tools to keep 4: wheels

The last step I decided to take in bike wrenching is making sure my wheels would roll straight. Wheels are one of those things that are easy to make look good and real hard to make work good. I’ve kicked around my wheel fixin’ kit for a while now and finally have come to peace with it. It’s not perfect, but it does exactly what I need it to do with little fuss. I can build stuff that I can’t wreck which is all I ever wanted.

Figure 1

  1. Park ts-8 truing stand. Not too much to say about it. You set your wheel in it, adjust the marker close to the rim and turn spoke nipples until it’s true and tensioned properly. My main beef with the design is the hub width adjustment arm had too much play for reliable truing measurements. I wedged some plastic gift card scraps in the edges to stiffen it up. Also, if the rim drags on the marker it sounds just awful. I move it a few 1000’s away from the rim and visually scan for the high/low spots.
  2. Park wag-4 dishing gauge. Another simple-function tool — basically you measure the rim on one side once true and then flip it over to see if it’s dished properly. If I had to choose between one of these tools I’d keep the dishing gauge before the stand. You could true the wheel in the frame/fork but dishing would be much harder to get perfect.


Figure 2

  1. Park Spoke Wrench – I forget the size — 0? All the spokes on my wheels happen to be the same size so I’ve never had to buy a second. This one is much nicer to turn than the multi-wrench that came in the bk-2 toolkit if you’re building wheels or truing the same wheel for 5 hours because you don’t know what you’re doing and keep screwing it up (not that I’ve ever done that).
  2. Feeler gauge set – Mine is so old that the measurement notations are worn off all the leaves. That’s ok because I just find the one I want with the Vernier Calipers. I went through a phase when I was using a dial indicator to watch the lateral runout of the rim in real time, but it doesn’t make it any easier to true the wheel than visually inspecting against the marker on the truing stand. Now I just adjust the marker a few 100’s away from where I want the rim trued to and tweak spokes until I can’t slip the feeler gauge in between the rim and the marker on the stand at the closest and furthest points (lateral tolerance).


Only thing I forgot to snap a shot of is the Park Spoke tension meter you can see in this photo. Great for getting the right tension when building up new wheels, but not really necessary for truing work.

That’s where I have to draw the line. I love to build and would like nothing more than to spend a fortune on frame prep tools, but for what I will build in my lifetime it doesn’t make sense to spend $150 on a headset press or $400 on a bottom bracket facing/chasing tool that I’ll use 3 times at most. Happy wrenching!


6 thoughts on “tools to keep 4: wheels

  1. Thanks for posting these Dave. I looking to purchase more bicycle specific tools and I’m sure that I’ll refer to these posts often. -PJ

  2. I’m thinking maybe one more post: A checklist of regular maintenance to keep our bikes running at their best and prevent breakdowns. Things to do before every ride, once a week, once a month, etc. Just a thought.

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