ASK MBA: DO DAMAGED SPOKES AND NIPPLES ALWAYS NEED TO BE REPLACED?
Well, it depends...
SPOOKED ABOUT SPOKES
Q: I recently bought a used bike from a dude who didn’t seem like he used it much, so it seems in pretty good shape. It’s a 2020 Rocky Mountain Instinct Carbon 90, and it has Race Face wheels on it. On my second or third ride, I managed to snap a spoke nipple on the rear wheel. I tried to keep the spoke straight because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to use it again. Would it be okay if I just put a new nipple on that spoke, or do I have to replace the whole spoke?
Orange County, CA
A: Spokes are under high tension and stress throughout the duration of their life. When a spoke or nipple breaks, that will stress all the other spokes even more as they pick up the slack from the broken one. We’ve had it where a rock comes out of nowhere and strikes a nipple hard enough to break it, and each time it’s a different outcome. First, you must inspect the spoke to make sure there aren’t any kinks in it that would prevent it from coming into tension again. If it’s kinked, you’ll need a new spoke, if it’s still straight, you’ll likely be just fine replacing only the nipple. The important part is that you bring the spoke up to tension again so it can do the job it was designed for without compromising the rest of the wheel. Along with this, you have a few other obstacles to overcome like rim tape. Most shops and pro mechanics would say to completely replace the tape, but that’s not always necessary. We’ve put a small hole in the tape to replace the spoke or nipple, and then taken an 8–12-inch piece of tape and covered it up. So far none of ours have failed. It’s up to you to take the risk. We hope that helps answer your question. Replacing the nipple alone is just fine as long as the spoke isn’t bent in any way to keep it from correct tension.
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