I have laced and trued my first wheel (YAY!) at home, while in the fork. It is fairly true (to the point I used to pay money for), but I am not sure if the spokes are tensioned properly (I guess it is possible to have ill-tensioned wheel which is true). How to check that? Also, if the spokes are tensioned OK on the whole, how to check if individual ones are off? Squeezing by hand doesn't show any noticeably looser ones.


On a standard front wheel all spokes (both left and right) should (in theory) make the same musical note when plucked. A rear wheel is 'dished' to make room for the cassette. The non-drive side spokes will be at a lower tension (and pitch) than the cassette side. If you can find a bike with the same spokes and lacing pattern use that as a guide. If not, any newish bike can be used. Too much tension will damage the rim at the eyelets, whereas broken spokes are a sign of under-tensioning.

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    Reality is they aren't all the same note...sometimes not even close...but I second the "plucking" method; you'll both feel and hear if one is off significantly. I check tension with the park tensiometer when I build wheels, but I wouldn't be worried if I didn't have one.
    – Ken Hiatt
    Feb 16 '13 at 23:29
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    Yep, I am an amateur musician, I tune my guitars by ear (and I have a quartz tuner too), but I noticed that even with newly bought wheels the tones aren't the same. Also, when tuning instruments, one can hear the frequency clearly, which is not the case with spokes, as they are crossed and both vibrate when one is plucked. However, it does provide a rough reference. Feb 17 '13 at 5:14

enter image description here One thing that might help is an internal spoke wrench (not sure the technical term), they are designed to work from the inside of the rim, so you need to have your tires off. They are like a screw driver but with a pin that you insert into the head of the nipple and as you twist it, the spoke will push it out and all your spokes will be at the same tension.

From there you can go through and tighten them a little more if you like, just make sure you give every spike the same twist, 1/4 turn for example. The picture here looks like it was home made, and you could do something similar on your own with a screwdriver and a file.

This might not get you the "proper" tension, but it will give you even tension. With out a torque wrench, you just have to learn the tension by hand. I listen for the "pop" and gauge off of that.

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    This sounds suitable if you have perfectly sized spokes. In my case, my spokes aren't even the same length (don't ask), so I can't rely on how much of the nipple length left free. Feb 24 '13 at 16:54
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    yes, this tool assumes that you have the same sized spokes... (actually it is an inanimate object incapable of assumptions)
    – BillyNair
    Feb 24 '13 at 22:45
  • "Nipple driver". I made one with an old screwdriver and a file. It's only a convenient starting point though - and on a standard rear wheel you will want the two sides differently tensioned to get the dishing right.
    – armb
    Apr 29 '13 at 21:42
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    No. This tool can't really tension a wheel at all. Rather, it is designed for assembling one to a consistent start point before the tensioning process begins. The reason it has that pilot is so that the end of the spoke disengages the screwdriver blade at a consistent position before the spoke is really tight. If this tool can engage when the wheel is actually tensioned, the spokes were cut too short. There's really nothing in this "answer" that addresses the question asked, which is about determining when the spokes are tight, not physically manipulating them to tighten or loosen. May 22 '18 at 15:42

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