The title makes presumably little to no sense and is in fact a word-by-word translation of a German expression. I am talking about the wheel of a bike and a certain way it is deformed. I like the German expression since it pretty much describes how the wheel actually looks like. But how do you say it in English?

An obvious option is "The wheel is bent", but this doesn't really specify how it is bent. Maybe one could say "the wheel is twisted" but this doesn't seem right either.

Expressions I have found online inclue "the wheel is out of the true" and "the wheel is crispy" (due to the resemblance to a potato crisp), but for each of them there were people claiming that they had never heard of them (despite being natives).

Is there a catchy way to say it in English?

Edit: Maybe I should clarify what shape I exactly mean. The comment below suggest that bent might actually be the right word, so don't feel put off by me saying it doesn't fit. In my opinion the word to bend could also mean to bend along some straight line, pretty much like to fold. But there is this very specific deformation which is very common with bikes. Just picture the deformation you would need to transform a circle into an eight, not by pinching in the middle but by twisting if you want. But instead of performing the full twist stop half way.

  • Can the down-voter please elaborate? Jun 20, 2012 at 18:59
  • 1
    Not the downvoter, but it's not clear what the shape you're talking about is. Since 'bent' isn't enough, you must be thinking of a very specific bend, but you haven't described that with enough detail.
    – Mitch
    Jun 20, 2012 at 19:12
  • I added a few lines. Is it clearer now? Jun 20, 2012 at 19:22
  • In English you might say the wheel has become an eight, playing to the (hopefully) common knowledge that a wheel should normally resemble a zero. Jun 20, 2012 at 19:29
  • @cornbreadninja: did you mean 'figure eight'?
    – Mitch
    Jun 20, 2012 at 19:31

4 Answers 4


The "Pringle-shaped" wheel pictured in an "instructables" article shows up with Google-image searches for "warped bicycle wheel" and "twisted bicycle wheel", so those terms (warped and twisted) at least are in use. The article and comments refer to wheels like this as "taco-ed" and "tacoed".

  • 1
    +1 if this is the shape the OP was describing. If so, Pringle-shaped is a good word for it.
    – Daniel
    Jun 20, 2012 at 20:39
  • @Danielδ, I don't take credit for the descriptive term Pringle-shaped; it was suggested earlier in Mitch's comment. Jun 20, 2012 at 21:21
  • Warped is the word that I'd probably use, having never thought about this before. Warped like a Pringle, perhaps? To the O.P. (@Simon): Is this expression ever used metaphorically? (e.g., "This requirements document is a mess!" Reply: "Yes, the wheel has become an eight; maybe we should start over.") Or is it only said about damaged bicycle wheels?
    – J.R.
    Jun 20, 2012 at 23:25
  • --- No unfortunately it's just for bikes and not used metaphorically. Well, I guess it would work though but I've never heard it like that. --- Yes this is the shape! --- I somehow have the feeling that "Pringle-shaped" might be more AE then BE but I can't justify this feeling. Jun 21, 2012 at 7:08

This is known as a buckled wheel, saddle-shaped, taco or pringle shaped and potato-chopped.

From Wikipedia:

A conventional bicycle wheel consists of a thin rim kept under high compressive stress by the (roughly normal) inward pull of a large number of spokes. It can be considered as a loaded column that has been bent into a circle. As such, if spoke tension is increased beyond a safe level, the wheel spontaneously fails into a characteristic saddle shape (sometimes called a "taco" or a "pringle") like a three-dimensional Euler column. This is normally a purely elastic deformation and the rim will resume its proper plane shape if spoke tension is reduced slightly.

From the late, respected Sheldon Brown:


To bend a wheel so that it assumes a saddle shape. A tacoed wheel is more than just out of true, it has bent far enough that the spokes have assumed a new equilibrium position and lost tension. Two spots, 180 degrees apart will be way off to the left, two other spots, halfway between, will be way off to the right. A tacoed wheel is also known as a "potato chipped" wheel.


What you describe can broadly be termed as twisting, but I don't think there is a single word for this specific kind of twisting. You could instead say "the wheel is twisted into a figure-eight" to evoke the image you are conveying.


"Buckled" is the word I, and everyone I know have used since childhood.

...I never considered why before reading this, but I guess a belt buckle has the sort of gentle curve that you would also associate with a crisp or Pringle, or bent wheel!

I've never heard of any of the other phrases - maybe they are American? I've always had a bike, but it's way more technical than when I was a kid, maybe the 'new' phrases above are in common use.

The only thing I could add is that 'buckled' has more of a feeling of "terminal failure" e.g., "it's buckled, you'll have to get a new one" - "Out of true" would describe a lesser condition, of the same problem, but more likely to be fixable with a little adjustment of the spokes.

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