Riding with a badly bent wheel

It eventually happens to the best of us.   A pot-hole or storm-drain you didn’t see, a really rough curb hop, or a crash can bend a wheel pretty quickly.   Not all hope is lost, however.   You can often limp home on a taco wheel.

If your bent wheel locks up from rubbing on the brakes, but isn’t too bent to rotate through the front fork or rear stays, try unhooking your brake from that wheel.   On cantilever brakes, you can usually just unhook the yoke cable from one of the two cantilever arms. On side-pull “V Brakes” you can unhook the metal “noodle” to open the brake arms.

This doesn’t work too well on caliper brakes like you see on many road and BMX bikes.   Try loosening the brake cable barrel adjuster if it’s been tightened.   If you have a quick release, you can try opening it up or if you have a tool set with you, simply unhook the brake cable.

This is a temporary fix used often by mountain bikers that bend a wheel on the trail.   Keep in mind that after performing this trick, you’re operating with limited braking ability just long enough to get you to your office, to the trailhead, to a bike shop or back home.   This way, you don’t get stuck carrying your disabled bike or leaving it on the side of the road until you can come back to pick it up.

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0 thoughts on “Riding with a badly bent wheel”

  1. Donald says:

    I had to figure this out on my own one time biking home from the bike shop. They made some mistakes fixing my rim (using the wrong spokes) and my rim bent halfway home. Luckily only a couple of spokes popped so I could actually perform this trick. It’s a good thing for anyone to know. =)

  2. Noah says:

    Indeed. I also forgot to mention that ride stability is (obviously) severely reduced. In my case yesterday, the wheel was so far out of true that it actually rubbed on the fork, but not badly enough to make it un-ridable. I couldn’t even get the bike to roll with the brakes in place, though. The bike was very, very squirrely and a bit of a challenge to ride, but it was either that or a three-mile hike.

  3. fixedgear says:

    If you ride conventional 32 or 36 spoked wheels, you are almost guaranteed to make it home. “Few spoke” or ‘paired spoke’ wheel will almost always become unrideable.

  4. SteveG says:

    If it’s not too bad, you can also try roughly truing the wheel on the road or trail, using the fork and brake pads as a truing stand. I did this once last year and after some kid knocked my bike over in a bike stand where I’d stupidly left it with the front wheel as its only support. You need a spoke wrench with you, of course. I did a better job when I got home, but I managed to get most of the wobble out on the road.

  5. Dan says:

    Not interested in walking out of the bush with my injured bike I once bent a tacoed (sp?) wheel back to workable straightness by taking it off my bike, removing the QR laying it on the ground and doing some strategic standing on it until it would fit in the frame. I was able to limp home after that but like Noah said, the stability was horrible. It was slow going but faster than pushing the bike home.

  6. Guitar Ted says:

    Dan: Good technique there. You can also attain similar results by removing the offending wheel and smacking the bent portion on the pavement while holding the wheel wth both hands opposite the bend. Make sure you start your “stroke” with the wheel above your head for dramatic effect. 😉 Works a trick as a stress reliever too!

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