How Often Should You Check Your Wheels?
A bike is a considerable investment, and it is essential to keep it in tip-top condition. Proper maintenance ensures your bike maintains its optimum performance and also ensures safety.
A well-cared for wheelset is essential to a well-maintained bike. After all, your bike wheels are what connect you and your bike to the earth’s terrain. Your wheels should be durable, precise, lightweight, and well-maintained. You know you need to check the wheels of your bike. The question is, how often? Below are some basic maintenance tips for your wheels and how often you need to check them.
1. Check the spoke tension and wheel truing.
Correct tension and truing are essential. Both determine the wheel’s strength and durability. You should have the wheels and spokes trued and tensioned about once a year (if your ride often).
Bicycle spoke rings can be plucked just like any other stringed instrument such as a guitar or a harp. Listen to the pitch created by the plucking. If the pitch is higher, the spoke is tighter. Remember that the optimum pitch does not depend on the spoke’s thickness. Plucking of strings is recommended to do to every other ride – a quick check of all spokes to make sure they all have nice high notes.
To determine the pitch, you must approximate the spoke length and the type of spoke (plain-gauge or butted), which are shorter since their ends are of greater thickness. Here is a table that shows musical pitches corresponding to their optimum spoke tension.
Loose, broken, or damaged spokes can affect the tension of the rest of the spokes, resulting in an untrue wheel. The wheel’s tension is affected by the type of terrain being ridden on, the weight of the rider, outside forces received by the rims, the type of tyres, and the pressure of the tyres.
You can find a DIY wheel tension measurement and other tension recommendations here. It is recommended that you go to a professional bike shop or bike repair service centre. They have correct tools for the job to prevent the risks of damaging the spokes.
2. Check the bearings and freehubs.
Bearings are the next most vital part of your wheelset. These need to be checked regularly. Checking the wheel bearing adjustments every month is highly recommended.
If you ride only on flawless dry roads and in perfect weather conditions, it is recommended that you still check your bearings at least every 8 weeks. While the wheel is attached to the bike, try to move the wheel from side to side, if you feel it’s loose, adjust accordingly. Clean and re-grease the wheel’s bearings. Remove the adaptors and washers. Clean them with a dry rag and a degreaser. Removing the hub isn’t necessary.
If you ride in wet or in muddy conditions, check your bearings once every month. Check if they are worn out. Check if they spin freely or with friction. Also, check if there is lateral play, Replace the bearings if there is a lot of friction.
Check the freehub body. Clean and re-grease the pawls and springs. Use the correct lubricant for a more prolonged effect. This would reduce the demand for regular check-ups.
3. Check the rims and brake surface.
Rims should be checked four times a year or quarterly, both internally and externally. Check for hairline cracks and for signs of damage that might affect the seating of the tyres. Check for loss of sealant (for tubeless rims). Check the correct placement of the rim strip (for tubed rims). Make sure there are no loose metal shards on the rim.
Always clean the brake surface. Use the correct brake pads. They should always fit the rim material used.
4. Check quick release and thru axles.
Check quick release and thru axles before every ride. This is to ensure they are tight and have their levers in the correct position. Re-grease them occasionally for a good fit. This will also avoid potential damage that can come from removing them from the frame.
Use a torque wrench to adjust the torque of the axles according to the factory recommendation. Remember that for the fitting of the wheels, they should be correctly seated in the frame.
Thru axles typically sit in the correct position; however, standard quick-release axles can sit at an angle if not taken care of. Just make sure that both wheels are tight and in the correct position before taking your bike out on a ride.
5. Check your tyres.
With each ride, you must check the air of your tyres. Ensure proper tyre inflation. Proper tyre pressure lets your bike roll with ease. This avoids flats and ultimately, injuries. Road tyres usually require 80 to130 psi (pounds per square inch), mountain tyres require 25 to 35 psi, and hybrid tyres require around 40 to 70 psi. Narrow tyres need more air pressure than wide tyres.
Your body weight affects the tyre pressure you will need. The heavier you are, the more air pressure needs to be in your tyres. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommended tyre pressures. Remember to avoid under and over inflation.
For tubular tyres, make sure the tyres are seated correctly when inflating. The rim strip should be centred, and the valve should not be on an angle. With tubeless systems, the sealant needs to be changed quarterly or once every season. Make sure they do not present signs of damage such as holes and cuts.
Check for any tyre wear. Tyres leak air over time. It is recommended that you check your bike tyre pressure every ride, if not, try once a week. It is crucial to develop a habit of regular check-ups.
Check for flats. Having a flat early in a ride and fixing it with carbon dioxide is a common thing to do. Carbon dioxide, however, is highly soluble in rubber and will quickly permeate through the tube’s rubber wall. If you’ve fixed a flat this way, check the tire every hour or so. It would most likely need some topping off.
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