A properly adjusted wheel provides the cyclist a ride as smooth as a limousine. A well-built wheel is the work of a professional. Ensuring that all spokes making up the wheel are of equal tension is an exacting science best left to the master wheel-builders. However, there are times when you will need to know enough about a wheel to make necessary minor repairs or adjustments.
Why is tension important? Properly adjusted spokes wear longer and are safer. Wheels with loose spokes are dangerous and deteriorate rapidly. Loose spokes fatigue many times faster than those that are properly tensioned. Tension keeps the spokes from flexing, reducing the fatiguing effect. Wheels with improper tension, either too high or too low, can be unsafe. Every time a wheel is used the spokes accumulate some fatigue. It is important to know how to check your wheels for proper adjustment. Check each spoke for tension. One loose spoke can cause your rim to rub the brake, or be "out-of-true", and result in extra energy use.
Test by touch
Grab two adjacent spokes in one hand and squeeze, feel for tension. Work your way around the entire wheel. Repeat this procedure for the other side of the wheel. All Spokes should feel tight. Spokes should never be loose to the touch. Nor should they have extreme tension, which can cause a badly out-of-tru wheel if a spoke does break. Some people can test by listening, but this requires a trained ear and years of experience and is best left up to the professionals.
Check for True
Wheels must be true (side to side) and round (up and down). correcting an out of true wheel is much easier than ccorrecting one that is out of round. Check for trueness with the wheel on the bike. Spin the wheel and note its relationship to the brake pad. Does the rim run consistently past the brake pad? if not, it needs truing.
Check for Roundness
A flattened rim (from hitting a pothole or a brick) cannot be corrected by adjusting spoke and requires special skills and tools. To determine if you have this problem, hold a ruler against the seat stays or fork blades about 1/8 inch (2 mm) above the rim, and spin the wheel. If the rim hops up or down more than 1/8 inch, you have a job better left to the pros.
Wheel Truing Tips
- Spoke wrench must fit nipples tightly. Use only manufactured spoke wrenches.
- Tightening a spoke on one side of the wheel pulls the rim in that direction.
- Generally, if you tighten a spoke (or spokes) on one side of the wheel, loosen a spoke (or spokes) an equal amount on the other side only 1/4 turn at a time.
- Tighten (and loosen) spokes only 1/4 turn at a time
- Tighten (or loosen) only the spoke at the spot most out of tru. Adjust only 1/4 turn, then spin wheel to check for progress. Adjust adjacent spokes, in turn as needed. Keep working on the spokes at the spot that is most out of true, spinning the wheel to find the out of true spot.
- Spoke Wrench (red, yellow, black or star shaped, depending upon the size of your spoke nipples)
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