How to Adjust the Spokes on a Bike

How to Adjust the Spokes on a Bike
Rough pavement, obstacles and even the stresses of normal bicycle riding can warp your wheel's rim and cause unstable handling and rolling resistance. Adjustable spokes are used to take these little wobbles out of your rims. Learning this process--called truing--will prepare you for all the potholes on the road.
 

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Adjusting Tension

Things You’ll Need:
  • Spoke wrench
  • Truing stand
  • Lightweight oil
 
Step 1
Place a small drop of light oil or chain lube to each spoke nipple where it contacts the wheel rim.
Step 2
Pluck each spoke with your fingers and listen for the tone it makes. The front wheel spokes should produce nearly the same tone. Rear wheel spokes should have two specific tones--one made by the spokes connected to the right side of the hub, another for the spokes on the left.
Step 3
Tighten or loosen any spokes that make tones very different from the others. Tighten a spoke to bring its pitch higher, and loosen to lower the pitch. This will even the tension across the spokes and help protect the wheel against warping.

Truing

Step 1
Remove the troubled wheel from your bike and mount it in a truing stand. If you do not have access to a truing stand, leave the wheel on your bike and set the bike upside down on a solid surface.
Step 2
Spin the wheel and tighten the calipers on the truing stand as close to the rim as possible without contact. If your wheel is still on your bike, use the brake pads as guides instead.
Step 3
Watch the calipers as you spin the wheel. Any warps in the wheel should be noticeable as space opens and closes between the rim and calipers.
Step 4
Locate the two spokes nearest the largest warped area. Tighten the spoke pulling against the warp and loosen the spoke that's pulling the warped area outward. Make adjustments no more than one-quarter turn at a time.
Step 5
Spin the wheel again to check your adjustments. Continue tightening and loosening opposite spokes until the warp has been pulled out.
 

Tips & Warnings

 
As you turn each spoke nipple, place one or two fingers on the spoke to feel for movement. If your spoke moves with the nipple, undo your adjustment and make small turns until the nipple loosens.
 
Practice making these adjustments just before taking your bike to a shop for maintenance. Ask the mechanic to check your wheels and see how well you did.

Article Written By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson earned his Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from The Ohio University. He has been a professional writer since 2008, specializing in outdoors content and instruction. Johnson's poetry has appeared in such publications as "Sphere" and "17 1/2 Magazine."

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