by: S.F. Heron
Posted on: Sunday, January 6th, 2008 at 5:38 pm by: S.F. Heron
Wobbly wheels can be an annoyance on a ride, especially if your wheel is continuously rubbing against the brake pads. If adjusting the brake pads doesn’t work or if you reach the point where you’ve adjusted so much that your brakes are gone, it’s time to look at the spokes to true the bike wheel. Bike wheels can be properly aligned (called truing) by adjusting the spokes. This adjustment should only be attempted with the proper tools because over-tightening a spoke can break it. Truing a wobbly bike wheel should only be performed on a wheel that is not damaged.
A spoke wrench, piece of chalk, and a roll of tape are all the tools required. Take your wheel to the bike shop with you to find the correct size spoke wrench. Spoke wrenches are shaped like a horseshoe and are used to tighten or loosen wheel spokes. When performing spoke adjustments, work from behind the wheel.
- Turn your bike upside down, hold the piece of chalk close to the wheel and spin the wheel. After a few turns, move the chalk until it touches the rim. The chalk is marking the point where the wheel needs adjusting. Move to the other side of the wheel and repeat the procedure.
- Look at the spokes. The spoke wrench is used to adjust the nut on the spoke closest to the wheel. Check the spokes near the chalk marks with your fingers. There might be play in the ones nearest the marks. The spokes closest to the chalk marks need to be loosened. The spokes on the opposite side of the chalk mark need tightening. Remember, loosen = clockwise, tighten = counterclockwise.
- Using the spoke wrench, begin at the center of the chalk mark. For this spoke, you will probably complete a full turn to tighten the spoke. As you move away from the mark, complete ½ turns to tighten the other spokes. Carefully perform this adjustment and mark each spoke with tape after you adjust it. Do not over crank the spoke wrench!
- Clean off the chalk marks. Spin the wheel again and check it with the chalk. Make additional adjustments if necessary, being careful not to break the spokes.
If you’re on the trail and your wheel is bent like a pretzel, you’re problem is much bigger than a wobbly wheel. Unless you want to walk home, it’s safe to assume you’re going to have to do something drastic. As dramatic as this sounds, try to straighten the wheel even if it involves lifting it above your head and slamming it onto the ground to straighten it. Don’t attempt to ride your bike if you can’t get your wheel somewhere near round again.