The unfortunate part of any bike accident is that there is almost always some damage to your bike. If you manage to get away with a few minor scrapes, consider yourself lucky!
However, if you are involved in a head-on collision with a tree, car, or fellow bike rider, it can leave you with a bent fork.
The good news is that a bent fork can be fixed, and you will be back in the saddle in no time.
Can You Fix a Bent Fork on a Bike?
The simple answer is yes. In most cases, your bent fork can be fixed. The type of bike frame and the extent of damage to the fork will determine whether you will be able to fix the bent fork yourself or if you will need to take your bike to a reputable bike shop.
Many critics out there will try to tell you otherwise and suggest buying a new fork. Do not waste your time listening to them.
The Need for Inspection
Assessing the extent of damage to your bike is your first step to determining whether or not your bent fork can be fixed.
Remember your bike fork is not the only part that could be damaged, and your frame may need to be repaired as well. As these two critical components work in tandem, you must complete a thorough inspection.
How to Inspect?
1– Closely inspecting your bent fork means identifying any potential stressors and deformities, which include signs of flaking, rippling, or cracking.
If you see any of these present on your bent fork, then you will not be able to repair it.
2– Safety is paramount, so be sure to closely examine and feel along your fork and frame of your bike for any hairline cracks. Make sure to check the underside of the top and down tubes near the head tube for any signs of weakness.
Slight cracks can be repaired but are not recommended as you may inflict more damage to yourself and your bike.
3– If your bike frame is made of steel, you will have more success with a bent fork. Steel is a material that can bend and can be easily shaped back into form with the right tools and equipment.
Aluminum is not a material that can bend, so if your fork and frame are constructed from aluminum, they will need to be replaced.
How Do You Know if Your Forks Are Bent?
If you think your forks are bent, be sure they are before you make an expensive and time-consuming mistake.
By now, you have probably completed a thorough inspection of your bike and found no physical signs of damage to your forks.
Let’s see how we can tell if the bike fork is bent……
1– Before you go ahead and disassemble your bike, place your bike onto a bike stand, secure the front tire using your knees, and slowly twist the front wheel back into line with the handlebars.
Follow this up with a test ride to see if your bike tracks straight or veers off center.
If the bike steers true when riding with no hands, then you can rest assured, your forks are not bent. Take a look behind you while you are riding. If your two tire tracks are misaligned, it is a clear sign that your fork is bent.
2– A nifty trick to tell if your forks are bent is to take a photo of your bike. Look for signs of dents or bends in the forks by studying the picture.
If the fork does not follow the same line as the head tube, the fork is likely bent. A good piece of advice before doing this is to make sure your camera angle is perfectly straight!
3– One of the ways of assessing whether your forks are bent is to check for a bend in the direction of travel by measuring the bike’s wheelbase and comparing it to original bike specifications.
This may work for some, but not for others.
A good indicator of bent forks is to turn your handlebars as far as you can from side to side while holding the handlebars and the front brake lever. If there are any signs of stiffness in the steering or play in the headset bearings, then it is likely that your forks are bent.
Having said all that, the most common indicator of bent forks is a bulge at the bottom of each tube right next to the head tube.
4– Our last tip is to lay your fork on a flat surface to check if the fork crown is parallel to the dropouts.
If any of these symptoms are present, then your forks are bent.
How Much Does It Cost to Fix Bent Forks?
Fixing a bent fork does not have to be a costly exercise.
If your forks are slightly damaged, there are quick and easy methods which you can perform by yourself at home.
Generally, it will cost you the price of some garage tools and the supplies necessary to fix the bent fork. This could vary between $80 and $150.
However, if there is significant damage to your forks, it does mean that you will need to book your bike in for repair and service at a local bike dealer. They will ascertain the extent of damages and repair your bent fork.
Costs would include the price of bike service, labor, and the cost to repair the bent fork. Your overall cost ranges from anywhere between $50 and $1,000
If you don’t want to waste money on the cost of replacement, it may be a good idea to take it to a local technician for their expert opinion before fixing it yourself.
Issues With a Bent Bike Fork
Overall, most cyclists who have slightly bent forks continue riding without any complications. Many cyclists report that they have successfully continued ride for years with no signs of a problem.
But here are a few problems that can arise due to bent forks….
1- Handling Problems
The main issue with a bent bike fork is that it tends to change the handling of your bike. You may find that things as simple as riding in a straight line become slightly more challenging.
In other words, your bike rake, head angle, and wheelbase suffer the most from a bent fork. This can lead to an uncomfortable ride and additional complications down the road.
2- Wierd Sounds
You may find that your bike exhibits sound that you have never noticed before. A slight rattle can develop into a loud noise when cycling if the bent fork is not fixed correctly.
3- Other Issues
You may also find that your tires wear unevenly and that pedaling is harder. The seals will begin to wear on the more expensive bicycles, and you might see traces of oil leakage.
How to Fix the Bent Fork?
There are a couple of ideas you can try at home to fix your bent fork.
Keep in Mind
The critical thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to cause further damage to your bent forks. The second item to remember is that you cannot bend forks made of aluminum as the structure will weaken.
Method: Use a Fork Straightener
You will find that most local dealers will suggest that you don’t fix a bent fork at home. Taking this into account, there is a handy tool on the market known as a fork straightener. It operates similarly to a car jack and uses hydraulic force to straighten out any bent forks.
You will need to turn your bike over, clamp it to your bike frame, adjust the grooves and click the handle until the forks start to bend.
When using this tool, it is advisable to ratchet the fork to a point just past the bend, as the bent fork will tend to spring back into its original position.
If you do not have the luxury of finding a fork straightener, there are other methods you can try from the comfort of your own home.
1- The easiest way is to place your bicycle upside down into a bike stand and slowly bend it back into place using leverage tools such as a vice and a few wooden blocks.
If you are using this method, it is essential to exercise due care and skill, and extreme judgment to ensure the bent fork is not damaged to the point of no repair.
2- If you are not worried about costs, you can also invest in dropout alignment tools which should do the trick.
3- Alternatively, head over to your local frame builder and have them bend it back for you using a jig.
Can You Ride With a Bent Fork?
Riding a bike with a slightly bent fork is entirely possible, but you should exercise caution. A bent fork may compromise the safety of your bike and can result in injuries if not fixed properly.
Before you hop onto your saddle, make sure that there are no visible cracks in the fork, as this may land you in hospital with serious injuries.
Steel is a sturdy material and can withstand a few minor bumps and bends, so there should be no reason you cannot continue to ride with a slightly bent fork.
As mentioned earlier, you may find the bike does not handle well and can cause you discomfort. In this case, it is advisable not to ride with a bent fork but to visit a mechanic for a professional opinion.
There are a few horror stories out there of failed forks that resulted in extensive injury.
However, if, on close inspection, there is no visible damage or cracks to the fork on your bike, it is probably safe to say that you will be able to continue enjoying your cycling experience even with a slightly bent fork.
Keep in mind that regular maintenance of your bike will prolong your life and that of your bike! If you want to feel safe and secure as you tour the countryside on your bike, it is advisable to visit a reputable mechanic who will be able to assess your bent fork and advise on a practical solution.