How to True a Bike Wheel

Over time, bike wheels can become untrue and wobble from side to side as they spin. Thankfully, truing your wheels to eliminate any hops or wobbles is a manageable DIY task. Follow this guide to learn how to true a bike wheel properly.

Properly truing and tensioning your bike’s wheels ensures a smooth, bump-free ride and optimizes performance. Let’s look at the steps, tools, and techniques required to get your wheels spinning perfectly straight again.

Introduction

Bike wheels take a lot of abuse from potholes, curbs, and debris. Over time, the rim and spokes can bend slightly out of alignment, causing the wheel to spin unevenly. This wobble is called being “out of true.”

In this guide you’ll learn:

  • Signs your wheel needs truing
  • Spokes involved in truing process
  • Tools required for truing at home
  • Step-by-step truing instructions
  • Wheel reinstallation and safety checks
  • Professional truing alternatives

Follow these steps carefully to true your slightly warped wheels or prevent issues through regular maintenance.

Signs Your Wheel Needs Truing

Here are the common indicators that your bike wheel is out of true and needs tensioning and alignment:

  • Hopping or wobble visible when spinning wheel
  • Wheel contacts or rubs against brake pads while rotating
  • Decreased rolling speed and steering control
  • Persistent clicking or popping noises coming from wheel
  • Wheel visibly bent or warped from drops/accidents

Addressing these issues quickly through truing restores performance and ensures safety.

The Spokes Involved in Truing

Bicycle wheels use tensioned spokes radiating out from the hub to the rim to provide support. Truing mainly involves tightening and loosening specific problem spokes around the wheel.

Lead spokes – Spokes pulling wheel back into true on opposite side of wobble. Tightened to realign.

Lag spokes – Spokes on same side as wobble that caused imbalance. Loosened to rebalance.

Adjusting the lead and lag spokes counteracts imbalance and brings wheel back into proper alignment.

Essential Tools Needed for Truing Wheels

To true wheels at home, you’ll need the following bicycle wheel truing tools:

  • Truing stand – Holds wheel securely for adjustments.
  • Spoke wrench – Fits spoke nipples for tightening/loosening.
  • Tension meter – Measures spoke tension as you make adjustments.
  • Dishing tool – Checks rim centerline/dish after truing.

Investing in this essential truing equipment enables DIY wheel maintenance. You’ll also need standard tools like screwdrivers and hex wrenches.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Truing a Wheel

Once you have the necessary tools, follow this process:

  1. Remove wheel and mount in truing stand.
  2. Spin wheel and locate area of wobble using a zip tie on fork as guide.
  3. Mark problem spokes that need adjustment with chalk or tape.
  4. Gradually turn lead spokes clockwise and lag spokes counterclockwise.
  5. Recheck wheel periodically as you fine tune spoke tension on both sides.
  6. Use tension meter to ensure even spoke tension around entire wheel.
  7. Double check dish and rim centering before reinstalling trued wheel.
  8. Minor further adjustments may be needed after reassembling onto bike.

Take your time making precise incremental tweaks on both sides for optimal results. Having patience is key.

Reinstalling Wheels and Safety Checks

Once truing is complete, reinstall the wheels ensuring:

  • Quick release skewers or axle nuts are properly tightened.
  • Wheels sit centered in dropouts when clamped in place.
  • Brakes are re-aligned to wheel rims before use.
  • Wheels spin freely without contacting brake pads.
  • No unusual wobbles, bends, or pops from trued wheels.
  • Hub bearings feel smooth without grinding sensations.

Finally, carefully test ride checking for vibrations or rubs before normal use. Your wheels are now realigned and ready to roll!

Professional Wheel Truing Alternatives

While truing your own wheels takes some investment in tools and learning, the convenience of professional truing may be worth it for some. Your options include:

  • Local bike shops – Often charge $20-60 for basic truing services.
  • Mail-in wheel truing – Ship wheels to dedicated truing companies.
  • Mobile bike mechanics – Will come to your location for repairs.
  • Buy pre-trued wheelsets – Consider new pre-trued wheels if existing set is very damaged.

For severely damaged, bent, or cracked wheels, professional truing or replacement may be the best solution. But for periodic maintenance truing, DIY is often more affordable.

I hope this guide helps you get wobbly wheels spinning smoothly again through proper at-home truing. Let me know if you need any other bike maintenance tips!

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