer fluctuates distance between itself and the brake pad when you move the wheel.
Step 7
Place new rim tape onto the tire, then replace the tube--you may have to deflate it to get it back on and then re-inflate it--then place the tire back. Put the wheel back on the bike and tighten the bolts at the axle with the same wrench used before.

Article Written By Jonathan Croswell

Jonathan Croswell has spent more than five years writing and editing for a number of newspapers and online publications, including the "Omaha World-Herald" and "New York Newsday." Croswell received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Nebraska and is currently pursuing a Master's of Health and Exercise Science at Portland State University.

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