Reasons why bicycle spokes break

Reasons Why Bicycle Spokes Break

So you’re riding along when suddenly your wheel starts to wobble and then comes to a complete stop. You check the tire and it’s flat, but there are no punctures. Luckily, you have spare tubes in your backpack. You change the tube and pump up the tire only to discover the spoke has broken! What happened? Why did this happen? Well, here are 10 possible reasons:


The most common reason for a broken spoke is a collision with something. This can include hitting a curb, hitting another cyclist, or even hitting a pedestrian!

Another common cause of spokes breaking is an impact from hitting something (like a car), which could mean that the bicycle itself was involved in an accident and not just the rider.


It’s a common misconception that over-tensioning is the primary cause of breaking spokes. Over-tensioning may be part of the problem, but it’s not the only thing you need to worry about.

A wheel can become unbalanced if you put too much tension on one spoke or if you didn’t line up your hub properly when building your wheel. It can also happen if you’re using an old hub with worn out bearings, which won’t hold its position as well as a newer one.

Because they’re designed to hold more weight than any other part of your bicycle frame, wheels are some of the most important parts on a bike and need proper maintenance in order to stay strong and ride safely.

Bad wheels/rims

You may think that your wheels are just fine, but if you’ve been having problems with spokes breaking, or your bike has been making noises that sound like it’s about to fall apart, it might be time for a change.

First off, let’s talk about the importance of good wheels. Having quality rims and spokes can mean the difference between smooth riding and an accident waiting to happen. A bad wheel can cause splitting headaches in terms of both performance on the road and safety too. For example:

Bad wheels will make your bike harder to control because they’ll be stiffer than good ones would be under pressure from braking or pedaling forces (which means more effort needed). This will lead not only to poor performance but also fatigue over time as well as potential injury due to improper handling during sudden stops or bumps in your ride path;

Poorly-built rims can warp easily when exposed regularly without proper maintenance (for example when coated with sweat), causing them

Bad wheel alignment (dish, radial)

Dish and radial. Dish is when the wheel is not straight, and radial is when the wheel is not round. To fix dish, you will have to either turn your spokes or replace them with new ones. To fix radial, you may need to replace your rim or change your spokes so that they can be inserted into the new rim evenly.

Radial breaks are usually caused by bad wheel alignment (dish), but sometimes it’s due to poor quality spokes being used in an alloy bike hub without proper heat treatment for steel-to-steel interfaces (which results in weakened metal).

Broken nipples

Nipples are the small metal piece that holds the spoke in place. They’re typically made of steel, aluminum, brass or stainless steel.

Nipples are the small metal piece that holds the spoke in place. They’re typically made of steel, aluminum, brass or stainless steel.

Miss aligned spokes

Spokes can be misaligned by the rider. Your wheels might look straight when you spin them, but if you look at the angle of each spoke relative to the rim, one or more may not be pointing straight ahead.

Spokes can be miss-aligned by the factory. You’re never going to get perfect alignment from a factory that uses hundreds of workers for a specific task (like building bikes), so you should always check your spokes for alignment before riding your bike. 

How do I know if my spokes are aligned?

• The easiest way is with a spoke wrench and an adjustable wrench: snug up one end of your adjustable wrench against the nipple (where it meets the hub) while holding onto its other end with your hand; then use that same hand to turn over one spoke; if it doesn’t move easily, there’s something wrong! 

Fatigue from constant stress (for example, on a rough road) – 20% of cases

Spokes are designed to be under stress, but not too much. When spokes are under constant, heavy load for a long period of time (like when you’re riding on rough roads), the spoke can become fatigued and break. This type of breakage is usually caused by the bending process being pushed beyond its limits and causing it to fail at that point.

 The fix: Make sure your wheels are properly tensioned (otherwise they’ll bounce around as you ride). If there’s any play in the hub or spokes, get them checked out!

Sudden introduction of large load (for example, riding over curb) – Around 10% of cases

Spokes are not designed to take sudden loads. For example, if you ride over a curb, that can be enough to put too much stress on the spokes and cause them to break.

 If you ride over a curb and your wheel subsequently breaks, it’s important to know that spokes are not designed for this kind of use. They’ll lose their tension (and their strength) when they’re working with high loads and then lose even more when they’re suddenly relieved of those loads. That’s why riding over curbs at your own risk is never a good idea!

Mixing Different Kinds of Spokes

Mixing different kinds of spokes is not a good idea. You should only use the same type in one wheel, or else you risk spoke breakage and even worse, a broken rim. Spokes are made of different materials, different thicknesses and different lengths. For example:

A standard steel spoke is usually 16mm in diameter and can be anywhere from 1mm to 1.6mm thick (depending on how strong it needs to be).

An alloy spoke is typically 17mm in diameter but can vary between 1mm and 2mm thick (a little less than standard). Alloy spokes are lighter than steel ones, so they’re useful if you’re looking to save some weight for climbing hills or long distance rides without sacrificing strength too much

Hitting Potholes

Another common reason for spokes breaking is hitting a pothole. If you don’t know, a pothole is a hole in the road that has been caused by wear and tear. When you hit one of these, the pressure from your weight can be enough to cause a spoke to snap.

It’s hard to avoid hitting potholes at all times, but there are ways you can reduce the risk:

Avoid riding on roads with cracked pavement or no shoulder at all (the shoulder should be wide enough for you to ride on while staying off of traffic)

Be careful during rainy weather because water pools up on asphalt surfaces when it rains—this makes them more prone to potholes forming.

Sudden introduction of large load (for example, riding over curb) – Around 10% of cases

If you’re riding along and suddenly come across a curb, there is a chance that the sudden introduction of large load will cause your spokes to break. The reason for this is simple: bicycle spokes are not designed to take sudden loads.

You should know that if you ride over curbs at your own risk. Spoke failure on a bicycle is one of those things that can happen in an instant and lead to expensive repairs or replacing the wheel altogether.

Too Much Weight

A heavier rider can put more stress on the spokes, but so can a bag filled with heavy tools and supplies. The best way to reduce the risk of breaking spokes is to carry your bag in a way that distributes its weight evenly across your back or shoulders. If you do have a heavy load, consider switching from panniers (a type of bicycle storage bag) to racks that hang from the handlebars instead.


If you ride a bike, be safe and remember that accidents can happen. But before you get too worried about breaking spokes, remember that they’re not as common as car accidents. The best thing you can do is stay alert while riding and make sure your wheels are properly aligned with the rims. If something goes wrong, be sure to take it in for repair right away so it doesn’t become worse!