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How to True Your Bike Wheel? A Complete Guide for Beginners!

In this article, you will learn what a bike wheel is, what it means to true a bike wheel, and how to use truing tools so you can ride safely.

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Are your bike wheels faulty? This article will show you how to true your bike wheel and make street riding much safer.

Do you know how to properly true your bike wheel? Otherwise, you could be in for a bumpy ride. Trueing your bike wheel ensures that it is round and stable, which makes it much easier to ride. We also tell you how to fix the stem of your bike if it sticks out too far from the frame.

This article will teach you what a bike wheel is, what it means to true a bike wheel, and how to use truing tools so you can ride safely.

Image of a man holding bike fork and looking if the front wheel is true. Source: rodnae productions pexels
Image of a man holding bike fork and looking if the front wheel is true. Source: Rodnae Productions Pexels

Use a spoke tension gauge to true your bike wheels. This tool will help you determine the proper amount of tension to apply to your spokes to ensure they are true. Then, use a spoke wrench to tighten or loosen the spokes on your wheel. Finally, look for bent spokes. If you notice any bent spokes, act quickly before they become too damaged and cause serious injury.

What is a bike wheel?

A bicycle wheel is designed for use on a bicycle, most commonly a wire wheel. A wheelset is a term that is frequently used in the context of ready-built “off-the-shelf” performance-oriented wheels. Bicycle wheels are typically designed with dropouts to fit into the frame, fork, and hold bicycle tires.

What does it mean to true a bike wheel?

A true wheel is one whose rotation is perfectly aligned with no side-to-side wobbles or hops (up-and-down). It’s simple to check for; lift your wheel off the ground, choose one spot to watch (the brake pad is easiest), and spin it. It’s out of true if it wobbles back and forth like the one below.

Truing tools

The only tool required for truing is a spoke wrench (the term for straightening a wheel). The spoke nipples are gripped by this small wrench, which allows you to tighten or loosen the spokes to align the wheel. Nipples and wrenches come in various sizes, so choose one that fits your wheels. Then, ride in or bring a wheel in, and we’ll select the appropriate tool for you.

Our professional mechanics use a truing stand to repair wheels, which supports the wheel and makes it easier to see flaws. Leave the wheel in place and use your bike as a stand. Then, simply hang the bike, so the wobbler is about chest level. Also, keep a good light near the bike to see what you’re doing.

How to true your bike wheel

Here are some beginner-friendly steps to follow in trueing your bike;

  1. Position your wheel in the truing stand

    We’re looking at lateral alignment when the wheel pulls to one side. Take the wheel from the bike and place it on the truing stand. Vertically adjust the calipers on the stand until they are level with the outer edge of the rim.

  2. Spin the wheel

    In the stands, turn the wheel. Adjust the distance between the caliper’s jaws until it is just clear of the rim. Check that the wheel isn’t bobbing up and down; this will necessitate radial truing or a trip to the bike shop.

  3. Find the buckle

    Dial in the jaws until they begin to lightly contact the rim while slowly turning the wheel; this will indicate where it is most heavily buckled. Next, rotate the wheel back and forth to find the buckle’s center.

  4. Locate the relevant spoke

    If the rim is pulling to the left, locate the spoke coming from the hub’s right-hand side closest to the buckle’s center. If it’s pulling to the right, look for the corresponding spoke coming from the hub’s left side.

  5. Fine-tune the tension

    Turn the nipple in half. Looking at the nipple from above (through the rim), it tightens clockwise. However, looking at it from the stand, it tightens counter-clockwise.

  6. Check and double-check

    Check the outcome of your adjustment by moving the wheel back and forth. If necessary, increase the tension. Then, slightly adjust the caliper and proceed to the next buckle.

Image of a black and cream bike wheel. Source: yomex owo unsplash
Image of a bike with black and cream colored wheel. Source: Yomex Owo, Unsplash

What is truing?

Truing the wheel is as simple as turning the appropriate nipples just enough to tighten the loose spokes until they are as tight as the other spokes on that side of the wheel. Putting a piece of tape on the spokes, you’re tensioning is a simple way to keep track of them. Then, when you spin the wheel to see how it improves, you won’t lose track of them.

To check your progress, turn the spokes in small increments and spin the wheel. After a few adjustments, the wheel should be nice and true again. The most common errors are turning the wrong nostril or turning the wrong nipple. So, make sure the spoke you’re adjusting is on the right side of the wheel and that you always bring its nipple to the top of the wheel and turn clockwise.

If you want even more tips, watch this video called “How To True A Bicycle Wheel” from the Global Cycling Network YouTube Channel.

A video called “How To True A Bicycle Wheel” from the Global Cycling Network YouTube Channel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about trueing a bike wheel.

Can I true a wheel myself?

Yes, you could try lying to yourself, but you could also “destroy the entire thing”! You will not completely destroy it, but you will end up with a more true wheel and possibly some damaged spokes. This is the one repair on a bike that you should focus on first and take your time with.

What happens if you don’t true a wheel?

Untrue wheels are weaker, can make steering difficult at high speeds, and cause stuttering or lockups if you use rim brakes. That said, it would have to be patently false for any of the above to be a serious problem.

How do you know if your wheels need truing?

Raising your bike, spinning a wheel, and inspecting it from the front or back. If it wobbles more than five millimeters from left to right, it’s time for a new wheel. In extreme cases, the rim of an untrue wheel may come into contact with rim brake pads, or the tire may rub against the seat stays or chainstays.

Why do bike wheels go out of true?

Loose spokes are one of the most common causes of wheels going out of alignment. Squeeze two spokes simultaneously between your thumb and fingers to test the tension. A really loose spoke will be obvious (as you practice, you’ll notice subtle differences).

Conclusion

Trueing your bike wheel assures you that it is safe to ride. Trueing your bike wheel is like playing a video game: once you’ve mastered it, riding becomes extremely simple and enjoyable! You should have all the information you need to test your bike wheel successfully. If you suspect your wheel is out of alignment, double-check it. Using our advice ensures a safe ride and keeps your wheels in good condition for years to come.

This article covered what a bike wheel is, what it means to true a bike wheel, and how to use truing tools. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • When tightening rims, the spokes come out of their holders.
  • Cyclists have various wheel truing choices. Some people use a truing stand which has high-grade truing wheels that can keep their wheels perfectly straight over time.
  • A bicycle wheel is designed for use on a bicycle, most commonly a wire wheel.
  • A true wheel is one whose rotation is perfectly aligned with no side-to-side wobbles or hops.
  • The only tool required for truing is a spoke wrench (the term for straightening a wheel).

So, did we cover everything you wanted to know? Let us know in the comments section below (we read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, check out our full blog for more tips and tricks on maintaining your bike. Thanks for reading, and stay put.

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Author avatar - Bradley Knight
Written By Bradley Knight
As a native New Yorker, Bradley is no stranger to the fixed gear scene. He’s been riding fixed for over ten years. When he’s not on the bike, you can find him practicing his many hobbies including playing guitar, video production, and photography.

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