Following on from our five simple procedures for new bike owners, here’s our guide to Trueing a bike wheel.
Since this is intended as a guide for new bike owners, we’re not going to sugar-coat it – Trueing a bike wheel is difficult and does take a little time to get used to.
It’s not worth attempting if you’re not really interested in maintaining your bike in the long-term, and just want to save some money over visiting a professional wheel-builder. That said, it is a very useful skill to learn if you’re starting to get serious about your bike.
In fact, some of you may not even know why you should true a bike wheel, or what it entails. Essentially, trueing a bike wheel is the method you use to keep bike wheels perfectly straight and round, or as close as possible. A bike wheel that is not straight and round is not only a problem for bike performance and comfort.
It is also a (small) safety hazard. An untrue wheel will be weaker, and cause steering difficulty at high speeds. It can cause uneven braking, brake pads hitting the tires, and stability issues that could lead to a cycling road accident.
Because it’s a tough project, we’re going to explain our terms first, and show you what gear you’ll need to true a bike wheel.
The spokes of your bike wheel are the metal rods that emerge from the centre of the wheel. Unlike spokes in wooden wheels, they work by tension, as opposed to compression, and are designed to distribute pressure from the load. If a wheel is out of true, your spokes will be too loose and/or too tight.
The rim of your bike wheel is simply the metal exterior of the bike wheel, which the tire fits over. A rim being dented or warped in some way is one reason for a bike wheel being out of true.
The spoke nipple is the part of your bike wheel that connects the spokes to the rim of the wheel.
Spoke Key/Spoke Wrench
Ruler (or other straight object)
Identify The Problem
Turn your bike upside down, or mount it on a bike stand so that the wheels can spin freely.
Check your rim visually for dents and wobbles. Significant dents mean there’s no way you’re going to be able to true the wheel without first pulling out any dents.
Pulling out dents is a little more risky than Trueing wheels, which is already a relatively risky procedure (from your bike’s point of view). It’s best left to a professional bike repair shop.
Check your wheels visually for bent spokes. Any obviously bent spokes indicate a wheel badly out of true. Use coloured tape to mark these out now.
Check your spokes individually using the spoke key to determine tightness. All the spokes should be more-or-less the same tightness. Use coloured tape to mark out any that are far too loose or tight.
Finally, check the spokes for looseness manually, with finger and thumb, checking for give in every two spokes all the way around the bike wheel. Use coloured tape to mark any that are clearly too loose, and be sure to find replacements for any that are completely broken. The spokes should have a bit of give in them – if you’re not sure how much, try to feel the spokes of another bike by way of comparison.
When identifying how true your wheel is, make sure you have a rough idea of the severity of the issue.
If the wheel is badly out of true, there should be little damage you can do by tightening and loosening spokes here and there.
If the wheel is horribly out of true, there’s probably a structural problem with the rim (like a dent) that is going to persist no matter how much you work with the spokes.
If the wheel is only slightly out of true, you risk causing more problems than you solve by attempting to true the wheel. Use your best judgement.
If there only appear to be a few spokes that are too loose, check the rim again. It’s likely that the spokes are being pulled loose by a bent or otherwise deformed rim.
Trueing The Wheel
If all the spokes are loose:
Checking spoke tension at all points to avoid over-tightening, move around the wheel respectively tightening or loosening each spoke with the spoke key. The whole time, keep track of the spoke you started at.
On each turn round the wheel, tighten spokes by up to one half-turn of the spoke key. If you find it’s hard to tighten the spokes before you get all the way round, you have over-tightened the spokes. Move back around the wheel to your starting point and slightly loosen every spoke.
If the spokes are not all tightened the same amount, you risk throwing the wheel out of true, so check the spoke tension after each turn of the spoke key and check every spoke after you have tightened all the spokes on a wheel.
Maintaining proper bike safety is just one way to avoid road bike accidents. Maintaining your bike will prevent you from accidents caused by loss of control of the bike – to some extent – but will not protect you from dangerous drivers hitting your bike, which can often be more dangerous.
To be sure of getting justice if you are involved in a bicycle accident, use a helmet camera – and get in touch with LoyaltyLaw as soon as possible!