Spoke tension

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Last seen: 10 years 6 months ago
Joined: Tuesday, July 7, 2009 - 15:57
Points: 36
Spoke tension

The manual says that the spoke tension should be check once in a while.

How can I do that check?

Do you need a special tool? Or it is just a "feeling" when touching the spoke?


Claude Ferron

Last seen: 14 years 9 months ago
Joined: Sunday, August 9, 2009 - 20:30
Points: 3
Re: Spoke tension

from http://www.sheldonbrown.com/wheelbuild.html :

There are three ways to check tension. One is by how hard it is to turn the spoke wrench. If it starts to get hard enough that you have to start worrying about rounding off the nipple with the spoke wrench, you are approaching the maximum. Fifteen years ago, this would be the limiting factor, and you would just try to get the wheel as tight as you could without stripping nipples. Modern, high quality, spokes and nipples have more precisely machined threads, however, and now there is actually a possibility of getting them too tight, causing rim failure.

The second way of judging spoke tension is by plucking the spokes where they cross and judging the musical pitch they make. If your shop doesn't have a piano, and you don't have perfect pitch, you can compare it with a known good wheel that uses the same gauge of spokes. This will get you into the ballpark. Before I started using a spoke tensiometer, I used to keep a cassette in my toolbox on which I had recorded my piano playing an F#, a good average reference tone for stainless spokes of usual length. (For more details on this method, see John Allen's article: Check Spoke Tension by Ear. http://www.bikexprt.com/bicycle/tension.htm )

The third, and best way is with a spoke tensiometer. Every well equipped shop should have one. Average freewheel-side tension should be up to shop standards for the type of spokes and rim being used. More important is that it be even. Don't worry about the left side tension on rear wheels. If the freewheel side is correctly tensioned, and the wheel is correctly dished, the left side will be quite a bit looser. You should still check the left side for uniformity of tension.

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