Spokes for Idiots

charliew87 Posts: 371
edited April 2012 in Road beginners
Hi all

Went out for a 30 miler the other day, was way harder than usual, couldn't put it down to anything in particular at the time, thought it might have been windier than it appeared at the time.

Got home and gave the bike a quick rinse, and noticed that the rear wheel had a bit of a wobble on, so much so in fact that with every turn it was hitting the left brake pad - hence why I struggled!

Found a few guides on YouTube and managed to tweak the spokes and straighten the wheel up again.

Now a bit worried about it happening again. What usually causes spokes to become loose? I've dropped off a couple of kerbs onto the road recently, is that enough to dislodge them?

Also, given that in order to straighten the wheel I had to loosen some spokes and tighten others, I'm a bit worried about them wobbling out of place again now they are looser than before!

Any advice would be great on how to avoid future issues, how to manage spokes on an ongoing basis and why it would be wrong to superglue every single one in its current position to avoid any more vibrating loose?
Canyon AL Ultimate 9.0


  • danlikesbikes
    danlikesbikes Posts: 3,898
    Wheel spokes pull the rim towards the hub in the centre but minor adjustments are normal to ensure that the wheel is balanced when spinning i.e. not vibrating or wobbling whilst spinning.

    Would not suggest that you glue them in though as you may need to adjust them in the future and guess (sure that someone will point this out if wrong) that the road vibrations through the spokes and nipples and movement of the spokes would quite easily break and glue sealed.

    Could be the curbs or any potholes that caused them to become untrue in how they were running - only thing that I would be concerned with is how much you had to loosen the spokes? But it does sound like you have found the right way to resolve the issue by making your wheel run true. Plus depends on what make/model your wheels were as generally cheaper wheels are more prone to needing attention but nothing more than you have done already.
    Pain hurts much less if its topped off with beating your mates to top of a climb.
  • 2Phat4Rapha
    2Phat4Rapha Posts: 238
    Do not glue!

    Since you say it was your rear wheel then at a guess it was insufficient tension in the non drive side (NDS) spokes. You need more tension in the spokes than compression at the the bottom of the wheel produces or they will go slack. Going slack means the nipples will loosen making the problem worse.

    Although there’s plenty of on-line advice available on how to true a wheel, you sound like you might be better off taking the wheel to your LBS or to a recommended wheel builder. £20 to £30 to have it retrued/tensioned from scratch.

    With practice you can get a feel for spoke tension by squeezing pairs or pinging them with a fingernail/tap with a metal object. Try it on as many wheels as you can. The tension on both sides of your front wheel will likely be very much the same as the tension on the drive side of the rear wheel. The NDS on the rear can be very much lower - possibly as low 50%. It all depends on the components and the skill of the wheel builder.
    I may be a minority of one but that doesn't prevent me from being right.
  • ride_whenever
    ride_whenever Posts: 13,279
    Wheels going out of true is almost always poor build quality. This can be fixed by slacking the spokes all off and re-tensioning the entire wheel. Even cheap components will build a decent wheel if you build it right.

    For example some of my very lightweight wheels have survived some pretty horrible abuse purely because they were built right to start with.