On my way to work this morning, one of the spoke on my front-wheel broke. I removed it completely, leaving me with 15 spokes instead of 16.

Can I still ride my bike over a 20km distance. I noticed the question was asked before, but I wasn't sure if it was also applicable to a wheel with a lower amount of spoke.

  • 1
    Spokes take the load of you and the bike, so where you had 16 spokes to share that load, now you only have 15.
    – PeteH
    Jun 29, 2016 at 18:28
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    Possible duplicate of Can I ride home with a broken spoke?
    – Criggie
    Jun 29, 2016 at 19:54
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    Yes - but its still something you have to fix, and sooner rather than later. The adjacent spokes on that side are now carrying more stress and could break sooner. Front wheel carries less than half the load total, but its more important in steering and braking and balancing. You should fix this ASAP, but you can ride it carefully. Look out for brake rub if you have rims - may need to back off the adjuster, which makes your braking worse.
    – Criggie
    Jun 29, 2016 at 19:57
  • I would guess that, if you try to ride on the wheel, it will start wobbling within 5-10km, if not sooner, and the possibility of another broken spoke (or complete wheel failure) would be quite high. A wheel with 24 spokes would be a bit more trustworthy, and I wouldn't worry very much at all if it were a 32-spoke wheel. But 16-spoke wheels have no inherent redundancy. Jun 29, 2016 at 20:23
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    @Criggie - they are a bit different. This one is a broken front spoke. The other is a broken rear spoke. This one is more dangerous than the other.
    – Batman
    Jun 29, 2016 at 22:07

1 Answer 1


You shouldn't ride on a wheel with broken spokes more than necessary, especially if its a low spoke count wheel (like a 16 spoke wheel). The load gets unbalanced with respect to the other spokes.

Since this is a front wheel, I wouldn't risk riding it. If something does happen to the wheel (such as failure) its far more serious than if it happened to the rear wheel (you can recover from rear wheel failure; recovering from front wheel failure may require you finding your teeth on the side of the road).

  • 17
    Also, front wheels tend to fail more catastrophically. Your rear wheel carries more of the weight the vast majority of the time, so it is just as likely to fail when you are sitting on it or riding at slow speeds. Your front wheel takes less of the weight until you start trying to brake hard, then it is suddenly subject to drastically increased forces, which is when you need it to not break the most. Jun 29, 2016 at 18:51
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    Thanks for the tips everyone. I ended up taking an uber back home. Jun 29, 2016 at 21:44
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    @SuspendedUser: I don't buy “real wheel is just as likely to fail when you are sitting on it or riding at slow speeds”. The rear wheel too has to handle dramatically increased load in particular situations, like when you're going over bumps in the road at fast speed. On the front wheen it's much easier to prevent such shocks by careful driving. I've lost many a rear spoke (as well as a couple of axles) to curbs, but never took damage to the front wheel. — Of course, with a spoke broken already, it's not advisable to go over any bumps at speed at all. Jun 30, 2016 at 15:46
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    @leftaroundabout : The key point in SuspendedUser's answer is slow speed. There are times when the rear wheel is more likely to fail than the front and vice versa with a broken spoke (trivial example: During a wheelie, the rear wheel is more likely to fail than the front; when the front wheel comes back down, that may change). The main problem is that if your rear wheel goes, you're probably going to be okay; when your front wheel goes, you're probably not going to be okay. Bicycles are the reverse of cars -- losing the rear is fine, losing the front is terrible.
    – Batman
    Jun 30, 2016 at 16:00

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