Mountain bike wheels need to be aligned so that they’ll work at their best. Another term for aligning your bike wheels is to true them.
Unfortunately, only very few bikers know how to true their wheels. This is because you need to know the specific procedure and use the right tools to do this properly. Aside from that, you also need to have loads of patience.
Note that it’s all a matter of trial and error. It might be hard at first, but you’ll eventually get the hang of it later.
But wheel truing doesn’t need to be that hard as long as you follow the right process step by step.
Things You Need
You can’t true your wheels if you don’t have a truing stand. There are many stands out there in the market.
But one of the best choices is the Park Tool TS 2.2. It is a professional wheel truing stand that ensures you align your wheels in the fastest and most accurate way possible.
Aside from a stand, you also should have spoken keys. This is a small key-like object that comes in a variety of sizes. This is also called a spoke wrench by some. Lezyne’s three-way spoke wrench is one of the top picks out there that we’d recommend.
Truing a wheel is a bit of a tedious process. And there is a good chance that you’ll have sweaty hands when you true. This is why we recommend you wear gloves. It’s best to use thin gloves so you can still have a good feel of the spoke keys.
Step-by-step Process in Truing a Bike Wheel
Step 1: Place the wheel on the truing stand.
Make sure that your brake pads and wheel are laterally aligned. This means that it should be at the center of the truing stand and is in a vertical position. It shouldn’t also drag through the brake pad and left side spokes.
The wheel should also pull to the side. Align the calipers found on the stand in a vertical position until they are level with the outer edge of your rims.
Step 2: Spin the wheel
Slowly rotate the wheel inside the stand. Then adjust the distance between the caliper’s jaws. Do this until the jaws are near the rims.
Make sure that the wheel doesn’t bob up and down as this requires radial truing. There are also times when you need to let a professional bike mechanic do this for you if you have a severely out of true wheel or have broken spokes.
Step 3: Locate the buckle
Slowly turn the wheel and look for signs of wobbliness. If you find one, then dial in the jaws of the caliper until it contacts the rim surface.
But it shouldn’t cause too much friction on the caliper as this can damage the rims. Once you find the contact area, then that is an indication where your wheel is heavily buckled. Then rotate the wheel back and forth until you locate the middle portion of the buckle.
Step 4: Find the spoke
If the rim pulls to the left side, then find the spoke that comes from the opposite side of the hub. In this case, it is the right side of the hub. On the other hand, find the corresponding spoke from the hub’s left rim sidewall of the wheel pulls to the right. The same process applies to rim brake wheels.
Step 5: Adjust the spoke tension
Now is the time to adjust each of the spoke’s tension. Turn the nipple halfway. This tightens the nipple clockwise if you view it from above and through the rim. But this is reversed if you view it in the stand. This then means that you should tighten the spoke tension in a counter-clockwise direction.
Step 6: Double-check
Now that you have done all that. It’s now time for you to check if the wheel is now fully aligned. Move the wheel back and forth and gently spin the wheel to check your adjustment.
If you still have a wobbly wheel, then repeat the process and make further adjustments to the dial and spokes. Slowly dial the caliper and move to the next buckle.
Other Things to Consider
Aside from truing your bike wheel, you should also learn other related skills and tasks. One of which is removing your tires.
It will help you a lot if you first take off your tire from the rim. You can easily see the deviations and potential rim damage if there was no rubber sticking onto its sides.
You should have the right lubricant when you want to true a wheel. This is highly recommended because you can put a drop of lubricant on the spoke if it is hard to turn.
You can also use this if the spoke produces a creaky sound. Put the lubricant on the area where the spoke meets the end of the nipple and where the nipple ends from the rim.
Deal with bladed spokes properly because they can twist while the nipple is turned. This can then damage the spokes and make them less aerodynamic.
You can avoid this by holding the spoke in place and adjusting the tension using a holder. You can also use pliers. But just make sure that you don’t clip on the spokes too tightly to avoid damage.
If you do not see nipples at the rim or the hub, it is likely the wheel has internal spoke nipples. Internal nipples are located under the rim strip, inside the rim, and require a special tool to get at them. These are also discussed in the article on spoke wrench selection.
It is important that you lubricate your nipples regularly to avoid corrosion. Corrosion and rusting are very common with spokes because they are made from metal and are usually exposed to direct sunlight, dirt, mud, and water.
And most of the time, we tend to not dwell too much on cleaning them because they are just on the wheels.
Truing a bike wheel is an important skill every mountain biker should learn so you don’t have to go to the local bike shop and spend lots of time and money just to get your wheels aligned. Follow the steps mentioned in this article and use the right tools, and you can surely true your wheel any time you want for a better ride on the mountains.