How to True a Bike Wheel for Beginners: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to True a Bike Wheel for Beginners: A Step-by-Step Guide

Truing a bike wheel is an essential skill for cyclists of all levels. Whether you're dealing with a minor wobble or a more significant issue, being able to true your wheel can save you time and money, not to mention improving your bike's performance and safety. A well-trued wheel spins straight and reduces the risk of component wear, providing you with a smoother ride.

Table of Contents

Getting Started with Wheel Truing
Advanced Techniques and Tips


Getting Started with Wheel Truing

Wheel truing is a critical skill in bike maintenance to ensure your ride is smooth and safe. Proper wheel alignment affects performance, safety, and overall bike health. This section covers everything you need to start truing your own bike wheels at home.

Understanding Wheel Anatomy

Your bike wheel is composed of the rim, spokes, nipples, and hub. The spokes connect the hub to the rim, adjusted via the nipples. Accurate spoke tension is vital for a well-trued wheel.

Setting Up Your Work Area

Choose a clean, well-lit space to work, free of clutter. A stable surface for your truing stand is essential to accurately gauge wobble and alignment.

Identifying Common Issues

Out-of-true wheels may exhibit wobbles or a deviation from a perfectly circular path. You'll often encounter lateral (side-to-side) and radial (up-and-down) issues.

Preparatory Steps

Before truing, completely deflate the tyre if it's still attached. Inspect the wheel for any visible signs of damage like bent rims or broken spokes.

Safety Checks

Ensure the bike is secured and the wheel is safely mounted on the truing stand or bike frame. Always be careful when handling the spokes and rim to avoid injury.

Selecting the Right Tools

Required tools include a spoke wrench fitting your nipples, a truing stand for stability, and optionally, a tension meter and dishing tool for advanced adjustments.

Wheel Removal and Installation

Remove the wheel from the bike, ensuring you release the brakes and detach the chain from the cassette. For rear wheels, shift the chain to the smallest cog before removal.

Pre-Truing Checks

Examine the wheel for any obvious bends or damage. Check for loose or tight spokes that could indicate uneven tension distribution.

Understanding Tension and True

A well-trued wheel has even spoke tension, essential for maintaining the wheel's shape. Uneven tension can lead to wobble and reduce the wheel's structural integrity.

Radial and Lateral Truing

Radial truing eliminates vertical bumps, aligning the wheel's circumference. Lateral truing adjusts for side-to-side wobbles, ensuring the wheel remains straight.

Finishing Touches

After truing, spin the wheel to check for any remaining wobbles. Make fine adjustments as needed, always turning the spoke nipples with precision.

Post-Truing Steps

Reinstall the wheel on the bike, reattach the chain, and ensure the brakes are properly adjusted. Perform a final hand-spin to verify proper alignment.

Troubleshooting Tips

If persistent wobbles or uneven spoke tension occurs, revisit your adjustments. Sometimes certain issues may need professional attention.

Practical Advice for Maintaining True

Regular inspections and minor adjustments can maintain wheel true-ness. Avoid riding through severe impact or stress, as this can affect wheel alignment.

        Advanced Techniques and Tips 

        In this section, you will learn to enhance your wheel truing skills with advanced methods. These techniques will help you to achieve optimal spoke tension, deal with different types of wheels and improve overall wheel performance.

        Understanding Spoke Tension and Metrics

        To ensure your wheel's performance and durability, accurate spoke tension is crucial. Utilise a tension meter to measure tension and refer to manufacturer's specifications or tension charts for the correct tension. It's vital to balance tension evenly across the wheel for symmetry and durability.

        Dealing with Specialty Wheels

        Specialty wheels, such as carbon wheels or wheels with a Cush Core, require specific considerations. Carbon wheels often demand lower tension, and for mountain bike wheels with Cush Core, you need to account for the extra support the tire casing provides.

        Mastering Radial Truing

        For radial truing (truing the wheel in the direction perpendicular to the hub), ensure your wheel has no vertical hops. Small adjustments to the spoke nipples will affect radial true. Measure after each adjustment with a dial indicator for highest precision.

        Precision Lateral Truing

        Lateral truing means straightening the wheel's side-to-side wobble. Begin with the largest deviation, turning spoke nipples incrementally. The goal is to bring the rim into alignment while maintaining even tension.

        Tackling Complex Issues

        Addressing complex issues like broken spokes or severe misalignment requires patience and a systematic approach. Replace broken spokes and gradually tension them, maintaining the wheel's overall true.

        Dishing for Symmetry

        Use a dishing tool to check your wheel's centering between lock nuts. Asymmetrical rims necessitate a dishing gauge for correct alignment. Your wheel should be perfectly centred in the frame for optimal handling.

        Custom Wheel Building

        Building a wheel from scratch allows for customisation to your riding style. Select rim, spoke, and nipple combinations suitable for your purposes. During assembly, alternate between tensioning drive-side and non-drive-side spokes for symmetry.

        Ensuring Long-Term Durability

        Maintain wheel health by routinely checking for loose spokes and misalignment. A quick eyeball check after rides can keep minor issues from escalating. Proper maintenance will keep your bike rolling straight and improve overall handling and performance.

            Back to blog