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Home » Cycling » Fix Your Own Broken Spoke Nipple… For Less than a Buck. And in Fifteen Minutes

Fix Your Own Broken Spoke Nipple… For Less than a Buck. And in Fifteen Minutes

May 2019
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I always relied on my local shop to fix my wheel issues. To tell you the honest to goodness truth, I am really not good when it comes to truing a wheel. I mean it, I’m bad. I have a tendency to make wobbles worse… or move them from one part of the wheel to another.

A broken spoke nipple is a different story.

I hammered a gnarly train track the other day at about 25-mph. The force broke a spoke nipple, but I didn’t find out about it till I got home. I heard the broken end rolling around in the wheel when I rolled the bike inside.

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Normally, I’d take the wheel to the shop and leave it, opting to ride the Trek till the Venge was done. I thought better of that this time, so I went and bought a spoke nipple. I gave the cashier a Dollar and got three quarters back. When performing a repair on a full carbon bicycle, when was the last time you could walk into a bike shop with a single Dollar and walk away with change?!

So here’s what’s required to fix that nipple…

  1. Let the air out of the tube and remove the tire and tube.
  2. Peel up the rim tape with a dull, flat object that won’t scratch the wheel (I used the dull end of a butter knife). Flip the rim tape over the clincher rail just far enough so it stays put at the spoke nipple access hole.
  3. Hold the wheel up in the air, so the spoke nipple access hole is “down”, and shake until the broken nipple end falls out.
  4. Unscrew the broken nipple end on the spoke.
  5. Now, this takes some ingenuity; how do you get the new spoke nipple into the access hole so you can thread it into the spoke?! Take a small Allen wrench, a 1 or 1.5 mm will do nicely, and put a wrap of electricians tape about an inch down from the end of the wrench/key.  Set the spoke nipple on the Allen wrench. Now you can install the spoke nipple into the access hole and turn the wheel so gravity holds the new nipple in place.
  6. Take a flat edge screw driver and hold the new nipple in place.
  7. Thread the spoke end into the new nipple and tighten until you can strike that spoke and the spoke next to it with the screwdriver and they both make the same pitched sound (the exception being rear wheels – the cassette side spokes are a lighter tension than the outside spokes, so they’ll make a different sound when struck – in this case, strike a like sided spoke).
  8. Check the wheel’s true. You know the one spoke to adjust, so if there’s a wobble, tighten or loosen that spoke till the wobble is gone.
  9. Slide the rim tape back in place, install the tube and tire.
  10. Bob’s your uncle.

There’s nothing wrong with taking your wheel to the shop to have this repair done. Wheels have always been tough for me, but in this case, because the wheel was true before the spoke nipple busted, all I had to do was tighten the new one down till the wheel came back into true.

There’s nothing to fear.

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9 Comments

  1. The Omil says:

    Personally, I’ve always wondered about the value of butter knives …. until now.

  2. very thankful to know. thanks my friend. im scheduled to have my rims trued on the 20th 🙂

  3. unironedman says:

    Nothing to fear but fear itself! And as it happens, my uncle actually is Bob 🙂

  4. I always check for a cracked rim, as well.

  5. Dan says:

    I’ve replaced 12 spokes on the rear wheel of my Waterford and it worked!! Perfectly true! It’s all about patience. Now I’m trying to lace a wheel from the start. Not having as much luck with that, but I’m not giving up yet. Thank you Sheldon Brown!!

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