Spoke tension

Discussion in 'Bicycle Repair' started by Zen builder, Nov 4, 2014.

  1. Zen builder

    Zen builder Member

    Ok, so i looked at the other "wheel" threads and didn't see anything about "spoke tension". I just built a bike, and prior to installing the engine I trued the spokes as well as I could. What I don't know , is how tight should they be? How much "play" should there be when squeezing them together.

  2. Racie35

    Racie35 Member

    I tap them and try to listen for the same tone...works for me I guess but you could also get a tension gauge I think
  3. Timbone

    Timbone Active Member

    You need your spokes to be tight. You also need your wheel to be true. Therein lies the art of wheelbuilding.

    A truing stand is not necessary but it sure does help! I've built lots of wheels. No reason to be scared of your spokes, just work a little bit at a time.

    Before you do anything, check out the feel of all the spokes on the wheel. They should have a certain amount of give, but they should also be tight. If you need a rough idea of how tight they should be, run to a real bike shop and press on the spokes of a traditionally laced (3x) wheel. That should be a good indicator.

    Usually, spokes will loosen during use meaning that any change to spoke tension will come throught added tension. If you notice any really loose spokes. tighten them a half turn - maybe even a full turn. If you have lots of loose spokes, it is safe to tighten them up in half turn increments. Remember that tightening spokes brings up tension on all the spokes as it is a closed system. Work from worst wobble, tighten the spokes that pull there, find the next worst wobble, work it there, etc. etc.

    After you get your true, work for round, then do a final turn or two for true.

    Sometimes you will notice a spoke has very high tension but isn't pulling the rim enough. In those situations, you need to release tension on the other side.

    When you are happy enough with your truing of the wheel, work around the wheel with your hands, squeezing all the spokes tight. You won't break them. This will relieve the stress on the spokes you put in while truing them.

    A strong, reliable wheel has tight spokes. It is the looseness in the spokes that allows movement (usually in the j-bend) when the tension releases in the turning and, over time, the metal will fail.
  4. Zen builder

    Zen builder Member

    Thanks Timbone, I thought about checking other bikes to determine tension also. Also I noticed that there isn't a lot of thread left on the spokes to turn into the wheel. Ill figure it out. And, again thanks for your reply.Ride on.
  5. Timbone

    Timbone Active Member

    One last word:if spokes lengths are calculated for a wheelbuild, the spoke thread will almost always not show on the finished product. After the lacing, I'll draw all the spokes until each shows 2 threads and begin the work of getting the spokes where they need to be. With 2 threads showing the spokes should be quite loose. Of course, with 36 spokes, tension comes up pretty quick and when you have a finished product you really shouldn't be showing any spoke thread. It's OK if you do, though - it's just a sign that the spokes used were cut to an imperfect length for the build.

    Good luck. No reason to be scared. If you are careful to not overtorque the nipples, you really can't do any harm to the spokes or the wheel. You can always loosen back up and start all over again.
  6. Fabian

    Fabian Well-Known Member

    To prevent the ongoing issue that many people complain about, you need to get a spoke tension meter to make sure all of your spokes are at the same tension. This will ensure a properly trued wheel will stay in-true as well as preventing broken spokes.

  7. currentresident

    currentresident New Member

    I generally tighten mine until one nipple rounds off. Then I back off half a turn on all nipples and retrue. You may have to do this several times if you want your out of round perfect. Generally the lowest tension you want is where the spokes ping while tightening them. This is the spoke getting rid of the twist. At this point the stiction that is the static friction is enough to keep the spoke from loosening up.
  8. Timbone

    Timbone Active Member

    My experience has taught me that motorizing a bicycle wheel makes it virtually impossible to keep a true real wheel. On a bicycle, it is possible to get a nice round and true wheel and it will last for many, many miles. Chasing a true rear wheel is like a dog chasing his tail. One 10 mile ride can make for a wobbling rear wheel.

    My goal is to keep and eye on loose spokes and adjust as much as necessary. A certain amount of rear wheel wobble is just gonna happen. Don't allow the spokes to get loose!