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Old 10-09-08, 10:22 AM   #1
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Considering Learning Basic Truing

I do a fair bit of work on vintage bicycles but generally don't touch cotters or adjust wheel spokes. Of late I'm considering getting to know basic truing and minor wheel adjustments. Is it difficult for a first timer to adjust an already-built wheel that is a little out of true? I don't have a stand, but figure I can do it on the bike using the brakes or some other device to check the lateral true. The wheel is currently in radial true, so I figure as long as I loosen one side as much as I tighten the other the radial true should remain pretty good. I've been bringing my bike to the shop a couple times per year to have the back wheel trued up (the front one never seems to run anything but dead straight), but figure I could do well by just making these little adjustments at home. I've seen some materials online and watched a couple of those "experts" videos at various websites and it doesn't seem anything all that complex.

The bikes are basic Raleigh 3 Speeds and a balloon tire bicycle. I know the ballooner uses special large gauge spokes. but what gauge spokes do the 3 Speeds run on, and what spoke wrench would be proper for them?
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Old 10-09-08, 11:43 AM   #2
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Just take your time and make small adjustments along the way. I always try to let the air out of the tire before doing anything more than a quick tweak of a spoke on a roadside repair. If I've got the time I let the air out, sometimes remove the tire if the wheel is really out of whack, then put it in a truing stand or on an upside down bicycle and see where the wobble is and check the spokes in that area for obvious looseness. If nothing is obviously loose I"ll loosen the bowed side a little and tighten the concaved side a little, then check to see the results, and keep on doing that until the wheel runs true and the spokes feel or ring true.

Three or four spoke wrench sizes should about cover the bulk of your needs, and sometimes you'll run across a wheel that has had a spoke replaced with a different sized nipple on it so it's handy to have the additional spoke wrench sizes handy. During the busy season at the shop I help at part time I see this at least once a month what with all the old bikes that were being brought back into service this past season.

Read up about wheel building on, keep your eyes open for a wheel building book (there were two recently at a nearby used book store, one if which I bought, the other I already had), and just relax and have some patience and take your time and try to enjoy the process.

Sometimes it is handy to mark the worst offending spoke with a small piece of tape wrapped over it when you're first starting out, helps to keep track of where the wobble is and as a quick reference point once you're done. You can then leave that tape on that spoke to in case the wheels wobble returns and you can see immediately if it is the same spoke or area. You can also count spokes starting at the valve stem, but it's easier to just use a small piece of tape.

Hope this helps. I'm don't consider myself an expert wheel builder, but I have trued up a wheel or two in my days, and any wheels I've built up or rebuilt up from a bare hub or rim seemed to have held up well enough.
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Old 10-09-08, 12:10 PM   #3
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Do not consider, either do or don't do. Sorry it felt zen-like to say that. Its really not too hard to true wheels, key things is go slow, and adjust evenly. Think like 1/4 turn per adjustment. Its also good if you know a good wrench to show you - it will not take long to detail the basics
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Old 10-09-08, 01:14 PM   #4
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Side to side is pretty easy. Out of round is pretty easy. A little of both makes for a challenge.
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Old 10-09-08, 03:52 PM   #5
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It's easy if the rim isn't deformed by hiitting a curb, sharp edged pothole, etc.
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Old 10-09-08, 04:13 PM   #6
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It's really not all that complex if you're patient and go slowly.

One thing that eluded me in my early attempts at wheel truing is that the spoke might be sticky on the nipple and will just twist if you turn the nipple 1/4 turn. Try marking a dot one side of each spoke with a sharpie so you can see how much it twists -- makes it easier to get consistent results.
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Old 10-09-08, 04:41 PM   #7
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You all might call me crazy, but, I'm gonna learn truing and building in the same process.
I ordered a truing stand this past week and am waiting for it to be backordered and shipped to me.
But, from what I've done, it really isn't difficult. And I tried it off of a bike (INCREDIBLY DUMB in retrospect - hated that bike anyways so... whatever) and managed to get it better than it was.
As everyone said, go slowly, that's what you pretty much have to do first time anyways.
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Old 10-10-08, 12:12 AM   #8
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google thebiketube watch the wheelbuilding videos. the video guy does a decent job of explaining wheel building and truing. cheers, gareth
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