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Spoke tension OR lateral true first?

3wheeler3wheeler Posts: 110
edited May 2018 in Workshop
Not knowing much about how, I’ve never paid much attention to spoke tension and how true my wheels are, mainly because the spokes all felt reasonably tight and the wheels might not have been perfectly straight but weren’t causing any problems either. I suspect some spokes are looser than they should be – I assume that even if they were correct when new, things move around a bit and need a bit of fine tuning so I decided to look at how to do it.

The question I have is, if you follow the park tools methods, step 1 is to get the wheel laterally true, and step 5 deals with spoke tension, do you initially ignore spoke tension? Another guide I read said don’t tighten only the loose spokes because you may cause more issues. I’m guessing if you follow this advice you may end up with some spokes looser than others – if this normal and acceptable?

Main reason for the in-depth questioning of how important the spoke tension is that I am considering how much use I would get from a spoke tension tool if I buy one. Truing stand I’m happy to make do with the bike frame and DIY approach.

Posts

  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,969
    The main issue is - is the wheel true or not? If it is, just leave it alone.
  • cyclecliniccycleclinic Posts: 6,865
    leave the wheel alone.
    http://www.thecycleclinic.co.uk -wheel building and other stuff.
  • 3wheeler3wheeler Posts: 110
    leave the wheel alone.
    Thanks for your suggestion - more detail for those that want it here:

    https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictio ... n-the-sand
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,969
    3wheeler wrote:
    leave the wheel alone.
    Thanks for your suggestion - more detail for those that want it here:

    https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictio ... n-the-sand

    So a wheelbuilder (cycleclinic) tells you to leave the wheel alone - and you seem to disagree. You're going to have to explain why you think that.
  • 3wheeler3wheeler Posts: 110
    Imposter wrote:
    3wheeler wrote:
    leave the wheel alone.
    Thanks for your suggestion - more detail for those that want it here:

    https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictio ... n-the-sand

    So a wheelbuilder (cycleclinic) tells you to leave the wheel alone - and you seem to disagree. You're going to have to explain why you think that.

    It seems like an odd suggestion to leave something alone if you haven't assessed it yourself, and the only information you've got to go on is that the wheels weren't far enough from straight to cause any issues at some point in the past and some spokes felt looser than others. It's fairly clear from the question that I have so far done nothing scientific to check either how true they are or what the spoke tension is.

    Maybe I misinterpreted the response and all wheels that leave a factory will be fine for their lifetime with no inspection or adjustment needed?

    Update: thanks for your response Imposter - no action needed IF the wheel is true, which seems perfectly sensible.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,498
    Imposter wrote:
    3wheeler wrote:
    leave the wheel alone.
    Thanks for your suggestion - more detail for those that want it here:

    https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictio ... n-the-sand

    So a wheelbuilder (cycleclinic) tells you to leave the wheel alone - and you seem to disagree. You're going to have to explain why you think that.

    A wheelbuilder who has no knowledge on the wheel make, model, age, history or current state can offer a 4 word sentence in advice without clarifying why - and the OP has to explain why his disagrees?

    It may be perfectly good advice - but the OP doesn't know WHY - that's more important IMHO.

    From a non-wheelbuilders perspective - if your wheel is true enough that you're not adjusting the brake blocks (assumes rim brakes) and you've not had spokes replaced or recently dinged the wheel and the spoke tensions are reasonably similar (one side will vary from the other on the rear wheel at least) then I would just leave it alone. Only start playing when there's something wrong - or when you don't need the wheel any longer.
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,969
    Slowbike wrote:
    A wheelbuilder who has no knowledge on the wheel make, model, age, history or current state can offer a 4 word sentence in advice without clarifying why - and the OP has to explain why his disagrees?

    The OP did not specifically state that there were any issues with the wheel in question - quite the opposite in fact, the wheel seems to be perfectly serviceable and not out of true. So 'leaving the wheel alone' (which is also what I said earlier) would seem to be perfectly reasonable advice. Unless you disagree?
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,969
    3wheeler wrote:

    Maybe I misinterpreted the response and all wheels that leave a factory will be fine for their lifetime with no inspection or adjustment needed?

    Pretty sure nobody said that. Inspection is something that should happen as a matter of course. But unless the wheel needs any attention - ie if it is out of true laterally or vertically - then simply carry on riding it. No adjustment needed for something that doesn't need adjusting.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,498
    Imposter wrote:
    Slowbike wrote:
    A wheelbuilder who has no knowledge on the wheel make, model, age, history or current state can offer a 4 word sentence in advice without clarifying why - and the OP has to explain why his disagrees?

    The OP did not specifically state that there were any issues with the wheel in question - quite the opposite in fact, the wheel seems to be perfectly serviceable and not out of true. So 'leaving the wheel alone' (which is also what I said earlier) would seem to be perfectly reasonable advice. Unless you disagree?

    Leave the wheel alone - or inspect it a bit closer ... which is it to be?
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,969
    Slowbike wrote:
    Imposter wrote:
    Slowbike wrote:
    A wheelbuilder who has no knowledge on the wheel make, model, age, history or current state can offer a 4 word sentence in advice without clarifying why - and the OP has to explain why his disagrees?

    The OP did not specifically state that there were any issues with the wheel in question - quite the opposite in fact, the wheel seems to be perfectly serviceable and not out of true. So 'leaving the wheel alone' (which is also what I said earlier) would seem to be perfectly reasonable advice. Unless you disagree?

    Leave the wheel alone - or inspect it a bit closer ... which is it to be?

    As I said earlier, inspection in this respect simply involves looking at the wheel while it is spinning, in order to see if it is true or not. Something that ought to happen as a matter of course. If the wheel is straight, then the spokes are clearly doing their job.
  • svettysvetty Posts: 1,904
    I think the fact that it is very easy to render a perfectly serviceable wheel useless by injudicious tweaking lies behind the 'leave it alone' advice.

    If the wheel is true - or is only slightly out of true - then it is best left alone unless you really know what you are doing such that your intervention improves the wheel. Adjusting it to improve a slight lateral run-out but at the cost of introducing spoke tension inequalities is unwise.
    FFS! Harden up and grow a pair :D
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,431
    edited May 2018
    As everyone has said, if the wheel runs true, leave it alone. Mucking around trying to even up spoke tensions when you have little idea what you are doing is a recipe for trouble - as I found out to my cost when I fiddled with the spoked wheels on my first BSA motorcycle as a 17-year-old.

    Wheels may develop a bit of side to wide wobble as they get older and it's a simple job to get rid of that on a traditional hand built cycle wheel. I've never used a wheel truing stand or tension tool. I hold a small screwdriver or blue tack a flat headed roofing nail to fork or seat stay so it just skims the rim, mark the sections where the rim is out of true with a wax crayon or similar and tighten/loosen the spokes in that section a tiny bit at a time until the rim moves back straight again.

    I've used the same techniques (and lack of specialist equipment) replacing worn out rims on my touring bike and on my wife's Bike Friday performance folding bike. I tape the new rims next to the old and transfer the existing spokes into the equivalent holes in the new rims to ensure the spoking pattern is the same. It's then a question of tightening all the spokes up reasonably tight, then using the frame plus blue tacked nail to ensure roundness and side to side true running. I try to get tight and even tension by ear, tapping each spoke with a screwdriver and comparing the feel with an existing well-built wheel. I then stress the wheel by gripping and squeezing pairs of spokes on both sides and pressing down on the rim all the way round a few times before final tensioning. I take several hours per wheel to make sure I get it right and only do small adjustments at a time. I have a good quality spoke key.

    I'm sure some experts may say you need tension meters and all the equipment. But all I can say is this has worked for me. My tourer has done thousands of miles on my re-rimmed wheels, including a French coast-to-coast ride and Alps and Pyrenees tours loaded with camping gear in four panniers.

    Getting rid of wobbles in factory wheels with low spoke counts and special spokes is not so easy, although I have done it with Campag Neutrons and Nucleons. You need a special small box spanner to reach the internal nipples. If you buy a quality hand built wheel from someone like cycleclinic (I have) you may well find you never need to do anything to them.
  • veronese68veronese68 Posts: 25,985 Lives Here
    Svetty wrote:
    I think the fact that it is very easy to render a perfectly serviceable wheel useless by injudicious tweaking lies behind the 'leave it alone' advice.
    I'm sure you're right there. Cycleclinic posts a lot of very helpful answers relating to wheels and wheel building and I strongly suspect he has made a bit of money correcting people's mistakes in attempting to true wheels over the years.
    As the old adage goes, if it ain't broke don't fix it. If there is a problem the OP could try to fix it as there is not much to lose.
  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 27,716
    Correcting a pre-made wheel is not necessarily easy, as you need to identify what the problem is, if there is a problem. If you don't identify the problem, then you are just acting randomly.

    Building a new wheel is a bit simpler, in that you can follow a "flow-chart" type procedure.

    Typically I don't use the tension meter until I am happy with the wheel being reasonably true and dished if it needs be. At that point I use it to make individual corrections... it is quite common to have two consecutive spokes on the same side with very different tensions and a true wheel... that can be easily corrected by increasing one while lowering the next.

    I then use it again to increase the tension until the value I am happy with, working on both sides of the wheel and hence retaining dish, true-ness, and tension homogeneity.
  • 3wheeler3wheeler Posts: 110
    Just for a bit of clarity - none of the wheels are "true", but they also haven't become so untrue to make the bikes unusable. The ones with caliper brakes don't currently rub, but are fairly close, so given a gap of 3-4mm as recommended that could be a decent amount off the 1mm target. The ones with disc brakes would not be so obvious (and maybe not so important).

    The fact is I haven't checked, but what started the discussion was me finding out what to check, how to check it and trying to get some guidance.

    Question on inspection - how far from true do you let your wheels get before you take action?
  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 27,716
    3wheeler wrote:

    Question on inspection - how far from true do you let your wheels get before you take action?

    Anything that I can spot with my eye is way too much
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,431
    3wheeler wrote:

    Question on inspection - how far from true do you let your wheels get before you take action?

    Anything that I can spot with my eye is way too much

    Likewise. I spin the wheel and if there is any side to side wobble on the rim I get rid of it.
  • drlodgedrlodge Posts: 4,826
    I then use it again to increase the tension until the value I am happy with, working on both sides of the wheel and hence retaining dish, true-ness, and tension homogeneity.

    Then you realise that the front and rear rims are not mounted in an identical fashion and the decals don't match one another :lol::lol::lol:
    WyndyMilla Massive Attack | Rourke 953 | Condor Italia 531 Pro | Boardman CX Pro | DT Swiss RR440 Tubeless Wheels
    Find me on Strava
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    I'd been happily trueing cheap 36 spoke wheels on the kids' bikes and mine for years. 36 spokes are pretty forgiving. When I acquired a road bike with 16 front and 20 rear bladed spokes in the Shimano factory wheels I thought they looked really cool. Until a rear spoke snapped. It went with a bang that scared me to death; I thought the bike had been shot. What kind of tension are the D/S spokes under?? And the wheel went immediately pringle shaped and the tyre jammed on the chainstay. Couldn't even push the thing along. Truing the wheel by loosening / tightening the adjacent spokes was clearly a non-starter. There are too few of them and it appeared I'd need to wind the D/S ones up to a silly degree, with an almost impossible to use spoke key on the multitool. And then when I'd been rescued, locating a replacement spoke proved to be far from easy. I think I ended up getting a couple from Germany in the end, and I managed to fit one and true the wheel, but I now have a silver spoke in an otherwise black spoked wheel. Mind you, I have one black and one silver shift lever too...

    OK, so it's one snapped spoke in 50 years of cycling, but it properly put the kybosh on my planned ride. When I retire I'll be spending a lot more time on the bike, and frequently for a day or two at a time, so I'm seriously considering getting a handbuilt wheelset with a few more, readily available spokes, and taping a couple of spares inside the seatpost.
  • svettysvetty Posts: 1,904
    keef66 wrote:
    I now have a silver spoke in an otherwise black spoked wheel. Mind you, I have one black and one silver shift lever too...
    Indelible black marker pen?
    FFS! Harden up and grow a pair :D
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    Svetty wrote:
    keef66 wrote:
    I now have a silver spoke in an otherwise black spoked wheel. Mind you, I have one black and one silver shift lever too...
    Indelible black marker pen?

    Life's too short for that kind of nonsense. Anyway, I think it looks a bit like a budget version of the single red spoke in some fancy carbon wheels. Maybe I'll nick some of the wife's nail varnish and do it properly.

    And one day I plan to swap back the lever from the broken shifter so I'll once again have 2 silver ones. Just need to download the exploded diagrams from Shimano, get some new glasses, and acquire a few valium before I tackle it...
  • veronese68veronese68 Posts: 25,985 Lives Here
    keef66 wrote:
    ..readily available spokes, and taping a couple of spares inside the seatpost.
    Is it the Surly Long Haul Trucker that has bits to attach spare spokes on the seat or chain stays?
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    Veronese68 wrote:
    keef66 wrote:
    ..readily available spokes, and taping a couple of spares inside the seatpost.
    Is it the Surly Long Haul Trucker that has bits to attach spare spokes on the seat or chain stays?

    Probably, but I think a bit of gaffer tape might be a lighter option :D
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