bike maintenance - spokes

Standard spokes break when given a serious thrashing.

Usually on the rear wheel where they are under more stress. Usually on the cassette side where they are under the most stress.

Why? Well, the rear wheel isn’t symmetric like the front wheel, because of the cassette there are two different spoke lengths. The rear wheel carries more weight. And the rear spokes have to deal with the torsion cause by the drive train. Disc brakes cause more stress. Take your pick of the reasons.

Changing one spoke is not so hard once you know what to do and you have the specialised tools. Use the chain whip and a cassette lock ring remover tool together with a big enough adjustable spanner to unscrew the cassette lock ring and remove the cassette. Whip out the busted spoke. At least that bit’s easy. Put in the replacement using your spoke key and tighten it up until it matches the tension on the adjacent spokes. Plucking it, then tightening it, until it sounds the same as those adjacent gives a good idea.

The art of perfectly truing a wheel can wait until you get to the next bike shop if you are not experienced. Close enough is good enough out here.

What about those fibre fix patches, reusable Kevlar cords, to get you to civilisation? Well, they are expensive and in the end you have to replace the spoke anyway.

In any case with 36 spokes it’s possible to lose a few and still be able to ride on, if you have a decent rim. 32 can be plenty.

Of course the best idea is not to break them in the first place. Use DT-Swiss stainless steel double butted spokes in your wheel and avoid the problem. Double butted means that the spokes are thinner in the middle which allows a heavily stressed spoke to stretch and transfer some of the stress to an adjacent spoke when you hit a bump.

Stainless steel spokes are definitely recommended if you want to be out there on tough roads in remote Australia giving your wheels that thrashing.

But take a few spares anyway.