Can You Ride a Mountain Bike With a Broken Spoke?


A broken spoke on a mountain bike can make you think your ride is ruined, and you’ll be hiking your way back to the car. But that isn’t how it actually works!

Can you ride a mountain bike with a broken spoke? Yes, you can ride with a broken spoke or even multiple broken spokes, as long as the wheels are still able to roll, but it will leave your ride wobbly and will eventually cause damage to other spokes.

You won’t want to ride it for long, and you’ll want to get it fixed quickly, but it doesn’t mean an end to your adventure at all.

How You Can Ride a Mountain Bike with a Broken Spoke

A broken spoke isn’t a death sentence for a mountain bike ride. If you discover it before your ride, it’s best to get it immediately replaced before you ride on it. You can easily do this at home or take it into a shop to have them do it.

If you’re on the trail when you realize it’s broken, you can still finish your ride most of the time. If you’ve broken multiple spokes, for instance, if you took a fall, you may not be able to ride long.

The broken spokes won’t support the wheel, and it may become too wobbly. This is the worst-case scenario, but if it does happen to you, walk your bike the rest of the way.

Exactly How Long Can I Ride My Mountain Bike with a Broken Spoke?

If you’ve only broken one spoke, you should be fine to ride it for an average ride or two. However, you shouldn’t take it on any particularly rough trails or on long rides. It will be wobblier, so be cautious, and get it replaced as soon as possible. You do risk breaking more spokes, so you need to get it replaced as soon as possible or risk a costlier fix.

If you’ve broken multiple spokes, you should only ride it if you’re in the middle of a trail on your way back. Riding it any longer and you risk knocking your wheel out of alignment badly enough, you’ll need to buy a replacement wheel.

If the rest of your trail is longer than what you’ve already done, you should turn around. You shouldn’t ride any further than necessary on multiple broken spokes. If you aren’t sure whether you should ride your bike, you should trust your instincts and avoid riding it.

What Is a Mountain Bike Spoke and What Is Its Purpose?

A spoke is a thin piece of metal that connects the bike’s rim to the hub.

  • They add strength to the rim, which is the metal beside the tire
  • Transfer your leg power to make the wheels turn
  • Support the weight of your body on the wheel

When your spoke breaks, it makes your bike wobblier and over time, causes your rims to become warped. It also puts more stress on the other spikes, which will cause them to break. The more broken spokes, the quicker your rims will warp.

Spokes work by keeping the tension between the rim and the hub, which keeps the rims in line. If spokes fall out of line, they aren’t ‘true’ anymore, meaning they aren’t at the right tension level to keep the hub and rim perfectly aligned.

Keys to Maintaining Mountain Bike Spokes

There are a few ways you can help ensure your spokes don’t break on the trail, and a few ways to be prepared to deal with it when they do, as they will.

  • Regularly replace the spokes
  • Check for any damage before you leave for the trail
  • Take your bike into the shop biannually
  • Always carry tape with you to make on the trail repairs if necessary

You don’t need to replace your spokes all the time unless you regularly ride long and hard. However, if you ride even semi-regularly, it may be a good idea to get in the habit of replacing any that look old and worn out.

You should always check your bike before you leave for a trail. You don’t want to get all the way out to the trail just to have to go home because your bike isn’t ready, or even worse, suffer a fall because of a faulty bike.

When riding, make sure you have some kind of durable tape like Duct Tape for any sudden emergencies. In a bind, you can always support a broken spoke with tape.

What Do I Do If My Mountain Bike Spokes Keep Breaking?

Now you know you can keep riding with a broken spoke, but what do you do if it seems like you can’t stop breaking them? It isn’t normal to break spokes repeatedly, so if your bike is constantly going through spokes, you may have another problem than a broken spoke.

Spokes can habitually break for a variety of reasons. They don’t always mean you need a new wheel, though you might. First, test them with a tensiometer, a device used to test the tension of a spoke. Adjust the tension on any spokes that aren’t true anymore.

If you’re buying cheap spokes and riding hard, you may just need a heavier duty spoke. Make sure you’re buying mountain bike spokes, not regular bike spokes, and upgrade how durable they are.

If you’re buying quality spokes and still breaking them, you either need to allow them to ‘settle’ before you true them or you have a problem with your wheel. The best route at this point is to either take it to a professional for their opinion or just buy a new wheel.

How Much Will It Cost to Replace a Mountain Bike Spoke

There are two ways you can replace a mountain bike spoke, either doing it yourself or having someone else do it. If you choose to do it yourself, the initial investment is more than going into a mechanic, but the overall cost is much lower. A mechanic is much easier and requires no tools for you to store.

To replace your mountain bike spoke at home, it will be around $3-$10 for the spoke, depending on your bike and spoke preference, and around $20-$30 for the tools.

For tools, you’ll need:

  • Allen keys to remove the wheel, or any special tools for your unique bike’s wheels
  • A chain whip
  • A cassette removal tool with an adjustable spanner
  • Rim tape or another heavy-duty tape
  • Spoke key fitting to your bike’s spoke nipples
  • Optionally, a spoke tension meter

Here’s a great video from the Global Mountain Bike Network showing you how to do it with those tools:

If you take your bike to the mechanic’s shop to have your spoke replaced, you’re going to spend around $20-$40 on the spoke and labor each time you need one replaced. If you’re only an occasional biker or not handy with tools, this is probably the way to go. It won’t take long, and they can check the state of the other spokes as well.

Should You True Your Mountain Bike Wheels?

“Truing” refers to the process of aligning your rim with your hub. A true wheel will provide a more stable, balanced ride.

If you have a spoke tension meter and spoke key fitting your bike at home, you can easily true them at home. You simply use the meter to determine each spoke’s tension and adjust them as necessary with the spoke key.

If you don’t have a meter or key, but your ride is getting wobbly, you can also take your bike into the shop for a check-up. A bike mechanic will normally only charge you around $20 for truing.

If you can’t get your wheels trued, you may need to replace them. An untrue wheel will cause a rougher ride and broken spokes, an extra expense.

Zach Reed

Hi, I'm Zach Reed and I'm a Colorado-based mountain biker! I spend my weekends cruising around on a Wasatch Peak Comp 29er and love every minute of it :) For more information, take a look at my dedicated about me page.

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