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I've been riding my bike for about a year and a half now and the back spokes are starting to snap, 2 now. I want to know when was this bike bought from the original owner since the spokes are stock spokes and it is second hand, it would be easy to know. All I do is just wheelies and bunny hops so maybe it might wear off more faster. Also, should I replace the spokes asap?

  • Which spokes have broken - rear wheel, right hand side? – mattnz Dec 9 '19 at 3:16
  • My general rule is that when two spokes have broken (and not for something like getting something caught in them) then the spokes are probably reaching "end of life" and I should plan on replacing them. But you probably need not rush until the 3rd one breaks. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 9 '19 at 3:36
  • Going to replace it at January, thanks for the help. – Lam Munn Juan Dec 9 '19 at 3:38
  • Can you describe how the spoke breaks? Is it at the J bend (ie right in the flange on the hub) or is it at the threadded bit by the nipple, or somewhere in the middle of the spoke? Can you also compare the tension on your spokes with some other bikes - are your spokes softer or harder? – Criggie Dec 9 '19 at 11:18
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    Also, yes wheelies, bunny hops, stunts, kerb/curb jumps up and down, and falls or accidents can all contribute to broken spokes and shorter lifespan of spokes. – Criggie Dec 9 '19 at 11:19
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From the info you've given it's hard to tell how old your bike/the spokes are.

If the spoke tension is too low/if there is too big a difference in the tension of the spokes in the wheel this can cause premature spoke failure due to uneven force distribution over the spokes in the wheel. Make sure to have proper spoke tension/tension distribution to prevent premature spoke failure.

To answer your other questions:

1) Yes the wheels will not last as long when doing bunny hops and other such 'stunts' (such as riding down stairs, jumping off things etc.)

2) You should replace your spokes as soon as possible, if you don't and keep riding there is a significantly higher chance of more spokes braking (since the force is distributed over less spokes)

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  • But what if I just ride it normally? How long will it last for? – Lam Munn Juan Dec 9 '19 at 5:13
  • In some cases they can last years (My dad rides a bike which he's been using for 6 years or so every day with a lot of weight on it (110kg or so) without any issue (iirc we replaced maximum of 5 spokes in total), but it depends on a few factors among which rider weight, level of maintenance and spoke quality. – Maarten -Monica for president Dec 9 '19 at 10:39
  • 6 years is not much for a bike, and already had to replace 5 spokes? I call that high replacement for a normal sturdy bike. Racing bikes/road bikes are less sturdy. – Willeke Dec 9 '19 at 17:10
  • I think that bunny hops and wheelies pretty low down on the list of tricks that people do. If that's all the OP is doing and they have good technique, then a well-built wheel should be able to handle that without issue. The key is, as you alluded to, that the wheel was probably poorly built. – Weiwen Ng Dec 9 '19 at 17:17
  • @Willeke Well he does use it approx 3 hours per day and the bike was already secondhand when he bought it. replaced a few spokes when he got it and none since – Maarten -Monica for president Dec 9 '19 at 18:25
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Spokes are unfortunately one of the places where quality matters a lot. Decent spokes in a well built wheel last virtually forever, including wheelies and bunny hops. In accidents the rim breaks before spokes. On the other hand, poor spokes start snapping no matter what after some riding.

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  • So, buying a very expensive spoke is overkill? – Lam Munn Juan Dec 9 '19 at 10:42
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    @LamMunnJuan one expensive spoke in a wheel with 31 cheap spokes is a bit of a waste - You'd be better off with a brand name spoke like DT Swiss for $2 rather than a $1 spoke. But I wouldn't bother with an $8 spoke. – Criggie Dec 9 '19 at 11:16
  • Certainly when I crashed hard enough to write off my front rim (and break bits of myself) the spokes all survived. I still bought new when I built the replacement. Sapim race (their basic double-butted model) for about £0.60 each (under $/€1); some DT spokes are around the same price. – Chris H Dec 13 '19 at 20:14
  • The last time I built a wheel, DT Competition was around 40 cents a piece. The seller, roseversand.de, doesn't sell single spokes any more but pack of 20 is €6.80. By industrialized country standards you don't save much with skimping on spokes. – ojs Dec 14 '19 at 10:15
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In my experience, the wheel's build quality is key, and it has to be strong enough to support your weight plus whatever cargo you carry. That includes having a good quality rim that's straight out of the box, and it includes even tension on the spokes. (In the case of the rear wheel, the drive-side spokes will all be at a much higher tension because the wheel is dished, so I really mean the spokes on each side are even in tension). To my knowledge, most wheels are built by machine and finished by hand. The stock wheels on a lower-end bike may not have been finished as well (e.g. tensioned evenly) as on a higher-end wheelset. Also, the original owner might have hit them.

Wheel strength is determined by the rim and the number of spokes. The gauge (thickness) of the spokes may not matter as much in terms of strength. I'm not familiar with 26" mountain bike wheels, so I have to give an example of my own road bike's wheels. I'm about 135 lbs (61 kg), and I have 20 spokes in front and 24 at the rear. People who are 180 lbs (81k kg) would probably want 24 spokes front and 28 rear at minimum, assuming the same rim. If a heavier rider took my wheels, they would go out of true faster, and possibly they would be more likely to break spokes. The rim involved is a pretty strong 30mm aluminum one. You could get a shallower and lighter one, but then most riders would want to increase the number of spokes.

A possible factor is the tire. Tires offer a bit of cushioning. A 23mm road tire offers a lot less comfort over bumpy roads than a 28mm one. You mentioned a 26" wheel, so I assume you have a big tire, but it might be worth mentioning for completeness.

If you have a well-built wheel from components that are good enough, then barring manufacturing defects, you should be able to wear the rim out without breaking spokes. If all you are doing is bunny hops and wheelies, and your technique is good, then I don't think that should stress the wheel too much (disclosure: it should be obvious that I'm a roadie, and I don't do wheelies or real bunny hops). Again, I would suspect that you'd wear the rim out first. I've had one pair of road bike wheels for 7 years before the rims were worn a bit too thin for me to trust. I had another pair for 5 years. The rims are actually still good, but the hubs are not quite sound (issues with a proprietary bearing, and the manufacturer went out of business).

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Your spokes are breaking because of your rim. You have already broken one spoke, your rim just suddenly got yanked to one side. Fitting a new spoke is a monkey patch on a cheap rim, and a temporary solution on an expensive rim, at best.

The reason for this is that now the rim is essentially permanently warped, spoke tension will be all over the placed and uneven, they will continue to break until your replace the rim + spokes. Tensioning the wheel won't do a thing.

The only exception is on carbon rims, where they basically can't warp, they just right out snap.

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    This is flat out not true; a broken spoke does not permanently warp a rim out of shape. Even on a dished rear wheel there isn't that much lateral force on the rim. Unless the nipples are pulling through the rim, the rim is almost definitely not the problem. – DavidW Dec 13 '19 at 19:32

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