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Reusing mountain bike spokes and nipples (things to consider)

Old wheel spokes and nipples can be used but it depends on the different factors and condition of your spokes, to be exact.

Yes, you can reuse your bike spokes and nipples but it depends if the spokes are in useable conditions or not and if they will fit your new rim or not 

As I mentioned there are generally these two main tests that you should perform that you should do before you even decide on changing them I will get right into it.

How to tell if the spokes are reusable or not :

rim diameter :

It’s very important that you are not trying to fit your old spokes on a rim that has essentially more or less diameter for example if you are thinking of using 27.5″ bike tires spokes on the 29-inch bike(which has a rim size of 24.5 inches) it simply won’t work and same if you are expecting to replace spokes on a 26-inch bike with spokes from a 27.5-inch bike it won’t work because a 27.5-inch bike will have a rim of 23 inches in diameter and a 26-inch bike will have a rim size of 22-inch diameter so the spokes will.

spokes length :

This is a complicated one now different rims will have different inner diameters (i am not talking about the overall or outer diameter that would stay the same) there’s also the hub’s diameter both of these change based on the brand of the rim that you bought or you will buy and so it’s difficult to say which spoke length you might need.

picture shows the spokes adjustment tool and inner diameter of the spoke

Like in this case you see that the outer diameter would be different from the inner diameter of the rim so you may not be able to reuse the same spokes that you were using on your old rim

and same goes on with the hub the diameter or the length on the drive side may differ from the nondrive side.

The problem is that if your spokes lengths are not the same if they are a little bit longer then there is the risk that it can damage your tires and if the spokes are a little shorter then the nipples will often break.

Wire gauge for the same diameter of rims usually usually stays the same in rare cases it can be different but overall it stays the same.

How to measure or compare  your spokes lengths :

There are two ways that you can exactly measure your spokes length.

  1. using an ordinary metal or wood ruler (regular ruler)

Essentially both are the same but the process is a little different.

for metal or wood ruler(regular ruler 12inch) just take the spoke and place the j bend on from the starting side 1-12 on the park tool just place the j-bend in the hole on the scale, you can use the measuring tape as well.

you donot need to measure the j-bend length when measuring spokes it’s around 1 mm that will be covered with the spoke nipples.

As for checking the gauge (if you want to make sure) you can use a gauge tool for bikes as shown in the picture as well, I think it’s 5 dollars or something.

One other thing to keep in mind is that the spokes on the drive side and on the other side are different so if you take them off don’t mix them same with the front wheel as well, and the length of the front wheel spokes and rear wheel spokes may not be the same as well.

Fatigue and wear :

If the spokes show any sign of wear and fatigue you should change them if you are not sure then just take into account the time that they have been on the bike if they have been on there long you should change them.

Can you reuse spokes that are slightly bent :

If it’s just one or 2 it won’t matter a lot but if all the spokes are slightly bent then no because over time they will start bending more and more and they will either break or the rim will crack up somewhere or the rim will totally bend.

So make sure you are not using bent spokes, if it’s one or two tries changing them as you go along they are essentially responsible for keeping your wheels running on tough trails.

Can you reuse the spoke nipples :

Yes, you can re-use them if they are not damaged and they don’t show any sign of fatigue or wear.

You can usually see the wear on the spoke nipples but if you are just not sure then take into account the time they have been up on your bike if it’s long it would be best to change them.

Are all the spokes on a bike same in length :

No all the spokes on your bike are not same in length infact they are not the same even on the one side of the wheel, the length of the spokes on the drive side of the wheel will be different then the on the non dive side (spokes will be shorter in length on non drive side).

Same goes for the front and rear wheels as a whole as well the length on the spokes on the rear wheel will be different then the length of spokes on the front wheel.

How to arrange the spokes when taking of from rim or putting on :

The easiest way to not mess up the spokes arrangement will be to open up all the spokes nipple but leave the other ends on the wheel hub and take them out one by one and replace them with the new or the spokes that you are trying to reuse, this way it will be much easier to make a sense of everything and if you need to measure you spoke lengths just take out one from the each side of the wheels and measure them.

if you think that you need to take them all out from the hub as well then make sets for each of the wheel side.

Rear wheel drive side spokes

Rear wheel non drive side spokes

Front wheel drive side spokes

Front wheel non drive side spokes.

Write it down on paper or just use some thing to mark them down so you can later on remember it and use them in that manner.

And here’s how to spoke a wheel that you can follow if you want to change it yourself at home.

how to adjust Tension of the spokes :

Tension of the spokes is a guessing game there is no exact amount of force to apply or not to apply, the best way to adjust your spokes tension would be to tighten it lesser than what you think, after some rides you can check if the spokes are loose you can do this two to three times and things should be better.

Problems with tension only occur when you don’t tighten them enough or tighten them too much ofcourse you have no way of knowing how much to apply so do the old school method on it rins and repeat it works the best.

Can you re spoke the whole rim at home or by yourself :

Yes you can do it, but chances are you will get confused but never the less you can do it at home or do it yourself if you just follow the instructions and take it in a very neat manner you can do it.

i should also mention that if you are trying to do it yourself open up only one wheel at a time so that you have something to look at as a reference when arranging or changing your spokes.

Which would be better doing it on your own or getting it done from a mechanic :

In my opinion you should get it done from a nearby shop, although mechanics are usually hesitant about using the old spokes because they dont usually know how long you have been using them or if they are any good or not.

how much it will cost to get your spokes done by a mechanic :

The labor for changing the spoke on rim can cost you around 30-40$ for the rear wheel on average and  around 20-30$ for the front wheel.