Stills taken from our 'wheel truing' instructional DVD which is available for £3.97 from our ebay store
Wheel truing is one of those tasks that, for some reason, is surrounded by an air of mystery, and whilst it is a bit more art than science it’s actually quick and easy - and the only tool you will need is a spoke key. But beware, spokes do come in different sizes so before you go rushing off to the bike shop make sure that you get the right size key for your spokes, if you're unsure you can get multi-headed spoke keys that cover most spoke sizes in one tool.
Although your local bike shop will use a truing stand most people don’t have these at home, and they’re not that cheap either. The best alternative is to use the brake blocks as a truing guide and for basic wheel truing it's just as effective anyway.
Before you start it's worth checking that your wobbly rim is not due to loose hub bearings so just grab the wheel and flex it side to side – if you do feel any play at the hub then you will need to fix this before doing any truing. Once you’ve made sure your hub bearings are okay give the wheel a spin, and what you are checking for is side to side wobble of the rim. It’s also sometimes called 'lateral trueness', 'side to side trueness', or 'wheel run out' – but these terms all mean the same thing so don’t let them confuse you.
As the wheel is spinning bring you brake blocks closer to the rim by turning the adjuster barrel on the caliper anticlockwise - as soon as a brake block starts to scrape then you have found the most pronounced part of the wobble. Now carefully find the centre of the wobble (which is where it scrapes the hardest), then locate the nearest spoke on the opposite side to where it’s scraping. Just to clarify (because this is important), when i say 'opposite side' i mean the spoke which connects to the side of the hub which is on the opposite side to the scrape. Tighten this spoke by a quarter turn using your spoke key, and tightening is always anticlockwise as you look down on the spoke key..
Now do the same thing with the two spokes either side of the spoke you have just tightened - but only tighten them an 1/8 of a turn, again making sure you are tightening the spokes which connect to the side of the hub which is opposite to where it scrapes. Now give the wheel a spin to see if the wobble has gone. If the wobble is less pronounced but still there then you can repeat the procedure. BUT! don’t spend hours striving for perfection – an acceptable level of wobble is between 1/16th and 1/8th of an inch.
So the rule of thumb is you always tighten the spokes on the opposite side to where it scrapes making less of an adjustment as you move away from the centre of the wobble.
Modern bicycle wheels are now laced in a number of different ways but exactly the same principals apply. If you're unsure about what you are doing then it's a good idea to keep a track of which spokes you have adjusted and by how much - this way you can always put them back to the original position and start again. Knowing you can do this should also give you the confidence to experiment a little (as i said at the start wheel truing is art as well as science!)
Finally, one word of warning. Only use wheel truing to cure a mild wobble – don’t use it to try to fix a heavily buckled wheel as this can cause spokes to become too loose which can result in broken spokes or worse still broken bones.
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You can also see exactly how it's all done in close-up detail with our easy to follow step by step DVD, which is available from our ebay store - just click on the link below