How To Straighten a Bicycle Rim

There’s nothing worse than riding with a bent wheel rim. You can hear it as soon as you start pedaling, the sound of metal striking metal or a squeaking sound as the rubber wheel hits the frame of your bike.

You can twist your rim in several different ways: whether cycling over a particularly jagged pothole, pulling your bike out of a metal bike rack or when one of the spokes on your bike finally breaks.

When your bicycle rim does bend, this can make your two-wheeled friend virtually unrideable. Either that or you have significant steering problems, which could lead to a very serious accident.

Exposed metal can also snag on your clothes or cause cuts and bruises, which might lead to infection if the spoke is dirty.

a picture of the rims of a red bike

However, you can easily fix a bent bike rim yourself with very few tools. You can also right the bent rim of your bike without even having to remove it from the frame.

But what is the best way to straighten a bike rim? How can you make sure that your rim is at the right level of straightness without overcorrecting it?

Which tools and techniques will you need to employ to fix your wheel properly?

Well, don’t worry bikers, because after reading our article on how to straighten a bicycle rim, you’ll be able to get yourself and your bicycle out of a tricky situation.

How To Straighten Your Bicycle Rim

With a few simple tools, it is very easy to fix a bent rim all by yourself. A lot of multi-tools have spoke wrenches that you can use to bend your bicycle rim back to its original shape. They come in different sizes and will be adaptable to most bikes.

The professional mechanics use tools to remove a bent wheel and place it on a specially adapted truing stand to get it back into the desired alignment.

However, this is only necessary if you have a racing bike that you want in pristine condition before your next competitive cycle.

You can correct a wheel on your average bike without even taking your wheel out of its frame.

Check The Rim And The Spokes

First, flip over your bike so it’s resting on its seat and the wheels are up in the air. Then inspect the bike to see if you have any broken or bent spokes.

If you do have a broken spoke, then you can just follow the same straightening procedure that you would use for straightening your rim.

If you do have a broken spoke, then make sure the load that your bike is having to carry is as light as possible.

Next, check to see if the axle is correctly positioned in your dropouts. If this is the issue, then you won’t want to realign the rim of your wheel at all.

You’ll also want to check that the brakes of the bike aren’t mangled in the side or have a cable wedged in between them.

Check The Alignment Of Your Wheel

With your bike still on its back, run the wheel slowly, paying close attention to the gap where the wheel is the closest to the brake.

If the wheel gets closer to the brake in some places as you spin it, then the chances are that the rim has become bent in some places.

If you have a straight wheel, then the gap between the brake and the rim will be even throughout one whole rotation. However, this won’t be entirely consistent, so don’t overcorrect it if you don’t have to.

You only need to straighten your rim if it is catching against your break and slowing down your bike even when the brake isn’t being used.

Locate The Areas That Need Fixing

Once the problem areas have been located, you can begin by fixing them.

For example, if the brake pad is catching on the left side of the wheel rim, then you can tighten the spoke that is opposite that bend. If you tighten this spoke then the rim will be cranked further to the right and correct this imbalance.

A bike wheel is precision balanced, if you tune one side it will affect the other.

Tighten Your Spokes

If you need to tighten a spoke to correct a bent rim, then simply place the nipple of your spoke into the appropriate notch of your wrench. You then turn the spoke anticlockwise to tighten it up.

If you are unsure as to whether the spoke is being tightened, there is one easy method to test that. Simply pluck the spoke as if it were a guitar string.

Make a note of the sound that it makes. Now tighten the spoke and pluck it again. If the pitch on your spoke makes a higher sound then you’ve tightened it. If it is lower, then you’ve loosened it.

How To Straighten Your Rim Out

If the bent in your rim is over a few inches long, then the simple way to correct it is by tightening the spokes that lie across the opposite end.

Turning your spoke wrench, tighten each spoke along the length of the dent until it looks straighter again.

Repeat this process gradually, checking the gap between your brake and your rim with every turn of your socket wrench.

If your dent is wide enough, you might end up having to tighten two or three spokes altogether. Turn each spoke one at a time, making sure they’re being turned evenly.

If you have corroded nipples on your bike spokes, you’ll have to douse them in grease or oil first to make them easier to turn.

Once your dent is straight, make sure to test it by running the wheel again. If it makes one smooth revolution without catching on any part of the bike frame, then it has been straightened.

However, you’ll also want to make sure that your bend isn’t affecting your bike’s steering abilities by riding it up and down a few times in a safe area away from traffic.

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