With pothole impacts and road vibrations, even the best MTB wheels will need a spot of truing now and then. Unless your wheel is extremely damaged, truing it at home should be possible.
If you are new to truing a wheel, the entire process might appear too complicated. However, mountain bike wheel truing simply involves adjusting the tension on the wheel spokes. This detailed guide will show you how to do this.
A Step by Step Guide on Truing a Wheel
1. Gather the Necessary Tools
Mountain bike wheel truing does not require any complicated tools. If you are not just getting started with mountain biking, you will have most of the following tools at home:
- Spoke key
- Flat blade screwdriver
- Wheel jig (ideally)
- Dishing tool (ideally)
- Vernier caliper or ruler
2. Remove the Wheel from Your Bike
If the wheel that needs truing is already on your bike, you will have to remove it. Additionally, you will have to remove the mountain bike tire and inner tube. If this is the first time you are removing a bike wheel, our guide on how to change a bike tire should make the entire process much easier.
3. Tension the Wheel Evenly
Place your screwdriver on the slot available at the end of the spoke’s nipple. Wind each spoke down until the spoke’s nipple just obscures the threads available on the spoke. Consider putting your thumbnail in the last spoke thread for guidance.
Next, tension your wheel evenly by adding one full turn on every nipple. Start at the bike valve hole – you can use it as a reference point so that you know when you finish a full rotation. Keep adding one turn at a time for every wheel rotation until you achieve 75% of the needed tension.
4. Bed in the Spokes
The next step on truing a wheel will not require any special tool. Simply place the wheel on the ground with the axle and the part of the rim closest to you touching the floor.
Put your hands on the rim and slightly back from the wheel’s centerline. Push down until you hear a “pinging” sound. Rotate the road bike wheel approximately one-eighth of a turn at a time and repeat all around the wheel. Next, flip the wheel over and do the same on the other side.
5. Conduct Some Intermediary Truing
Ideally, for mountain bike wheel truing, you would need a wheel jig. However, if you do not have the wheel jig, truing a wheel can be done in the bike frame or fork. Simply put your wheel on your bike as normal, with the bike upside down or on a work stand.
Spin the bike wheel and then hold your spoke key against the fork or frame. Move your spoke key towards the rim until the spinning wheel starts rubbing it. This is an indicator that the rim is deflecting in the key’s direction.
Stop your wheel where the contact occurs and, with the spoke key held against the rim, rotate your wheel back and forth to count the number of spokes over the length of the detected deflection.
Add a quarter turn to every spoke attached to the wheel hub on the opposite side of the deflection. Back off a quarter turn to every spoke attached to the wheel hub on the side of the detected deflection. Do this until your wheel runs true.
6. Centralize Your Rim Over the Hub
Ideally, this step requires a dishing tool. However, you can still use your bike frame. With the bike wheel on the fork or frame, measure the distance from the inside face of the fork leg or frame to the rim’s face on both sides. This will help you determine if your rim is centered perfectly.
To centralize your rim, loosen about half a turn to every spoke attached to the hub on the side that is closest to the bike frame. Next, add half-turn to every spoke attached to the hub on the side furthest from the frame. Start at the valve hole and do this for a full revolution.
Note: After centralizing the rim, your wheel may go out of the true achieved earlier. To fix this, repeat step 5.
7. True the Wheel in the Vertical Plane
Spin the bike wheel with your spoke key held slightly above the rim. Bring the key down until your rim rubs on it – this indicates where the wheel is hoping outward. Where your rim hops outwards, count the number of spokes and then tighten them about a quarter turn. Where your rim dips away, count the spokes and loosen them about a quarter turn.
Note: Adjust even numbers of the spokes to keep your wheel true laterally.
8. Bed the Spokes
Take the wheel out of the bike frame or jig and then and repeat bedding your spokes. Next, check if the wheel is out of true. If it is, repeat steps 5, 6, and 7.
9. Add the Final Tension
Using your spoke key, add half a turn to each spoke for a whole revolution. Continue adding half-turns until you achieve the desired tension. If you are not sure which tension is ideal, use a well-trued wheel as reference.
10. Re-Install Your Wheels
Once you are done with mountain bike wheel truing, put a rim strip over the spoke holes, install the inner tubes and tires, and then install the wheels on your bike. Be sure to adjust the bike gears and brakes. Consider taking your hardtail mountain bike for a test ride to confirm that everything is working perfectly.
Q: How Much Does Truing A Wheel Cost?
If your wheel is fixable – that is, it looks good but has a wobble – bike shops charge between $20 and $30 to true it using professional equipment. If you are purchasing a new wheel and truing it, expect to spend over $100.
Q: What Does It Mean to True A Wheel?
Wheel truing is the process of ensuring that the bike wheel is perfectly round and straight. It involves ensuring that all the spokes on the wheel are generating equal tension. A wheel that is out of true may wobble or rub on the brakes unevenly, putting you at the risk of crashes.
Q: How Do You True A Wheel at Home?
To true a wheel at home, you will need to tighten the overly loose spokes and loosen the spokes that are too tight. This guide has the steps you will need to follow.
Q: Is It Easy to True A Wheel?
Getting a good true is not difficult. With the right instructions, you should be able to true a wheel at home without experiencing any complications.
Q: How Long Does It Take to True A Wheel?
The time needed to true a wheel depends on your experience and how damaged your wheel is. For wheels that do not require a lot of work, 10 to 20 minutes may be enough for an experienced mechanic. However, for overly damaged wheels, you may need a couple of hours.
Q: How Do You True A Wheel Without A Truing Stand?
Simply turn your bike upside down, spin the wheels, and use a spoke key to determine parts of the wheel featuring deflection. Parts that touch the spoke key need to be adjusted to have the right tension.
Q: How Often Should I True My Wheels?
If you ride often, you can true your wheels once per year. However, you can always do a quick check before your biking trips by plucking the spokes like a string. All the spokes should have a nice high note. If some don’t, the wheel may need truing.
Globo Surf Overview
If your bike’s wheels are wobbly or the bike feels too bumpy even when you are riding on a flat surface, you may need to true its wheels. Mountain bike wheel truing is easy and does not require overly complicated tools. The 10-steps outlined above should help you avoid spending money in the bike repair shop.