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I bought a bike for my girlfriend about six months ago. It's a women's road bike.

She's rode it a bit, but all of it on the road. She's never crashed it and it's always been in good care.

She's taken the wheel off a few times to put into a car. But yeah, each time we've taken good care of it.

Today, I noticed that the wheels were touching the brakes. It's been doing more and more later, so I've had to re-adjust and widen the brakes, but today, I realized that unless I completely undo the brakes, it won't touch.

I turned the bike upside down and realized that it was touching, because as the wheel is spinning it was kind of wobbling.

Now I'm not sure what has caused this. Like I've said, we've had it for six months, but it wasn't like we rode it all the time, the bike has never crashed and as far as we know, we've always taken good care of it.

So is it like a fairly normal thing? Is it possible to get it fixed? Could it be a flaw with the product? Should I be ringing up the bike shop I bought it from to complain? Or is six months like too long, and I should be expecting things like that to happen?

I have a Fuji Absolute 4.0 - it's been a fairly good introduction for her into riding I think. Nice and light.

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This is fairly normal. And this is one reason why a good shop will tell you to bring a bike in for a free service after a few months riding. Once the spokes have "set" the wheels will remain true for a long time, unless subjected to extreme stress. –  Daniel R Hicks Mar 22 '12 at 11:04
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2 Answers 2

It is normal for a wheel to have an initial break in period.

As you ride the bike, each spoke has its load released, and retensioned each time it passes around the bottom of the wheel. Since some parts of the wheel are aluminum, and others are steel, the aluminum parts compress. This means that the spokes are not under as much tension as they need to be.

Since not every spoke will compress exactly the same amount, it makes some spokes looser than others.

A wheel's strength comes from having the spokes act like the wires of a suspension bridge. As long as they are under the correct amount of tension, and the tension is equal on each spoke, the wheel will stay straight and strong.

A single loose spoke will allow a wheel to detension, and come out of true. If you ride the wheel in the detensioned state for any length of time, you can damage the rim, and make it impossible to make the wheel perfectly straight, round, and strong again.

This process of break in takes different periods of time for different wheels and different riders, but most bike shops recommend a service on the bike within 30 days of riding it the first time. That should include a wheel service.

Six months is too long to expect them to fix it free, although they might do it to build good will with a customer of theirs. I would not go in and complain, but do go in and ask them to explain why it happened. Make sure you speak to a professional mechanic or manager, and not the high school apprentice mechanic.

Be friendly about it, and a good shop will likely fix it, if possible, without charging you. At the very least, you will get an idea of what kind of shop they are, and a real idea of it is repairable or needs to be replaced.

I hope that helps.

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Yeah I think it's been slowly and slowly become more untrue. Cause I've had to re-adjust the brakes a few times. I looked up the internet and it seems aligning a wheel could be easy enough, so I might just go to a LBS and get a spoke wrench and try it myself. Hopefully though we haven't damaged the rim by riding on it. –  Diskdrive Mar 22 '12 at 10:09
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@Diskdrive -- Damage is unlikely. Do be careful with the spokes, though -- the nipples are quite soft and are easily "rounded over" if you don't use the right wrench. –  Daniel R Hicks Mar 22 '12 at 11:05
    
@DanielRHicks: Damage is not at all unlikely. If he's really ridden the bike for 6 months, and has really had to readjust the brakes several times, and if it really so out of true that he has to completely disengage the brakes to spin the wheel, I'd say damage is a 75% probability. –  zenbike Mar 22 '12 at 12:03
    
@Diskdrive: Aligning a wheel is not difficult, but it requires 3 tools. A spoke wrench, a tensiometer, and a truing stand or gauge. If you have the tools, and the time to practice, then it's a worthwhile skill to learn. But it is a bit of an art, and you shouldn't expect to get it perfect the first try. Just don't give up. If you want a good book to check out on the subject look up The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt. It's pretty much the definitive work on the subject. –  zenbike Mar 22 '12 at 12:07
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Not trying to worry you. It may be ok. But show it to a mechanic, and listen to what they say. It does matter, and it can be a safety issue. –  zenbike Mar 22 '12 at 13:13
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It's likely you either have loose cone adjustment on the axle (causing it to wobble at the hub) or an out of true wheel (causing the outside of the wheel to have a wobble even when there is no play in the hub).

If you don't have a truing stand and cone wrenches, you're probably best off if you go to the bike shop and ask for a tune up. Pay a few bucks. Most shops will do some wheel truing, drive train, and other minor adjustments during a tune up. I'd expect it to cost anywhere from 40-100 bucks, depending on the shop and what is included in their tune up package.

If you do have the tools read up on the following and DIY:

a) cone adjustment
http://sheldonbrown.com/cone-adjustment.html

and/or

b) wheel truing
http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help/wheel-and-rim-truing

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A loose cone won't cause the brakes to rub (unless you intentionally apply pressure to the side of the wheel). And if you did need them, cone wrenches are cheap. You can rig a workable truing stand with an old bike fork and some wood blocks, or even use the existing bike, upside-down. You won't get perfect results that would please Zen that way, but it'll get you through in a pinch. The important thing is to have a GOOD spoke wrench of the right size, and carefully work the nipples free if they're frozen -- don't round them over! –  Daniel R Hicks Mar 23 '12 at 20:46
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