Keep your wheels spinning smoothly and quickly with this simple routine
Look for Trueness
With your bike in a work-stand, spin each wheel. Watch the gaps between the brake pads and rim. If the space on either side grows or shrinks by more than 2mm, your wheel is out of true, says Anthony LaPorta, Mavic USA's warranty and service center manager. Take it to your shop or fix it yourself. If you continue to ride it, the rim could go further out of adjustment, causing brake rub and a wobbly ride.
Squeeze Your Spokes
One of the most common reasons wheels go out of true: loose spokes. Check tension by squeezing two spokes at a time between your thumb and fingers, says LaPorta. A really loose spoke will be obvious (as you do this more often, you'll be able to feel subtle differences). To tighten it, use a spoke wrench to turn the nipple clockwise, in quarter-turn increments. If the wheel's still wobbly, it's out of true.
Inspect Your Rims
While a rim can last 20,000 miles or more, constant riding in wet, gritty conditions can shrink that number in as little as one season, says LaPorta. If the sidewall wears too thin, it can bow or split under pressure. Some rims have wear indicators that disappear or become visible when the sidewalls get too thin (check with your rim's manufacturer to know which type you have). Or, simply feel the sidewalls for concave areas. If your rim is worn but the rest of the wheel is fine, you can replace it without having to buy a new wheel.
Adjust Your Hubs
Grab your wheel and rock it side-to-side. If you feel lateral play (and your skewer is tight), your bearings may be loose. If you spin the wheel and it doesn't move smoothly, the bearings are likely too tight. Either way, you'll need to adjust a set of nuts on your hub. Wheels that have hubs with sealed cartridge bearings often require a special tool for this, says LaPorta. Wheels with cup and cone bearings can be adjusted with slender wrenches. Fine-tune until the play is gone or the wheel spins freely. If this doesn't work, take your wheel to a shop. You may need new bearings.
Did you know?
The max allowable pressure for the tire you're using could be higher than what the rim manufacturer recommends. Check before you inflate.
If you use brake pads that aren't recommended or supplied by your wheel's manufacturer, you run the risk of voiding your warranty.