My rear (disc) wheel currently has a lot of movement in it. I have been riding it like this for 18 months due to intending to replace the rim (has been dented) rather than simply getting it trued. The movement has worsened but nothing else really noticeable has changed.

So I am now considering what are the impacts of ignoring a buckled wheel and continuing to ride. These must sit on a spectrum from ride comfort through to catastrophic failure but I don't understand what they are. There also in my mind be an impact on ride speed or additional energy expended by I can't quantify these.

So simply:

What is the impact of a buckled wheel?

  • 2
    Wobble for one? With your rep I really don't get this question.
    – paparazzo
    Feb 12, 2015 at 21:34
  • Worded lazily I guess, think more about the impact on energy expended and if there is a measure on this.
    – DWGKNZ
    Feb 12, 2015 at 21:36
  • 3
    Then I respectfully suggest you clean up the question.
    – paparazzo
    Feb 12, 2015 at 21:39
  • Yeah, this question needs a bit of work. All I can think of is "a crash?" as an answer.
    – Batman
    Feb 13, 2015 at 1:57

7 Answers 7


Depends on how extreme the wobble is. It takes very little lack of trueness to cause rim brakes to drag, but in a pinch you can usually disconnect the cable or some such and still manage (assuming the brakes on the other wheel are OK).

After that, the wobble of wheel is distracting and will make the bike unpleasant and tiring to ride at high speed. Also, of course, it impacts the stability of the bike, making falls more likely.

If the wobble gets worse, the wheel can begin to rub against the fork or stays, and it gets unrideable.

One does need to be wary if, say, a single spoke is broken, causing wobble. This situation puts additional stress on other spokes, making a second failure more likely, and a second failed spoke in the wrong place could cause the wheel to become suddenly quite "loopy", resulting in a crash.


Big thing I would worry about is uneven spoke tension now.

If some spokes are loose (and not treated with thread locker), the nipples on the loose spokes may loosen, and the tight spokes may be more susceptible to breakage (because the loose spokes hold less of the load). I would replace the rim ASAP if you don't want to have to start buying a lot of replacement spokes too.

There is always the chance that you'll taco your wheel. I've done it on my touring bike with a wheel that was giving me troubles with spoke tension.


I am a wheelie expert. I got pretty good and then all of a sudden i couldnt wheelie to save my life, i checked the bike over and low pressure in the tyres fixed this issue .. next time i couldnt wheelie properly, ok but not properly, and everything seemed in order but the bike kept leaning, i took out a slight buckle in the rear rim..and this solved the issue. I had changed tyres after a puncture and i originally thought it was the new tyre, i reseated the bead of the new tyre, then i thought it was the tread, i spun the tyre around, then i thought it must just be a crap tyre or unbalanced in some way ..then i realised when i got the puncture i had inadvertently buckled the wheel slightly..so i fixed the buckle and TADA !

buckles causse the bike to handle funny, they cause a little bounce as you cycle, hence my wheelie was always going off, they also cause rim brakes to drag on one side, which can also cause leaning.

for general riding, a slight buckle is nothing, but if you really go into balance and stuff eg for wheelies...a buckle will ruin your bike handling and your entire life.



Wobble is just plain bothersome. I had one so bad I could not even ride no hands.

It is not going to fix itself. The wobble creates forces that make the wobble bigger.

Clearly wobble uses energy. I don't need to quantify it to know I don't want it.


With a disc brake, it depends on your clearance. I buckled a front wheel once on a pump track that was so bad it couldn't spin because the worst section rubbed against the fork stanchions. On a rim brake, if the bend is any more than the gap on your brakes, it will also rub. So, depending on the clearance you have on your fork or frame, there may not be a difference at all in how disabling it is.

Any bike has X amount of clearance and if the bend in the rim is any more than that clearance, your wheels won't roll.


There are two different kinds of effects that you need to worry about:

  1. Clearance. The obvious thing. When the rim moves left and right between the pads of a rim brake, it will quickly rub against them. When the tire moves left and right between the stays, it will eventually rub against them when the wobble gets too bad. In the extreme case, the later may suddenly lock your wheel, causing a rapid, unscheduled end of trip.

  2. Spoke wear. When wheels wobble, the spokes generally have very uneven tension. And as you ride your bike, some spokes may repeatedly loose all tension as your weight unloads them on their trip around the hub. This may further unscrew the spokes, worsening the problem. Also, once spokes start loosing all their tension repeatedly, they start breaking, worsening the problem again.

The worst case is, when the second effects suddenly increases the wobble by such a degree that the first effect kicks in to lock your wheel.

My experience is: Spoke tension problems are better fixed quickly. Otherwise they get worse, and the outcomes may be dangerous. I would not hesitate to try to ride my bike home even with a strong wobble, it usually takes some time to get dangerous. But I would not tolerate a wobble that's strong enough for me to feel for any extended time (i.e. fix it up within a week or so).


On road: unpleasant wobble.
Off road: no noticeable difference.

I came to this conclusion after they fixed (install new asphalt) the street in front of my block. First time I rode on it, I discovered the front cones are pitted and the rear cones are overtightened.

Other than that, I would expect to both the spokes and bearings be more severely loaded then when the wheel is true.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.