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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

How to True a Bicycle Wheel WITHOUT using a Wheel Truing Stand

Truing a bicycle wheel without using a dedicated wheel truing stand may seem challenging, but it is possible with a few simple tools and techniques. While a truing stand provides more accuracy and precision, the following method can be helpful for minor adjustments or emergency situations. Eg. Like when you need to fix it after a crash and the wheel has tacoed (see photo on the right), but you still need to bicycle home.

Below is a detailed guide on how to true a bicycle wheel without a truing stand:

Tools needed:

  • Bicycle frame (with the wheel mounted)
  • Zip ties or rubber bands
  • Brake pads (optional)
  • Spoke wrench
  • Wheel truing gauge (optional)

Step 1: Prepare the bicycle frame

  1. Securely mount the bicycle wheel you want to true onto the bicycle frame.
  2. Make sure the wheel is properly aligned in the dropouts and securely fastened with the quick-release skewer or axle nuts.

Step 2: Identify the problematic areas

  1. Spin the wheel slowly and observe any lateral (side-to-side) or radial (up-and-down) deviations.
  2. Look for areas where the rim comes closer to the brake pads or exhibits significant deviations.

Step 3: Lateral truing (side-to-side adjustment)

  1. Identify the areas where the rim deviates laterally. These will be indicated by the gap between the rim and the brake pads (if the bike has rim brakes) or by observing the rim alignment with the frame.
  2. Use zip ties or rubber bands to attach the brake pads to the seatstays or fork legs, ensuring they are positioned near the rim. This creates makeshift reference points for lateral truing.

Step 4: Radial truing (up-and-down adjustment)

  1. Identify any areas where the rim deviates radially, either inward or outward. This can be observed by eye or by gently pressing the brake pads against the rim (if using rim brakes).
  2. Locate the appropriate spokes that correspond to the areas where adjustment is needed.

Step 5: Making adjustments

  1. To correct a lateral deviation, tighten the spoke(s) on the side of the rim where it needs to move towards. For example, if the rim is deviating to the right, tighten the spoke(s) on the left side of the wheel. If it is deviating to the left, tighten the spoke(s) on the right side.
  2. To correct a radial deviation, tighten the spoke(s) on the side of the rim where it needs to move away from the frame or brake pads. For example, if the rim is deviating outward, tighten the spoke(s) on that side.
  3. Use a spoke wrench to make small adjustments, turning the spoke nipples clockwise to tighten or counterclockwise to loosen.
  4. Make incremental adjustments of 1/8 or 1/4 turn at a time to avoid over-tightening or causing further deviations.
  5. After each adjustment, spin the wheel and observe the changes. Continue making adjustments until the deviations are minimized.

Step 6: Final inspection and testing

  1. Spin the wheel and observe the trueness and alignment.
  2. Check for any rubbing against the brake pads or frame.
  3. Make further adjustments if necessary, repeating the previous steps.
  4. Use a wheel truing gauge (if available) to check the trueness and ensure the wheel is within an acceptable range.

Note: Truing a wheel without a stand may not yield the same level of precision as using a dedicated truing stand. It is recommended to seek professional assistance or use a truing stand for more accurate and reliable results.

Remember, truing a wheel is a delicate process, and it may take time and practice to achieve optimal results. If you're uncertain or uncomfortable performing these adjustments without a truing stand, it's best to seek assistance from a professional bicycle mechanic for a more precise wheel truing.

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Charles Moffat is equal parts bicycle mechanic, cyclist, painter, sculptor, fantasy writer, poet, website designer and pun maker. For more details see



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