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I have a low-spoke-count rear wheel, and it broke one earlier this week. The wheel twanged so far out of true it would not fit through the chainstays. Backing off other spokes left me with about 20% of the rim unsupported, and riding it was horrible. This left me with a 4 hour walk to get home.

I have spare spokes, at home. They're no help there, so carrying a couple on the bike seems prudent.

How would you carry one or two spare spokes on your bike so they're present and protected?

Mine is a road bike, but the same question applies to any bike with spoked wheels.

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    I think some people have jammed styrofoam or something into the bottom of their seatpost, and jammed the spokes into that.
    – Adam Rice
    Feb 1 at 1:23
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    There used to be an emergency braided fiber spoke that wound up like a shoe string that would fit in a normal seat pack. You could try googling that up. They were for emergencies so once you got home you'd replace it. Found it: Fiberfix.
    – R. Chung
    Feb 1 at 4:37
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    Having spokes of right length solves half the problem. Having the tools (thinking drive side rear wheel) to replace them is the other half. Best place to carry spokes is mounted on the wheel. (i.e. higher spoke count wheels - which is why tourers often go 32 or 36)
    – mattnz
    Feb 1 at 6:20
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    @mattnz yes - I have a strong preference for more-spokes in my wheels, but I also own these wheels and want to avoid long walks in road shoes (that's no fun!)
    – Criggie
    Feb 1 at 9:56
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    Regarding @Criggie's last comment, I have a spare wheelset for my tourer, and they're Aksiums with 24 spokes. I'm used to 36 on that bike, and at least 32 on less-heavily-laden bikes. A few days of light (little more than credit-card) touring tested my nerves. OTOH with 36 I've found wheels to be very nearly true with a broken spoke, or even 2 on the same side so long as they're not too close together
    – Chris H
    Feb 1 at 10:30

9 Answers 9

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I carry spare spokes inside the seatpost. I wrap them in thin foam (with some rubber bands around) to prevent rattling and use a bottle cork (cut to size) to keep them in place.

Works nicely and access is easy enough for the rare case of a broken spoke.

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  • I overengineered it but basically this was the solution for me so-far.
    – Criggie
    Feb 4 at 7:16
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I was intrigued by R. Chung's comment about flexible replacement spokes you could coil up in your seatbag.

It looks like FiberFix is a spoke replacement made of not-Kevlar-branded aramid fibers from DuPont. There is a threaded metal rod to attach to the nipple. The metal part has a cinch mechanism for the spoke fiber, so length isn't a concern. If you can't remove the spoke, the instructions say you can tie it out of the way and loop the fiber replacement around a spoke on the opposite side of the hub.

The fiber is long enough to double back from rim to hub. If you had two (or just an extra cinch/rod), I think you could rig it as a paired spoke replacement, too.

A Bikes.SE user, Self Evident, has used them once on a test wheel and then twice out on the road. The same spoke replacement was used each time. "The actual strength/'structural' strands are covered in a braided sheath, to protect against abrasion."

As of 2018, they were $14 each.

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    I've use this twice, and it works! Actually, I only used it for me once. 60 miles into a ride I lost two spokes (don't ask), and the FiberFix spoke got my wheel true enough to ride the last twenty miles home. Another time I used it for a cycling companions wheel so he could get home. Feb 2 at 7:49
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    They're reusable. I used the same one both times mentioned above, and also to practice on a spare wheel when I first got it so I'd know how to use it when needed. The actual strength/"structural" strands are covered in a braided sheath, to protect against abrasion. Feb 2 at 16:17
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    Those linked instructions show how one could use the fiberfix spoke if you can't remove the broken spoke (for example, if it were on the cassette side of the rear wheel).
    – R. Chung
    Feb 4 at 18:10
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One of my touring bikes (I believe it was the first one, may it rest in pieces) actually came with 3 spare spokes strapped to the drive-side chainstay. Both of my touring bikes (well, all three frames) had thick stickers protecting the top side of the stay from dropped chains, and the spare spokes (one for each length) were fixed on top with plastic shrinkwrap stuff.

If I were sticking spokes on my bike I'd wrap them in plastic first to protect them, but otherwise use the same location. (I'd keep the nipples separate, especially since I already carry a pill container for fiddly bits.)

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Here's my first effort - cable-tie two spokes with nipples to the seat post, using a 3d printed holder on each end to space the spoke off the frame.

enter image description here

Advantage: they're out of the way and don't catch the rider's leg. And they were still there at the end of the ride.

Disadvantage: NOT AERO! And they look a bit ugly. The cable tie will slowly erode its way through the paint. A chance exists for the nipples to spin themselves off the spoke and be lost.

Also these are bladed spokes and tend to flex, creating tapping noises on the frame - round spokes would be better. These spokes are longer than the space available so are not centered.

There MUST be a better way...


TOOLS One will need to carry a spoke-nipple key, along with tyre removal tools. My spokes are straight-pull which means I don't need to remove cassette to change a spoke, but riders with J-bend spokes may need a lockring tool and a chain-whip, or one of the lightweight touring lockring tools that push against the frame.

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    As you've got a 3d printer, I wonder about a bracket to go just under a bottle cage, probably with two spokes, one either side of the screws. They'd be tucked in behind the tube, and you wouldn't have cable ties to deal with. But you might need a 2nd part to stop the ends tapping against the tube.
    – Chris H
    Feb 1 at 7:17
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    Maybe you should design and sell a 3d-printed seat tube (or post) spoke holder
    – Chris H
    Feb 1 at 10:24
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    Helicopter tape, which is transparent, can address the paint problem.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Feb 1 at 21:27
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    I have done this but with electrical tape. This will make it easier to get at the spokes on the roadside. And it's a nice snug vibration-resistant fit. Feb 1 at 22:44
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    ... You can also hide the spokes better if you set them down on a chainstay instead of up there. Less ugly. Feb 1 at 22:45
5

My tourer has them in a custom mount on the non-drive-side seatstay. That's a good place to tape them as well, if you want to tape them.

On another bike I've taped them to my pump, which was a similar length, and strapped to my seat tube, however I had to remove them to use the pump, so it's only a good option if you're really short of space. Plus tape left in the sun leads to glue residue on the spokes amd whatever they're taped to. Cable ties ought to work better than tape, so long as you have a tool to cut them or use the releasable type. A piece of old inner tube can protect the frame and add grip to make them more secure.

Now I usually carry them in my (home made) frame bag. I have a large enough frame that I can fit a frame bag and bottles, and that bike handles better with a frame bag than a big saddlebag. Because I make my own luggage, a very slim frame bag would be possible.

One of the big bike manufacturers makes a strap of elastic and velcro to fit their multitool to a tube. Two straps (one at each end) very similar to that would hold a few spokes.

A roadside cassette lock ring tool is a good partner to carrying spare spokes. They're used by taking the wheel out, slotting the tool into the lock ring, refitting the wheel, and turning it. That's a task to try at home first.

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    “A roadside cassette lock ring tool is a good partner to carrying spare spokes.” On some hubs (e.g. DT Swiss) the freewheel body can simply be pulled off. Certainly an advantage for roadside spoke repairs.
    – Michael
    Feb 1 at 9:22
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    @Michael I may have to look into those for my next wheel build, for several reasons, that being a minor one.
    – Chris H
    Feb 1 at 9:39
  • I found a couple of "travel" lockring removers online. The main complaint is that they stress the derailleur hanger, and on some bikes that is extra weak. On this bike I'm lucky to have straight pull spokes so no cassette removal needed, but definitely a good idea for regular J bend spoke wheels.
    – Criggie
    Feb 1 at 9:55
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    I must admit I bought my portable lockring remover for my steel tourer with integrated hanger. But it's not a huge amount of stress and it's not something you'd do often
    – Chris H
    Feb 1 at 10:26
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    Circus Monkey/ aka old Velo Orange hubs also have the ability to just yank off the freewheel without tools. Very handy for touring emergencies. Feb 1 at 22:47
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To answer the "any bike" part of your question: on flat bar bikes you can stick them into the handlebar. I wrapped some duct tape around them just below the spoke heads and left the end of the tape stick out so I can pull them out if needed.

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  • On a flat bar bike, I'd consider putting them inside the handlebars, packed in a length of old inner tube.
    – Chris H
    Feb 3 at 10:55
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Here's the final iteration, so far.

https://www.tinkercad.com/things/dDMg6a2EY3P-spare-spoke-holder-for-gt-seattube

enter image description here
As printed - 0.28mm layer height for speed on an ender3v2.

enter image description here
Assembled.

enter image description here
Inserted into seatpost.

enter image description here
Close up of wedges holding it up the seat post. There is a lip on the bottom which should stop it all from falling down as I ride.... probably.

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For the completion of the answers, some bikes offer in-frame storage (at the time of writing mostly upper-range gravel/allroad bikes with carbon frames). A little door on the frame allows to access the inside of the top tube or down tube, which can be a nice place for spokes - these bikes usually come with bespoke bags that can block the spokes and prevent rattling.

enter image description here

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    @Michael I'm only considering the bikes that have built-in in frame storage and have the necessary access doors. For the top tube, it would be like this - flexing them a bit through the opening is required then. In the down tube, the door is often under the bottle holder, but some models have it at other locations.
    – Rеnаud
    Feb 2 at 14:28
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This is the classic case of an XY problem.

The problem is that your wheel becomes out of true if a spoke snaps.

The attempted solution is carrying spare spokes.

I think the best solution however wouldn't be carrying spare spokes, but rather ensuring that your wheel does not become too much out of true.

A wheel with more spokes than in your wheel would become less out of true. Furthermore, a bicycle with plentiful tire clearance would help much, because even if the wheel becomes out of true, it still can rotate in your frame or fork.

Even in the absolutely worst case, with 36 spokes and enough tire clearance, you can compensate for the out-of-trueness by turning few spoke nipples to reduce the out-of-trueness.

Of course you should also ensure that none of your spoke nipples are aluminum (use only brass), and that the spokes are high quality swaged (as opposed to straight gauge) stainless steel. Also extremely thin (1.5mm) or otherwise weird (non-round) spoke profiles are ideally avoided.

I think that only long-distance touring far away from civilization is a case where carrying spare spokes makes sense. And indeed, you do find that bikes like Surly Long Haul Trucker have a spoke holder in the chainstay whereas non-touring-bikes don't.

Also remember that it isn't enough to carry spare spokes. Spokes can snap on the drive side of the rear wheel, necessitating removing the cassette to install a new spoke. So you need to devise some solution to take the cassette off with roadside tools. A solution was Pamir Hypercracker but it's no longer available. Today, you can still buy the Stein Tool.

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    This is an instance where I agree with you somewhat, but not everyone can afford to swap wheels (or bikes) around for different trips. Feb 1 at 20:56
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    One can also say that having more spokes on the wheel is an answer to XY problem: the problem is that j-bend spokes are so hard to fix on the roadside. The attempted solution is to have more spokes than necessary to not be impacted by a broken spoke. For someone enjoying lighter wheels for their low inertia and who has wheels that can be easily fixed on the roadside (which is the case of straight-pull spokes), carrying spokes is a better solution than having to use heavier wheels all the time just to mitigate against a normally rare failure.
    – Rеnаud
    Feb 2 at 10:41
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    Another side note: instead of carrying a cassette removal tool, you can choose DT Swiss hubs as the entire freehub can be removed without tools. Centerlock disc rotors would still get in the way, though.
    – Andrew
    Feb 3 at 3:57
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    "I think that only long-distance touring far away from civilization is a case where carrying spare spokes makes sense." I broke several aluminium spoke nipples on a trip along the Norwegian coast due to corrosion. I was very glad I had spare spokes+nipples and a spoke wrench with me which allowed me to continue unimpeded. On my commute or a training ride I don’t carry spare spokes and tools since a wheel with a broken spoke is still good enough to limp home.
    – Michael
    Feb 5 at 14:24
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    @Michael Indeed, answer revised, forgot to put my recommendations for spoke and nipple types.
    – juhist
    Feb 5 at 16:55

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