Is there a way to tell if a spoke or spokes are too tight, if you don't have access to a tensionometer?

I had to tighten several, and obviously I don't want them too tight, otherwise you risk broken spokes and damaged nipples/rims/maybe hubs.

  • 4
    "Twang" them, and compare to the "twang" of other spokes. Feb 24, 2017 at 16:55
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    People did build wheels before tensiometers, though its not preferable these days.
    – Batman
    Feb 24, 2017 at 17:06
  • Good tips and perspective, thanks. My situation is I suspected a loose wheel was causing the brakes to rub (front wheel) while turning right, so I checked it out and most spokes seemed loose, and several seemed very loose. (I'd checked and trued the back before, but not the front.) I tightened all at least some and several a lot. This makes me think I can't use other spokes as a reference, but I guess I could compare with the other wheel, which didn't get adjusted so radically. Still, since I don't have experience, I'd like an absolute reference, which may be the bike shop this time.
    – compton
    Feb 24, 2017 at 17:28
  • Did you use any form of spoke prep or thread prep liquid? Some wheels just want to undo their nipples over time, which often means there was a bit much play.
    – Criggie
    Feb 24, 2017 at 20:11
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    @criggie Not so far, this is the first time I've touched the spokes in front. Thanks, I'll look into that.
    – compton
    Feb 24, 2017 at 23:40

1 Answer 1


Roger Musson's book "Professional Guide to Wheel Building" simply states that: "The best place to start when judging the correct tension is to examine a similar wheel you know to be good and reliable and compare the spoke tension to the one being built."

Musson does not use the sound of the spokes to determine their tension, only to find differences in tension between them.

Roger Musson's website does also have a good discussion about tensionmeters and their necessity when building wheels. http://www.wheelpro.co.uk/support/tensiometers/

  • 5
    Sound is a surprisingly good way to find odd spokes. I've had a wheel that made sounds like tang-tang-tang_THONK_ting-THONK_tang-tang-tang where the ting spoke was way high tension.
    – Criggie
    Feb 24, 2017 at 20:13
  • 1
    The issue with this approach is that you need a similar wheel. I don't have any friends with a similar wheelset to either of my bikes.
    – Batman
    Feb 27, 2017 at 0:05

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