DIY Truing a Wheel – Not Impossible
Riding on a wheel that is not true is not advisable. An untrue wheel is stressing spokes unevenly, possibly leading to one or more broken spokes. The bike handling is poor. Brake performance, particularly with rim brakes, is degraded. The ride is uncomfortable.You might look like a dufus.
Wheel truing, and by this I mean little tweaks along the way to keep a while round and wobble-free, is not a big deal if you have spoke wrench of the correct size, a zip tie, and enough time to approach the affair with patience.
We’re not talking advanced topics, like dishing. Leave that to the experts. But let’s say that after a month of commuting, and riding over the railway crossing twice a day that nearly delivers a concussion from your butt, through your spine and then the base of your skull, your front wheel has developed a bit of a wobble, a loose spoke, and a wee bump.
If you don’t have a spoke wrench, this is a good idea to have on board. Mine is on a Crank Brothers Multi-17. For the nipples on my spokes, I need size 2, which is 0.136″.
For 0.127″ use #0 (Park SW-0 Black)
For 0.130″ use #1 (Park SW-1 – Red)
For 0.136″ use #2 (Park SW-2 – Green)
For 0.156″ use #3 (Park SW3 – Blue)
I like this multi-tool. Has just about everything I need for commuting and touring. Compact. Not a fortune. Not heavy.
Adjusting spoke tension is done by using the CORRECT sized spoke wrench. Don’t mess up the nipples on your spokes by trying to use the wrong tool. Either get a multi-tool with the correct size on it, or get the correct Park tool or equivalent. Not a place to go cheap. Your safety and comfort depend on having your spokes correctly tensioned, on a strong wheel. Imagine a mishap at 40km/hr. Not pretty. You want to be able to depend on your wheels.
The correct direction to turn the nipple is easy if you think of the nipple as a nut, and the spoke as a bolt. To tighten a spoke, turn the nipple using the “righty tighty, lefty loosy” rule. Clockwise to tighten.
You can check overall spoke tension by gently squeezing two spokes together. On my Trek 970, my spokes complain when too loose – I can hear them at the point they cross over. Sure sign that I need to get out the spoke wrench and have a go at them.
Never adjust a spoke tension by more than a quarter of a turn. Hence the need for patience. Sneak up on true.
A wheel truing stand would be very nice indeed, but is a small fortune. Park makes a great one. Needing to get by on much less, I decided to use a zip tie instead. I zipped one onto my front fork, just tight enough to stay in place, but with enough slack that I could move it into position for accuracy. I cut the end at a slight angle, so I have a point. I move the zip tie so that it visually appears at the level of the rim (for sighting roundness), and about 1mm gap (for side to side trueness).
Side to side trueness is accomplished by tightening on one side to pull the rim in that direction. Quarter of a turn, on two spokes at a time.
Roundness is accomplished by tensioning on both sides equally. Four spokes at a time.
Get the right spoke wrench for your wheel. Use a zip-tie. Take your time. Sneak up on trueness. Check your rims while you are there. If you have rim brakes, like most bikes, your life depends on them.