‘S’ Spokes

Mr. D. Railleur’s Bicycle Advice Column

Dear Mr. Railleur,

I have heard some of the club members discuss the use of so-called ‘S’ spokes as temporary fixes for broken spokes when on a ride. What kind of a spoke is that and where could I buy one?

Raymond in Raymore

Dearest Ray,

Velda to the rescue with an S spoke.  Bikes, Boots & Boats Weekend, 2009
Velda to the rescue with an S spoke. Bikes, Boots & Boats Weekend, 2009

The S’ spoke is indeed a temporary but quite effective spoke repair. Most spokes break at the head (the end opposite the threads) and on the drive side of the rear wheel. In order to replace those particular spokes it is necessary to remove the gear cluster which is attached to the rear hub. That in itself is rather challenging without some rather unique and quite heavy tools which you would not usually carry with you. The ‘S’ spoke is used as a quick fix to get you back on the road without damaging your rim or the other spokes by riding with a broken spoke. Here is a link to a website which shows you how to make them………. Well, actually I can’t find one! Maybe it’s just a prairie thing! If any ‘visual learners’ find a good site, let me know!

You start with a spoke which is too long for the rim. I experimented and found 1/4 inch too long works pretty well. Cut off the head with side cutters, making sure you wear eye protection. Then, using the side cutters or pliers, bend the protruding cut end up, away from the threaded end, so that you form a crude S shape. This is the part that can sneak behind the gears and slide into the correct rim hole. You then attach the threaded end to the empty rim hole. Tighten to coarsely true the rim and ride home. Replace the “S” spoke when you get home (though I have seen “S” spokes that have lasted for years!)

I would be pleased to demonstrate or you could sweet talk any of the boys at Dutch Cycle into showing you! I always carry a couple of these along on every ride, safely attached to my rack with zip ties. Just be sure you start with a spoke which is too long for your wheel – by the time you make the cut and twist it should be the correct length.

An alternate replacement spoke can be purchased at MEC or on the web. It is made of Kevlar and makes a pretty good emergency repair if you remember to always carry the nifty directions with you!

Dan