The wheel is one of the most important parts of the bicycle. Well, this is what drives the movement, which is why it requires care and maintenance so that it works in the best way. Centering a bicycle wheel correctly is one of a cyclist’s most useful skills.
Tools to center the wheel of your bicycle
In order to center our wheels correctly, it is necessary to have the following tool to perform the job in an optimal way.
Wrench for spokes or spokes with the appropriate size for the nipples of your spokes.
And while a wheel alignment bracket is necessary to facilitate work, it is not completely essential, as there are ways to supply it. Personally, I suggest you use it to do the job more easily and quickly.
Spoke tension meter
Lightning tension meter.
A wheel centering or “quencher” is one that tells you if the mass is really in the center of the rim.
A floor pump to inflate the wheels with the proper pressure. Lube or oil if your wheels are old, show rust, or haven’t had a service in a long time.
The theory behind bike wheel centering
The bicycle wheel is a great piece of engineering, and its adequate assembly is necessary for the correct functioning of all its parts that compose it, and this is the way in which they work:
The mass or hub is the central part of the wheel, which is responsible for linking the spokes and the rim to provide the necessary union between all the elements that make up the wheel. Continue reading: Good mountain bikes under 500.
The spokes are those rods that connect the mass with the ring or rim, where one end has a rope to screw the nipple and the other, a slight angle that ends in ahead, which is attached to the mass. Its main function is to withstand compression and tension forces, which are essential for the wheel to rotate without deforming.
The rim is the outer ring or circumference of the wheel that has grommets or holes in which the spokes sit. There are different sizes of wheels that vary in diameter, width, and profiles, as well as they, are built in different materials, among which aluminum and steel stand out.
In its most basic form, wheel centering is about maintaining a perfect circumference of your bike’s rim and the wheel turning right on its axle. That is, the wheel does not present deviations or loads towards any of its sides, nor up or down when turning, which allows it to work correctly.
And to achieve this, it is necessary that you make sure that your wheel does not have bumps or imperfections on its circumference and that the spokes or spokes have the same tension, since if you do not have this, not only its performance will be affected, but also the safety and comfort with which you circulate on your bicycle.
Spoke tensioning and releasing
The tension of the spokes is necessary for the wheel to form a uniform and firm structure. And you can know its tightness using the tension meter or, in its most natural way, by holding a spoke with your thumb and with your index and middle fingers holding the spoke next to it, like pliers, and squeeze. The spokes should feel tight and firm but not too tight because otherwise, there is a lot of pressure and you have to loosen it or the necessary spokes.
The spokes are tensioned using the spoke wrench and turning the nipple (clockwise), preferably ¼ turn at a time. So, the tension adjustment is uniform in all the spokes. In this way do not deform the rim due to excessive tension on the spokes or make the wheel load towards one of its sides due to lack of tension.
To loosen the spokes, do the same operation, but instead of tightening, loosen the spokes by turning the key to the opposite side (counter-clockwise). It will also be advisable to do it ¼ of a turn at a time to detect the mismatch in time.
Keep in mind that: if you tighten the spoke, it will take you to the side of the hub or mass to which the spoke is anchored and if you loosen it, it will do so to the opposite side.
Identifying the wheel mismatch
To identify that your wheel needs to be centered or level, do a quick inspection of the bike. Spin the wheel and verify that it does not wobble to either side or up or down. It does not touch any part of the frame and/or scissors when turning.
Specifically, watch out for bent, loose, or heavily stressed spokes or rim bumps and even a poorly fitted tire. Check all the spokes to make sure they are properly tightened and have the proper tension.
How to center the wheel of your bike step by step
Keep in mind that a bike may need different types of centering or leveling. One of the most common is known as leveling or side “deburring.”
This is done if the wheel shows side-to-side wobble as it turns. So it requires having adjustments on one side and the other of the wheel.
If the wheel is loaded to the left or right, you should turn the spoke to make it tighter by doing it to the opposite side of the one you want to adjust. If it is the right, then adjust by squeezing the spokes on the left side that are close to the area where the rim rubs, and so on.
Do this in ¼ turn increments. If the area you need to adjust involves four spokes, loosen all and tighten them at ¼ turn intervals, then loosen and tighten the middle two spokes another ¼ turn.
Check the lateral alignment to make sure it is already working perfectly. Otherwise, make the necessary adjustments.
Tensioned spoke bicycle
This type of leveling or “routing” should be done when the wheel rocks up and down rather than side to side. It can affect the placement of the brake pads or rubber and cause your bike to roll unevenly even if you are pedaling on a smooth surface.
To correct it, turn the wheel and find the upper part. Tighten the left and right spokes to correct the mismatch according to which side you need to adjust.
On the other hand, if there is a low point, loosen the spokes just like in the lateral adjustment. You must turn the wheel of the bicycle and find the high part. Squeeze the left and right spokes to correct the problem.
If there is any low point, loosen the spokes. As with side roughing, you should turn the spokes in an increment of ¼ if tension is necessary.
Alternatives to centering a bicycle wheel at home
If you do not have support for wheel alignment or centering, it will be more complicated, but it is completely possible to do it by making the following substitutions.
Use the brakes as a guide, separating the shoes or rubbers as much as possible and observing how straight the wheel turns. As you adjust the wheel, close the brakes until they are adjusted correctly and the wheel does not show misalignments.
If your bike uses disc brakes, you can put a wire or a plastic tie attached to the chainstay, strap or fork and see where the adjustment is needed. You can use a ruler or angle positioning it straight to the horizon to look for the up or down wobble of the wheel.
And even in an emergency case during your ride, you can do it with your fingers – although you need more experience in carrying out the work for this to happen. Simply place two of your fingers on either side of the ring, at a very close distance, almost touching it. Then turn your wheel, and see if any of the spokes rubs or touches your fingers. Centering a wheel correctly will take time, but it will get easier with practice.
If your rim is constantly misaligned, it is most likely to have a bump and you will have to replace it as it will not have the same strength as it had before the misalignment. So don’t think about it and change your hoop to roll with the same comfort and safety as before.
Keep reading: Cycling in winter: How to protect yourself from the cold in the mountains