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Truing wheels around here costs about 20 dollars.

I have a cheap rear wheel that has 32 spokes. This is a rear wheel that came with a Bikes Direct bike, to give you an idea of its quality. The hubs are unbranded and the rims are Alex DA14s. The wheel is severely out of true and I've resorted to taking off the rear brake pads. The front wheel is better off but not by much.

I could buy a new Shimano wheelset for about 100 dollars. From what I read online these wheels come true and stay relatively true for a few thousand miles easily. My experience with lower-end, big-brand wheels has been wholly positive too - they've all stayed very true and none of them have required re-truing.

I could also spend about 90 dollars and get the Performance Titan wheelset. The thing about these is that they crack after a few thousand miles apparently. But I don't mind since Performance has a lifetime satisfaction warranty, so even if they fail, I can just exchange them for a new one, free of charge.

Would it be worth buying the new wheelset and running them down into the ground or truing up my cheap wheels? To me, truing my cheap wheelset once gets me halfway there to a new wheelset that likely won't require any truing during its lifetime. What do you think?

  • Depends on the value of your time. Building and truing wheels is a slow process. I'd certainly give it a go, you're unlikely to make the wheel worse. – Criggie Dec 15 '15 at 20:29
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    I'd say it's worth a try. First just do some very basic truing, to see if you understand the mechanism. If it seems to get better, keep at it, doing a little at a time and riding a few miles in-between truing sessions. (Do note that it's often hard to get your head around which spoke you need to tighten and which way you need to twist the nipple. Requires thought.) – Daniel R Hicks Dec 15 '15 at 20:32
  • I'd go along with Daniel, try it and see how you get on. Whatever reviews you're read, don't expect a lot from a $100 wheelset, it is at the low end of the market and there will be reasons for that. – PeteH Dec 15 '15 at 22:17
  • Nothing about Alex rims and non-labeled hubs explains how it got as out of true as you describe. I'd have no confidence that a replacement is gonna fare any better. – jqning Dec 17 '15 at 4:09
  • Whatever it is, between paying $20 for service and buying $100 new, I'd go with new one. – imel96 Dec 20 '15 at 23:53
8

Whatever you decide based on answers here I suggest you get a decent, dedicated spoke tool and print off or even buy on paper a comprehensive guide to truing wheels. You may have a multi tool with a spoke slot. Pretend you haven't. Use the brakes pads as a guide and hang the bike off a car rack or put it upside down, rather than spending a lot of money on tools which you might not use again. A spoke tool is cheap and handy for replacing the odd broken spoke.

If all goes well, you've got true (or true enough) wheels and you've learnt a skill. If you get the wheels true, and they won't stay true even though you've relieved the twist in the spokes you've got your answer and you can buy new wheels. If you find you can't improve matters enough, you're back to choosing new wheels or taking them to the shop. But you'll be better placed to make that judgment once you've developed a bit of a feel for it. It sounds like they're bad enough for now that you can't make matters significantly worse.

  • Yes you can make it worse. A severely warped (he had to take off the pads) wheel without a truing stand (and expertise) will be out of round and getting back in round will be harder (or impossible) then if OP just left it alone. – paparazzo Dec 15 '15 at 20:19
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    One needs to emphasize getting a GOOD spoke tool, and one that fits the nipples EXACTLY. A poorly-fitting tool will wreck the nipples. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 15 '15 at 20:29
  • @DanielRHicks, you're right. A branded one with slots for all the common sizes is still cheap. The one on a multi tool might just do for a roadside repair if it happens to fit. Edit on its way. – Chris H Dec 15 '15 at 20:36
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Can't answer without knowing how worn the current is.

If the wheel is not significantly worn it is probably worth truing once to see if it holds a true. Ask the shop if they think it will hold a true. They may tell you flat out the wheel is not going to hold a true. If it goes out again in a year then I would get new wheels.

A $100 wheelset is a lower end. A $200 wheelset is likely more economical.

-5

Buy the new wheelset. The shimano $100 wheelset is great value.

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    As it stands I think this answer has very limited value. Expressing your opinion is one thing, but it is useful if you back that opinion up with reason and fact. – PeteH Dec 15 '15 at 22:33
  • It's a fact that the shimano wheelset is great value. – robjwilkins Dec 16 '15 at 6:05
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    @robjwilkins I don't doubt that "great value" fact but a little more data about why it would be a better choice for the OP's scenario it would be helpful. Lifetime of the rim, hub, bearings, staying in true, etc. and perhaps even a link to the specific wheelset info page. The downvotes on your answer seem harsh to me; I'd just like to know the backup data on what makes that wheelset a great value. – Developer63 Dec 16 '15 at 6:24
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    For future reference, you might find the Help topic How do I write a good answer useful. Also note that the site allows you to edit improvements into your answer, you don't need to resort to adding comments. – PeteH Dec 16 '15 at 11:29
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    Welcome to Bicycles SE. We're looking for answers with more detail. Please consider expanding your answer to explain why a new wheelset would serve the OP better than truing his existing wheelset. A short, one-line answer like this is likely to get downvoted, flagged for moderator intervention, and possibly deleted. – jimchristie Dec 16 '15 at 12:20

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