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How to true bike wheels

Keeping your wheels true is vital for the safe enjoyment of your bike. These steps will show you how to true bike wheels.

  • Firstly, you need to inspect your wheels for bent spokes. Check the tightness of your spokes with a spoke wrench. Each spoke has a nipple at the end of that you can use to tighten or loosen it, thus adjusting how much each individual spoke pulls on the rim. What you’re aiming for, is to get all of them equally tight.
  • One way to do this is to flag the especially tight and loose ones with different coloured tapes.
  • Turn your bike upside down, and rest it on its seat and handlebars. This means you can turn the wheels freely and make sure that they are not wobbling.
  • For best results it’s a good idea to remove the tire and tube, so that you can look closely at the rim. This way you can clearly see the shape of the rim. You’ll reattach them when it comes to testing.
  • Place some sort of straight edge, like a ruler, or pencil, by the forks so that it almost touches the rim. This way, when you spin it, you’ll be able to see where there are small fluctuations in the roundness of the rim. Spin the wheel and watch carefully to see where the fluctuations are. This is where it is out of true and will require some adjustment.
  • Tighten the spokes underneath where the rim hits or becomes closer to the straight edge. Be careful to tighten them equally, and never more than half a turn at a time. Also make sure you tighten them on both sides, so you don’t throw the wheel out of lateral true. Continue to spin the wheel after each adjustment, and keep adjusting until the rim is equal all the way around.
  • Next you need to make sure the wheels are laterally true. Check this by spinning the wheel and checking to see whether it is perfectly straight as it turns. Every point on the rim should seem equidistant from the brake pad.
  • Apply the brakes slowly and watch for which parts of the wheel hit the brake first. Tighten the spokes opposite where it hits to pull the rim back to centre. Again, you will need to work slowly and gradually to keep things as centred as possible.
  • Keep adjusting and tightening until all spots touch the brake at the same time.
  • Double check the spokes you flagged at the beginning. Your adjustments should have resolved the tightness or looseness you noted. If it has not, repeat the process, and keep doing so until it is perfectly true.

NOTE that you should make sure that only the nipple turns when you adjust it- the spokes should never turn. If it does turn, oil it a bit to free it up. Don’t turn the nipple if the spoke is moving with it.


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