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  1. #1
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    Old wheels - When to Retension?

    I just picked up a used road bike. I did a rough true up on the rear wheel but I notice that I have a more than a few loose spokes.

    At what point to just take off the rim strip, loosen up all the spokes, and retension?

    I've built wheels from new parts, but have never performed more than truing on older, well-used wheels. What's different when retensioning old wheels?

    Thanks.

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    That's impossible to quantify, too much dependent on how/how much the bike is going to be ridden.
    Personally, I think I'd find it hard to leave a known fault alone.
    OTOH, if the bike has seen plenty of use in that state already, any effort might soon prove to be wasted if you start popping spokes.
    As long as the wheel stays straight, maybe better to leave well enough alone until it's due for a respoke?
    But I'm curious as to why you're planning to pull the rim strip. As you've already trued the wheel, you obviously have access to a spoke key...

    Can't really see the merit of loosening all the spokes prior to retension either, as long as the wheel is in decent shape.

    If the wheel is decently true, I'd just tension as needed and be done with it. Starting from slack I'd only do if the wheel is so messed up that it's hard to find stable references to work from.

  3. #3
    Bill
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    I would measure and record the tension of all the spokes then look at the data and see if the tensions are relatively even and properly tensioned on the same side of the wheel. If there is a wild variation might be worth de-tensioning and redoing but I would more likely resort to tension balancing and bringing all up to the rim manufacturer recommendation. Loose spokes (whatever that means) is a sign something needs to be done.

    And pretty much what dabac said.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dabac View Post
    But I'm curious as to why you're planning to pull the rim strip. As you've already trued the wheel, you obviously have access to a spoke key...
    Other than touch-up truing, I've only ever built-up wheels from new parts. I just figured to retension, I would loosen the spokes until slack and then start again with a nipple driver.

    The wheel is true in that it doesn't wobble or rub against the brake pads, but just from squeezing and hearing some spoke noise while riding, I've got quite a few loose/undertensioned spokes.

  5. #5
    Junior Mint jimn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikehattan View Post
    Other than touch-up truing, I've only ever built-up wheels from new parts. I just figured to retension, I would loosen the spokes until slack and then start again with a nipple driver.

    The wheel is true in that it doesn't wobble or rub against the brake pads, but just from squeezing and hearing some spoke noise while riding, I've got quite a few loose/undertensioned spokes.
    You don't have to loosen up all of the spokes, but it sounds like you have a badly build wheel.

    Just to take a step back, whether from new or used parts, it's possible to have a wheel that is true, but where the spokes holding the wheel true are widely varied in their tension. That is a wheel that won't stay true for long. Ideally, you want to have the tension on the spokes be as even as possible. Otherwise, the spokes that are tensioned are the only ones holding you up, and they will loosen or break in short order.

    The easiest thing to do would be to go around and tighten all of the loose spokes so they are about the same tension as the tense ones. Then, starting from there, re-true the wheel. If there is a choice between tightening one spoke and loosening another, try to make the choice based on which spoke is too loose or too tight, based on the average.

    Does this make sense?

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jimn View Post
    You don't have to loosen up all of the spokes, but it sounds like you have a badly build wheel.


    The easiest thing to do would be to go around and tighten all of the loose spokes so they are about the same tension as the tense ones. Then, starting from there, re-true the wheel. If there is a choice between tightening one spoke and loosening another, try to make the choice based on which spoke is too loose or too tight, based on the average.

    Does this make sense?
    Thanks everyone for all the input. Just trying to gauge when you address loose spokes individually vs just start fresh and do a complete retension.

    I think I'll start where it is, equalize tension, then true.

  8. #8
    Senior Member gyozadude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Now.
    +1. LOL! It's a short answer, but I agree completely. No time like the present to retension a wheel which seems to be obviously not tensioned. Especially if you're doing the work, and this is a wheel you care about not failing in middle of nowhere. Best to retension and true fully to know what you have on your hands now, than wait and guess. The idea that spokes could break shouldn't be a concern. If tensioning or even stripping and rebuilding of the wheel causes spokes to break or nipples to seize or get bent, well, better to know that now. The question might be better posed to ask whether the wheel is worth rebuilding. If it is a cheap wheel with questionable integrity (e.g. it's been potato-chipped and the spokes are unevenly tensioned because someone's trying hard to mask a dinged rim), maybe it's better to buy a replacement or build some new wheels.
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    Yes, maybe 'rebuild' would have been a better word choice. Sorry for any confusion.

    The rim is a Wolber GTX anodized from circa 1989, Shimano 105 hub in great shape. Less than 1000 miles. Hasn't been severely damaged. It's actually an old bike of mine that I just bought back from a friend. Pretty much has been hanging in a garage for 15 years.

  10. #10
    Senior Member gyozadude's Avatar
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    Mikehattan:

    Maybe it's just me :-), but I'd not hesitate to loosen all the spokes and rebuild the wheels and even overhaul the hubs while we're at it. If you have the tools at home and feel confident (and of course, if you have the -time-), I know I'd probably just do it. But that's me. I have a truing stand and dishing tool and a little box with spoke wrenches and nipple driver and some tubes of lube and spoke prep in the living room in front of the TV! Dohhht! I tend to work fast, and play a game where I see how fast I can tighten spokes and round/true/dish a wheel but ONLY during commercial breaks. Takes sometimes an hour to do that, but it's a poor man's way of multi-tasking.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gyozadude View Post
    Mikehattan: Maybe it's just me :-), but I'd not hesitate to loosen all the spokes and rebuild the wheels and even overhaul the hubs while we're at it.
    I may be going down the rebuild path anyway this winter. I'm planning to convert this bike to a single speed at some point and may likely replace the hub. I'll need to redish at a minimum to get the chainline right.

    gyozadude: I used to work on my bike in front of the TV when I was single. Not sure the wife would be too keen to the idea now! Can't f-up the carpet more than my kids already have.

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    Unless I had nothing better to do with my time, or had to replace more than a few spokes I wouldn't completely retension a used wheel. Just snug up the loose spokes and tweak the trueing at the same time. Particularly on a used wheel you may not be able to acheive equal tension and end up with a perfectly round wheel. Shoot for a happy medium.

    I'll need to redish at a minimum to get the chainline right.
    Dishing has nothing to do with chainline. Proper dish centers the wheel between the stays. Chainline is controlled by placement of the front and rear chainrings, which is determined by BB spindle length, adjustment of BB in BB shell (for some types- like Phil Wood), crank choice, placement of chain ring on the crank, or spacing of rear gear usings shims/spacers, etc.

    It should have read- center rim/tire between the stays. A "wheel" includes the hub as well.
    Last edited by reddog3; 10-13-11 at 09:27 AM. Reason: clarafication

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikehattan View Post
    I'll need to redish at a minimum to get the chainline right.
    ...after I change out the 6sp freewheel for a single speed freewheel and re-space my rear axle.

  14. #14
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    choosing to revive from search results instead of new thread
    hope its the right call

    given a used wheel
    which is still in true
    but who's spokes have 'stretched' so all are uniformly low tension

    does retension and stress relieve reset metal fatigue's memory?
    or will broken spokes be in the future regardless?

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by xenologer View Post
    given a used wheel which is still in true but who's spokes have 'stretched' so all are uniformly low tension does retension and stress relieve reset metal fatigue's memory?
    or will broken spokes be in the future regardless?
    First spokes don't "stretch" or relax over time. if they have low tension now, they always did. If the wheel has been ridden extensively at low tension and it's fatigue life already compromised, you can't go back. If the wheel was not ridden very much it probably still has a reasonable life expectancy if retensioned properly. I'd bring the tension up to the proper level and hope for the best in the future.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikehattan View Post

    At what point to just take off the rim strip, loosen up all the spokes, and retension?
    In my experience, this is rarely, if ever is necessary. I only do the loosen, retension/true thing when folks bring me newly built wheels that are impossible to work with. Otherwise, take up slack spokes, true & dish, and bring the wheel to tension starting from where it is. You might have to slacken a spoke o two, but only if someone else worked on the wheel before you. Otherwise there's no reason to suspect that any spokes are over tight, so there's no need to start from ground zero.

    As to when a complete retrue is needed, it's judgement call, so if you feel it needs work do it, whether it's a touch up or more.
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  17. #17
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    One advantage of loosening all the spokes is that you can add lube to the thread nipples. It may not be a big advantage, but I like doing it.
    I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter. --Blaise Pascal

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  18. #18
    Senior Member mrrabbit's Avatar
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    1. You can do a check for the livelihood of the spokes by doing a stress relief cycle:

    Wearing leather gloves - grab parallel pair of spoke on both sides of the wheel simultaneously and squeeze very hard.

    Do this for two complete rotations. If none of the spokes break, chances are pretty good the spokes haven't suffered fatigue to the point that their life cycle is over.


    2. If you'd like as "noglider" suggested, completely loosen the spokes to free the nipples for the purpose of lubrication. Be prepared though to have a twist-resist tool to avoid excessive torsioning of the spokes should the nipples be seized up.

    One side benefit is you'll see the rim free of tension - any "tacoing" or other damage than can be hidden will be evident.


    Sure, the above is tantamount to a rebuild...it's your wheel and your call.


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  19. #19
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    like someone else said, i wouldn't hesitate to loosen all the spokes and start from the beginning. but as another noted, i wouldn't necessarily even deflate or remove the tire...

  20. #20
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    I just went around my rear wheel and tightened all the loose spokes first, then trued it. The rim had a small dent too, but I was able to get it pretty much true. My wheel/bike was of 1991 vintage and looked pretty well used for an eBay special. It's been 4+ months now of 2-3 times a week 20mile rt commuting, with laptop and other items, and it has stayed tight and true. I'm not such a lightweight either.

  21. #21
    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    I don't consider it a big deal to wind out all the nipples to where the threads start and add tension from scratch.

    That way you know if the rim is straight; if you can get it true with only minor adjustments you know the rim isn't damaged.

    And it's a hell of a lot easier to get it both straight and evenly taut.

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