I've got an old bike (not a sport bike, just an old fashioned granny bike).

The chain was super loose so I have to tighten it, the tires are fine. The rear wheel, although reasonable aligned for how abandoned the bike looks has 5 over 36 spokes broken (3 on one side and 2 on the other). I am using the bike but I am a bit scared it can break down at any moment. Is that likely or not at all?

  • Depends on the bike. Some bikes are reasonably solid with almost half the spoken broken, others become iffy with 2 or 3. Assuming this is your standard 60-pound BSO, and you're not riding it down mountainsides, I wouldn't be too concerned about a sudden catastrophic failure, but the next broken spoke is apt to make the wheel wobble and the tire rub. Apr 19, 2018 at 20:46
  • Are all five broken spokes together? leaving 15% of the rim without spokes?
    – Criggie
    Apr 20, 2018 at 2:25
  • Spokes are cheap. Rather than take a risk, replace the missing spokes/nipples. There may be some special tools required to remove the block, but if your local bike shop is too expensive then look for a bike cooperative in your area.
    – Criggie
    Apr 20, 2018 at 2:27

3 Answers 3


Definitely not recommended to ride a wheel with broken spokes. Even if the wheel does not catastrophically break and result in injury, the bike could leave you stranded.

If the bike is old and has not been maintained, you should get it inspected for other safety issues, especially proper functioning of the brakes.

There are a few questions on here about inspecting a bike for safety issues. Here's one I found after a quick search: Safety check for a used bike

  • I didn't say it but yes, I knew it's suboptimal and not a good idea to use but I was wondering for the safety mainly. And yes, I should give it a proper check maybe. Nevertheless, as i said, it's an old city bike, as soon as the wheels roll and it brakes are fine. Regarding the brakes actually, it has pedal brakes which I think are as weak as robust as in undestroyable, am I right?
    – myradio
    Apr 19, 2018 at 20:48

In terms of safety, it's very difficult to give any advice other than "get it fixed." You're basically asking people to evaluate an unknown risk for you – we don't really know the condition of the bike, we don't know how you'll ride it. It's possible that somebody who rode the bike could understand its limitations and therefore ride safely on it. But, even then, it's hard to advise somebody else, who doesn't have that feel for the machine, how to ride it, what situations to avoid and so on.

And how terrible would we feel if we said it was probably OK to ride, you took that advice and ended up in hospital or worse? Ultimately, if you can't tell by feel what is working and what isn't, you should just get it fixed.


You will probably be safe to ride it. Since it is the back wheel, you are not risking the front wheel seizing on something and getting thrown over the handlebars. If the back wheel seizes it would just skid/stop. I have seen wheels collapse catastrophically, but it has always been from impacting a curb or car or something directly at high speed. I imagine with five spokes broken the rim would be more susceptible to that sort of catastrophic failure on impact but I don't think you are risking that happening if you stick to smooth ground.

There are people who ride bikes with 5 broken spokes and not even notice. So, it's by no means something you can jusy ignore long-term and I wouldn't go bombing down any hills like that, but if you try riding it and it works and stops, you shouldn't really have anything to worry about besides not rolling very efficiently and eventually (maybe quickly) breaking more spokes.

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.