Adjusting and Replacing Front Wheel Bicycle Spokes
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Adjusting and Replacing Front Wheel Bicycle Spokes

Describes how to adjust or replace a bicycle spoke on the front wheel.

Fixing front wheel bike spokes is a great deal easier than fixing rear wheel bike spokes  due to the lack of freewheel, cassette or chain on the hub blocking your work. If you have a loose spoke, you can tighten it up using a spoke wrench. However, if you must replace broken spokes, you'll need a few more tools, and the appropriate spoke size. There are dozens of spoke sizes so take your bike or wheel to a bike shop for help picking the right one.

Adjusting a Spoke

You'll Need:

Spoke wrench, with multiple sizes

Bicycle tire pump

Step 1

Turn the bicycle upside down, resting it on its saddle and handlebars. Deflate the front wheel's tire by at least half; this prevents the spoke adjustment from popping the tube. Locate a loose spoke, one that creaks and moves when pushed without applying much effort, or is much looser than its neighbors. Rotate the wheel so that the spoke nipple, the small piece that attaches spoke to the rim, is closest to the ground.

Step 2

Place the different sizes of the spoke wrench onto the spoke nipple until you find the size that fits snugly. If you use a size that's too big, you can wear down the corners of the nipple, which makes it more difficult to use a wrench on it in the future.

Step 3

Turn the spoke wrench to tighten the spoke into the nipple. Looking down on the spoke nipple, turn the nipple counterclockwise 1/4 rotation at a time until the spoke's tension when plucked is similar to its neighbors.

Step 4

Adjust other spokes as necessary to achieve uniform spoke tension. Spin the wheel and watch the rim. If the rim appears to wobble back and forth, you'll need to true your front wheel before you ride.

Replacing a Spoke

You'll Need:

3 tire levers

Spoke wrench


Replacement spoke

Bicycle tire pump 

Step 1

Let all the air out of the tire. Pry the edge, or bead, of the tire up and off the rim with one tire lever. Holding that lever in place, insert another tire lever under the bead a few inches from the first and slide it around the rim. If you can't slide the lever easily, use the third lever a few inches from the second. Push the valve up through the rim and pull the tire and tube off the bike, removing the rim strip as well.

Step 2

Find the correct size of the spoke wrench on the broken spoke's nipple, at the base of the rim. The correct size is the one that doesn't rotate independently of the nipple or wear down its corners when you turn the wrench. Looking down on the spoke nipple, turn the wrench clockwise until the spoke comes out of the nipple, and set the nipple aside.

Step 3

If a piece of the spoke is still hooked into the hub, rotate it until you can pull or push it out. Use pliers if you need to bend the spoke to get it out.

Step 4

Slide the replacement spoke into the hub, with the flattened end of the spoke facing the opposite direction of the spokes on either side. You may need to bend the spoke to keep it from poking into small spaces between other spokes on the hub as you do this. You'll need plenty of room to rotate the spoke into position.

Step 5

Look at how the spokes around your replacement are laced. For example, if the flattened flange of the spoke you're installing faces out, look at the next spoke oriented the same way. It might cross under one spoke and over another before reaching the rim. Lace your new spoke in the same pattern as other spokes of the same orientation.

Step 6

Put the spoke nipple back into the rim and screw it onto the spoke by hand for a few turns. Then use your spoke wrench to tighten the spoke. Bicycle Tutor recommends plucking other spokes and adjusting the replacement's tension to match them.

Step 7

Put the rim strip, tire and tube back on the bike and pump the tire up.


Bicycle Tutor: How to Replace a Broken Spoke

Sheldon Brown: Tool Tips -- Truing Wheels

Photo by Pawe? Zawistowski, courtesy of Stock.xchng

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