I Spoke Too Soon: Working on the Spokes

Wheels are an amazing feat of engineering — a handful of thin spokes woven together to provide enough structural integrity to support the weight of a rider going across various types of surfaces. To accomplish this feat, the spokes must be laced to the wheel in just the right pattern and tensioned evenly across the wheel. This aspect makes working on spokes a slightly complicated affair for a beginner. But with some practice, you can master some basic techniques — and that’s what this section is about.

Replacing a spoke

I Spoke Too Soon: Working on the Spokes

Replacing a spoke is manageable and a good place to get started. If you do end up needing to replace a broken spoke, take it with you to your bike store so that you can replace it with another spoke of the same size and width.

Keep in mind that the spokes on your wheels are probably of different sizes. In many cases, front-wheel spokes are not the same length as rear-wheel spokes. The same is likely true for spokes on the right side of the wheel hub versus the left side.

Here’s how to replace a spoke:

1. Insert the new spoke into the spoke hole from the broken spoke you removed from the hub.

You may need to remove the wheel from the bike to perform this proce­dure (see “Taking off a wheel,” earlier in this chapter).

2. Weave the spoke through the other spokes, following the same pattern, crossing and interweaving the same number of spokes as the others.

3. If the old nipple (the nut part that the spoke threads into) is undam­aged and still in place, thread the end of the new spoke into it.

If the nipple is damaged, you’ll need to remove the tire, tube, and rim tape to replace the damaged nipple with a new one.

4. So that you don’t lose track of the spoke, mark it with a piece of tape or string.

5. Using a spoke wrench, tighten the spoke to the same tension as the other spokes.

6. To finish the procedure, true the rest of the wheel (see the following section).

I Spoke Too Soon: Working on the Spokes

116 Part II: Basic Bike Repairs___________________

Truing a wheel

Although wheel truing is an activity that takes time and practice to master, some basic wheel truing is possible for the casual biker. If you have a wheel that’s so out of true that it needs to be rebuilt, you probably should leave the job to your local bike shop. But if the wheel just has a slight wobble and needs a little tweaking, you may want to consider doing it yourself.

If the rim is bent, simple truing won’t suffice — the rim will have to be repaired.

Here are the steps for truing a wheel when there are only minor imperfec­tions in the wheel:

1. Remove the tire, tube, and rim strip from the rim.

For some truing stands, you can leave the tire, tube, and rim strip on the rim, although we find that we get the best results when working only with the rim.

2. Secure the wheel in a truing stand (as shown in Figure 7-12) if you have one; otherwise, you can keep the wheel on the bike.

If you have to true the wheel while it’s attached to the bike, use a bike stand to support the bike. Other options are to hang the bike from the ceiling or to turn the bike upside down on its handlebars.

I Spoke Too Soon: Working on the Spokes

Figure 7-12:

Using a truing stand

3. Before you begin spinning the wheel, check it for loose or damaged spokes (as shown in Figure 7-13).

4. Make sure the wheel rim is ‘/4 inch away from the calipers in the truing stand or the brakes on the bike.

5. Give the wheel a gentle spin and keep your eye on the calipers (or brakes).

You’ll be able to identify wobbles in the rim by where the wheel comes close to or comes in contact with the brakes.

I Spoke Too Soon: Working on the Spokes

6. If the rim comes in contact on one side, use a spoke wrench to tighten the nipples of the spokes that come from the opposite hub and loosen those that come from the hub on the same side.

Loosen and tighten in small increments, around a quarter of a turn each time. Start in the middle of each wobble and work your way outwards from the center. Decrease the amount for each turn the farther away you move from the center. (Figure 7-14 demonstrates using a spoke wrench.)

Spoke nipples come in various sizes. Be sure to check the size of your spokes before you buy a spoke wrench.

To tighten a spoke at the bottom of the wheel, turn the nipple in a coun­terclockwise direction. When the spoke is at the top of the wheel, the change of position makes it appear as if it’s in a clockwise direction.

I Spoke Too Soon: Working on the Spokes

I Spoke Too Soon: Working on the Spokes

Figure 7-14:

Using a spoke wrench.

After the wobble has been reduced, you can tighten the calipers to find any smaller wobbles.

I Spoke Too Soon: Working on the Spokes

As the wobbles become smaller, reduce the amount by which you turn the spoke wrench.

Don’t worry about eliminating all the wobble of a rim. It’s more impor­tant to have evenly tensioned spokes than to have a rim without a wobble.

If you can’ t get the rim perfectly straight, loosen and adjust your brakes to make them farther away from the rim so they don’t rub. If these brakes are no longer satisfactorily strong, however, you may need to replace the rim/wheel.