When I started working on wheels, the first thing that I looked for was a decent truing stand. If I had it all to do over again, I would probably end up with the same equipment, but I would have brought it in a different order. For a truing stand to use in occasional repairs, the bicycle provides all the stand you need. The only benefit from a dedicated truing stand is that you can work on the wheel when it’s not attached to the bike. For the most part it’s been an ok purchase, but one problem surfaced when I started dealing with the dish of the wheel that I’ve not seen discussed anywhere. From Park’s website:
Dishing (centering) is performed by simply flipping the wheel in the stand. Constructed from heavy gauge steel to resist flexing,…
Caveats in the statement above from personal experience: The chrome piece slides in the frame to adjust for wheels of different width. There’s enough play in the mechanism that it rocks back and forth. On my first truing projects, I tried to tighten the wheel down in the stand with the skewer. This is a HUGE mistake and should be avoided because when you tighten the skewer the tension will cause the chrome piece to twist in the truing stand frame changing the angle of the rim in the base and making it impossible to dish properly. The whole experience was made even more difficult for me by my own inexperience. I was still learning, so it was easy for me to do something stupid like measure and then accidentally dish the wheel the wrong way and double my error.
Park put a small set screw on the back of the adjusting arm to lock it into place, but in my experience I’ve never been able to adjust it so there’s no movement in the arm while you’re flipping the wheel one way or the other. The best solution I found is using some chunks of business cards or one of those fake credit cards you get in the mail. I adjust the arm for the wheel I’m truing and then lock it into place by jamming cards in the slot so flipping the wheel to adjust for dish doesn’t knock it out of alignment. (see below) I never tighten the skewer to lock the wheel in the stand, but rather just let gravity hold it in place.
As far as low to mid priced truing stands go this one seems pretty par for the course from reviews I’ve read. Some of them have self-centering dish gauges, but for the most part, even the expensive ones have play in them to some degree. I’d rather have to flip the wheel to read a positive measurement than rely on an imprecise gauge to give me faulty information. I finally decided to spend my money where I should have spent BEFORE I got the stand..
1. The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt. There’s a great deal of recycled content from his theory I’ve read on the internet already, but it is interesting to read it all in one place. I’m attacking some truing and rebuild projects after I’ve finished reading and re-reading.
2. Park dish gauge. This to me is a FAR more useful tool for the casual mechanic than a truing stand. If you trued the wheel in the frame of the bike, you could use the brake pads as a reference to get the wheel radially/laterally true, then use the dishing gauge to inspect and make sure your wheel is dished properly.
3. Tension meter. I’ve been lucky that I have several wheels which were correctly built in the first place, and are good examples for me to work from. All the truing and lace-overs I’ve done to this point have been done by plucking the spokes of the pro-built wheels and emulating the tones in my work. I followed the advice of others and tried to get the tone as even across the wheel as possible. Its worked well, but I know I’ve gone a little loose from what I’ve read so far because I’ve had a few spokes break, but never had a rim fail. For builds and trues moving forward I’m going the precise route – getting the max tension from the rim manufacturer and building to within 10-20% of it on each spoke.
If you have a little extra cash to spend and want something that’ll make your life REALLY easy, pick up a dial indicator with a magnetic base like the one shown on the right side of the picture below. You can just clamp it to the base, align it with the rim, and you’ll get instant feedback as to which way the wheel needs to move to align perfectly. It’s also useful because you can set it up for other measuring tasks (like checking disc brake rotor alignment, etc…)
Here are a few good starter links on wheel buildin and fixin:
Myra VanInwegen’s Bike Articles – quite a few good articles on Wheel building and truing in there…
How To True a Wobbly Wheel – Ken Kifer’s pages have lots of good basic info…
Truing Bicycle Wheels – this was the article that gave me the best ‘across the board’ advice I saw on the internets so far.