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blown spoke!

Ok – here’s a question and a repair issue with an example for all the bike gurus who work on bikes:

I took my bike to the local shop and purchased the $60 tune-up – that includes brakes, cables, chain, derailleur adjustments, etc. as well as a truing of the wheels.  I also had Gatorskin tires put on for $45 each plus $10 per tire for installation.  I was out of town, so I didn’t have time to do all of this myself.

My wife picked up the bike on Friday, I returned yesterday and rode today.  28 miles into the ride, I blew a spoke on the front wheel. 

Is it coincidental?  The bike shop said:  $25 for a truing of the tire, $1.50 for the new spoke (and they don’t have the correct one but can make one work), and the truing had nothing to do with the problem.

Opinions?  I had ridden 300 miles on the bike previous to the tune-up.  I’ve never broken a spoke before.

Thanks in advance.

18 Replies

CyclingRoberto, July 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Could be purely coincidental, like having your headlights on your car fail after an oil change.  On the other hand, if they did a crappy job truing your wheels, then there is the culprit.  A good bike shop would replace the spoke free of charge after having just serviced your machine.  Find a better shop.  IMHO.


SSC1, July 18, 2011 at 7:15 pm

My brother called some stores in his area of the country (very well regarded bike shops).  Here is what they said:

“I called Rxxxx CxxxBikes, they said they probably would cover the redux
on the re truing if it happened right after———-mostly because you
are a reg customer.  when I called bxxx gxxxxxx, they said they would
charge you 17.00 for truing plus the spoke, unless it was real bad, then
25.00.  Camas Bike and Sport said if you are a reg customer, ie, you
bring in other bikes, they may not charge you to redux it considering
the circumstances.  he explained to me that you can come in with a good
wheel that is true, but if you have spokes that have seen some miles and
the wheels haven’t been serviced, a spoke can have enough wear that it
can break———-just like yours.  he said if a wheel is really out of
true after that, it can take a little time to true it again.

think the issue here is that there is no way of knowing the miles that
were put on the bike before you had it, and you can have a few spokes be
worn without it being obvious……”

I paid them to put the tires on because I was out of town and they would have the wheels off anyway.  I wasn’t happy with the charge either. 

I won’t return to the shop – even though I think there are some good things happening there.  They really upset me when they were nonchalant about the tune-up not having anything to do with the blown spoke.  “Spokes blow out – deal with it…..”  I hate that.

Oh well………thanks for the opinions.  I was hoping to hear from a few more folks on this – just so I have an idea if I have no reason to be bothered…….


CyclingRoberto, July 18, 2011 at 7:26 pm

$10 for a tire change is double the local shop’s rate here.  DOUBLE.


kenimus, July 18, 2011 at 8:12 pm

i bought a set of gators here in early june and brought hem in to install them saterday last weekend and they still installed them free for buying them there. granted they were way more then 4o a tire


CyclingRoberto, July 18, 2011 at 9:08 pm

 Buy all my tires on eBay or other online stores and mount them myself.  Can’t imagine paying for that service any more.  Do it a few times, and it’s a piece of cake… or should I say, pie?


Sandaltan ., July 18, 2011 at 9:14 pm

I love my staff mechanic.  He is unbeatable!!!

RIDE RIGHT  (Love ya Ernie)


lgriffin, July 18, 2011 at 9:39 pm

They say you’re supposed to show support for your LBS. But then the other side of that is your LBS should show support for you as well. I’ve built and trued enough wheels to know that if somebody messes with it and a spoke breaks 28 miles into the ride somebody made a mistake. They either overtightened one/some or didn’t tighten one/some enough. They should replace that spoke with one that works for no charge and then replace it with the correct one after RAGBRAI for no charge.

I’d find a new shop and be sure to let them know. It might not make any difference now but if enough people have the same experience they may get the idea.


kenimus, July 18, 2011 at 10:05 pm

while were on the subject i have a pair of easton ea50’s that creek a lil when i’m out of the saddle. just the front. is that normal?


SSC1, July 18, 2011 at 11:10 pm

I will keep my eyes open for the correct spoke at Ragbrai with the vendors and hope for the best.


SSC1, July 19, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Just so you all know how it ended – I picked up the bike today, paid the shop another $26.40 for a new truing and a spoke, and left.  The bike seems fine, although it is a round spoke rather than a flat one.  I will hope the thing runs fine for me at Ragbrai. 

Not sure I’ll ever go back to the shop – even though the work seemed ok.


Anonymous, July 19, 2011 at 9:17 pm

That bike shop is not doing you any favors.  A front spoke is a 10 minute swap out..won’t even have to remove the tire or wheel off the bike..I’ve trued thousands of wheels and would not put a round spoke in a wheel with flat spokes..one replaced broken spoke brought back to the right tension will (usually) bring a wheel right back to 10/1000″..Bring a few proper spokes on ragbrai and tape them to the seat stay…you can always borrow a spoke wrench.


Csprint, July 20, 2011 at 12:42 am

iceman said:  “You paid $10 per tire to have them installed?  Geez, I hope I’m around when you have a flat.”

At a fairly common and usual shop rate of $45 per hour, Barnett’s labor rate book has $7 for a tube change with wheel removal; that is in an average time for a competent, efficient mechanic to perform the job.  I think most shops charge a bit more for that: we charge $7 except for difficult jobs.

Anytime you put a bike in the repair stand or take a tool to the bike, you have to charge for labor except in the case of an estimate.  It’s your livelihood. 

Steve Z is right, a front spoke is a quick job, except where the shop in question is trying to initially quote a job sight unseen(?)  By my guidebook, it would be $10-15 labor and $1.99 for a dt Swiss stainless steel spoke.  But it is unusual for a front wheel spoke to break, unless the rider hits something. Actually, when a lot of new bikes are pulled out of the box to assemble, most of the wage/slave mechanics won’t bother to “dish” the front or rear wheels, unless obviously bad.   (That is, moving the rim to the center line of the hub by tightening or loosening all the spokes on one side or the other.  In other words, lots more time needed. A front wheel has no, or null, dish.  I make all the guys here pay attention to that).  Labor for a major front wheel truing job is $27, if there are  a lot of wobbles, or with several broken spokes, or if the dish is incorrect, which could be if the wheel wasn’t properly trued when new.  You just don’t know until you put the wheel on the truing stand.  



kenimus, July 20, 2011 at 12:46 am

sooo not to interupt but is it normal for new rims to creek a lil?


RussG, July 20, 2011 at 1:06 am

I think Csprint’s comments highlight the focus on the potential issue here.  even if the original wheel was not dished correctly, the shop at issue checked the tension of the spokes and the truing before releasing it to you. it’s unusual for a spoke on the front wheel to break during a ride of the kind you described.  that suggests that the changes in tension done by the shop at issue “might” have contributed to or been the cause of the spoke breaking.  Even if it wasn’t, the charges for the tire replacement when combined with the spoke replacement suggests that the shop at issue is gouging the customer.   

spokes do blow out and we all deal with it but shops generally approach their customers better, particularly after doing the full bike tune up including wheel inspection, spoke tension and truing just prior to a spoke (front wheel spoke) break.  this is not the kind of press that a local bike shops needs or wants.


Anonymous, July 20, 2011 at 7:03 am

An old timer wheelwright sees up and down/side to side wobble and can turn one spoke to improve both.   We charge 75$ for a tuneup but put the wheels on the stand..it is possible to run the up down indicator dial on the lip of the rim without removing the tire ..


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