Before taking your bike out for a ride, you should always check the tire pressure and whether the brakes are working perfectly.
However, even when everything is fine, you could still hit a rock, or pothole, or hop off a curb. When these incidents happen, your bike may feel different afterward because the wheel could bend.
As you keep riding, you may hear a funny sound from the wheels rubbing against the brake disks, or you may notice that your bike is suddenly feeling wobbly.
Depending on the severity of the damage, you might have to visit a professional bicycle truing service to straighten your bike wheels at varying costs.
A bicycle repair shop will charge from $10 to $30 to straighten/true your bike wheel. However, you can do it yourself if you are ready to invest in the small equipment used for truing. These equipment should cost you between $100 to $350 depending on the brand of equipment you choose.
These services will charge differently for straightening rims, and we will look at various aspects to guide your choice.
By the way, truing is a synonym to straightening a rim. Just so you’re not confused about the change in terminology.
How Much Does It Cost to Straighten a Bike Wheel?
The cost of straightening a bike wheel depends on whether you are doing it alone or at a bike repair shop.
As stated above, expect to spend around $10 to $30 at a bike repair shop to have your wheel trued.
If you’re looking to do it alone you need a few certain tools that should cost you between $100 to $350 depending on the brand of tools you decide to pick.
Tools Required to Straighten a Bent Bicycle Wheel Yourself, And What They Cost
If you are going to true your bicycle wheel on your own, you must get your hands on the best tools for the job. Some of the more special tools you need include;
For a quality wheel truing stand, you will spend around $50 – $200. The stand works in straightening the rim precisely and has an axle where the bike axle mounts to allow free rotation.
It also has calipers that accurately measure the wheel deviation from the ideal shape to determine the level of damage.
Using a truing stand allows you to point out where the rim has a bend accurately.
I recommend Bike Hands Professional Truing Stand which you can find on Amazon here. Even though I haven’t used this myself, I have used a similar one with the exact same features and it worked very well.
Bike Hands truing stand have, as of now, over 270 customers reviews on Amazon with a 4.5/5 star rating.
Here’s an image of the stand:
A bicycle spoke wrench will cost you from $5 to $10 and is used to tighten or loosen the spoke nipples. The spoke nipples come in different sizes, with a standard spoke wrench having 8-10 notches for multiple nipple sizes. So you will find a size that works for your bicycle.
These are included in the Bike Hands truing stand mentioned above, it’s the three small things you see on the right in the image.
If you don’t need a new truing stand and are only looking for spoke wrenches, Amazon have multiple great options available here.
Spoke Tension Gauge
You can find a standard spoke tension gauge retailing for $20 to $90. These are used to measure the relative tension between two spokes and the absolute tension of each. The minimum acceptable force on bicycle rims is 100 kg, while the maximum is 200 kg.
Therefore, it would help if you were careful about testing tension not to exceed the 200 kg force limit. So, if tension is equally distributed on the rim, it will be sturdier and upright when laid flat on the working table.
I recommend Ninefox’s spoke tension measuring tool avaialble on Amazon here as it’s a very reliable and high quality product for the price.
You can get a dish tool for around $25 to $50. This tool looks kind of like the truing stand, only that it has the specific role of checking the centering of the wheels.
The distance between the wheel and the ground should be equal even after flipping the wheel to face upward. This is because the dish tools locate the exact point where the rim is out of shape, and the tolerance is 1mm on each side.
Just a with the truing stand I recommend Bike Hand’s dish tool as well. You can check out the price and learn more about it over at Amazon here.
What Should You Know Before Straightening Your Bike Wheel?
It is easy to notice a wheel that needs truing. When a wheel is out-of-true, it will be wobbly, especially at higher speeds. Lift your bike, spin the wheel and look at it from front to rear. It is time to straighten your wheels if you notice more than five millimeters wobbling to the right or left.
Truing also depends on the type of wheels you are using. Carbon wheels are stronger and require truing less frequently than their aluminum counterparts. However, you may notice minor warps when they are out-of-true, so you must be keen. These warps are distortions and bends on the wheel, making it look out of shape.
Aluminum flexes and bends and will rarely crack under stress. So, if you see a big warp on your carbon rims, it is a sign that your rims are cracking.
Okay, so now that you have the tools, let’s look at:
How to Straighten a Bike Wheel Yourself
There are two different wheel truing methods that we will show you how to do below, lateral truing and radial truing.
How to Straighten a Bike Wheel Laterally
Lateral truing is the method used to correct side-to-side wobbling of the wheel. If you look at a wheel from the front as it rolls towards you and you see that it wobbles from side to side, this is what is straightened out with lateral truing.
Now, there are four ways to approach the truing process.
- Finding rim deviations
- Isolate the spokes that cause deviation
- Correct the spoke tension to manage deviation
- Checking the results
1. Locating the deviation
- You will start by mounting the wheel on a truing stand and adjusting the deviation indicators, ensuring they are near the rim’s outer edge without touching. Deviation indicators have two sharp points that are adjustable to manipulate the point of contact with the rim. Move them up, down, in, and out to locate deviations.
- Next, spin the wheel, and as it gains motion, slowly push the indicator near the rim’s edge to see if they touch. Identify where there is a scratching sound and use your hands to slow down the wheel until it touches the indicator. If a particular area on the rim’s side tends to rub against the indicator excessively, it is responsible for the bend.
2. Isolating the Deviation
- The next step is to find the first spoke you would be correcting. Try to tighten the spoke instead of loosening it. When fixing a larger contact area, identify the spoke near the point of deviation and tighten it.
- Test how the rim responds against the indicator when you squeeze the adjacent spokes. The result of this minor experiment gives you an idea of what to expect from increasing spoke tension.
3. Correcting the deviation
- Tighten the nipple of the spoke you selected earlier by turning it clockwise. Turn the spoke wrench 90 degrees (¼ turn) at a time. For severe bends, rotate the wrench 180 degrees (½ turn). For minor deviations, start with a 45-degree (⅛ turn). Correct first, then see what happens.
- Rotate the wheel repeatedly to see if the area you corrected makes any difference. Then, move the indicator closer to the rim slowly until you find the next spot with the largest deviation.
- Always try to locate the area with the most contact with the indicator and tighten three spokes first. As the wheel gains trueness, make smaller corrections by adjusting one or two spokes for a near ‘total’ true.
4. Checking the Results
- As the wheel becomes straighter, you must understand when to stop. The deviation after straightening should not exceed 0.5 mm. Use a caliper to visualize the exact measurements.
- Spin the wheel and push the indicator closer to the rim without touching it. There should be no gap where the rim meets the indicator. Carefully scrutinize the areas showing maximum lateral deviation and measure with calipers.
How to Straighten a Bike Wheel Radially
One of the most overlooked aspects of straightening bike wheels is the radial truing. Radial trueness will impact your riding experience even if you have achieved “total” truing on the lateral part.
Radial truing is the method used to correct up and down movements of the wheel. If you look at a wheel from the side as it rolls by you and you see that it isn’t round, that it wobbles up and down, this is what is straightened out with radial truing.
Now, radial truing can be somehow tricky for beginners which means you will likely have to practice doing it a few times before you get the hang of it. So please bear this in mind.
Start by spinning the rim on the truing stand to notice the point on the rim moving closer to the hub with each rotation. This area is called the low spot and can result from short or long spokes.
There is also a high spot which is the section of the rim that moves further away from the hub. Unfortunately, these high spots could be at one spot or encircle the entire rim.
Finding the Deviation
- Carefully push the caliper arm towards the spinning tire to mark the spot with the highest deviation. Then, keep retracting the indicator to the highest point where the rim still touches it.
- Push the rim forward and back carefully to locate where it starts touching the indicator and where it stops. This process helps you isolate the spokes you must fix.
- The wheel must be pushed closer to the hub to fix the rim to its perfect radial position. Tighten one or two spokes on each rim side to ensure uniformity throughout the process. However, only do an even number of spokes because they pull the rim leftward/rightwards and toward the hub.
- Squeeze the right and left spokes simultaneously to determine what tightening will do to the rim. Proceed to fix the spokes by moving the wrench 180 degrees, then rotate the wheel to ensure there is no point of contact on the rim and the indicator.
- Complete the process of radial truing by tightening two spokes at a time to prevent the re-occurrence of lateral deviations. After each step of radial truing, test the rim to confirm that deviations are minimal.
- Once the high spots are no longer a concern, carefully adjust the indicator toward the wheel, ensuring they do not touch. Next, rotate the wheel once more to identify the widest gap between the indicator and the rim. Pushing the rim back and forth will show you the specific spokes you must correct.
- Fix the low spots by loosening spokes instead of tightening the. Then, repeat the wheel rotations until the deviation is within ‘true’ limits.
De-Stressing after Truing
After adjusting the spoke nipples that caused the bending of the tire, you need to de-stress the wheels. Destressing allows the unwinding of spokes that were wound from turning spoke nipples. There are a few things you can do to achieve de-stressing.
The preferable method is to install the wheels on the bike and go out for a ride. As you push the pedal, you will hear some popping and pinging within the first few seconds. However, do not worry about the sounds because they indicate that everything is working fine.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does It Take to Straighten a Bike Wheel?
It will only take around 20 minutes to true your bike wheel. Check on google for “bike shops near me,” and you will find professionals ready to serve you.
If you are doing it alone, you must first source materials from reliable outlets to make the process smoother, such as the ones mentioned above.
Must You Remove Bike Tires When Straightening?
No. You can true your bike with your wheels still mounted. Test to see how smoothly the bike rides, provided all spokes are tight and the wheel is laterally true. If the wheel is bent, you will notice that the rim and tire are scraping against the brake pads.
How Easy is the Process of Truing a Bike Wheel?
The technicality of the process depends on your skills and the level of damage. Truing a bike wheel is simple because you must loosen and tighten the spokes to minimize warping on the rim.
Therefore, the process is time-consuming and hectic despite the straightforward steps. However, the process is one of the easiest to undertake if you have enough skills to repair and maintain a bike.
What Makes Bike Tires Bend?
Anytime there are loose spokes, the wheel will go out of trueness. As a rider, always check the tension of the spokes to ensure everything works fine. Press together two spokes to check if they are sturdy or flexible.
Can You Ride a Bike When the Wheels are Out of True?
Riding out with the bike wheels wobbling or making cranky sounds is very unsafe. First, consider why the tires are not correct.
When the wheel is pressing unequally on the spokes, it indicates that you are dealing with one or more weak spokes. You can ride with one or two loose spokes, but in the long run, your rim might collapse.
Is it Necessary to use True Bike Wheels?
Yes. Straightening bike tires restores even spoke tension for a near-perfect true rim. Although achieving a “totally” true wheel is impossible, this process helps you achieve a functional wheel.
Straightening your bicycle tires might seem challenging if you are still new to handling bicycles. Consider seeking professional help if you doubt your skills. Afterall, paying between $10 to $30 it’s not that much money to get the problem fixed without any hassle yourself.
But, if you really want to go for it, this guide should be your best friend. I suggest that you schedule to straighten your bicycle wheels after riding 3,000 miles to ensure your bike is always in check.
In addition, it is advisable always to carry a spoke wrench when heading out because you never know when you might have to re-align your bike.
Hi, my name is Niklas, the head content creator & CEO of Whirling Wheelz. I am very interested in vehicles of all kinds, mainly cars. I have a car mechanics degree from high school and a big hobby of mine is to follow the WRC (World Rally Championship) both online and through travel.