Have you ever felt a wobble or an uneven response on the brakes of your bike while riding? It could be due to the improper wheel alignment or that the wheels are out of true because they are buckled.
While most people are concerned with the brakes, chains, and gears in maintaining a bike, truing is essential for enjoying a bicycle ride and maintaining it. The wheels become untrue when the spokes are loose.
Now, to true a bike is not complicated, but it does take a little intuitive skill and some practice to understand the mechanism of the bike.
If you ever feel the need to true a bike on your own, here is an easy step by step guide to help you through it.
What tools are required to true a bike wheel?
- Bike Stand or a work stand
It is best to have a stand so that the wheels are elevated off the ground to make it easier to rotate the wheels while checking the spokes
However, if you are facing a problem mid-ride or a bike stand is not available, there is an alternative way. You can simply flip the bike over, but this is a little less convenient.
- Spokes key
Spoke key comes in different sizes, so make sure you got the right one. It is readily available and costs lesser than $10. If you have a bladed or aero spoke, you might also need another tool to keep them in the right position.
- Wheel dishing tool
A Wheel dishing tool is for just for higher accuracy since it is difficult to notice if the wheels are in the center of the hub. This tool is not necessary, but it comes in handy to own one.
You will have to use this tool by placing the two ends against the rim and wind it until it meets the hub and the internal part of the frame or the fork. Once it is aligned, measure the same on the other side of the wheels.
If both sides of the wheel dish are mismatched, it is time to pull-over to true the bike.
Step 1 – Preparing the bike before truing
Before truing, make sure that you know which part of the bike needs the most specific attention.
The most convenient way to ensure that your spokes are true is to inflate the tires with the correct pressure. Then, check that the wheels are fitted correctly in the hub and that the rear brake is centralized.
Step 2 – Check the tension of the spokes
The next step is to check for bent or loose spokes by using the spoke keys.
If you do not have a spoke key, one of the most common ways to check the tension of the spokes is by squeezing two spokes at a time. You will easily feel the differences by the flexibility of the spokes.
If you find that there are loose spokes, tighten it with a spoke wrench by turning the spoke nipple anticlockwise. This process will pull the rim towards the hub from a radial point of view and tighten it.
If the wheels still feel wobbly after you have tightened the spoke, it means that the wheels are still not correctly trued.
Step 3 – Truing the wheels
Once you are sure that the wheels need more truing, turn the bike over to make it easier to work on it. For this step, you will need a bike stand for stability and support. However, it is still possible to true a bike without a bike stand too.
If you have a stand, adjust the calipers so that they are close to the rim, but they shouldn’t touch the side.
But if there is no bike stand, connect the seat stay or fork blades with a cable tie and adjust the size by cutting them close enough to the rim.
Step 4 – Truing the bike
For the most crucial part, you will need to keep the wheel in motion by continuously turning it. While keeping it in spin, try to find the spot where the rim makes contact by putting your finger or a screwdriver in line with the brake pads. Then tighten the spokes in that area.
Once done, give the wheel another spin to make sure that the caliper doesn’t touch the rim and that the wheels are not wobbly. If it still wobbles side to side, tighten the spoke on the opposite side of the wobble.
Truing a side wobble
If the rims move on one side but also moves closer to the hub, loosen the spoke to the same side. Keep going around the edge until it no longer touches the dishing finger.
Keep repeating the steps on each spoke until you feel that they are evenly tight and at an equal distance from the rim.
Make sure you check the result of each turn by moving the wheel back and forth to ensure that the adjustment is satisfactory. If necessary, release and re-do the alignment as long as it takes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is truing a bike?
In simple words, truing a bike means loosening or tightening spokes of a wheel to stop it from wobbling. Even a slightly tight or loose spoke can make a significant difference on the wheels, so it is a crucial step to maintaining the safety and quality of a bike.
How much does truing a bike cost?
Professionally, truing a spoke costs about $18 to $20, excluding the cost of replacing a broken or missing spoke.
Should I turn clockwise or anticlockwise when I true a bike wheel?
This is a common question that most non-mechanical bikers ask.
To true a bike wheel, you have to turn the spoke key anticlockwise to tighten it. If you need to loosen it, turn the spoke nipple clockwise. The clockwise or anticlockwise turning is dependent on the side of the wheel that you are on, but it is easy to tell which turn is needed once you start.
The Bottom Line
Truing a wheel on your own requires patience, and it can be hard to get the same results that a professional might be able to get. However, with some practice, trial and error, and numerous test rides, you will be able to feel the responsiveness of each change that you make.
If it feels like none of the steps are working, feel free to consult a professional to walk you through the steps. Once you learn the basics, you will no longer have trouble when you true a bike wheel anywhere.