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  1. #1
    King of the molehills bcoppola's Avatar
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    Wheel truing: degree of difficulty?

    Since searching is "temporarily disabled", I'll ask what is probably a perennial question:

    How would you rate the difficulty/time consumption of routine wheel truing on a five point scale, with 1 being easiest and 5 being hardest?

    I'm gotten back into biking in the past couple of years. Back in the day I did most routine maintenance on my old 70's Raleigh road bike: tearing down and greasing hubs, replacing the chain, adjusting derailleurs etc., so I'm not afraid of wrenching in general. And I just whiled away a pleasant bit of time adjusting the Tiagra front derailleur on my current road bike. But I always had the impression that truing a wheel was a tricky, fussy business best left to a mechanic.

    Not talking about a tacoed wheel, mind. Just routine wobble elimination. So, should I get that Park "Home Mechanic" truing jig and some spoke wrenches?
    '04 Giant OCR2|'87 Schwinn World Sport F/G conversion (6,129)|'92 Trek 820 MTB|'85 Schwinn Super LeTour
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  2. #2
    cyclist/gearhead/cycli... moxfyre's Avatar
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    If you're not afraid of stuff like adjusting hubs and derailers, you'll have no problem with truing a wheel. It is not actually hard to do, it just requires PATIENCE until you get the hang of it.

    Unlike other adjustments, for example adjusting a derailer, there are many degrees of freedom--up to 36 different spokes!--and the interplay between them is complex... sometimes you have to loosen spoke 1, tighten spoke 2, and loosen spoke 3, but then the rim moves a bit by spoke 4, so you have to adjust that too The first time you try to true a wheel, plan on taking an hour or so to do it even if it's only a light job. If you're patient and methodical, you'll get the hang of it and be able to go several times faster subsequently.

    I learned to true and build wheels and it is a really useful and satisfying skill to have. I recommend Sheldon Brown's guide to wheel building, http://sheldonbrown.com/wheelbuild.html#tensioning, which has an excellent section on tensioning and truing. Also, I have the Spin-Doctor branded truing stand from Performance, which only cost me $30, but works very very well. Here it is: http://www.performancebike.com/shop/...4&srccode=2047
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  3. #3
    D.G.W Hedges mrhedges's Avatar
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    it just requires PATIENCE until you get the hang of it.+1

    took me about 5 hours to true my first wheel. But i'm mildly dyslexic, the hardest part for me was remembering which way tighted the spokes and which way loosened them. I cut a spoke of an old wheel and used to as a "cheat sheet" to remind myself constantly which direction to turn. it was time consuming but it helped me get the hang of it. Understanding how wheels work is an important aspect of understanding bicycles so the time i spent was well worth the effort.

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    It took me about 20 minutes to true my first, slightly out of true, wheel and half of that was setting up the stand. Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance was a big help. The general process is to find the section of the rim that is out of true then work on the 4 spokes in that area. Loosen the two that are at the apex of the bend in the rim and tighten the two that are on the outside of those two. Work in small increments (1/4 or 1/8 turn at a time) and work your way around the wheel until it's straight again.

  5. #5
    biked well well biked's Avatar
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  6. #6
    King of the molehills bcoppola's Avatar
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    Well, that's it then. Patience I can manage (well, to a point...). Guess I'll take a look at that Spin Doctor stand -- that's a lot less than I expected to pay. I had read the Park Tools site on truing. Shoulda figured Sheldon Brown's site would have instructions as well. Thanks!

    After seeing several mentions of the Zinn book here and elsewhere I guess I should pick that up, too.
    '04 Giant OCR2|'87 Schwinn World Sport F/G conversion (6,129)|'92 Trek 820 MTB|'85 Schwinn Super LeTour
    "People who spend most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle as a result of the interchanging of the atoms of each of them and you would be surprised at the number of people in these parts who are nearly half people and half bicycles." - Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman

  7. #7
    King of the molehills bcoppola's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by well biked
    1.86578
    '04 Giant OCR2|'87 Schwinn World Sport F/G conversion (6,129)|'92 Trek 820 MTB|'85 Schwinn Super LeTour
    "People who spend most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle as a result of the interchanging of the atoms of each of them and you would be surprised at the number of people in these parts who are nearly half people and half bicycles." - Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman

  8. #8
    ¡gonzowrench!
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    Quote Originally Posted by well biked
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    42

  9. #9
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    If I can do it (and I've successfully built, tensioned and trued a half dozen wheelsets), it can't be very difficult.

    Hint: Spring $9.00 for the e-book Wheelbuilding, 3rd Edition, by Musson.

    I use the Spin Doctor stand.

    Last edited by Scooper; 08-18-06 at 07:52 PM.
    - Stan

  10. #10
    cyclist/gearhead/cycli... moxfyre's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bcoppola
    Well, that's it then. Patience I can manage (well, to a point...). Guess I'll take a look at that Spin Doctor stand -- that's a lot less than I expected to pay. I had read the Park Tools site on truing. Shoulda figured Sheldon Brown's site would have instructions as well. Thanks!

    After seeing several mentions of the Zinn book here and elsewhere I guess I should pick that up, too.
    Good luck! There is no more satisfying feeling than building a complete wheel... well, maybe building a complete bike
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  11. #11
    King of the molehills bcoppola's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by moxfyre
    Good luck! There is no more satisfying feeling than building a complete wheel... well, maybe building a complete bike
    Whoa...I was just talking truing, not building! Not that I rule out wheel building some time in the future...but one thing at a time.

    Scooper, the wheelbuilding book looks interesting, especially if I can build shop made jigs without too much trouble.
    Last edited by bcoppola; 08-18-06 at 11:44 PM.
    '04 Giant OCR2|'87 Schwinn World Sport F/G conversion (6,129)|'92 Trek 820 MTB|'85 Schwinn Super LeTour
    "People who spend most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle as a result of the interchanging of the atoms of each of them and you would be surprised at the number of people in these parts who are nearly half people and half bicycles." - Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman

  12. #12
    Senior Member trmcgeehan's Avatar
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    My LBS guy says never tighten just one loose spoke. Always true the wheel by adjusting at least the two spokes on either side of the loose spoke. Is this true?
    "I am a true laborer. I earn that I eat, get that I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man's happiness, glad of other men's good, content with my harm." As You Like It, Act 3, Scene 2. Shakespeare.
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  13. #13
    la vache fantôme phantomcow2's Avatar
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    Also, make sure that you seat the spokes. It won't be very significant for a small truing job, but is very significant for a wheel build.

  14. #14
    me have long head tube TallRider's Avatar
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    Lots of good thoughts so far, especially the 42.
    Wheel truing and building is complex, with lots of degrees of freedom as has been mentioned, where changes to one spoke affect all of the other spokes. It takes awhile to get comfortable with everything.

    I would recommend practicing on an old wheel in which you have little investment. The best practice, honestly, is wheelbuilding. If you've got an old wheel, disassemble it and rebuild it using Sheldon's guide (linked above). Going through the whole process of bringing a wheel up to tension while maintaining radial true and lateral true and relatively equal spoke tension (I pluck the spokes to compare tension, once tension gets high enough that spokes make a tone when plucked) gives you a deeper understanding of what's going on when you true a wheel.

  15. #15
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    Just do it. And plan to spend a LOT of time doing it as it takes a while to get used to.

    +1 on the SpinDoctor (Minoura) cheapo truing stand. You can adjust wheels using brake blocks, but the stand makes things much easier.

    Remember when you're moving the rim left, loosen right first. If you're moving the rim right, loosen the left first. Failure to loosen the opposite group of spokes will affect the roundness of the wheel.

    Remember that the last step in any repair is to untwist the spokes. Twisted spoke will progressively unwind and throw the wheel back out of true. If multiple spokes unwind, the wheel may come apart.

    I personally got into wheel building because I was 270# and riding off road. I was constantly taking my wheels in to get looked at and the LBS was seemed to always be swamped. I wasn't getting the use out of my wheels. I started by truing the wheels and making all the mistakes I listed above. Now I build my own wheels.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by bcoppola
    Whoa...I was just talking truing, not building! Not that I rule out wheel building some time in the future...but one thing at a time.

    .
    Truing is the most difficult part of wheel building.
    Last edited by Al1943; 08-22-06 at 10:01 AM.

  17. #17
    cyclist/gearhead/cycli... moxfyre's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al1943
    Truing is the more difficult part of wheel building.
    Absolutely! Connecting the spokes from the hub to the rim turns out to be really embarassingly easy
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    Hmmmm ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Al1943
    Truing is the most difficult part of wheel building.
    Hmmm ... I would say that TENSIONING is the most difficult part of the build. A true wheel that is not tensioned properly will fail quickly. But in the final stage tensioning and truing turn out to be the same thing.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by willtsmith_nwi
    Hmmm ... I would say that TENSIONING is the most difficult part of the build. A true wheel that is not tensioned properly will fail quickly. But in the final stage tensioning and truing turn out to be the same thing.
    And when I say "truing" I'm including radial truing, rim centering (dishing), tensioning, and lateral truing, with lateral truing being the easiest of those. And all of these variables are dependent on each other. I guess my point is that if you can do a pretty good job of truing then building is a relatively easy next step.

    Al
    Last edited by Al1943; 08-23-06 at 10:46 AM.

  20. #20
    Bicycle built for 5 tuolumne's Avatar
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    There has been a lot of talk about expensive truing stands. I've always just flipped the bike upside-down. It is fairly easy to use the brake pads as a guide. I've found that the kids bikes (12" and 16") tires can be a bit more finicky. I think the rims are low quality and slightly tacoed right off the assembly line.

  21. #21
    cyclist/gearhead/cycli... moxfyre's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tuolumne
    There has been a lot of talk about expensive truing stands. I've always just flipped the bike upside-down. It is fairly easy to use the brake pads as a guide. I've found that the kids bikes (12" and 16") tires can be a bit more finicky. I think the rims are low quality and slightly tacoed right off the assembly line.
    Well, truing stands aren't that expensive these days at only $30 or so for a Spin Doctor stand, which works very very well for me.

    I've done the flip-upside down thing, and it works okay for doing a rough truing I guess. But moving the brake pads in and out to fine-tune the truing is a pain. It is also hard to sight the brake pads on the rear wheel. Furthermore, not all kinds of handlebars can be flipped upside down and remain stable.

    If you plan on truing your wheels more than once, I recommend a truing stand. And for building a wheel, it's an absolute necessity. A freshly-laced wheel will most likely be too far out of true to put onto a frame and have it spin freely.
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  22. #22
    Bicycle built for 5 tuolumne's Avatar
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    Thanks, I guess I've never considered building a wheel from the ground up.

  23. #23
    cyclist/gearhead/cycli... moxfyre's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tuolumne
    Thanks, I guess I've never considered building a wheel from the ground up.
    I laced a couple yesterday, meaning that I connected the spokes from the hub to the rim. Took me about 15 minutes per wheel. It looks complicated, but once you realize the pattern of the spokes it's very easy. But the truing will take longer.
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  24. #24
    Senior Member godspiral's Avatar
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    +1 on keeping the wheel on the bike and using brake pads.

    I have trouble with a lot of spokes unwinding on some wheels in the first minute of riding.

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    Is having a perfectly true wheel an important factor with regard to performance? I have never worried about having perfectly true wheels, (thinking that they would be knocked back out of perfect true anyway the first time I hit the next pothole). I only have worried about the wheel trueness if it is out of true enough that efficient braking is becoming an issue. I never thought about whether a slightly out of true wheel could slow me down for example. Any comments on whether a slightly out of true wheel negatively impacts performance?

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