How to True a Bicycle Wheel

How Wheel Truing Works

Keeping your bike in good shape is crucial for smooth functioning and longevity.

But sometimes, despite your best efforts in caring for your bike, a slight hit to the curb or a run-in with a raised pothole can knock the rim of the wheels out of shape. This calls for truing your bike wheels to keep them rolling smoothly and safely.

This article covers all the details of how to true a bicycle wheel with a few simple tools. You can easily keep your bike wheels straight and warp-free and enjoy a smooth ride every time.

What Does It Mean To True a Bicycle Wheel?

A bike wheel is essentially a metal rim with a set of spokes.

The wheel’s spokes connect it to a hub and pull the rim from either side to keep it in shape. The wheel suspends the rim around the hub by relying on tension from the spokes.

Truing a bike wheel involves adjusting the tension of the spokes and realigning the warped sections of the rim with the help of a spoke wrench. It improves the trueness (i.e., the straightness and roundness) of the wheel, which impacts how it spins. The process involves tightening and loosening the spoke nipples to bring the rim back into shape.

Truing a wheel sounds complicated, but you can easily do it at home with some practice.

Why Is Truing Important and How Often To Do It?

Why Is Truing Important

Any kind of impact on your bike wheels can lead to dents, which reduces their trueness. An out-of-true wheel impacts riding performance and reduces the longevity of the rest of the bike’s components.

If you want to keep riding straight for years to come, truing your wheels is an important skill to master.

An untrue bike wheel will wobble laterally from the non-drive side to the drive side. You can check by lifting your bike, spinning a wheel, and looking at it from the front or back. If it wobbles more than five millimeters to the left or right, you need to true your wheels.

The rim of an out-of-true wheel may also touch the rim brake pads, or the tire may make contact with the seat stays or chain stays.

Before heading out for a ride, you must check the trueness of your bike wheels—especially the front wheel. If an untrue front wheel hits your brake pads and stops abruptly, you may end up going over the bars. 

How often you need to true your wheels depends on the material they are made of. Carbon wheels rank high on strength, so they do not need truing as much as aluminum ones.

Inspecting carbon wheels can be tricky—you must look closely to find warping. In contrast, if you notice a large warp on a carbon rim, it has likely cracked, and the wheel will have to be replaced altogether.

Guide on How to True a Bicycle Wheel

Here’s how to true a bicycle wheel and the tools you need to do so:

Tools and Equipment

Truing Stand

Wheel on Truing Stand

A truing stand will hold the wheels in place as you work on them—you can also use it to mount the wheels on a workbench or other surfaces for eye-level access. It has adjustable guides along the side of the rim to help you locate the warped areas.

You may not need this tool if you have a rim brake bike. Simply set up the wheel on your bike and use your brake pads as a guide.

Spoke Wrench

How to use spoke wrench

You must have a spoke wrench in the correct size, so check your bike manual for the exact size of the spoke nipples.

If there are bladed spokes on your bike wheels, you will need another tool to keep the spokes in place while tightening the nipple to ensure proper alignment.

Step-By-Step Guide

1. Identify the Wobbles

Identify the Wobbles

Remove your bike wheel and set it up on a truing stand. Alternatively, you can keep the wheel on and use your rim brake pads as a guide. For that, clamp your bike into a stand.

Slowly rotate the wheel and start tightening the gauge or brakes as it spins until some portions of the wheel touch the gauge.

Tighten the spokes at these warped sections. Start with the most warped area of the wheel and gradually work your way to the smaller dents. Save all the fine-tuning work for the end.

2. Tighten the Spokes Causing the Deviation

Loosen wheel spokes

Next, locate the spoke nipple that you need to tighten to put the rim back into shape. If a portion of the rim is warped to the right, identify the nipple closest to the left side of the hub and tighten it to pull the rim back into place. A half-turn should be enough.

Loosen the spokes on each side of the one you tightened by a half-turn to avoid over-tension.

Spokes must be able to move a little so the wheel can flex without cracking or breaking. Squeeze a few pairs of spokes in a non-warped section of the rim to gauge their tightness. Then match that level of tension in the spokes you’re tightening.

Remember that external nipples rotate to the left to tighten. But if they are hidden inside the rim and you have to remove the tire to reach them, they tighten clockwise.

If you’re truing a wheel for the first time, you need not worry too much. Even if you over-tense a spoke until it breaks or strip the threading on the spoke or nipple, you can still straighten the wheel with no trouble. You just need to replace the spoke. 

After you’ve removed all the visible deviations, put the wheel back on your bike. You’ve successfully trued your bike wheels!

Conclusion

We hope our handy guide helped you learn how to true a bicycle wheel the easy way. Check out our website for more helpful articles and guides on biking and learn more about your favorite sport.

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Last Updated on July 19, 2022 by Editor

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