How To True A Bike Wheel

Every kind of rider needs to take care of their bike, either they do it themselves or they take their bikes to professionals. Wheel truing is one of those delicate procedures that you need to take care of, it will require time and patience. In this guide, we will help you understand the process so that you can learn it masterfully!

Bicycles give you amazing adventures, countless memories, but sometimes maintaining them and keeping them in the best shape possible is a real piece of work. Truing wheels is a delicate process that you have to master, you have to follow some steps and in the end, taking the bike to a professional mechanic is recommended.

With that being said, what is wheel truing? When a bike’s wheel is not exactly straight or round, then it needs truing. If you don’t cater to that then it could negatively affect your bike’s riding performance and even damage the components in long term.

You need to take care of your bike wheel, it affects the performance of the bike big time. In this guide, we will discuss how you can easily true your bike wheel, all you need is patience and time. True wheels whenever necessary and you won’t be stressed out!

Tools Needed To True A Bike’s Wheel

There are certain tools that you will need for proper truing. Remember, the right tools will make all the difference so make sure that you are properly equipped before starting. Visit your neighborhood bike shop to get these items!

  • Truing Stand
  • Spoke Wrench (Different Sizes)
  • Dried Rags
  • Bladed Spokes (A Great Example: BSH-4)
  • Light Lubricants
Bike Wheel Truing Stand
Bike Wheel Truing Stand

Explaining The Bike’s Wheel and Truing Process

You don’t need to visit bike shops to fully understand your bike’s wheel, you just need to pay attention. Bicycle wheels are either hoops or rims that come with a set of spokes, that is connected to the bike’s hub. The wheel’s spokes are responsible for pulling the rim from both the left and right sides, making them balanced.

Wheel truing is when you re-adjust the tension of the spokes using a spoke wrench so that the roundness or straightness of the wheel is improved. When that is improved, the wheel spins perfectly and you get to enjoy that amazing performance.

Professionals say that it is all about the lateral alignment, fix that and everything will be fixed!

The Different Aspects of Truing

There are actually four main aspects of truing, if you fail at them then seek a professional mechanic!

  • Lateral Truing
  • Radical Truing
  • Dish Centering
  • Adjusting The Spoke Tension

What Is Lateral Truing?

Fixing a wobbly wheel is known as lateral truing. In order words, it is also known as the lateral deviation. If you have a bike with rim brakes, then lateral truing is the mode to go for! Bicycle wheels are delicate and you have to take care of them properly.

Rim brakes have a rim strip and you have to be careful about that. In order to get started, fix the lateral trueness first!

What Is Radial Truing?

When a wheel spins, the amount by which it goes up and down is known as the radial trueness. When that roundness isn’t accurate, you adjust it and that is called radial truing. The outer edge of the wheel also needs to be taken care of if there is a problem.

Radial Trueness
Radial Trueness

What Is Dish Centering?

Dish centering means aligning both the wheels in the center and to each other. You would need a dishing tool for that which you can get from any nearby bike shops. If you don’t think that you can do it then it is advised that you seek the help of professional mechanics, they will quickly straighten things out.

How Do You Adjust The Spoke Tension?

Wheel spokes have different levels of tightness that can be adjusted. You can tighten them according to your own needs and what you want from your bike. If the spoke tension heavily varies then they will not stay straight for long, that is why you need to tighten and balance them.

Re true them until they have achieved that perfect balance, they shouldn’t be too tight or too loose. Using a Park Tool, you can measure the spoke tension. Getting a park tool is easy, just visit the shops and it will take little practice in order to make yourself perfect!

All of these aspects will answer this question for you: How to true a bike wheel?

What Are The Requirements For Perfect Wheel Truing?

Wheel In A Truing Stand
Wheel In A Truing Stand

In order to true your bike’s wheel, you will need to make the following arrangements.

Fixture The Wheel Properly

You need to keep the wheel steady as it spins, you cannot complete the process without that. We suggest that you use a truing stand, that would come extremely handy. A truing stand is perfect for this situation, it highlights the problem and you can work on the solution quickly and effectively.

If some problem occurs and you don’t have a truing stand then it is recommended to use the bike to hold the wheel. Put it in such a place that the wheel can be pinned easily. Wheel truing is not that easy but you can get good at it in time!

Track The Deviations When They Occur

When you start the truing process, there will be radial and lateral deviations, you need to have a stationary indicator that will help you track those deviations. If you have a truing stand then this process is made easier because it has built-in indicators that can help with the deviations.

Experiment with the stand and you will master the tracking process in no time.

Adjust Tension Accordingly

Adjusting the spoke’s tension is what you need to take care of. The tension can seemingly be increased or decreased by turning the spoke nipples. In order to do that, you must have a spoke wrench at the ready! If you are working through a stand, it would seem that you are tightening by turning it counter clockwise although, in reality, it is clockwise.

Bicycle Spoke Wrench
Bicycle Spoke Wrench

Although, you can loosen it by turning it counterclockwise, where it would seem that you are turning the spoke nipples clockwise.

Tip: Get the Pocket Bicycle Spoke Wrench

How To Perform Lateral Truing?

Let’s start the main guide with lateral truing, we will share every single detail related to this truing process. Use the truing stand for the installation process of the wheel.

Start By Locating The Deviation

In order to get started, you need to spin the wheel and bring it close to the indicator, you need to see where the indicator is most close to the rim. Move the indicator slowly now, until it comes in contact with the rim, there has to be minimal contact between the two.

You need to stop where the rim touches the indicator, and for that, you have to slow down the rim. This whole area of contact is known as the deviation, it is also known as the most severe lateral deviation, this is what we need to fix!

This deviation can be on either side of the rim and that won’t matter because we will fix both sides eventually. The left side spokes will work as the right side ones, we will make sure of that. Remember, out of true wheel is not a very hard problem to fix, you will just need a lot of time and patience.

Examine That Deviation Carefully

Examining the deviation is the next big step for the truing process. You need to know exactly where to make the corrections so examination is the key. Start by looking for the spoke which is the nearest to the deviation, this happens when the indicator touches over a long area.

Tightening spokes is the recommended action here because the spokes actually loosen up on their own over the course of time. When you are about to tighten them, give them a good little squeeze, this will show their location on the indicator.

Locating Deviation In Bike Wheel

Fixing The Deviation 

Fixing the deviation is going to be our next step. The process will start when the selected spoke’s nipple turns, tighten accordingly. The level of truing is going to vary so you need to be careful, nipples are delicate so keep that in mind. 90 degrees is a good start and then you can go from there.

180 degrees is best for a lateral true deviation and if it is a minor deviation then 45 degrees would do the trick. Experiment here and see whatever works out for you! Even make use of the wheel truing stand if you can.

You can check the adjustments that you made by moving the wheel back and forth. Spin the wheel, move the indicator to find the next deviation, if there is any. If a deviation occurs then start the whole process again.

If you have made enough corrections on one side of the rim (A Good Example is 3) you can move to the other side. Keep on repeating until all the deviations are fixed! Even if it is just the left side, make sure all of it is back to the original form. Doing so will enhance the ride experience!

When Should You Stop?

With all of these steps, the wheel will start becoming more and more true but when is it enough? You need to push the brake pad soon enough, stop when this happens:

In terms of the lateral deviation, the minimum that you should go for is lessening it by 0.5 millimeters. Some people would go for more but you can experiment here. Remember, the small increments make the biggest changes.

You need to adjust the indicator in such a way that there is lightly contact between the rim. There should be zero distance between the indicator and the rim. If there are any spoke problems then take care of the loose ones first. All of this will ensure amazing ride quality.

How To Perform Radial Truing?

Once your bike has gone through the lateral truing process, it would be wise to also conduct the radial truing. No need to visit a bike shop just yet, although it is best suited for novices in the field, we still think that you can pull this off on your own.

Be aware that there could be serious errors here, and if it gets out of hand then it is best to contact the professionals.

What We Aim To Fix Here

Radial Deviation actually occurs when the wheel spins, a section of the rim may actually move inwards towards the hub area, this is known as the low spot. This low spot could be as short or long as 6 spokes, maybe even more.

There is another type of radial deviation, this is where a rim’s section actually moves away from the hub. They can be short or low. The bicycle wheel can have a mix of both low and high spots, so we need to be careful. In terms of spokes opposite, this needs to be fixed. 

Let’s start with the fixing, shall we? After all, we want the best ride quality for you!

Start By Locating The Deviation

Some people say that you should start with a low spot but that’s wrong, the best way to start is by locating a high spot and working from there. Remember, this could happen to any kind of bicycle wheel.

You need to move the caliper arm until there is little contact with the spinning arm. You can back away from the indicator if you are doubtful! Some people use a repair stand for this but we don’t recommend that.

Perform Radial Truing

Examine That Deviation Carefully

You need to examine this deviation by isolating it first. Pull the rim back and forth around this area, you need to know where the deviation starts and ends.

Fixing The Deviation

We can start fixing this radial deviation through the rim, just move it towards the hub. The first step is to tighten an equal number of spokes from both angles. If there is any need for simulation, you can squeeze both the left and right sides of the spoke at the same time, that will give you an overview of the situation.

The spokes that came in contact with the high spot need to be given a half turn carefully. You need to verify that the high spot was actually lessened and that the rim is not rubbing against the hub. Repeat the process until all the deviations are fixed.

When You Should Stop?

We get this question many times: How much radial truing is enough? This question is the same as lateral truing only with some additions.

To begin, Radial Truing should be lessened by 1 millimeter at the bare minimum. It can be less than that, but you get the idea.

Adjusting the indicator is the next step, spin the wheel so that the indicator barely touches the rim, we want exactly that. As before, there should be zero distance between the rim and the indicator. 

How To De-Stress Your Wheel?

Truing and adjusting the spoke nipples has its own major drawback and that can be fixed by “De-Stressing”. This process allows the spokes to unwind and be fixed. The best way to do it is to take your bike for a ride, nothing beats that, trust me!

There will be some popping noises, be ready for that, although it is nothing out of the ordinary. 

De Stress Your Wheel
De Stress Your Wheel

The Different Limitations That You Could Face

If you think that every kind of wheel can be trued then you are mistaken, some can be repaired while some have to be completely replaced.

What prevents a wheel from becoming true, these are those factors:

  • Rim Damage: If your rims get damaged from impacts or other sorts of collisions then it may be very hard to true them.
  • Damaged/Corroded Nipples: Corroded spoke nipples also prevent the truing process. It is recommended that you lubricate them frequently.
  • Damaged Spokes: Spokes get mangled over the course of time, that is a natural process. If there are 3 broken spokes, then you should really get a new wheel.

Read More Bike Maintenance Tips:

Recap

Wheel Truing is necessary if you want to enjoy the best performance from your bike. Every kind of rider needs to learn this if they don’t want to pay a visit to their professional mechanics too often. 

Bike Maintenance is necessary, people want endless memories with their favorite bikes and that is what you will get if you take care of them properly. Hopefully, this guide will make the truing process a little bit or a lot easier than before. Happy Cycling!

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