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How to Adjust Bike Spokes

Wheel rims must be periodically adjusted to maintain proper alignment. Improper alignment typically becomes apparent when a section of the rim begins rubbing the break pad during rotation. In order for the bike to function correctly, it will be necessary to true (align rim) the wheel. Truing may appear complicated, but with practice the process can be accomplished quickly and with little difficulty.

  1. Remove the wheel from the bike and place it in the truing stand. Adjust the caliper arm of the truing stand so that the calipers are aligned with the rim wall and are approximately 0.5 centimeter away from the rim wall.

  2. Rotate the wheel to determine if the truing calipers touch the rim. If the rim touches at any point, loosen the calipers until the wheel rotates without touching. Spin the wheel again. As the wheel rotates, slowly close the calipers toward the rim until you hear the two touch. Locate the section of rim that touches the caliper as it rotates.

  3. Locate the appropriate spoke wrench for your particular wheel set. Using the spoke wrench, loosen the spoke located on the side of the rim that touched the caliper and tighten the opposite spoke. Make small adjustments to both spokes, only turning a quarter to a half a turn each time.

  4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3. Continue this process until the calipers are 1 to 2 millimeters from each side of the rim and the wheel rotates through the caliper without touching.

    Tip

    Typically, there will be more than one section of rim that will need to be trued, and these sections may even be in opposite directions.

    Warning

    Always check spoke tension prior to riding. An improperly tensioned wheel can lead to mechanical failure while riding.

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Things Needed

  • Truing stand
  • Spoke wrench

About the Author

Willard Peveler is an assistant professor of exercise science at Northern Kentucky University and is the author of "The Complete Book of Road Cycling and Racing." He has coached cycling at the collegiate level and triathlon for Team in Training. His research involves factors affecting performance in cycling and triathlon.

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