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My son has a relatively cheap kids mountain bike, no suspension or anything flash, and after a minor crash into a friend the back wheel is slightly out of true. It only causes issues under braking when the warped area of the wheel leads to stuttering braking, and locking up entirely when the brakes are pulled hard.

My gut feel is that I should just throw it and get a new one, as I don't know how repairable these things are.

Can bike shops repair that sort of thing?

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1  
If you are willing to spend the money to get a new wheel that is better, this may be a good time to buy the new wheel. –  Ian Sep 15 '11 at 12:55
    
If the bend is affecting braking, and by your description, dangerously, replace it immediately. These kind of bendings cannot be fixed even in good rims. Just for the record, the repairable bendings are more spread, like the wheel being out of true, not the focal spot bending which actually deforms the sidewall. I'm telling from a somewhat vast experience with many rims of mine and of friends. –  heltonbiker Nov 10 '11 at 12:15

6 Answers 6

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Trueing a wheel is something you can do on your own, but until you get good at it it'll take you time to do it right - "carefully tighten the spokes on the opposite side..." is kind of an oversimplification. Typically a trueing stand is used; the wheel is placed in the stand and prongs or arms on the stand determine exactly where the wheel is out of true.

The problem is that sometimes you need to loosen some spokes to get enough play to pull back against the deformation enough to straighten it out. Someone who does it all day makes it look easy - you bring your wheel in to a good bike shop and usually it takes longer for you to describe the pothole you whacked into than to actually true the wheel. If you've got a good relationship with them they may not even charge you for a 10 second job (karma would demand an offering of beer or pizza as appropriate).

If you don't have a trueing stand but you're feeling adventurous you could try doing it with the wheel in the frame - stand behind / in front of the wheel (so you're looking at the tread) and spin the wheel slowly - you should see where it comes out of true. Use an actual spoke wrench - if you use pliers you can round the ends of the spoke over and if you use a wrench you'll put too much torque on it (I have a friend who has done it with a leatherman in the middle of a ride but he also repaired and managed a bicycle store for many years).

Since it's an inexpensive wheel if you're confident enough in your abilities I'd say go for it - worst case is you end up replacing the rim, but you may learn a new skill in t he process.

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This can easily be repaired (unless the rim has a dent). You can do it yourself: Just carefully tighten the spokes on the opposite side where the brake pad rubs ...

EDIT: This is a cheap mountainbike with a slight dent we're talking about, not a Cervélo to be ridden at 70km/h. Of course you need a truing stand and an alignment gauge and whatnot to get it perfectly straight again, but since the rim probably isn't perfect anymore and the whole point is to stop the brake from rubbing against the rim, I still suggest to simply put turn the bike upside down, release some pressure of the tire so it doesn't explode and place a thumb on the chainstay (or fork) and put the nail close to the rim. Now spin the wheel and remember the spokes where the tire rubes on your thumbnail. Tighten those coming from the opposing side gently. If those spokes are too tight, release the ones one the side, where the rim rubs. Repeat several times till the result is halfway decent. Bike shops charge big bugs for this and it really isn't rocket science.

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This would harm wheel tension and round. –  Jay Bazuzi Sep 16 '11 at 17:14
    
What do you think a bike shop does when you take a wheel for truing? –  thomas Sep 17 '11 at 8:05
    
The hard part is working out a low spot in the rim. Minor low spots can be fixed by adjusting the spokes, but you really have to work at it. For major low spots you need a sort of jack (a piece of threaded rod with two nuts and washers, and pieces of wood at each end to bear on the rim and hub) to push out the low spot. High spots are a little easier, but you run the risk of creating low spots on either side of the high spot if you don't go at it gradually. –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 17 '11 at 12:46
    
" tighten the spokes on the opposite side where the brake pad rubs" is bad advice, and I don't want to see anyone copy it. There's no room here for a tutorial on truing, but the basic problem is that you're adding tension as you go; you need to release tension to keep the wheel balanced, and you need to avoid twisting spokes as you go. –  Jay Bazuzi Sep 17 '11 at 17:44
    
Experience says that the spokes opposing the "bump" are already loose. So in most cases you're not adding tension, you're simply bringing back some. If that's not the case, loosen the ones one the other side. It's not rocket science. At least not for a cheap town bike. –  thomas Sep 17 '11 at 18:21

I had exactly the same problem a week ago. My son had a minor crash and the front wheel was slightly buckled.

Brought the bike to bike shop to see if they could fix it and they said no - and to get a new wheel - cost ~ €40 thank you very much.

Mind you, it's an old crappy bike so not that surprised that they said no.

My solution - looked around for second hand bike which we got for less than the price of new wheel!

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As other contributors have noted, this is DiY with a spoke wrench.

Spoke wrenches come in different sizes, take the wheel into a shop so you can get the right wrench. Deflate the tyre somewhat before you begin as a hard tyre can puncture if making spoke adjustments. As for the truing process, I have to recommend Ken Kifer's guide because he wrote lots of great stuff and this article serves as an intro to his site:

http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/skills/spokes.htm

If you do want to get a new back wheel there is the small matter of the sprockets that will need changing over. Get the shop to do this for you when you buy the wheel as you don't want to be buying special tools for something the bike shop guys do every day. Also expect a 24" wheel to be special order, but not that expensive if you do get a basic steel hub/alloy rim model.

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You can attempt it yourself, or get it done at a bike shop. I'm not sure what bike shops charge these days for truing, but it's probably less than half of what a new inexpensive wheel would cost (though you may be able to get a used wheel cheaper).

If you have moderate mechanical abilities you can attempt it yourself. The important thing is to get the RIGHT spoke wrench for the spoke nipples, and get a good quality one. And if the nipples are at all corroded, be prepared to "break free" a nipple with Vice Grips before you end up rounding off the nipple with the spoke wrench. (If you round off a nipple they can be replaced, but it's a minor PITA.) (If the nipples are badly corroded give the screw threads of each a shot of Liquid Wrench before you begin, being careful to not let the stuff dribble down into the tire.)

Truing a wheel is mainly a matter of THINKING about which way each spoke pulls. And you may need to loosen some and tighten others (though you should probably tighten more than you loosen overall).

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Of course they can! It's easy enough and much cheaper to do it yourself with a spoke key.

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