How to Fix a Rear Bicycle Wheel

How to Fix a Rear Bicycle Wheel
A bicycle wheel's integrity, or strength, is largely dependent on the tension of its spokes. Spoke tension gives the wheel shape. When spokes are tensioned properly, the wheel is "true"; the wheel spins straight and the rim runs evenly past the brake pads. When spokes are loose, a wheel will develop a wobble, undermining the strength of the wheel and possibly affecting braking. A rear wheel is more prone to this issue, as the bulk of a rider's weight is positioned directly over the it, placing greater stress upon the spokes.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Checking the Wheel

Things You’ll Need:
  • Truing stand (optional)
  • Spoke wrench
Step 1
Remove the rear wheel and insert its axle in the notches on the truing stand arms. If you do not have a truing stand, leave the wheel on the bicycle. The caliper arms on a truing stand serve as a reference for determining whether your wheel spins true. The brake pads on your bicycle can serve the same purpose.
Step 2
Spin the wheel slowly. If using a truing stand, pay attention to the passage of the wheel past the caliper arms. A wheel that is true will run evenly past the caliper arms (or brake pads, if you've left the wheel on the bicycle).
Step 3
Make note of the areas of the wheel that aren't spinning evenly. One of two problems is likely: 1) the spokes opposite the bulge are too loose, or 2) the spokes on the side of the bulge are too tight. A disproportionate amount of tension from the spokes will cause the rim to bulge in one direction or the other.
Step 4
Pluck the spokes around the area in question. When a wheel is perfectly true, spokes on the same side of the wheel will sound nearly identical. If a spoke gives off a duller note than those beside it, the spoke is too loose. Alternately, a spoke is too tight when it sounds a higher note than those beside it.

Truing the Wheel

Step 1
Attach a proper size spoke wrench to the spoke nipple of the spokes that require adjustment. The nipple resembles a small cone and is located where the spoke enters the rim. Spokes come in different widths, ergo different size spoke wrenches. If in doubt, buy a multi-size spoke wrench, and cover all possible bases.
Step 2
Tighten, or loosen, the spoke by giving its nipple a quarter turn. Turning the nipple too much can lead to over-adjustment.
Step 3
Check the adjustment by once again rolling the problem area of the wheel past the caliper arms, or brake pads. The adjustment is final when the problem area spins evenly with the remainder of the wheel. Continue to make adjustments as needed.

Article Written By Matthew Ferguson

Matthew Ferguson is a writer living in Savannah, Ga. He has been writing for over 10 years and his work has appeared on various online publications. A collection of his short stories was published in spring 2010. He is a graduate of Appalachian State University.

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