I get a lot of e-mail from people wanting advice on how to keep their bike maintained. One of the most-asked questions is “How do I true my wheels?” In our pursuit to bring you the best tech tips on the Internet, I teamed up with Jeff Burns at A-1 Cycle in Westminster, California, for a tech tip on wheel building and truing. This may seem like an involved and difficult process, but truing your wheels makes your brake adjustment easier, chain alignment better, and gives your bike a straighter ride for better balance. You may not get it right the first time, but don’t get frustrated. Practice makes perfect. Soon your friends will be coming to you for help.
Today I’m lacing a new back wheel for Mark Losey at Ride BMX. I’ve got the hub vertically held in a stand so I can use both hands to do the work rather than having to hold the hub (frame1 and 2). I can also put all the spokes in the hub at one time, which makes lacing the wheel easier (frame 3). Using this stand frees up one hand to pick up spoke nipples and one hand to hold the rim as needed. Spokes get put into the wheel in two different directions on each flange¿one considered head up and one considered head down for a final result of four sets of spokes (frame 4). On any wheel configuration, whether it be 20, 24, 28, 32, 36, 48, or 96, everything is broken down into four¿top and bottom, right and left, head up, head down. If you can count to four, know your right from left, and know top from bottom, I can teach you to build a wheel in 15 to 20 minutes.
Necessary Tools and Parts:
1. Spoke wrenches. We recommend Park Tools spoke wrenches. They are padded, comfortable, and the shop mechanic’s choice.
2. Nipple Driver. This will make threading the nipple onto the spokes a lot easier.
3. Truing stand. We recommend the Park Tools TS-2. This truing stand is durable and makes truing your wheels a lot easier.
4. Spokes: most 48 spoke high-flange hubs with short sidewall rims run a 184mm spoke for a four-cross pattern. Most deep-wall rims (Araya RB-J1, Alex, etc.) use 180mm spokes for a four-cross pattern. The spokes used on this wheel were the Schwinn 13-guage 180mm spokes. They are stronger than standard 14-guage spokes and don’t require any modification to the hub and rim like 12-guage spokes do.
5. Hub. For this wheel build, we used a Profile “SS” rear cassette hub.
6. Rim. The Araya RB-J1 was Losey’s rim of choice for this wheel.