Why Do My MTB Spokes Keep Coming Loose

Although your MTB spokes look like simple parts that don’t need your attention, you need to check on them once in a while as they can keep coming loose. This, in turn, will affect your biking experience and needs to be fixed quickly.

Here’s all you need to know about why they come loose and what you can do about it. 

Why Do My Spokes Keep Coming Loose?

Your spokes are coming loose for three reasons: the riding condition, how you tightened the spoke nut, and damage to the rim. 

The spokes can loosen when you land jumps with your mountain bike or hit bumps on rough terrain. You will hear clicking and tapping sounds from the wheel that show it has gone loose.

Novice riders usually cause the second reason. If one MTB spokes go loose because of rough riding, they tighten it without caring about the effect the pull will have on the spokes at the other side of the rim.

If you don’t tighten the spoke nut well, the tension from the opposite end of the rim will be too high, causing it to go loose when you go on a ride. At the same time, tightening it too much will loosen the spokes at the other side of the rim.

Thus, the perfect balance for putting your spokes in place is essential. If you go to a professional, they will use a tension meter to ensure that both sides of your rim have the same spoke tension. 

But all of these won’t matter if the wheel rim of your mountain bike is damaged.

Dents and Twists in your MTB Rim

The final reason why your MTB spokes might come loose is dents and twists in the wheel rim. The spoke lengths are based on the diameter of the rim. So if one rim is dented, the distance between the wheel and hub shortens, leading to a smaller diameter.

But the spoke on that side remains the same, and since it’s too long, it can twist and become loose when you’re riding on harsh terrain. Although this is rare, it’s still possible. Even if your rim is twisted by two millimeters, it’s enough to make your spokes lose.

Keep in mind that if the rim is still dented or twisted and you try to tighten the loose spokes, you can strip the threads in the nut. It’s best to fix or replace the rim before adding your spokes. It’s also good to ask a professional wheel builder to solve this problem.

Why Your MTB Spokes Are Important

The spokes of your mountain bike are used to support the wheel rims. It consists of two ends, with the outer end threading into the spoke nuts on the rim and the inner end fitting into ports on the hub.

Spokes are made to accommodate tension adjustments whenever you loosen or tighten them. Looking at the wheel’s and spoke’s design, you notice that the right is an offset of the left, and they cross over in the middle.

Your MTB spokes are meant to support the wheel and prevent it from collapsing. The nuts are offset so you can true the wheel with them. If you own a car, you will notice that this works similarly to aligning the front part of a car.=

Are Loose Spokes Dangerous?

Loose spokes are dangerous, and you should never ride your mountain bike until you fix the problem. Even if only one spoke is loose, you should still ensure you tighten it. Also, if the spoke is missing altogether, it’s advisable to purchase a new one and solve the problem.

The friction caused by a loose spoke can cause your MTB wheel to wobble and upset your balance. This is especially bad if you’re riding on rough terrain. Also, like the wheel wobbles, it will damage the bike components as you go. In the end, your spokes might go from loose to broken.

If you’re riding and notice that your spokes are loose or broken, you still need a way to get home. It’s a great idea to secure the spoke by twisting it or secure it with Band-Aid or duct tape if it’s broken. Also, ride carefully till you get home.

Fixing Your Loose Spokes

If you’re dealing with loose spokes, you can quickly tighten them equally to ensure no other one becomes loose. Follow the steps below to tighten your MTB loose spokes.

Step 1

Set your bike upside down, either with a bike stand or hanging the wheels up in your garage or yard.

Step 2

Use the spoke wrenches to grab a pair of spokes on one side of the wheel and squeeze them simultaneously. Continue pressing them until you get them all, and do the same for the other side of the wheel.

Step 3

As you’re squeezing the spokes, you can note which ones are loose, tight, or broken. The spoke lacing styles are all different, but you should still check each one and ensure nothing is off balance.

Step 4

Mark the loose or tight spokes so that you won’t forget them.

Step 5

Tighten the loose spokes, which will fix your wheels’ wobbling problem. Follow the next steps if you notice that your wheels are still wobbling.

Step 6

Put a stick in the chainstay where the tire is rubbing and move it towards the rim. This will show you where the wheel isn’t true, and the direction is facing. In most cases, the rim is out of true in the same area where the spokes are loose.

Step 7

Once you figure out where the wheel is not true, you can tighten the spokes. If the spoke is too loose, you should righten it until it stops wiggling and then turns it about 90 degrees each time until it’s perfectly accurate. Now, you can test your bike.

Conclusion

If you’re wondering why your MTB spokes keep coming loose, we hope you’ve answered the question in this guide. The terrain where your ride is the biggest factor, but it usually has underlying causes. 

Once your spokes are loose, follow the steps in this guide to get them fixed so you can get back on the road.

Photo of author
Written By Robbie Ferri
My name is Robbie Ferri, I’m an Ultra Endurance cyclist from the UK. I have been lucky enough to have cycled all over the world. With some amazing world record attempts, bikepacking races, and many miles under my belt I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather be than on my bike.

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