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  1. #1
    J E R S E Y S B E S T Jerseysbest's Avatar
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    How much to tighten spokes?

    I got new wheels about 1.5 weeks ago, have about 200 miles on them, but the spokes started making some noise while riding and feel a bit loose (but I'm not exactly sure what too loose is though), most likely on just the rear wheel.

    It shouldn't take too long for a good mech to tighten them, right, and hopefully not too much? Is it something I can do myself without screwing up my wheel, I have a spoke wrench, but its the only thing on my bike I'm afraid to do.
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  2. #2
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    Ride to a local shop and pluck spokes on a similar wheel (similar spoke size and length). The tones should sound about the same. If yours are a little loose, you can pretty safely tighten 1/4 turn all the way around, making sure to pinch the spoke shaft with your other hand so you can tell when the nipple breaks loose. Then, after the nipple has done a 1/4 turn, back the whole thing off to eliminate the twist.

    When you've done one lap, check the tension by plucking again. If it's close, then true the wheel, which may not even be necessary. If they're still loose, go for another 1/4 turn. If you do much tightening of the back wheel, you'll pull it pretty far out of dish, so you'll need to make sure the rim is still centered between the dropouts, which will likely mean a full lap of tightening the drive side with 1/8 turn per spoke.

    After that, stress relieve the wheel. For fear of flaming, I won't presume to tell you what method to use for stress relieving, but if you search here, sheldonbrown.com, and here: http://groups.google.com/group/rec.bicycles.tech
    ...you should be able to form your own opinion.

    I just squeeze adjacent pairs of spokes together hard enough that it really hurts my hands.

    Anyway, that should get you going.

    An LBS would probably do this for you for around $20/wheel? Tough to say. Maybe for a couple bucks they would measure your current tension for you. With this number in hand, figure out from the rim manufacturer (other wheel parts don't matter) what the recommended tension is for your spoke count, your weight, tire size, and surfaces you ride on. That's getting a little anal, because the tone method will get you 95% of the way there, and that last 5% sports diminishing returns.

  3. #3
    J E R S E Y S B E S T Jerseysbest's Avatar
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    Thanks for the response. I'll give it a try tomorrow if its still raining, but at $20 or even 30 / wheel, I might take it to the LBS and see what they say. Oh yeah, these are track wheels for my fixed gear, so I don't need to worry about dishing it.
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  4. #4
    Career Cyclist threadend's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waterrockets
    Ride to a local shop....off to eliminate the twist....95% of the way there, and that last 5% sports diminishing returns.
    This is an excellent example of the complete and sound replies you get in these forum, well done!

    A bit in addition, be sure the wheel you select at the lbs as your example has been trued / tensioned, time constraints sometimes dictate a wheel doesn't get tensioned / trued until it is sold. Also, the wheel seller, if local source, should offer a free check-up after a short break in period. Is that an option?
    2003 Iceman Challenge - 2:34:55 - 897 / 2,000*
    2002 Iceman Challenge - 2:39:23 - 1093 / 2,186
    2000 Iceman Challenge - 2:49:18 - 1516 / 2,153
    *estimated

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    Quote Originally Posted by threadend
    This is an excellent example of the complete and sound replies you get in these forum, well done!
    I beg to differ. The "tone" method suggested will tell you if all the spokes are at nearly the same tension. Problem is, you still don't know if that is the proper tension.

    Rim manufacturers specify a tension range for spokes depending on the spoke material and the spoke thickness. Spokes should be tensioned within that specified range. How would listening to the sound produced by plucking tell you that?

    In the same fashion tire manufacturers spec psi for their tires. They can range from 35 psi to higher than 160 psi. You can use the "squeeze" method to check your tires, but that still doesn't tell you what the air pressure is in your tire.

    Bob

  6. #6
    Senior Member capwater's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerseysbest
    I got new wheels about 1.5 weeks ago, have about 200 miles on them, but the spokes started making some noise while riding and feel a bit loose (but I'm not exactly sure what too loose is though), most likely on just the rear wheel.

    It shouldn't take too long for a good mech to tighten them, right, and hopefully not too much? Is it something I can do myself without screwing up my wheel, I have a spoke wrench, but its the only thing on my bike I'm afraid to do.
    Yeah, just tighten them all up until you can't turn the wrench anymore....... Jeez, seriously, you need to understand how a wheel is built and tensioned. Trueing a wheel is not as simply as just tightening up the loose spokes. You've got lateral true, radial true and then there is uniform tension to consider. Check out some websites. It's not terribly difficult, but you do need to understand the engineering relationships first. Making a round and true wheel isn't hard, but making one that will stay that way and perform well is a whole nother story.

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    Bike Nurse Bike Nurse's Avatar
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    I think the vital point that """I got new wheels about 1.5 weeks ago, have about 200 miles on them""" has been missed here .... if the wheels are new and possibly hand built by your LBS then I'd be rolling back in there and asking for a very FREE OF CHARGE re-tension and true. Messing with very loose spokes when you're not quite sure of technique could spell distaser and money out of your pocket to fix the mess you made.
    Experience is Priceless!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bike Nurse
    I think the vital point that """I got new wheels about 1.5 weeks ago, have about 200 miles on them""" has been missed here .... if the wheels are new and possibly hand built by your LBS then I'd be rolling back in there and asking for a very FREE OF CHARGE re-tension and true. Messing with very loose spokes when you're not quite sure of technique could spell distaser and money out of your pocket to fix the mess you made.
    +1

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    Career Cyclist threadend's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobby Lex
    I beg to differ. The "tone" method suggested will tell you if all the spokes are at nearly the same tension. Problem is, you still don't know if that is the proper tension.

    Rim manufacturers specify a tension range for spokes depending on the spoke material and the spoke thickness. Spokes should be tensioned within that specified range. How would listening to the sound produced by plucking tell you that?

    In the same fashion tire manufacturers spec psi for their tires. They can range from 35 psi to higher than 160 psi. You can use the "squeeze" method to check your tires, but that still doesn't tell you what the air pressure is in your tire.

    Bob
    Bob,

    I think he covered what you are reiterating with:

    Quote Originally Posted by waterrockets
    ...An LBS would probably do this for you for around $20/wheel? Tough to say. Maybe for a couple bucks they would measure your current tension for you. With this number in hand, figure out from the rim manufacturer (other wheel parts don't matter) what the recommended tension is for your spoke count, your weight, tire size, and surfaces you ride on. That's getting a little anal, because the tone method will get you 95% of the way there, and that last 5% sports diminishing returns.
    2003 Iceman Challenge - 2:34:55 - 897 / 2,000*
    2002 Iceman Challenge - 2:39:23 - 1093 / 2,186
    2000 Iceman Challenge - 2:49:18 - 1516 / 2,153
    *estimated

  10. #10
    J E R S E Y S B E S T Jerseysbest's Avatar
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    Jeez, I wasn't looking for people to hold my hand while I do it, I was just asking if its somethings simple I could do.

    BTW, I bought the wheels online and they aren't the most expensive wheels, this is just for my old fixed bike I'm riding on till I decide what geared road bike I'm going to get. Considering the price, I'm really not surprised that some of the spokes feel a tad loose.
    Quote Originally Posted by SingingSabre View Post
    Cheating: a symptom of the problem.

  11. #11
    Klaatu barada nikto cascade168's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waterrockets
    I just squeeze adjacent pairs of spokes together hard enough that it really hurts my hands.
    This is just a comment - not a criticism. When I was learning to build wheels I was specifically told to wear heavy gloves when stress relieving. The reason - squeezing spokes with your bare hands can cause nerve damage in your fingers. If it hurts, that should be telling you something. Sorry if I sound alarmist, but I've tried it without gloves and I will never do that again. I just use some cheap lineman's gloves and they make a world of difference.

    Sorry to stray off the thread, but I think that it's important to protect your fingers and hands.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member Deanster04's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerseysbest
    I got new wheels about 1.5 weeks ago, have about 200 miles on them, but the spokes started making some noise while riding and feel a bit loose (but I'm not exactly sure what too loose is though), most likely on just the rear wheel.

    It shouldn't take too long for a good mech to tighten them, right, and hopefully not too much? Is it something I can do myself without screwing up my wheel, I have a spoke wrench, but its the only thing on my bike I'm afraid to do.
    Go to an LBS with a wheelbuilder on duty and pay to watch and learn. It isn't rocket science but, it is a type of skill that is best learnt as an understudy. Carrying a wrench with you is good to tighten up loose spokes sufficiently to get you home with a wobbly wheel. Get a book by Gerd Schraner on wheel building and give it a try.
    I build sturdy wheels and my current set have 5k miles on them and I am just now getting ready to retrue (Tweek is a better word since they are almost perfect still) them before a long ride this summer in SW Colorado. I started of tuning my wheels by the "A-440" method but the Tensiometer is a far better tool.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by threadend
    Bob,

    I think he covered what you are reiterating with:
    Well, kinda, sorta....if you are referring to the first part of his post (about going to his LBS). But what I was commenting on was the last line in his post where he said: "The tone method will get you 95% of the way there, and that last 5% sports diminishing returns."

    Equal tension is very different from proper tension. Both are critical for a strong wheel.

    Bob

  14. #14
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobby Lex
    Well, kinda, sorta....if you are referring to the first part of his post (about going to his LBS). But what I was commenting on was the last line in his post where he said: "The tone method will get you 95% of the way there, and that last 5% sports diminishing returns."

    Equal tension is very different from proper tension. Both are critical for a strong wheel.

    Bob
    Yeah, they are both important (though consistent tension is more important). Still, if you pluck a reference wheel that is similar in lacing pattern, spoke butting, and rim depth, you can get the amount of tension easily close enough. Just through tone.

    Web research and emails to rim manufacturers can get you the real numbers on recommended tension, but popular loose rims (Mavic & Velocity) seem to fall into the 100kgf-110kgf range. If your reference wheel has a way-different tesion spec, then you have a problem, but it's unlikely.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by waterrockets
    ....Still, if you pluck a reference wheel that is similar in lacing pattern, spoke butting, and rim depth, you can get the amount of tension easily close enough. Just through tone.
    Waterrockets, you are absolutely correct if you know that the "reference wheel" is correctly tensioned.....(but, in the end, how would you know that without a tensionmeter?)

    Bob

  16. #16
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobby Lex
    Waterrockets, you are absolutely correct if you know that the "reference wheel" is correctly tensioned.....(but, in the end, how would you know that without a tensionmeter?)

    Bob
    You have to know where the wheel came from (somewhere with a tensiometer)

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