I just broke a spoke and this is the fourth spoke I've broken in the last 12 months. This one was very puzzling because it came at the very end of an easy 30 mile (48 km) ride. I was pedaling very slowly into my driveway when it snapped.

All four have been on the drive side of the rear wheel. This is a Specialized Allez, one year old, with factory wheels. I weigh 175 lbs (79 kg) and ride about 2000 miles (3218 km) per year. Just recreational riding on good road surfaces.

Is this an abnormal rate of breakage?

And if it is an abnormal rate of breakage, what should I do about it?


I took the wheel into the LBS today. They didn't seem surprised by 4 broken spokes in a year, but everyone else is, so I'm going with everyone else. The mechanic checked the tension and they were all correct with one slight exception, so that's not the issue. The wheels are factory wheels and not exactly top flight. The spokes are 1.2 mm rather than 2 mm, so pretty thin. And they're 28 spokes per wheel, so that's cutting it even thinner from what I can gather.

Rebuilding the wheels is $125 each, so that's just not worth it. I can find much better wheels for not much more, so I'm on Amazon looking at wheels while trying not to deplete my life savings. (What some people will pay for wheels boggles the mind.) I'll have them fix the spoke and check the tensioning so I can sell them and ride until I get replacements.

Gotta buy the tools and learn to replace spokes and true wheels....

  • 4
    That's abnormal for a 1-year-old bike with only 2000 miles on it. Spokes do wear out, but generally it's on the order of maybe 10,000 miles. May 8, 2013 at 0:37
  • 1
    My guess is your wheel is not tensioned correctly. This can be just low overall tension on the spoke or a warped rim that is being pulled into shape with resulting VERY uneven tension. Of course check that nothing is rubbing against (rear derailleur going to far, etc) spokes.
    – Ken Hiatt
    May 8, 2013 at 2:53
  • I have seen some recent mid-priced bikes where the spokes were very poor quality, leading to premature failures. Normally one would expect Specialized to monitor the quality of their components, but when you buy a bike from a Chinese factory this is hard to do unless you keep someone on-site 24/7. May 8, 2013 at 3:19
  • @DanielRHicks OK, the agreement seems to be the rate of breakage is abnormal, so I've edited the question to add the obvious. May 8, 2013 at 4:10
  • Spokes will often loosen up within the first month or two of riding on a new wheel. Did you have the wheel retensioned after buying the bike? If not, that could be what led to your current situation.
    – jimchristie
    May 8, 2013 at 10:57

3 Answers 3


Yes, as the comments pointed out, this is abnormal.

I would make the attempt to take the wheel back to the LBS where you bought the bike. The might be able to work with Specialized and get the wheel replaced completely. Once at the LBS, have the mechanic inspect for any external factors (derailleur strikes, etc).

If they can't get it replaced, then I would either: (1) have the wheel completely rebuilt replacing at a minimum the spokes but taking a good look at the rim once it's disassembled...as noted in the comments, it might be warped; or (2) buy a new wheel. Having it rebuilt can often be pretty pricey and you can get a decent wheel these days for a couple hundred.

  • I bought the bike from an individual, not a bike shop, so I can't insist they deal with it. It was un-ridden, so essentially new, but it had hung in his garage for a couple years so no warranty. May 9, 2013 at 4:15

Since this is happening on the drive side, it would leave me to believe the spokes are loose.

Check the spoke tensioning and overall wheel dishing; the wheel might be out of true with the spoke tension out of whack. They shouldn't have to rebuild the whole wheel; they should be able to test and inspect the wheel rather easily.

Since it keeps happening, one of the connectors the spokes are linking to the rim with might be faulty causing a different spoke to hold the brunt of the drive force. You could feel around on the spokes pushing of pinching to see if you notice an difference in tension.

  • "one of the connectors the spokes are linking to the rim" are you referring to the spoke nipples?
    – Ken Hiatt
    May 8, 2013 at 20:41
  • I was trying to speak a little less techy, but yes, I mean spoke nipples.
    – Mimi Flynn
    May 9, 2013 at 13:29

I put 40,000 miles on my Ksyium Elite wheels without ever even needing to true them, much less suffer a broken spoke. OTOH, my second pair of these cracked the rim on the rear wheel around the valve hole with about 7,000 miles. Fortunately this happened two weeks before the warranty expired.

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