What would happen if you were to break a spoke on your bicycle, but didn’t have any spare spokes?
It turns out that it is possible to ride with one spoke missing. However, this may not be the safest option for long distances or rough terrain.
This blog post will explore what happens when you lose one of your main wheels’ spokes and how you can still keep riding safely.
What is a spoke, and why do they matter on bicycles?
Spokes are the main structural component of a wheel, and they attach to both sides of either your front or back wheel.
The drive-side (right) spokes connect together at the crankset in the centre of the bike, and each side is connected by a non-drive-side (left) spoke to a nipple on its respective wheel.
Spokes come in pairs and their job is to transfer your effort from the non-drive-side crankset into forwarding momentum for your wheels.
A complete wheel consists of a front and back wheel with an even number of spokes on either side, all tightly attached together by nipples that are fixed on the rim.
How can you tell if your bike has one or more spokes missing?
When a spoke breaks on your bicycle, you’ll notice an obvious wobble in the wheel.
However, sometimes you may not be able to see if your bike has had its spokes broken or not from just looking at it.
There are two good ways that you can check whether or not one of your wheels has a spoke missing:
1. Spin the wheel and put slight pressure on the section opposite of the wobble
2. Listen for clicking noise as you spin the wheel
If none of your wheels pass either test, then it’s possible that one or more spokes may be broken or very loose.
In this case, I would recommend going to a bicycle shop to get your spokes fixed.
What are the consequences of riding on a bicycle with one spoke missing?
1) Your Wheel will become unbalanced
The most obvious consequence is that your wheel will become more and more unbalanced with each rotation, which on a road bike can become very dangerous on long-distance rides.
For example, riding on one spoke for just five minutes has been shown to increase the overall distance of a wheel by up to 16 inches!
If you plan on going on a ride where you will be riding at high speeds for prolonged periods of time, it’s simply not worth the risk riding with one spoke missing.
2) You Will Eventually Cause Damage to Your Rim and Tire
For every revolution your wheel makes, your rim hits both sides of the tire equally – until there is only one side of the tire that is attached to the rim.
So when this side begins to wear out, your tire will begin to bulge on one side and make riding more uncomfortable.
3) You Risk Breaking Your Hub or Rim
If you ride with one spoke missing for long enough, there’s a chance that your hub or rim may crack under the pressure and become irreparable.
Both of these pieces of equipment cost a lot of money, so it’s most definitely not worth taking the risk.
Tips for cyclists to avoid having their bikes fall apart on them
1) Always have a backup plan
If you are riding for long periods of time, consider bringing along your old bike just in case you get a flat tire.
This is especially important if you are riding in an area with no cell service or in the event that one of your spokes breaks when it’s being transported in your car trunk.
2) Avoid riding on unpaved roads and trails
If you need to go off-road, make sure to check your wheel thoroughly first.
You can do this by spinning your wheel and checking for wobbles as well as the clicking noises that I mentioned earlier.
Or even better, get yourself a mountain bike if you want to ride off-road.
3) Fix your own spokes
Especially if you are planning on riding long distances, it’s probably worth your time to learn how to fix your own spokes.
This way, you will always have a backup plan in case one goes out unexpectedly.
The first step is learning how spokes are fastened onto the rim and hub of your wheel.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to buy your own spoke wrench (or borrow one from a friend) and learn how to use it.
Why it’s good to have a spare set of tires handy in case you get a flat tire while out cycling
The reason for this lies in the fact that when your wheel rim is damaged, it may not be able to accept the new tire that always comes with it.
Therefore, I recommend keeping two spare tires handy just in case you do get a flat tire. It’s much safer to have two spare tires than it is just one because if your spare tire gets flat too, you’ll have to limp home on a bare rim.
My Final Thoughts
The consequences of riding on a bicycle with one spoke missing are just too big to ignore.
I strongly recommend taking the time to fix your bicycle if you notice that one of your spokes is loose or broken.
By doing this, you will save yourself from having an unbalanced wheel and avoid costly repairs in the future.