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How often should I check my spoke tension?

Old 02-18-22, 07:11 AM
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Ev0lutionz
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How often should I check my spoke tension?

Especially on my rear wheel? I ride with 2 panniers, total weight maybe 7kg max, 20km every weekday at least to the office and back.

24 spoke rear wheel.

Last edited by Ev0lutionz; 02-18-22 at 07:18 AM.
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Old 02-18-22, 07:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Ev0lutionz View Post
Especially on my rear wheel? I ride with 2 panniers, total weight maybe 7kg max, 20km every weekday at least to the office and back.
If the wheels were well built with equal spoke tension then a giveaway to go check what's wrong is the wheel becoming out of true. How much out of true do you tolerate in a way reflects how much spoke tension discrepancies you are happy with. But on a 32-spoke cross-lacing a spoke going essentially loose gets very noticeable on the rim going untrue, with caliper brakes you would know immediately.
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Old 02-18-22, 07:16 AM
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PS I would be checking my rear tire pressure regularly though.
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Old 02-18-22, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by am8117 View Post
If the wheels were well built with equal spoke tension then a giveaway to go check what's wrong is the wheel becoming out of true. How much out of true do you tolerate in a way reflects how much spoke tension discrepancies you are happy with. But on a 32-spoke cross-lacing a spoke going essentially loose gets very noticeable on the rim going untrue, with caliper brakes you would know immediately.
Will pressing my spokes tightly help me to tell? I am using a 24 spoke rear wheel. I went to a local LBS and he said my wheels were pretty well built and true last year, but he did tighten it for me.
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Old 02-18-22, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Ev0lutionz View Post
Will pressing my spokes tightly help me to tell? I am using a 24 spoke rear wheel. I went to a local LBS and he said my wheels were pretty well built and true last year, but he did tighten it for me.
You could get a tension meter if you think that's worth it, but the fewer the spokes the higher the tensions are and the more pronounced it gets when one is getting loose. What is a problem is uneven spoke tension, not necessarily lower/higher spoke tension.

The person tightening the spokes (assuming he was tightening them all because he/you like stiffer wheels) maybe just felt the wheel could have been built stiffer.

There's indications on the rim what it can tolerate in terms of spoke tensions. What happens with some wheels is that when you pump them up especially tubeless they go "looser" in the spokes. This is totally normal and the manufacturers typically have a notice saying one should NOT be trying to account for that when lacing a new wheel (no tube/tire and no pressure).

The wheel if it keeps itself true is not going "bad", your LBS might just have felt like they prefer stiffer wheels.

I would careful especially with front wheels when tightening up factory made ones. On road bikes with rim brakes these often radially laced, as few spokes as possible, very high tension and recipe for having the flanges fail.

It's just my take, but unless your wheels go out of true often I would not be concerned - this all assuming the wheels were well-built from the start with equal spoke tension.

NB Trying to press the spokes etc I do not know some people claim they got the feel of it, I do not, I would be better able to tell e.g. ringing the spoke with a spoon or something (maybe do not do this with anodized ones) and hear different tone coming, but other than that this is what tension meters were made for.
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Old 02-18-22, 10:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Ev0lutionz View Post
Will pressing my spokes tightly help me to tell? I am using a 24 spoke rear wheel. I went to a local LBS and he said my wheels were pretty well built and true last year, but he did tighten it for me.
That's actually what I do. I'm not worried if they feel about right, are fairly even, and the wheel is true. I only pull the wheels off and do a thorough check if they feel slack or uneven, or if I hit something substantial on the previous ride... and once per year as part of my annual inspection.

One concern, however, is that the LBS apparently tightened them while telling you they were well built. Tighter is not necessarily better, and can even lead to catastrophic rim failure if it's too much. Hope the mech used a spoke tension meter and knows what they're doing.
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Old 02-18-22, 10:23 AM
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I will sometimes lightly squeeze pairs together or plink them. I'm looking more for just change from what they were before or for a really notable difference between them. Tension meters and stuff are for the wheel builders that know more about wheels than I do.

I will do it more often when I get a new wheel and less often as the get past the 300 mile mark. But probably once every 18 months or so I'll make a effort to check them all. Otherwise when I'm cleaning my bike I might grab a spoke or too randomly just to see.
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Old 02-18-22, 10:25 AM
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I normally give the wheel a spin every week or two, and look for a sideways jump. If that's present, it's a good bet squeezing adjacent spoke pairs will find one that's noticeably loose.
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Old 02-18-22, 10:29 AM
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I'd check before embarking on a tour.

Other than that, unless the wheel had a history of issues, then only if out of true.
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Old 02-18-22, 11:03 AM
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Originally Posted by urbanknight View Post
One concern, however, is that the LBS apparently tightened them while telling you they were well built. Tighter is not necessarily better, and can even lead to catastrophic rim failure if it's too much. Hope the mech used a spoke tension meter and knows what they're doing.
So I first thought about dropping in the "too high tension might be counterproductive", but then to ease off the OP mind a bit after this last comment above let me say this: If you want read the recommended tension off the rim (it will look something like max 100kgf or 950 Nm or a range). If you cannot find it try to find out what rim model it is. I could tell you that overtightening spokes for beyond e.g. 1200 Nm is physically hard to do with normal spoke wrench, it just does not feel right and I cannot picture an LBS mechanic doing this around the whole rim without feeling the pain. Lots of wheels can take up to 1200 Nm and I would expect yours to be at that end because how else does one build a 24-spoke stable wheel than with high spoke tension.

Unless you saw the mechanic literally giving birth at each and every spoke while "tuning your wheel", you can sleep peacefully at night. And that comes from me who has had a wheel come back out of dish from an LBS once and took up wheel lacing myself since.

If you were into more intricate details just for the fun of it, feel free to delve in:
https://spokecalc.io/spoke-tension-t...ive-guide.html

EDIT: Also this is rear wheel we are talking, if the LBS went crazy tight it would very likely bring the whole wheel out of dish. If you have rim brakes you would have noticed right away, if not you can check still.

Last edited by am8117; 02-18-22 at 11:10 AM.
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Old 02-18-22, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by am8117 View Post
So I first thought about dropping in the "too high tension might be counterproductive", but then to ease off the OP mind a bit after this last comment above let me say this: If you want read the recommended tension off the rim (it will look something like max 100kgf or 950 Nm or a range). If you cannot find it try to find out what rim model it is. I could tell you that overtightening spokes for beyond e.g. 1200 Nm is physically hard to do with normal spoke wrench, it just does not feel right and I cannot picture an LBS mechanic doing this around the whole rim without feeling the pain. Lots of wheels can take up to 1200 Nm and I would expect yours to be at that end because how else does one build a 24-spoke stable wheel than with high spoke tension.

Unless you saw the mechanic literally giving birth at each and every spoke while "tuning your wheel", you can sleep peacefully at night. And that comes from me who has had a wheel come back out of dish from an LBS once and took up wheel lacing myself since.

If you were into more intricate details just for the fun of it, feel free to delve in:
https://spokecalc.io/spoke-tension-t...ive-guide.html

EDIT: Also this is rear wheel we are talking, if the LBS went crazy tight it would very likely bring the whole wheel out of dish. If you have rim brakes you would have noticed right away, if not you can check still.
Good point. Low spoke count rims are generally made for higher tension, although I will say it's not quite "giving birth" if you have properly lubricated spokes and brass nipples. Alloy, however, seemed to be just perfect for losing their shape right around the max tension.
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Old 02-18-22, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Ev0lutionz View Post
Will pressing my spokes tightly help me to tell? I am using a 24 spoke rear wheel. I went to a local LBS and he said my wheels were pretty well built and true last year, but he did tighten it for me.
You could, but until your hands are "calibrated" for what an acceptable spoke tension feels like, you may end up creating new worries for nothing. Thin double-butted spokes (like DT Revs, Sapim Laser or D-Light, etc) will feel a lot flexier than straight-gauge 2.0mm spokes at the same tension.

I would suggest just spinning the wheels off the ground and checking for wobbles for the time being.
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Old 02-19-22, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Ev0lutionz View Post
Especially on my rear wheel? I ride with 2 panniers, total weight maybe 7kg max, 20km every weekday at least to the office and back.

24 spoke rear wheel.
Every time your wheel goes out of true, check spoke tension. Otherwise the chances that the spokes would UNIFORMLY lose tension are virtually zero.
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Old 02-19-22, 10:31 AM
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Never in my experience have I used a wheel which maintained spoke tension over a long period of time.

I usually go based on feel with a spoke key, starting first with the drive side, then moving to non drive, using less tension on non drive. Id make sure to at least check every month or so.
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Old 02-19-22, 04:47 PM
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Ditto those who say if it ain't broke don't fix it. If you have disc brakes, check trueness often, as every day you ride, certainly every time you use the tire pump. The tension gauge is useful for a new build with a new rim, or for trouble-shooting weird problems or a major repair. After that, the real world takes over, especially for a daily commuter, and tensions will not be uniform.
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Old 02-19-22, 05:07 PM
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A well-built wheel shouldn't require routine retensioning. Check tension if/when it goes out of true. If it keeps going out of true, rebuild or replace the wheel, perhaps with more spokes.
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Old 02-19-22, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Moisture View Post
Never in my experience have I used a wheel which maintained spoke tension over a long period of time.

I usually go based on feel with a spoke key, starting first with the drive side, then moving to non drive, using less tension on non drive. Id make sure to at least check every month or so.
Sounds like you don't have any wheels built by a competent wheelbuilder, then.
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Old 02-19-22, 06:36 PM
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JohnDThompson

A wheel could be perfectly true yet still lacking in spoke tension
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Old 02-19-22, 06:49 PM
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60,000+ miles of riding on New England roads and I've never checked spoke tension, but I do suppose that it's been checked the few times when my wheels have been trued.
My last set of wheels (Bontrager Aeolus3 D3) needed one truing in ~25,00 miles of riding, they were destroyed when I was hit by a car.
I've got a set of 2010 Bontrager RXL's that I bough used, and have added >10,000 mile to, they spin laser straight.
Currently have 1,000's of miles on Bontrager XXX2 rim & Aeolus Pro 51 Discs, no truing needed thus far.
I did have a set of 2013 Bontrager RXL's that repeatedly snapped spokes, they were checked over & over and even when true, the spoke tension was all over the place. The wheels were eventually replaced under warranty.

I'm not sure if or why I'd need to check tension except if the wheels couldn't stay true or if I had problems with spokes breaking.
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Old 02-19-22, 07:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Moisture View Post
JohnDThompson

A wheel could be perfectly true yet still lacking in spoke tension
True, but he said a "well-built wheel", and as KerryIrons said, such a wheel going uniformly loose would be improbable.
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Old 02-19-22, 07:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Moisture View Post
JohnDThompson

A wheel could be perfectly true yet still lacking in spoke tension
While technically true, this is not:
1) How a a well-made wheel would start its life
2) What would happen uniformly by itself, i.e. without coming out of true at the same time
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Old 02-19-22, 07:42 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
Sounds like you don't have any wheels built by a competent wheelbuilder, then.
While I would not agree on the routine with the poster to whom this was a reaction, we do not know how the wheels in question are ridden.
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Old 02-19-22, 09:24 PM
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I have been riding my Surly for over a decade, probably closing in on 2. Thousands of miles. I have never thought about checking my spoke tension. I hope I didnt jinx myself.
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Old 02-20-22, 08:47 AM
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A year or so back, I decided to upgrade the Mavic Open Pro's on one of my older wheelsets to some wider rims, just because. The wheel was "true enough," but upon breaking down the wheel I found several of the brass nipples sticking pretty bad on the spokes. I used grease on the spoke threads when originally building the wheels. So question being, what maintenance should be done on wheels, other than obvious bearing maintenance? It seems to me that waiting for the wheel to go out of true may not be the best course of action in the long term.
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Old 02-20-22, 12:48 PM
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Only time I've ever seen a spoke fail was on a group ride last year. The guy said he'd just had his spokes re-tensioned the previous week! Personally I just don't bother. I might give them a quick check once in a while to see if there are any obvious issues, but I've never had any issues with spokes in many decades of riding.
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