How to Align the Front Wheel of a Bicycle
If your front wheel is rubbing the brake pad, chances are that you have turned one side of the quick-release too far. This makes the wheel align along one side, instead of centered between the forks. This is a common problem that happens to almost everyone at some point. It's simple to align the front wheel with the frame once you notice it. Almost all modern bikes have a quick-release front end, but if your bike has two bolts on either side of the axle, the same thing can happen if you turn one nut too far.
Turn the bike upside down. Balance it on it's handlebars and seat. Spin the wheel with your fingers.
Sight down the wheel as it spins. Note which side is rubbing. If it's bad enough, the wheel won't spin at all and will stop when it hits the brake pad.
Turn the lever or the knob on the quick release counterclockwise on the side that is rubbing. Turn the lever or knob on the opposite side an equal number of turns clockwise. Spin the wheel.
Sight down the wheel. If it's still rubbing the brake pad, repeat Step 3 and check it again. Repeat loosening one side and tightening the other side until the wheel is centered between the two forks.
If your bike has nuts instead of a quick release mechanism, use a 1/2-inch wrench to tighten and loosen them. The procedure is exactly the same. Before you align your front wheel, check to make sure your calipers haven't been bumped. This can tilt the calipers to one side, causing the same problem. If your calipers are tilted use your fingers to center them and then check the wheel again.
If your wheel wobbles from side to side as it spins, the wheel is warped. This type of problem can't be fixed by aligning the wheel with the frame. It will need to be fixed by tightening selected spokes with a spoke wrench. If your bike has been in an accident and the fork has been bent, you can't align the wheel. The fork will need to be replaced.
Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.