Looking after your wheels.


When it comes to maintenance wheels are often overlooked but a few simple checks can extend the life of your wheels and ensure they are in a safe condition. 


Maintain spoke tension – check regularly

One of the easiest ways of checking basic spoke tension is to tap them with a screwdriver or spanner. You are listening for a ringing sound – any that sound dull are too loose. If there is just one or two loose then they can be tensioned up by tightening with the correct size spoke key until they sound similar to their neighbours. However you should take care as it is possible to puncture the tyre tube with the spoke end protruding from the nipple inside the tyre. The only sure way is to remove the wheel and tyre to check before tightening. Carried out at regular intervals this basic maintenance will prolong the life of the wheel but once spokes start to loosen the problem will usually get worse over time and your wheel will run out of true. If in doubt take your wheel to a wheelbuilder for checking.


Check wheel runout.

A basic check can be carried out by attaching a pointer on the swinging arm or forks to run on the rim. Find the place on the rim where the rim is nearest the pointer and then adjust the pointer so it just touches the rim. Now rotate the rim and observe the gap between the pointer and the rim. Find the largest gap – this is the maximum runout and must not be more than 4mm to pass a UK MOT test. However 4mm is excessive and a newly built wheel would normally be less than 1mm. Depending upon the type of rim and tyre you may be able to check radial runout in a similar manner. Radial runout is whether the rim is “round” so you are observing the pointer against the outside diameter of the rim. Again if you are in any doubt take the wheel to a wheelbuilder who will have the equipment to accurately check your wheel and correct any problems.


Clean under rim tape whenever tyre is off – replace rim tape when tatty – use proper tape.

The rim tape sits on top of the nipples and protects the tube from punctures caused by the nipple heads. Do not be tempted to replace a broken tape with insulation tape or similar. The glue from these tapes seeps out and sticks to both the wheel and the tube. It ends up as a sticky mess that holds in any dirt that creeps in around the nipples. Also because sticky tape is a pain to remove and replace you will be tempted not to take the opportunity to brush any accumulated dirt off the rim when changing tyres. A new tape costs very little and are available for all wheel sizes.


Check spoke ends do not protrude

When you have the tyre off, take the rim tape off and clean the rim with a stiff brush to remove any accumulated dirt. Then check top make sure that none of the spoke ends are protruding through the nipple as this can cause punctures. If any do the excess spoke can be carefully ground or filed back flush with the nipple head.


Use a rim saver when changing tyres

Rim savers are plastic strips that clip over the wheel rim to protect it from scratching when removing or replacing tyres. They also provide a nice rounded edge against which to roll the tyre levers over.


Use proper tyre levers.

Do not use screwdrivers or any old strip of metal, you risk damaging your tube, tyre and rim as well as yourself if they slip. There are many different designs of tyre lever, choice is down to personal preference. You may want to keep a longer set for use at home and a shorter set that can be carried with you if you ever intend repairing punctures when you are out riding.