How to True a Bike Wheel

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A buckled wheel is the last thing you need during your ride. If you are lucky, your bike will handle oddly. The worst is when the rear rim rubs against the brakes and prevents it from spinning around. But do not worry.

This problem can easily be fixed with patience and commitment. And, the most important tool you will need for the operation, a spoke key, doesn’t cost more than $15. And while a wheel jig is useful, it’s not essential. It costs upwards of $100.

A bicycle wheel is said to be true when it doesn’t wobble and is properly round. It is concentrically true if it’s a circle with no low or high spots. If the rim does not move to one side to the other while being spun, it is said to be laterally true. In this article, we look at how to fix a wheel if it’s badly damaged or is out of true laterally.  

Read on to learn more.

Leave The Super Wheels To The Experts

Bicycles come with different types of wheels and while some can easily be trued at home, others require expert attention. This article contains basic wheel-tuning tips that you can use to true all spoke-wheels. If yours is a high-teach wheel-set that contains hidden nipples or very few spokes, you are best taking it to a repair shop.

Usually, these wheels are built specially by the manufacturer, and they require unique techniques and tools. Attempting to fix it by yourself can only invite more damage.

Truing Tools

The only tuning tool you will require is a spoke wrench. This small wrench grips the nipples of the spoke and enables you to loosen or tighten the wires to align the wheels. Wrenches and nipples are available in different sizes, which is why you want to be sure that you get a wrench that fits perfectly with your wheels. 

To true wheels, you need a truing stand. This supports the wheels and also enables you to sport any imperfections. In the absence of a truing stand, just leave the wheels in place and use the bike as your stand.  Suspend the bike such that the wobbler is almost at the chest level. 

Typical Wheel Problems

Wheels remain true under normal use since the spokes are tensioned evenly to keep the rim perfectly aligned. But when the bike is ridden in rough roads or trails, the bumps and jumps cause the spokes to loosen. This can make the wheels to have wobbles. The wheels become warped but this can be repaired by following the instructions in this article.

You also need to remember that you can bend the wheels. It may result when the bike is subjected to a serious impact from crashing or slamming into a hole. In case your bike is involved in this kind of damage, you may not correct the problem by truing the wheel. This is because the rim may become too crooked.

Getting Oriented

Suspend the bike to have an easier view and then check closely at the way the wires leave the hub. Take note that there are spokes both to either side of the hub.  Also, you can normally see that the spokes or wires are offset to the right and left at the rim. To true the wheels, you need to adjust the spokes so that they are on the right side of your bike wheels.

The spokes contain nut-like devices called nipples that are located at the rim. Using a wrench, you can turn the nipples clockwise to tighten the tension of the spoke and anticlockwise to loosen it. Rotate the wheel to ensure the nipple is at the top, as this will enable you to turn the nipple correctly.

Locating The Wobble

The easiest way to identify the problem area is to spin the wheel and keenly check for the wobble. You do this by watching the space between the brake pad and the rim. You will know that you have identified the spot of the problem when you notice the wheel wobbling to one side.

After identifying the problematic spot, stop the wheel and examine the spokes in this section to identify the ones that are looser than the others are. As you will discover, if the wheel of the bike is bent to left, one to two spokes on the right will appear less tight. The opposite applies to the right.

Another way to spot the wobble is to start at the stem of the valve and go through the wheel while wiggling each spoke while feeling for the loose ones. The spokes are evenly tensioned on a perfect wheel. While the spokes differ on tightness (right spokes are tighter than the left-sided spokes), what matters is that they have the same tension when compared against each other.


Truing the wheel is only a matter of identifying the right nipples and turning them just enough to ensure they are at the same level of tightness as the spokes on that part of the wheel. One way to track the spokes you are tightening is to put a tape on them. This ensures that you will keep track of them even as you spin when the wheel to check if it’s improving.

When turning the spokes, make sure you do this in small increments. Spin the wheel occasionally to monitor the progress. After doing a few adjustments, you should notice that the wheel is good and true again. Most people make the mistake of turning the nipples wrongly or even turning the incorrect nipple. Therefore, double-check to ensure that the spoke you are adjusting is on the right side. Also, always have its nipple on the top end of the wheel when you are trying to tighten it.

Truing By Pitch

Another truing technique is to pluck the wires with your fingers and listen to the noise produced. Loose spokes typically sound dead while tight ones produce the same sound as the neighboring ones.

The Wheel doesn’t need to be perfectly true or round. It’s okay to have slight run outs. You just need to ensure there are no loose spokes and that the wheel is sensibly straight. It should hold up fine and ride nicely.


Proper bike maintenance is important for a safe ride and enjoyment of your two-wheeler. Whether you use your bike for commuting daily or you take it out occasionally when the weather’s great, you will want it to be always in tip-top shape.

One of the maintenance tips of a bike is to keep the wheels true. This means the wheels should be perfectly round and straight. A wheel that’s out of true will rub on the bike brakes or wobble, which can lead to a crash. Use the above steps to true your wheel and have a safe and enjoyable ride.

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